Thinking of all the people we met along the way. The people who help us to make this happen with their incredible and spontaneous generosity. There are trizillions of things that could have gone wrong. Like, Pádraig’s new MountainTrike getting ready just two days before we were going to leave, collecting it, accompanied by a good friend who took a day off work, from England on the ferry, when it suddenly dawned on me that we would have to return with two chairs in the one car – never having even thought of measuring the dimensions, of the car, the chairs, and Pádraig sitting in one of them. All that before the journey had even started.
Pretty mad and disorganised (I hear what you’re thinking – borrowing a phrase from one of Pádraig’s consultants:), but even now that we are coming to the end of the Camino and went through all the challenges on the way, I cannot remember the number and kind of occasions when I thought (deep down, very deep down) ‘this might not work out’. So, at least in my mind, even with all the time in the world, not having the busy days we have anyways, we could not have planned for each and every eventuality. There were just too many to consider.
For a German mind, this is a considerable challenge, I can tell you.
And this is one of the important lessons I’ve learned on this journey: a Camino, especially the kind we went on, cannot be planned. In fact, neither can life. Thinking “what if” followed by a long, long list of all the things that could go wrong doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, that kind of thinking paralyses. You become one of those civil servants who discovered that nobody will ever be able to blame them for having done anything wrong if they never take a decision on anything. If you have to think “what if”, think: what if “I took a risk here”, would if “I helped”, what if “I tried out something new, even if it feels a little uncomfortable at first”, what if “I pushed the boundaries, rather than staying with established routines”, what if “I listened, really listened, tried to understand, feel what the other is about, rather than pushing my ‘knowledge and experience’ down their throat”? Too many people think ‘horse’ when they hear ‘gallop’ (borrowing yet another phrase from one of Pádraig’s doctors I had a long conversation with).
Living life, being able to manage it and being able to enjoy (!) it is all about the unexpected twists and turns. Not about the every-day routine we never think about twice. Life’s surprises are often not easy, in fact, they can be extremely difficult, sometimes unbearable, and very hard on the body and the mind (especially if that mind is still a little bit German, even after so many years in Ireland).
Walking the Camino with Pádraig was a brilliant experience. It taught me that worrying, panicking, at times being close to packing it in, thinking that this was just about a too big a slice to swallow, is very normal – but something you can get through. There is so much help along the way and there are so many kind people always lending a hand just when you need it.
Above all and anything else, being together so closely on this Camino, sharing the experience of doing the impossible, seeing the smiles on our faces when we shared a funny moment, having our meals together, enjoying the wonderful fresh air, the smells from the eucalyptus and the grasses, feeling the cold wind, the warm sun and the refreshing rain on our skin, breathing a sigh of relief when we were able to lie down in the evenings – that experience of just a short week will not just stay with me for the rest of my life, it has changed it.
For Pádraig, who so immensely enjoyed being the Camino Celta, and told us so several times every day, it was a huge step forward on his camino to recovery and healing. This was one of his most outstanding Personal Bests (PBs) as an athlete, a stepping stone towards life being fun, challenging, and exciting again.