Lessons From the Camino de Santiago – Living Your Best Life

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I love to plan a trip.  I am always in the process of planning multiple trips.  I have a spreadsheet with over a dozen tabs.  I plan them for months, and sometimes years.  I research hotels.  I research transportation.  I make a packing list.  I make sure to do what is famous and what is less well known. 

And I usually make some goals for the trip.

This past winter I was in the final stages of planning the second half of my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.  I was looking forward to being mobile and outside all day long.  I was looking forward to connecting with some important women in my life and the sense of community with strangers.  I was going to go slow and enjoy local (real) food.

When I think about it… those are the same goals I have for most of my trips.  They might happen in different countries and may not involve walking all day long… but even in cities I spend a significant portion of my time outside moving.  On my New Mexico rafting trip one of the best surprises and joys of the trip was the sense of community among strangers. 

On the day I started to write this post, I read the following quote:

“I travel because I need to…because my wild, adventurous spirit can’t live according to the “norm.”  I travel to regroup, to reinvent myself, to be the best me I can be, to find joy in the ordinary and peace in the exploring.  I travel to be.”    – Unknown

No truer words have ever been spoken about why I travel. 

But why is this true??

Why can’t I sustainably bring those things I travel to find home with me? 

Several years ago, I read a blog post by Kris Gage, “Travel Is Not An Achievement”.  She says that “at some point along the way, probably when I sat down and thought about what I wanted and still saw “30 countries by 30” on the list, I realized that I didn’t really get that much out of traveling. It conflicted with a lot of other more important goals on my list — saving, building a business, etc. — and didn’t, even in its own right, provide much value. It shouldn’t be a top goal.”  “Because travel is, in and of itself, a bit meaningless.” “Travel is not an accomplishment.”  She goes on to say that “Travel does not automatically expand you as a human being.” And  1)  Most people could try more without traveling.  2)  Most people don’t try enough while traveling.  3)  “Travel is just expensive escapism”.  “The key, really, is to travel either mindfully or with honesty — though, ideally, it’s with both. …If nothing else, perhaps we can at least travel honestly — and recognize travel for the low-risk, low-reward entertainment that it often is, and not pretend it’s anything more.  Above that, maybe we travel with mindfulness— to go somewhere with a real reason other than “it’s so cheap we can live like kings!” or “I hear it’s amazing” or “I’ve always wanted to!” To at least indulge in the local culture with something more than the arms-length distancing of a purveyor. To approach other people as people, and to engage.

I wholeheartedly both agree and disagree.  (Is that possible?) 

In travel we search for what is missing or we want more of.  Adventure.  Relaxation.  Education.  Connection.  Joy.   Laughter.  Rejuvenation.  Exercise.  Solitude.  Healing.  Culture.  Beauty.  Wonder.

It can be an escape.

It can be a jumpstart.

It can be a renewal.

It can be an experiment.

At home, these things fight to be a priority.  Day to day routine takes over.  Novelty wears off.  Work and chores occupy more almost half of our day. 

If you think about it in the context of Maslow’s hierarchy.  Traveling is dedicated space to concentrate on the upper tiers of the pyramid … to become the best version of ourself.  Daily routine focuses on the bottom foundation. 

Therefore, Kris is on to something.  …  How do we engage while traveling?  How do we center on the key of why does this trip, this place, this moment bring joy?? … and then harness that essence and bring it home.  While definitely a sight to see, it is not just the Eiffel Tower that brings joy to the moment.  Is it the people we are with?  Is it the freedom?  Is it the beauty and wonder?  Is it being outside with a community of people who are enjoying the day?  Is it seeing or learning something new?

At its core, travel is a concentrated version of who we think our best self could be. 

In this way, every trip will become a pilgrimage. 

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