I recently had opportunity to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and it was a profound time for me. I cannot begin to sum it up in a few sentences - other than to say it was one of the hardest yet most rewarding things I have ever done in my whole life. But, I found that being largely alone on the road for a sustained period changed my perspective and priorities enormously - and made possible all kinds of perception and reflection which otherwise would be lost, or missed, or buried. As my pilgrimage neared its end, I began to say to myself (and that's another outcome of long solitary walking!) that it was time to think about getting back to 'real life'.
But it slowly dawned on me that, actually, THIS WAS real life - not that semi-anaesthetised workaday back in UK, where if I'm not careful I can become so busy and so driven, that I completely miss the things which had enriched me over these past few weeks, so that my senses felt more alive than I'd ever known. Simple things which had often caught my attention along the way, sounds, and smells, the fleeting hello's or significant little conversations along the way... these were things which I could easily miss (or even avoid, thinking I'm 'too busy') back home. Many of my days here had been completely filled with journeying no further than the distance of our drive to the nearest supermarket - something which I will often do on autopilot in twenty minutes or so.
I'm not one for new years' resolutions usually, but having enjoyed the opportunity to press the 'pause' button and walk the camino over the winter, I am determined to travel more slowly this year - so that I am open in a new way. I want to be able to hear those faint sounds, and pursue them; to see that interesting shape, and go have a look; to make time for a conversation which might turn out to be profound, or just smalltalk. These things aren't a waste of time, as our culture might try to persuade me; rather, they are a life well lived.