Walking the Way

Last fall, I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

It’s one of my favorite life experiences. It’s partly related to what I did. But the key is how I arrived there in the first place.

Last year, I was feeling a little stuck. Frustrated. Kind of in a rut. Know that feeling? When nothing is specifically wrong, and even though things are generally good, nothing feels specifically right?

When something is hard to verbalize, it’s a lonely place. There’s a lot of heavy in the world these days. My feeling stuck certainly wasn’t pressing. 

It’s also hard for me to admit feeling stuck when my work of individual coaching and leading curated travel experiences is designed to help others who often feel…well, a little stuck. 

On cue, an invitation appeared.

The sender was someone I respected but whom I never met. Jake Haupert is the CEO and co-founder of the Transformational Travel Council (TTC). I know from his writings that he leads with both head and heart. He expressed how he needed this Camino walk for himself. We would be led by two men from Portugal, co-founders of the Walking Mentorship program. 

The website didn’t go into specific trip details. I didn’t care. Because I trusted Jake. 

I trusted that Jake’s reasons for walking might be similar to mine. I trusted the leaders he chose would be leaders I’d choose, and that those choosing to join would be similarly-minded experience creators. 

I’m regularly a trip leader, so I was excited to be a participant. To spend days outdoors. To be responsible for the contents of my carried backpack. To learn new things. To do something physical that stretched me, but didn’t terrify me.

I was excited for what might open up—new friends, ideas, and who knows what else. 

There were a few logistics to work out. But I knew upon receiving the invite that I’d join.

When I booked my flight, I allowed for 10 extra days on the back of my trip. I wanted post-walk alone time—to write, read, and reflect. I envisioned it being something like a solo trip I took to Portugal some 20 years ago.

A favorite memory from that trip is walking with my backpack uphill from a train station somewhere along the Douro River and stumbling upon a private room at a small winery. I stayed a few nights and spent my days walking and biking through colorful fall foliage and enjoying home-cooked meals and local wine.

I love playing itineraries by ear. I need to do it more. In travel, and life.

To prepare for the Camino, I stepped up my long walks on the weekends. I read books and listened to audiobooks about others’ Camino experiences (my favorite is Walking With Sam by actor Andrew McCarthy). 

I re-watched Emilio Estévez and Martin Sheen’s 2011 movie The Way. Arriving in Santiago de Compostela, Martin Sheen’s character (and the motley crew of friends he collects along the way) decides to continue walking to the town of Muxia along the Atlantic Ocean. As the Westernmost point in continental Europe, Muxia was once considered the end of the world. 

I pulled out my phone and found the coastal region on Google Maps. By the movie’s end, I decided to use those 10 days to venture there myself—hopefully on foot, alternatively by bus. 

I’d figure out the details when in Spain.

At this point, I know you are anxious to hear Camino specifics—What route did I walk? How many total kilometers? How many kilometers per day? Where did I stay? Did I get blisters?

I will quickly answer:

    • With Jake and the Walking Mentorship team, our small group walked about 140 km over a week on a customized version of the Via de la Plata route. We stayed at a monastery, albergue, boutique hotels, and a private home. Learning the first day that our leader Joao Perre Viana wrote a book titled Don’t Count the Kilometres, I didn’t ask about distances. It freed up space to consider the big questions and thoughtful exercises Joao presented.

    • We celebrated our Camino achievement and each other over a final dinner in Santiago de Compostela. The next morning, several of us explored the famed Cathedral before sunrise. My new friends departed via planes, trains and automobiles, while I searched the streets for the famed Camino yellow arrow directing me to the start of my second Camino adventure—a solo 120 km walk to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

    • On blisters…I didn’t get blisters, but I always felt like I was on the verge. Good shoes, socks, and Vaseline are packing essentials.

In a future blog, I’ll highlight some Camino recommendations (sign up via my website to receive).

Those things won’t stay with me. These three words and ideas will.

LUXURY

Luxury is the word I’ve been using to describe the Camino experience.

For many, luxury travel means private transportation, 5-star resorts, personal guides and Michelin-star restaurants. 

But if you ask most people what they most lack in their day-to-day, time and connection are most cited. 

I’m no different. It’s why I prioritize in travel.

It was a luxury to wake up and have one job for the day—walking. I didn’t need to plan. I didn’t need to cook, decide what to wear, or respond to emails. This gave me ample space to connect with the ideas swirling in my head and with my fellow walkers.

As expected, I adored the people in my Walking Mentorship group. Not only are we still in contact, we’re collaborating on projects. Walking my second solo Camino, I became “Sister Jodi” to a Franciscan brother Shamus and his friend Bob whom I met while stopping to watch the sunrise one morning. Our banter now continues over text.

Finally, the pairing of two distinct experiences—an organized mentoring-focused walk and a self-led adventure around one of the world’s most famous pilgrimages in beautiful Spain—was absolutely luxurious.

SIMPLICITY

The Camino reconnected me to what matters—nature, health, food, rest, and personal connection.

Sunrises and sunsets book-ended our days. We stopped when tired, and ate when hungry. We wrote alongside rivers. We picked fresh fruits. We pet friendly dogs.

During my group experience, some of my new friends suffered major hardships. One needed emergency dental surgery. Another lost a wedding ring in the woods. One suffered such painful blisters after the first day that he needed to replace some of his walking with taxis and rest.

Each expressed their pain, sadness, and frustration with the group—and moved on. The hardships became their personal learnings; their reactions to the hardships became inspiration for the rest of us.

During our final dinner as a group, we each toasted each person. I thought carefully about my words. I listened intently to the words of others for me. I wrote down what I heard.

I didn’t hear words like smart or successful—words I’d prided myself on earlier in life. I heard words like kind, thoughtful, strong, multi-faceted. When I went back to my notebook to review the personal values I listed for myself pre-trip, they matched the descriptors offered by my new friends.

That’s my version of success. It’s pretty simple. To me, that is what matters.

TRUST

You are only reading this story because I trusted my gut. And I trusted Jake.

I didn’t enter 2023 knowing I would walk the Camino. I didn’t choose to walk for its historical or religious significance (though I find both fascinating).

I wasn’t trusting a Conde Nast travel list, the recommendations of a travel concierge, or the latest must-go-to travel destinations across my social circles. 

I trusted my head and heart. I trusted the head and heart of a connected stranger. It opened me up to new friendships, ideas and pivoted me back to the best version of myself.

Travel is a luxury. What if we kept it simple and connected to what matters? What if we returned to explore a place in new ways versus seeking to just check off a new country?

What if we placed more emphasis on the who and the why—more than the what and the where?

Travel is the greatest teacher if we show up as a true student.


Ready to be a true student? Join me in Venture Travel to Tanzania (May 2024) or Rwanda (September 2024). Sign up for my posts to receive early-bird trip notifications.


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Jodi Morris Written by:

Venture Guide to High-Achieving Seekers. Success Coach. Venture Travel Curator. Impact Investor. Traveler. Writer. Global Connector. When we connect to others' stories it changes our own. Let's Venture!