The Business of Walking the Camino
The Business of Walking the Camino – aka “putting one step in front of the other”
April was a busy month for me – as well as “business as usual” I managed to fit in a long weekend in North Wales to visit my parents, a 5 day trip to the Camino Santiago in Spain, and my 2 day Selling from Speaking Event. As you can see from the photos it was quite a month of contrasts!
The Camino trip was guided by my client Adam Wells of www.discoverthecamino.com and accompanied by a small group of friends and former clients.
Apart from Adam’s infectious enthusiasm and having watched the film “The Way” I didn’t really know what to expect. But I was looking forward to some gentle scenery and sipping Rioja in the evening sun.
What I discovered is that it was a bit more tough than in my romantic imaginings. And it struck me as I walked that the Camino is a great metaphor for growing a business.
Of course our small group didn’t do the whole route, we had just 3 days walking (and a good part of that was spent basking in the sun outside cafes, or drinking delicious Rioja in town squares). So we were very much the “day trippers” of the route but it gave us a flavour of what it was like.
For 3 days we walked with our packs. One foot in front of the other. Until our feet were like lead – the actual soles of my feet ached. Some of the time as I walked I enjoyed the view – I marvelled at the clouds rolling across the sky, or the sun breaking out to spotlight a village in the distance. I walked through beautiful rustic villages, rolling landscapes and saw snow topped mountains in the distance.
But when I got tired, especially towards the end of the day, it was easy to slip out of being “present”, and put all my focus on arriving at the next village, the cosy hotel waiting for us, and the chance to get the weight off my sore feet. My body was walking the Camino, but my mind was already lying on the bed with my legs up the wall. And somehow that just made the walking harder – the closer we got to a village, the further away it seemed to be!
And this is SO how it is in business. One foot in front of the other until we reach our destination, moments of frustration and moments of joy, and sometimes getting so caught up in the destination that we forget to enjoy the journey. And then we get anxious and beat ourselves up because we are not “there” yet.
One of the best things about being a “Camino day-tripper” was meeting and seeing all the other “pilgrims” on the route. The serious ones – the ones who were going all the way. With their walking sticks, their heavy backpacks, and their spare socks hanging to dry on the outside. One man was even pulling his belongings behind him on a little cart. And above all their dogged determination. To walk all the way from St Jean Pied de Port in France, across the mountains of the Pyrenees, and right across Northern France to Santiago de Compostela in the North East of Spain – a distance of 454 miles (732 kilometers). That’s a lot of days slogging (and a lot of evenings washing socks).
For those pilgrims who walk the whole route starting in France the first day is the hardest – the route takes them up and over the Pyrenees and into Spain. Just like starting a business, this getting going is the toughest part, a long hard slog, with little reward, a whole long way to go and all you can see is the mountain in front of you – you can’t see the destination or the road stretching out in front of you. It is easy to start to imagine that the destination doesn’t even exist. You must be crazy. Who do you think you are to take this on? Perhaps it is safer and more sensible to go back down and just book a flight to Tenerife.
And because of that, not everyone makes it all the way to Santiago. Some people get tired, stop, give up. Decide it’s not for them. Some people decide that they can’t do it – everyone else can. But not them. Some people “cheat” and jump on buses and taxis for part of the way.
Others keep on going one step in front of the other, every day. Even on those days when the road is long, the backpack is heavy and the scenery doesn’t change and they wonder if they will ever reach their destination they keep going – and they eventually arrive at Santiago de Compostela.
And just like in business so much of the journey, the learning, the transformation comes from being present, being aware of what is going on, enjoying the journey. It is so easy to focus on the aching feet and the next village and miss out on the richness of the experience and the opportunity for growth.
On the Camino you can’t get impatient to get there quickly – you can just keep putting one foot in front of the other until eventually – to your surprise – you arrive.
So today I just want to wish you a “Buen Camino” on your business journey – wherever you are.
If you are still slogging up the side of the Pyrenees feeling that you are putting in so much effort for so little apparent progress, and often can’t even see your way forward through the fog, know that this is the hardest it will ever be, and that once you break the summit, after the initial uphill struggle your route ahead will be clear.
If you are halfway across Spain, you know you are on your way finally, and the route is clear ahead, but oh boy, some days it feels tough and you are not sure if you have what it takes to really make it – and you have to keep trusting that if every day you put one foot in front of the next you WILL reach your destination.
And if you’ve already arrived at Santiago de Compostela. Well, you’ve made it! But only to the end of one journey. Whatever your Santiago is, when you arrive you are really at the beginning of a whole new journey – whatever that might be – with it’s own unique set of problems, challenges, joys and rewards.
So “making it” is never the end. It’s just another marker on the longer journey – don’t be in such a hurry to get there that you forget to enjoy the view on the way!