I’m just back from cycling a 300km portion of the Camino de Santiago Trail, a bucket list trip I’d been contemplating for over 10 years now. Sure, I may not have walked it like the traditionalists, and I only did over a third of the trail, but I did manage to do it with my family (teenage boys and all) over 9 action packed days. A great experience we’ll never forget! I’m sure I’ll be back again to hike or cycle more of the trail and add to my story collection.
So what is Camino de Santiago?
It’s one of Spain’s most popular ancient pilgrimage routes (the way of St James) marked by yellow arrows and signature blue and yellow scallop shells. It starts at St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France and goes right across to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. 800km in total trekked by over 200,000 pilgrims per year.
The trip is sensational for breaking free of the routine of everyday life, to live simply, immerse yourself in the elements, new landscapes, cultures and meet adventurous new friends from all corners of the globe with fascinating stories to match.
I’ll never forget riding past ancient Spanish castles, over Roman bridges, winding down sweeping mountain passes, cruising over medieval cobble stoned paths, glancing over beautiful vineyards and past breath-taking villas. The history, wild flowers, bubbling brooks, local people, wind in your hair, delicious homemade food, camaraderie of fellow pilgrims sharing moments and stories. The delight of a warm shower and soft bed at the end of a day of adventure. Complete immersion in the experience – feeling, tasting, touching and exploring it all.
Here’s six useful tips if you’re planning to tackle the Camino de Santiago yourself:
1. Make it your own
When you’re in Spain, doing the miles along this ancient trail, you, my friend are a pilgrim. Please don’t get lost in whether you’re a real pilgrim or not because you did (or didn’t) do it the traditional way.
This might mean you spent each night in luxury accommodation instead of hostels, only did the last 100kms, cycled it or took twice a long as everybody else.
It’s the diversity of the pilgrims that make it such a special experience. You’ll find the reasons people do this pilgrimage, varies as much as their journey. Some are overcoming addictions or hardships, others are taking it on behalf of others that couldn’t make it, some physical adventure, some for spiritual enlightenment or even not really sure why.
Honour your choices and be unashamedly you.
2. Embrace the challenges
You know there will be many! It’s guaranteed.
There’s nothing like a challenge to highlight your daily patterns and gain insight about yourself.
Talking of challenges. There was a testing time on our recent Camino journey in searing 30 deg shadeless heat where my youngest son had a flat tyre and a bolt that wouldn’t allow it to be fixed. So here I am left behind with a distressed son, no map, no phone reception, no address of destination, minimal Spanish, roughly 6km to go, lost, one flat tyre and no help in sight. Options were to cry, panic or get resourceful. I chose number 3 after a small window of panic. I’m only human…lol!
With streaming tears from my 14 year old we ventured across fallow corn fields to join our rightful path ever so slowly with the disabled bike. Hours later we finally reached town and stumbled across familiar faces. Crisis resolved. There were big lessons learned right there. Lessons learnt for me – carry your own map, know where you’re going, ask for help sooner rather than later, keep following the yellow arrows always and learn more Spanish…lol!
3. Integrate the lessons
Acknowledge the lessons you learnt from the days before and integrate them as you move forward. Found this out the hard way! Pain and discomfort are great teachers.
4. Honour your own rhythm.
You’ll find your rhythm half way through the first day. Go faster and you’ll burn out quickly. Slower and you’ll get frustrated.
Quiet persistence pays off and beats showy bursts any day. The Camino will show you that.
There’s plenty of trekkers who have charged out of the gates only to break down midway through the journey.
Remember the Camino isn’t a race and you’ll find your fitness improves every day. To my surprise I got better as the days went on. At times five hours into the ride I was at my peak.
Be kind to your body, keep an eye out for signs of exhaustion, and take rests when you need them. Drink lots of water and take a magnesium supplement to help your muscles recover.
5. Do the work
Enthusiasm is great. But, you need to put in the training before you hit the track. Nothing can make up for miles in the legs on the mode of transport you’re taking. I learnt that!
It might not be the case for everyone, but, if you spend the bulk of your time sitting at a desk, easing into the walk is a good option. There’s no shame in breaking up your first few days into “shorter” stints: start with 15 to 20km days, and gradually increase the distance from there.
6. Enjoy the journey
Keep an open-mind, reserve judgement and enjoy the experience as it unfolds, for that’s where you’ll find the magic.
Be exactly where you are and soak it all in. Enjoy the mental space to mill over the meaning of life, review your priorities and burn in lasting memories.
Above all join in the catch cry exchanged amongst fellow pilgrims and local well wishers along the way – Buen Camino!
It literally means good road in Spanish, but it can also mean good path, both physical and spiritual.
Do you have a bucket list trip simmering? Love to hear about it?
Emma strode into the café her eyes sparkled, positive energy exuded from every pore and filled the space around her like a radiant star. She had a zest for living that showed in the way she walked, sat, talked, smiled and laughed. It was infectious. I could feel other’s close by thinking, ‘I want what she’s got’. How do I get my spark back?
As I sat and heard Emma’s story, I quickly learnt it hadn’t always been that way. She’d been a bitch (her words!) and hard to be around in a marriage that had blocked her from pursuing her passion and purpose. Her husband just didn’t believe in what she wanted to do – alternative healing – and blocked her at every turn. After 5 years of not being her best self, the day came when she realised she couldn’t be the person he wanted her to be and be happy about it.
