Life and Business Lessons Learned From A Hike Across Spain, Step by Step
As my husband dropped me off outside Milton Keynes Central and kissed me goodbye I subconsciously patted my rucksack (Nellie) and with confidence, I strode into the busy train station. I was now a solo hiker and I was about to walk the Camino on my own for the very first time. I needed to get from Milton Keynes to Stansted Airport, and then make my way to the foot of the Pyrenees in France all by myself. I had planned this, and I had walked this section with my daughter and best friend previously, so I knew I would be fine. If I am honest, it was not the hike, or even being on my own that played on my mind, it was the guilt.
Why would I feel guilty?
I know I am not the only person to feel this way, but when I do something that is just for me I carry an element of guilt on my shoulders. I was just about to spend a whole week doing something that I really wanted to do and I was leaving my family behind. I was spending "our" money on "me", and I was having a holiday whilst Rachel was at school and my husband was busy working. What sort of a mother/wife does that? Surely any holidays should be spent together as a family? Not only was I spending time away from my family, but I had also spent money on the kit (such as walking boots, new sleeping bag etc). A kit like this is not cheap and it soon adds up - more guilt!
As I am sitting on the Stansted Express train wondering what on earth I was doing and the guilt was escalating in my head I receive a text message from my hubby. "I don't say it often, but I am really proud of you Ju". He had no idea that this was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. A tear made it's way down my cheek and I knew that I was doing the right thing. It was only a week (I told myself)... you can do this!
I had lost the "real me"
As we work our way through life we become different people. Work, family and life circumstances will mould us into that person that are today. As I sit on the train heading for Stansted I find myself looking at my reflection in the window and wondering "who am I?". I remember feeling sad and rather depressed as it dawned on me that no-one really needs me anymore. My daughter was finding her own way in life, and even my business (marketing agency) no longer needed me. It was time to discover the real me. It was time to find out who I really am, or perhaps re-discover the "old me". They say the Camino is a journey of self-discovery and this trip was certainly that for me.
Once again, guilt popped into my head. How could I not be satisfied with my life? I have a happy marriage, a loving daughter who shares my adventures with me. I have a very successful business that provides a good income. Most people would be content with this life, so why did I feel the need to escape and go on a journey of self-discovery?
The Penny Dropped..
I set out on my own from St Jean Pied de Port at the foot of the Pyrenees. I know that Camino is all about the people, but I had some answers to find so I was keen to spend as much time on my own as possible on this particular trip. I reached the Orisson (first hostel in the Pyrenees) by 1 pm which meant that I had the afternoon and evening with not much to do. I settled into my bunk, then grabbed my journal and a glass of wine and started making a list. "The Old Me" list. The question I asked myself is "What did I do as a kid that made me feel alive?". It was more of a brain dump list, but the results made me realise what was missing. Here was my list...
- Drawing - I was always drawing something and I never do that now.
- Exploring - cycle trips, YHA trips, camping trips with friends.
- Clubs - As a kid, I was the one that organised the bike rides, the camping in the garden, the club for skateboarding, building dens for club members!
- Business - even as a kid I was running some type of business. Whether that was a shoe shining business, charging people to have a jump on my mum and dads old bed which was in the garden waiting to go to the tip, or selling pirated videos (sssh, don't tell my dad!).
The list went on and on and I won't bore you with the details, but it certainly helped me rediscover the "old me". The next question to ask myself was "Do I want to find the old me, or do I want to discover a new me?". The old me was certainly creative, had a sense of adventure, and I enjoyed building businesses. I circled the "building businesses" a few times as the penny began to drop. I enjoyed "Building" businesses, I didn't enjoy running a business once it was successful!
My Camino Angel
During that solo Camino trip I met Erik Op Ten Berg who was the catalyst for the next chapter in my life. Erik just happened to be a "Master of Creativity (yes, he has even presented a Ted Talk on the subject). They say that the Camino provides what you need, not what you want and a week of Erik was exactly what I needed. I walked for a whole week in the company of this wonderful man and we remain good friends until this day. Erik re-ignited my creative flow and I am now creating videos and writing more. Erik inspired me to set up Adventure Geek and within two months of returning from this trip, I had made the decision to sell my Marketing Agency.
Lesson: Never feel guilty for taking time out for yourself
Everyone needs time on their own to figure stuff out. Erik said to me "If you are happy Julia, then the people around you will be happy. If you are sad then the people around you will be sad. All emotion is infectious and contagious, so it is your responsibility to make sure that you do what makes you happy so that everyone around you is happy".
Erik was also walking alone and he was meeting his wife in Santiago. He walks on a regular basis to clear his head and make some space for more creative thinking.
So now when I am off on one of my multi-hikes I do not feel guilty. I know that I am clearing space in my mind for new ideas and that if I am at peace and happy then my family will feel the same.
Lesson: Take time out to recharge your batteries
If you are feeling low on energy then it is time to do something for you. I personally now walk a section of the Camino at least once a year. This is the best way for me to take some time out and recharge those batteries.
If you are at a crossroads in your life then taking some time out to make a decision is very effective. If you don't stop then you will be on that hamster wheel forever and this will have an impact on your own life as well as others around you. It is time to hang up those guilt gloves and throw them away. Everyone should have an element of being selfish every now and then. It's good for the soul!
Thank you for reading this blog.