Sunday, June 28, 2009

How Walking the Camino De Santiago Can Help With Running a Business

I'm just back from walking in the Spanish Countryside for 8 days on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. This time we walked from St Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona; and from Logrono to Burgos. 8 days in total. The camino is something that is quite unusual to be described as a holiday activity.

It seems a crazy endeavour - to participate in a gruelling experience that can only be described as painful and challenging, all to reach the distance that a 2 hour bus journey would cover. It is evident after a few hours of pain that walking is not the most efficient or effective means of transportation!

I'm trying to think of what I learned. Every day there was a new lesson, but apart from patience, and tenacity, finding new pain thresholds, and self belief to continue and reach my goal, I think that coming home after doing the walk I find myself much more grounded in time.

Starting your own company is so difficult. People envy the idea of working for yourself - your own hours, your own ideas, your own expectations, and your own dreams, but in reality, although the magic is there, it can be a whirlwind of never-ending to do lists, stressful self-inflicted deadlines and it feels like it will take forever to reach your destination.

After walking for 7-8 hours a day, my minds complete and utter intoxication with "work" and the excitement I feel everyday on encountering problems and identifying possibilities began to lose its stickiness, and gradually I was released from its sucking grip. I remembered what it was like to not have meetforeal on my mind 24 hours a day.

On coming home, I am pleased to find that I have learned something about work from my long hours on the road. I've learned that as long as you have a destination in mind, and self belief that you can get there, you can make it, and when exactly you get there does not necessarily matter. Of course it's nice to have a deadline, and expectations, but if you just keep walking, you will arrive.

Sometimes you have someone beside you, sometimes you're alone; sometimes it's up hills, sometimes the ground is muddy, or stony, sometimes all you can feel is pain, foot pain, knee pain, ankle pain, hip pain, hunger, dizziness, heavy bag pain; sometimes you feel like you won't make it, can't make it, don't want to make it anyway, and then the ground levels out or you reach a bench near a fountain and you can catch your breath. Sometimes it's raining, sometimes the heat of the sun bears down on you and fills you with energy and light, sometimes it takes all your energy away.

You have to deal with naysayers, people who moan along the road beside you, who want to quit, and want you to quit, who say you can't make it, who don't have the same vision, and you have to leave them behind. You have to be with your own pain, your own heavy bag, your own feet and your own struggle, as each has their own.

And it's the people you meet, the places you visit, but the people you see them with that make every step worthwhile, every ounce of pain measurable against joy, and every inch of agony a step in the right direction.

The camino is like having a company, and walking along a long road to reach the destination that you have determined as being your goal, your milestone, your Santiago. Our Santiago was Burgos this time, with only 8 days to walk, and reaching Burgos was every bit as important as people walking for 30 days to reach Santiago de Compostela.

It reminded me that in reality, there is never enough time in life to do all of the things that we want to do, and yet at the same time, there is all the time in the world. That not everything can be done now, today; we can't reach our destination without walking there, step by step.

Sometimes it feels like the steps are tiny, minuscule in fact, that no one would even notice the effort involved to travel such short distances, sometimes it can seem as though we are standing still, but then one day, you look back over the hills and trees, and you see just how far you've come.

By Ellen Dudley

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