Walk and Write: Life Lessons from the Pilgrim Road

Hiking through forests on the Camino Frances | Gesine Cheung
Hiking through forests on the Camino Frances | Gesine Cheung

Walk & Write: Life Lessons from the Pilgrim Road

Camino Escort Stephanie Dale shares her wisdom from her many experiences along the Camino trail. 

When you are in a car, beautiful places are a moment; when you stop the car, they are a cluster of moments. When you walk, beautiful places are an eternity carved into the soul. Stephanie Dale

People often ask me the difference between walking and pilgrimage. In a word: transformation. When you walk, you get to make choices depending on the whims of the moment - where you want to go or even whether you want to go. "Let’s take the easy road"; "let’s stay in bed"; "let’s stop"; "I’ve had enough"; "let’s"  Pilgrimage is choiceless – no buts, what ifs, I shoulds, and then there’syou know you’re on pilgrimage when you’re out of excuses.

Lesson #1: Keep Going.

Pilgrimage encodes discipline, commitment and the ability to overcome into the pilgrim’s bones. In this way pilgrimage makes us strong, more than physically strong. It makes us strong on the inside. Pilgrimage fortifies our interior life. Pilgrimage teaches us to keep going.

Lesson #2: This Too Will Pass.

 No matter where you are - melting beneath the hot sun or bathed in beauty among misted mountains - agony will pass, beauty will pass. Hopelessness will pass. Excitement will pass. The day will pass. The night will pass. The journey will pass. This too will pass. 
Group walking on the CaminoSharing stories and making memories on the Camino

Lesson #3: Don’t Look Back.

 Looked at from its flipside, the Spanish have a word for this: Ultreya! Keep moving forward. What’s behind you has passed. Its hold on the present is up to you. There is nothing behind you. Keep your eyes on the road ahead.

Lesson #4: There Is No There.

 This lesson is hilarious, to me anyway. Lesson #4 teaches us that no matter what we’re doing – walking a pilgrimage, writing a book, building a house – no matter what we’re doing, the destination (or the outcome) is irrelevant if we don’t give all of our attention to the demands of the moment we’re in. No matter how long the road, how arduous the journey, no matter how depleted the spirits – there is no ‘there’ if we do not pick up one foot and put it down in front of the other. All that is required from us is this one step. There is no destination if we do not take that one step. We can take one step.

Lesson #5: Assumptions and Expectations.

OMG, here lie the voices in your head. On pilgrimage, once surrendered to the lessons outlined above, we become acquainted with the voices in our head. The chatter. The stories. The outrageous. The disruptive. The unkind. The merciless. The judgemental. The confrontational. The pretending. The wanting. Pilgrimage puts us in our place. And here’s what’s funny and shocking in equal measure: they are voices in your head. The voices are not real. You have made them up. They have no substance. They are products of your imagination. Oh, you think you’re past all that? Test your theory. Take a pilgrimage. 
Pausing for reflection on the Camino trailPausing for reflection on the Camino trail

Lesson #6: Beauty Is Everywhere.

A parable: it was an arduous pilgrim day. My shoulders screamed. My feet burned. My spirits scraped along the bitumen road. My walking companion said: ‘isn’t this beautiful’. Her comment was like a blast of cold water. I woke from my complaint and looked around me. Soft mountains in the distance. All of it lit by varying shades of sunshine. Beauty, everywhere.

Lesson #7: Kindness Is Everywhere.

It is. Pilgrimage is a journey of the heart. And that, perhaps more than any other aspect of the pilgrim road, demands courage. And therein we find the greatest transformation of all: through pilgrimage we make our peace with life.

About Stephanie Dale

Stephanie Dale is an award-winning journalist and author with a passion for pilgrimage. She leads small groups on Walk and Write pilgrim journeys that offer full support, including beautiful accommodation and luggage transfers.

Join Stephanie on her upcoming UTracks Walk & Write pilgrimage in September 2020.
Camino, El Camino de Santiago, walking, walking holidays, Writing

Comment (0)

Your comment will be visible after the administrator's approval.

b i u quote

Save Comment
Join Newsletter
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ADS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Adventures South"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Adventure South</div>
Adventure South NZ is unrivalled in their geographic coverage, originality and overall quality of adventures holidays in New Zealand. Choose from walking, cycling, winter or multi-activity holidays, on either the North or South Island.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/AWH.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Walking Holidays"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Walking Holidays</div>
Australian Walking Holidays specialises in small group guided walking adventures. Since 1982 we have been guiding small groups of travellers on Australia's finest walks across our tropical, coastal or red centre landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GCT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Canadian Trails"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Canadian Trails</div>
Great Canadian Trails specialises in active holidays in Canada. With both guided and supported self-guided options available, our unique itineraries draw upon some of Canada's most inspiring parks, trails and landscapes from coast to coast.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/HUM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Humac Challenge"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Huma Charity Challenge</div>
Huma enables those with adventurous spirits to challenge themselves and make a difference for a cause close to their heart. Travel, fundraise and meet life-long friends on one of Huma's meaningful and unique challenges around the world.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TAS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Tasmania Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Tasmanian Expeditions</div>
Tasmanian Expeditions is the most experienced operator of treks and adventure travel holidays in Tasmania. We own and operate the most comprehensive range of adventure holidays available across Tasmania's varied landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/UTX-new.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Utracks"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>UTracks</div>
UTracks are the active European holiday specialists. Whether you prefer cycling or walking, 2-star or 4-star, small groups or self guided, land, river or sea – UTracks can help you to explore Europe exactly the way you want.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WYA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions Schools"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions Schools</div>
World Expeditions Schools is our specialist division dedicated to organising tailor made overseas school group adventures. Specialists in Service Learning projects, choose from more destinations than any other school group provider.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/YOM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Yomads"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Yomads</div>
Yomads offers adventures for the 20s and 30s on six continents. Designed as a way to bring young and likeminded travellers together, Yomads caters to those interested in lightly structured and active trips that allow freedom to roam and explore.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ACT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Cycle Tours"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Cycle Tours</div>
Australian Cycle Tours specialises in high quality self guided and guided cycling experiences in a selection of the most beautiful regions in Australia.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WEX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions</div>
The pioneers of original, worldwide adventure travel holidays since 1975
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TJX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Trail Journeys"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Trail Journeys</div>
Self-guided cycling experts on New Zealand's Otago Rail Trail and more
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/BMAC.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Blue Mountains Adventure Company"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Blue Mountains Adventure Company</div>
The original Blue Mountains canyoning, hiking, climbing and abseiling experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GWNZ.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Walks of New Zealand"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Walks of New Zealand</div>
Explore New Zealand's most spectacular wilderness regions with the self-guided hiking experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/NAA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="North America Active"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>North America Active</div>
USA Canada hiking & cycling tour specialists, choose from self-guided or guided trips