In 1999, I was part of a dynamic team launching eBucks.com, an e-commerce initiative for the FirstRand Group, when I got hijacked for the second time.
I remember reading a book called The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit, by Shirley MacLaine, over the weekend at my home in Melville, Johannesburg.
I walked into the office and put it on the desk of Michael Jordaan, my then boss, and asked if I could please take off 36 days to complete The Camino.
The very next morning, having read the book, he walked in and said he fully understood. I booked an Air France flight direct to Paris and a train ticket down the coast of France to the Pyrénées to the little town of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
With my backpack weighing over 25kg, I confidently embarked on a journey of a lifetime. After an exhausting first 25km that day, I emptied my backpack to 6kg at the first Refugio, a monastery in the middle of the Pyrénées, with strict nuns who put us to bed very early.
That backpack was emptied out and some very helpful pilgrims assisted me with what I really needed on the trip.
The journey was filled with highlights and low lights, marriage proposals and group dynamics, new friends and old. It was one of the most liberating 32 days of my life, being able to follow in the footsteps of the great saints who had walked this healing walk for centuries.
There is no doubt when you’re in a meditative walk for kilometre after kilometre in silence with only yourself, the aches and pains of your body and the nature surrounding you, that you are able to tap into the universe that surrounds you.
Physically, it’s an internal battle of how you are going to make the next 20 to 25km each day. Do you keep up with the group? Do you keep up or compete with another pilgrim, or do you manage your own pace, and complete things in your own way and in your own time?
Having never been terribly physically fit, and having always struggled with my health as a child growing up, this was an important personal growth step of knowing my inner strength.
There was many a day that walking the Camino I had no less than 10 blisters. The art of learning to pop and sew the blister, which enabled me to walk another 25km, became an imperative.
The friends along the way, the Spanish laughter, the way people opened their homes to us was something I wasn’t used to. Losing 10kg, and completing the full Camino which only 10% of pilgrims complete in a lifetime, helped me to define my inner confidence and gave me the knowing I had yearned for for many years.