Once she got clear on what she wanted her life to have more of, she pursued it and her empowerment grew. A wise mentor had said ‘live the way you want to be happy, as long as nobody gets hurt, relationships will either fall away or adapt and get on board’. Unfortunately, her marriage didn’t adapt to her happiness changes and it fell away.
Emma said:” Looking back now, we were in two different worlds. In that environment I’d forgotten what it was like to feel good. What I’d learnt and had resonated with me over time, was in complete contradiction to what was happening in my marriage. It was like my soul was being ripped out. It’s even hard to go back and remember it all now, many years later.”
Lost your spark, feeling exhausted, worn out? Been through a rough patch and can barely peel yourself away from your doona, find yourself saying “I’ve Lost My Passion For Life?”
Reliving mental pictures of the old days, when you had energy, motivation, a sense of humour, optimism? Now there’s cynicism, exhaustion and feeling too tired for life. – “Lost My Passion For Life”
Libido’s crashed, living on caffeine and sugar, endlessly running the kids around and grinding out the hours at work, feeling like a hamster on a wheel.
Find yourself staring in the mirror saying “I need to find my spark again?”
Don’t lose hope your spark is smouldering somewhere deep inside.
And no it’s not because you’re old…it’s because you’ve stopped looking after you. Everything else came first and it’s time for an overhaul.
It’s time to ignite the flame!
Don’t worry your family, friends and work colleagues will thank you for it.
“Find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.” – Oprah
Imagine bounding out of bed as the alarm goes off, you’re jumping out of your skin so exercise’s no problem and you’re ready for anything that comes your way.
I know I lost my spark in my late twenties, working crazy hours, disrespecting my body with crappy foods, little exercise and bad relationships.
I got that ‘hamster wheel feeling’ and knew things had to change because I wasn’t staying there! I had to find my spark again….and I did.
Now I look back I see the patterns, thoughts, actions and mindset that got me there. When you know better you do better.
“Don’t lose the spark that makes you….you” – CJ Peterson
Here’s six steps to finding your spark:
Step One: Clarity Is Central To Finding Your Spark
Take a moment to dream what you’d like your life to look like in five, ten or fiftenteen year’s time.
Make this an everyday practice.
Ahhh…. it feel delicious.
That’s the juice, that’s going to get you there through the ups and downs of life.
Now take stock of where you are now.
What’s three things that need to happen in next three months for you to move closer to your dream life?
Focus and consistency are the footsteps of clarity.
Let’s get walking my friend, to a spark filled life.
Step Two: Energy is Essential To Regaining Your Spark
Second stage of regaining your spark is energy.
Energy is foundational to everything.
It’s not just in your head, it’s in every cell of your body.
Having no energy is like being an inflatable toy that’s sprung a leak.
What’s zapping your energy?
- Low in iron
- making bad food choices
- sleep deprived
- gut problems
- autoimmune disease
- chronic pain
- food intolerances….
If you answered yes to any of the above, you will benefit greatly from seeing a naturopath. I can make a huge difference to unravelling the causes. CLICK HERE to book online to get it sorted.
Step Three: Rituals Are Key To Recreating The Spark In Your Life
Stop living off wishful thinking, life’s too short to hope and pray that the planets will align and you’ll be jumping out of your skin and motivated each day.
So, increase the odds by setting morning and evening rituals.
Soon your rituals will become just what you do and you can change and refine them over time.
Need some help with establishing empowering rituals, come see me. Click here to book online.
Step Four: Decluttering Clears Out What’s Smoothering Your Spark
Yes, time to clear out all the rubbish in your life room by room, person by person, thought by thought, action by action.
Let go of what’s not working and what you’re no longer using.
Gift it, sell it, donate it, bin it, recycle it.
Make space for what does work and what’s coming.
Get the boxes and bags out and go to work.
Set a timer and a “this shit’s got to go” attitude.
You’ll feel lighter and freer for it.
Step Five: Recharging Is Critical To Finding and Maintaining Your Spark
When you’re running low or on empty, every time you give to others you’re giving away a piece of yourself and it hurts.
Think of it like filling up the car with petrol, it’s hard to go anywhere with no fuel.
When you’re overflowing it’s easy.
You cannot give what you don’t have.
Recharge using daily self care. Click here for loads of ideas.
Step Six: Empowerment Is The Glue To Finding And Keeping Your Spark
Self love equals self empowerment.
When you love yourself, you set standards for yourself and boundaries for others.
What does self love look like for you?
For me, it’s about taking care of myself by treating my body, mind and spirit like the gift they are?
I always say, the great leveller in life, “you come in with this body, you go out with this body, when it wears out so do you, so treat it with the respect it deserves.” – Julie Smethurst
If you find yourself thinking – “I have Lost My Passion For Life” You need help to find your spark.
I know it’s still there somewhere because you’re breathing…haha! CLICK HERE to book online to get started to finding your spark today at my Mt Martha office or via skype.
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re no longer willing to stay where you are.” – J.P Morgan
Much love Julie xx
(Naturopath, Life Coach, Pharmacist) Feeling Great Health Solutions, Mt Martha