Finding Your Way: Lessons from the Camino de Santiago, Part 1

don't ask why. ask why not.

Finding Your Way: Lessons from the Camino de Santiago, Part 1

My Dartmouth buddy came with me on the whole journey.

Nearly one year ago, on July 6, 2011, I embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime journey with two dear friends: the Camino de Santiago.

What is the Camino de Santiago (aka “The Way of St. James”)? The Camino is one of the oldest pilgrimages in the world. Over 1,000 years old, it includes a number of routes that all lead to Santiago de Compostela in honor of St. James. Some people go for religious reasons, other for spiritual, others for personal. I figured, 800 kilometers from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in southern France to Santiago in western Spain walking an average of 25 km a day on the Camino Frances route for a month?

Why the heck not.

My month walking from France to Spain certainly put into perspective many lessons and reminders to take with me in my everyday life. Last November, I had the distinct pleasure of bringing these lessons to my home-away-from-home on the plains of Hanover, New Hampshire, meeting with some student scholars and leaders at Dartmouth College. Many of these students were about to step into the “real world,” and for the first time have control over which path to take. With parental or familial pressure, economic recessions, and overwhelmingly diverse interests, it’s not easy to find one path, let alone the “right” one. Many believe that if they¬† don’t have it “figured out” by junior year, they’re going to be a complete failure.

These fears don’t just happen with students and the anxiety that comes with finding a path follows many of us throughout our lives.

The passport and shell that identified me as a pilgrim.

The Camino poses many personal physical, mental, and emotional challenges. It requires carrying everything you need for a month on your back, so you learn to need not so much. For those of you who are avid trekkers, you know that wonderful liberating feeling of limited physical possessions (not to mention making what-to-wear an easy decision: choose 1 of 3 shirts, usually the cleanest one available). Aside from physical lessons (i.e. buy good shoes, downward dog at the end of the day is fantastic), many other lessons arose – ones that have very real meaning to our professional and personal lives.

These lessons constantly reminded us that we must each walk our own path and find our way in life. This five-part series will highlight 17 lessons on Finding Your Way.

Stay tuned and let the journey begin.

For my personal journey about eating my way through the Camino, please check this out.