All along the Camino de Santiago, there are markers that lead pilgrims on their walk. Those markers aren’t always obvious and it really does make you pay attention. It reminded me of a book I read a long time ago called the Celestine Prophecy. The book talks about connecting with what and who is around you. Being grounded. Being present so that you don’t overlook something or dismiss someone who might turn out to be a key part of your journey.
That idea resonated with me and so I’ve made a point to be mindful. Mindful of who crosses my path. Mindful of things that didn’t happen the way I envisioned (and then turned out to be so much better!). Alert to opportunities to learn and travel and experience. From the quirky to the mundane to the breathtaking, every moment can be significant. Some of you wonder where I get my adventuresome spirit and perhaps this explains part of it. I’m not saying we can’t make discoveries in our own backyard, but putting myself out in the world just opens so many more doors.
And is why I took myself to a seaside port in the northwest of Spain this past June. For five days, I walked with my adventuresome friend, Katie Ford, from Ferrol to Santiago de Compostela, covering more than 120km (that’s about 75 miles for you non-metric Americans). Since there aren’t really printed trail maps you can buy for the Camino (just basic town-to-town maps, many times hand-drawn and xeroxed), your only real guidance is the scallop shell markers found along the Camino routes (there are actually seven official routes that originate in Spain, France and Portugal). It took some faith at first, placing yourself in the hands of strangers who have walked before you. I’ll admit to checking my cellphone GPS on more than one occasion, but the markers were never wrong.
However, not all markers looked the same. You might have the big official stone pedestal with the scallop shell emblem or a scallop shell design conveniently displayed on a manhole cover along a city street. But mostly, and especially in rural areas, you might only have a yellow arrow spray-painted on a tree or in the road or on a telephone pole. And without realizing it, you begin to slow down and look around anytime you pass an intersection. Or when your footpath meets a road. Or when you just sort of need reassurance.
And this is what I mean by looking for signs on the Camino. Your well-being quite literally depended on it, but it was also a constant reminder to pause, look around and pay attention. I like that.