Life and Business Lessons Learned From A Hike Across Spain, Step by Step
I always walk with Nordic Poles, mainly due to being a Nordic Walker for many years, but also out of pure habit. A pole becomes part of you and I now feel uncomfortable if I walk without a pole. A pole creates a rhythm when walking, it assists you through those tough inclines and protects your knees and hips on the steep declines. Pilgrims walk with a range of poles. It may be a shepherds staff, fancy trekking poles / Nordic poles, cheap walking sticks found in the pound shop or even a stick found along the trail.
Walking poles on the Camino (or any long distance hike) will become more than just a stick. They will be your best friend when you need them most. Unless you selected a rather crappy walking pole (like the one I broke in Carrion De Los Condes) your pole will be a support for you in more ways than one.
As we entered the beautiful Galacia section there were many ups and downs. We reached Fronfria and enjoyed a lovely pilgrim meal (where Rachel made a very creative chicken out of the rice and peppers!) and then watched England in the World Cup. We befriended (as so often happens) a young lady named Ana from Serbia who was supporting Croatia in the World Cup. Ana was a fit young lady and had walked from Leon on her own and was heading for Santiago. A truly kind-hearted soul who would give anything to help other people, but she was not so keen on asking for help herself. Saying that most people do not like to ask for help. Even though she was physically fit, and had quite a light bag, she was struggling with her knee, especially going downhill. She was keen to continue and had already rested for a few days, but if she was to reach Santiago then she needed to push on. The next day we took things slowly and made our way to Samos. Rachel offered her walking poles to Ana but she refused. After a little bit of persuasion, Rachel managed to convince Ana to just take one pole instead of both. We also taught Ana the zig-zagging technique when going downhill as this takes the pressure off the knees.
Helped along with the new tools, techniques and a bit of a sing-song we had arrived in Samos quite early. The lovely Ana spoke fluent Spanish and our kindness was rewarded by a full translation service during a tour of the monastery.
Who are the walking poles in your life?
As I sat in my bed that evening writing up my journal I contemplated the learnings from today. The walking pole that we gave to Ana was much more than a support for her bad knee it was a lifeline extended for a new friendship. Over the course of the day we built up a fantastic friendship and we are still friends to this day. It made me think about who were the "walking poles" in my life? Yes, family and close friends are my steady eddies, but now it was time to look beyond that. There are more good people in this world and if someone offers to help me then I now know that it feels good to give help as well as receive it. I will stop saying no automatically when someone offers help and will try saying yes a little bit more often.
Sometimes, a walking pole is just not enough and it is the same in life. I recall the steep descent from the Alto del Person (Iron Statues after Pamplona) towards Puente la Reina when I took a nose dive on the stones. Yes, I had my walking poles but I wasn't concentrating and over I went. I looked around and a German lady was behind me. She nodded at me to ask if I was ok and then simply carried on after I nodded back to acknowledge that I was fine (just damaged pride). Sometimes, you can have all the support that you will ever need and you will still fall over. The key is to get back up, brush yourself off and keep on going. On the Camino, this is known as "ultreia" (meaning Always Forward, or Keep Going"). Never give up.
Who are your walking sticks in real life? If you do fall over then what mechanism do you have for coping with the curve in the road? I now wear a ring on my right hand that says those magic words "Ultreia" which is a reminder for me to always be moving forward. It is ok to look back every now and then, but it is a reminder to say "you are not going that way".
Thank you for reading this blog.