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Where the Spirit Leads, Feet Follow: Walk, Baby, Walk

While extreme sports fuel many, the rest of us are not, nor do we aspire, to be in the club.  For a lot of different reasons, we don’t want to go “peak bagging.” We’re not fit enough, strong enough or brave enough. Still we’d like to “live bold” and “dare to do more.”

The urge for gold star adventure status without carabiners, harnesses or helmets is strong. But where do we find a place to be outdoors and test ourselves but not join a group with a mantra of “win or die trying”?

Join the sport of “the walk.” The “walk” I refer to has elements of the uncommon – quiet, a chance to re-set your internal clock and strong historical ties of a pilgrimage.    Camino de Santiago (or The Way of St. James) is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north west Spain, where legend has it that the remains of the apostle, Saint James the Great, are buried.

While you and I might consider it a once-in-a-lifetime experience,  two women I met last week first hit the Camino in 2010 and are returning in September for a third time.  Christina Brandt and Susan Baghdadi are leading a group of no more than 12 with an 8-day walking itinerary that averages 6-8 hours each day. They expertly handled a myriad of my questions about their upcoming opportunity to walk the Camino with them so I might share them with you.

Here are aspects of this experience  I hold high in my priority list of choosing this kind of experience:

  1. Comfy Room with My Bag Waiting. While you CAN walk the Camino on your own, having the logistics (lodging, food, transporting gear) taken care of allows you to focus your energy on the experience.  I don’t walk long distances with a 30-lb pack on my back because I don’t want to. And I don’t like dirty, risky or bad accommodations.  Each inn chosen for this trip is a typical Galician manor house, formerly belonging to noblemen.  Situated in rural spaces away from the actual Camino route, they’re unique and comfortable.   And your bags will be there for you when you arrive.
  2. Limit on Small Group Sharing. You are not going to be pressured to sit around in the evening forced to “share” anything.  The structure for this group experience will depend, according to Christina and Susan, on where the energy and need presents opportunities.  Certainly, the opportunity to engage with both of these professionals for a check in on your life’s direction and create new perspectives is something to consider taking advantage of – if the spirit moves you.
  3. Might Find a Buddy. Having done my share of walking for continuous days, I know for certain at the end of the day it’s lovely to shower, smooth my bedcovers (whether bunk, tent or inn) and look forward to good food shared in the camaraderie of a small group.  I might not bond with everyone, but all it takes is one or two possible good buddies to make a journey worthwhile. On a trip like this you can walk alone, with a stranger, or several people.  In my experience, life-long friends are possible to make on a trip like this.
  4. But I Don’t Want to Walk Today. And one of the best things this trip provides is the option of getting to the location for the day WITHOUT walking.  On a kayak week in Crete, there were many of us who found that last leg of the day, just not appealing.  So we could walk or ride. I loved that option.  (The only people to do all four legs for 8 days were three 80-year old Canadians.  Go Canada!)

Susan and Christina have the professional expertise and experience to enrich your experience.  More importantly, both combine passion with purpose.

Susan and Christina on the Camino.

Susan has recently outed herself as a Taoist Sufi Witch(!) and is a certified Martha Beck master coach at Alchemy of Life in Dubai/Amman. She specializes in body-centered, nature-inspired coaching, creative communication workshops and adventure retreats. She facilitates a profound tension/trauma releasing process (TRE) and is presently diving deeply into the collaborative, co-creative processes of the Art of Hosting & Participatory Leadership. She is the proud mother of two warrior children and is in training as an Equus Coach – working with horses to help people become more attuned to their own energy.

Christina, an escapee from Corporate America, has helped hundreds of women answer the question “What’s next?” and awaken to new possibilities for bringing satisfaction, purpose and joy to their lives. A master coach, speaker and blogger, Christina is also an instructor of coaches for Martha Beck, Inc. She holds degrees in International Management, Counseling & Development, and Landscape Design. Like Susan, she is in training to become an Equus Coach, helping horses teach humans valuable lessons about leadership and personal energy. Christina excels at the ability to laugh at herself, knows a divine wink when she sees one, and has a healthy respect for the restorative power of a good piece of chocolate and a great conversation.

Here’s my advice: Grab what you already have in your closet – a pair of comfortable shoes, a hat and a good pair of sunglasses – and join two warm, personable and wise guides for part of a sabbatical experience that holds promises of adventure without the trauma.

No ridiculous preparation or practice required.  Yeah!

Many thanks to Filiz Telek for connecting me with Susan and Christina so I might pass along this valuable information to sabbatical seekers.  I met and interviewed this extraordinary woman several months after she walked for 30 days on the Camino.  See Filiz in the taped interview here.

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