What is this whole journey? And why am I doing it? When I went to Spain in 2017 to do the Camino Primitivo trail I didn’t bring any expectations with me. I just wanted to take a solid rest after years of intensive studies and work. Getting to Oviedo and then walking to Santiago De Compostela was the only plan I had.
I went there alone. I started full of strength. With time, I began to feel pain in my legs, large blisters appeared, my ankle swelled up, I had problems with walking.
On the trail I met other people. In a way, I was not alone. Each of us struggled with the same problems: pains, blisters, fatigue, the trail. But everybody was getting up in the morning, putting on their shoes and carrying on. Until Santiago De Compostela. When I finally entered the city I felt a bit like I was in Heaven – the sun was shining, a bed and good food awaited me, I saw other people who I lost somewhere on the trail and I had some kind of a feeling of fulfillment. To the point that I cried a bit. I do not know why, but I had wet eyes – it was a special moment.
When I returned home, I thought about it. I thought, it’s a bit like in life – you are born full of energy and curiosity, after some time the careless childhood ends, you encounter some life dilemmas, pains, etc. You meet different people on your path – some of them you will see again, with others you will build friendships, with others not, and others annoy you and you would rather avoid them. But one thing connects us – every morning we put on our shoes, we take our backpack and we all follow the same walk of life. With various problems, motivations, expectations and reasons. And everyone has their own Santiago at the end. That’s when I understood what a pilgrimage is.
It’s all about that walk. Not the goal. It is there so the way can exist. When I reach my goal, the feeling that accompanies me is very fleeting. However, the experience of the traveled road will stay for a long time. And it is worth more to me than the goal itself. Then I learn more about myself, about others, about the world. And it gives me incredible satisfaction.
Why am I writing about it? The trail is the way that allows me to look at the life from a different angle. Perhaps you will say that I make it difficult for myself – I get rid of comfort, I become dependent on the weather. I will answer you, I simplify life – I get rid of the excess of things, I take only what is necessary and I am on my way. My basic worries are water, food and shelter. And basically everything else goes around it.
Such a minimization of everyday needs allows you to clean your head and open yourself more to the world. Camino was the most relaxing holiday I remember. I could finally think about things I did not have time to think about before and to stop thinking about those I thought about too much. I could focus on my weaknesses, take a step aside, and think about them. There I also learned one important thing: I have two legs and they will take me where I need. I just have to make a decision: to go. This thought gave me a lot of freedom in the context of taking things in my own hands (or legs).
So what pushed me to go to Te Araroa? You must be crazy to get away from your comfort zone, go to the end of the world, walk 3000km, risk injuries and other dangers, break through the mud, rivers, pastures, dense jungles, steep mountains, boring beaches and draw from it some joy. And to pay for it? And yet. It is this unpredictable weather, wet socks that I have to put on again, boredom and admiration, effort and fatigue, joy and sorrow – they build character. This is an experience.
I’ve set a challenge for myself. A difficult one. But perhaps more out of curiosity than out of the need to prove something to myself. Yes, I do accept the possibility of failure. It makes me think more rationally. There is always the possibility of failure – whether I like it or not. That’s it. The sooner I accept it, the better. It also allows me to enjoy traveling, that is, the Way more. Thanks to this I do not aim blindly at the goal, I only choose the best route, I give myself time to make decisions and I make sure that this way is the most important, not the goal. It is not about walking the trail as quick as possible, but as good as possible. Same with life – as full as possible, at your own pace: “Hike your own hike”.
I think it gives me some inner peace and happiness. I am a rather controlled man, it is difficult to upset me. I am happy with what I have and what I do – I do not regret anything – if I feel that I have made the wrong decision, I try to draw conclusions quickly. It seems to me that this satisfaction with life is my greatest achievement. And I think the trails that I did helped me in some way.
Little Man, Big Walk – why a title like this? The trail I am doing is really long and demanding. It happens that I am exposed to the power of nature and it shows me how small I really am. On one hand, after walking over 1000km I feel grand, invincible, with no limits whatsoever. I have walked through mud, bush, rivers, roads, pastures, during rains storms and in burning sun, both healthy and full of energy and other time sick and weakened. What can ever defeat me?
And then there comes a time when I am climbing up a volcano and crossing the craters, where the wind blows 100km/h clearly showing me that it can blow me off at any moment. and I am trying to literally crawl over the volcanic dust, which is already in my nose, eyes and hair and everywhere. And there is nothing I can do. I have to survive and surrender to the wind because either it will let me go or it will keep blowing taking all the remains of energy from me.
These experiences are showing that I can feel great taking challenges on me and accomplishing them with bigger or smaller struggle, but there comes a moment that shows me how small and weak I actually am. One of the reasons it’s important to me is because I can both gain more self-confidence but also learn some humility towards life.
When I was walking down the road the other day I thought to myself, how awesome I am to have walked over 1000km. I was already picturing my friends coming to me with questions, advices, listening how I am pulling out some wise sentences etc. And then I had this face palm moment. I depicted a teacher with his disciple. After some major achievement, the disciple was so happy and content that he decided he had enough of the lessons and he already knows everything he needs to know. That disciple was me. And then I had to wake up a teacher inside me and said to myself – not yet! You still have almost 2000km to go, you’re not even half way through! And that being said I gave myself some humility lesson. I managed to achieve something and I’m doing well. But it is not the end yet. It is not difficult to leave half way through. I am willing to walk to the very end and take a look back those 2000km. And I will be happy to come back to these thoughts then…