I recently posted this over on Encore Wanderings, but as I read through it again, felt how strongly it applies to the Encore Voyage and retirement in general…or, well, meaningful living in general!
A while ago, I had lunch with a good friend who recently returned from completing the nearly 500-mile pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain. In the course of the afternoon she shared her many experiences from the Camino. She told of blisters and pouring rain, of sleeping in rooms filled with snoring strangers, of not speaking the language yet learning how to order a beer. She told us about carrying stones from home, representing her burdens, and her opportunity to lay down those burdens at a cross along the way. She shared the struggle of a middle aged woman walking 8-12 miles per day, up and down hills, over the Pyrenees Mountains. She shared photos of centuries old churches, of stunning scenery and of quaint villages.
My friend was walking on behalf of those with autoimmune diseases, and carried with her a list of prayers which she burned at Finisterre (The ‘End of the World’). She started out with a true purpose in her heart – that she would walk the entire Way of St. James as a spiritual pilgrimage.
But what she learned along the way, and shared with the rest of us, struck a particularly meaningful chord:
- The Camino will provide– This saying is frequently heard on the Camino de Santiago. Along the trail, pilgrims find they always have enough. The true blessing is in discovering how little is really needed. When you carry everything you own on your back for six weeks, you quickly figure out what’s important. It’s not all of the “stuff” we accumulate in our normal daily lives. So how much “stuff” are we carrying that we truly don’t need?
- The relationships are the important thing – Along the Camino, my friend met travelers from all around the world. They shared meals and wine, stories and hardships. What she learned is that we are all the same – people everywhere work hard, play hard, have health issues, daily struggles, and families they love…and she will forever treasure those relationships formed in their commonality. Perhaps we should all pay more attention to investing in those soul-enhancing relationships!
- The sense of accomplishment –Once you have walked nearly 500 miles in all types of weather and terrain, there is very little you can’t do! I found myself thinking about the things in my life that give me that sense of accomplishment. Maybe the message is that we should all have something to strive for, something that challenges us in some way. It doesn’t have to be a trek through a foreign country. But the world is full of new things to create, do and try and we owe it to ourselves to stretch our potential!
- The strength of the human body –I asked my friend how she felt walking up the steps at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. She told me that she felt complete joy, and was amazed with what her body could do! She started the first day of her journey gasping for air as she climbed steep hills. She finished the Camino feeling more fit than ever before. The human body and spirit have incredible resiliency when tested.
- “One Day, One Adventure” –As she neared the end of her journey, a fellow pilgrim shared this motto with my friend. It could mean that we should live in the present, not wishing for the future or pining for the past. It could be the acknowledgment that we have limited time on this earth, and that we should make every moment count.
As our afternoon drew to a close, I found that I was deeply touched by how my friend’s insights from the Camino apply to our Encore Voyage. Our longings for a minimalist way of life were proven valid by the few items she carried in her pack. Her accomplishment of that 500-mile journey, with its resulting fitness and friendships, confirms for me the things that are truly important in our retirement. One Day…One Adventure for me means living