Finding Clarity on the Camino de Santiago

I’ve just got back from a 6 day trek as part of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

I’ve done this annually for the past three years as a way to reset, reconnect to the bigger picture, and find clarity for the months ahead.

What follows are some of the insights I picked up along the way.

1.) Your biological age has nothing to do with your energetic age

On day 3, I got talking to a couple who had met on a previous Camino in 2017 and later got married.

Although they were both now in their sixties, hanging out with them was like being around two teenagers — excited about life and brimming with enthusiasm.

They had both recently left their previous careers behind, and are now planning to set up an albergue (hostel) along the Camino.

This trip was a kind of “scouting mission” for them to find the spot where they wanted to set it up.

Their example was a reminder to me that it’s never too late to reinvent ourselves and make meaningful changes in our lives.

They also showed me that our biological age bears no reflection on the energy within — we can be 60 and have the spirit and sense of adventure of a 20 year old.

2.) Be unapologetically yourself

The man in that couple had struggled in relationships for most of his life.

After going through a divorce and then another messy break up a few years later, he had come to the conclusion that he just wasn’t built for relationships.

The common theme (until then) had been entering into relationships from a fear of being alone.

He had been seeking someone outside of himself to complete him.

So he would date people that he wasn’t really aligned with and sacrifice who he really was to make it work.

Entering into a relationship from a place of fear is like planting a seed in toxic soil.

No matter how hard you try to change it later, if the seed is toxic, the plant (i.e. relationship) it sprouts will always contain that toxicity.

After numerous failed attempts, he finally thought “f*%k it — I’m just not built for relationships, so I’m just going to be fully myself and be happy anyway.”

Within a few short weeks of coming to this conclusion, he met his now wife and has been happily married ever since.

The takeaway here is that when we become fully and unapologetically ourselves, we become whole.

This wholeness is healthy and naturally attractive. We’re no longer performing. No longer wearing a mask.

Our state then is one of arrival, rather than seeking.

At a deep level we realise that external things (e.g. other people, status, success, etc.) aren’t going to complete us and fill the hole inside.

So we stop seeking. And we stop trying to be something we’re not.

3.) Solitude leads to clarity

Doing a solo Camino involves long periods of walking alone in nature.

It’s just you, your rucksack, and the wilderness.

This gives you a chance to reconnect with yourself and just be alone with your thoughts — without any technology or distractions from the outside world.

You begin to enjoy your own company and just be at peace with yourself.

Gradually, all of the nonsense usually swirling around our brain at 100mph starts to subside, and our mind begins to clear.

It becomes like an empty vessel.

And this emptiness allows new insights and ideas to flow in.

4.) Few things in life are more valuable than a good conversation

After spending extended periods in my own company, I started to immensely appreciate conversations with other pilgrims along the way.

On one day, a fellow pilgrim and I walked and talked for around 10km consecutively without taking a break, and I didn’t look at the time once.

It was like being in a flow state for 2 hours straight.

I was shocked at one point when we reached the top of a large hill and looked back to see how far we’d come from the previous town.

This experience has been a reminder to me that there are few things in life as valuable as meaningful conversations, where both of you are exploring new territory and aren’t sure where it’ll go next.

Going forward, I want to seek out and have more conversations like this in daily life.

5.) We’re looking for happiness in the wrong places

The strange thing about the Camino is that you’re blissfully happy for the majority of time you’re doing it.

Which is puzzling because nothing particularly extraordinary is happening.

All you’re doing is walking in nature.

Your only concern is getting up each day and reaching the next stop.

Along the way, you derive immense satisfaction from the simplest things. A morning sunrise, a small amount of food to keep you going, the companionship of your fellow pilgrims, and the beauty of the natural world you’re surrounded by.

That’s it.

Our society is unconsciously conditioning us to think we need a million different things to be happy.

(Fame, success, status, etc.)

We don’t. These are illusions. Shallow pursuits.

We’re evolved for a simple way of life.

Contentment happens when we recognize this and align our desires with the sustainable pleasures that lead to lasting fulfillment.

Meaningful work, meaningful relationships, and a connection to something bigger than ourselves.

If you’re looking for a greater sense of clarity and connection in your life — and have the chance to do it — I highly recommend giving the Camino a try.

It’s like pressing a “reset” button on your life and you can almost guarantee that you’ll come back invigorated and more fully alive than you were before.

You’ll also meet incredible people along the way.

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Niall McKeever

Writer and Founder of The Weekend University. Passionate about making great ideas more accessible.

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