Jessica, Canada

“I came to understand that you can’t spend your life planning ahead, because you will miss the true beauty that each day has to offer.”

“As I was finishing my Master’s degree, I realized I had to think about and plan what was next for me. I had spent the last two years really living in the moment, enjoying a program that versed me in about conflicts around the globe, allowed me to travel to these areas to learn firsthand, and made me passionate about working on conflict issues. I had grown so much as a result that I knew I would not be the same person I was before. As the program was coming to an end and as I considered all my next steps, I felt like I was being pulled in many different directions – working abroad, staying in Canada where my family is, relationships – a whole lot of thoughts were coming into my head, and it was a stressful experience. I really wanted time to rethink what I wanted out of life – I wanted to leave home for a while and find some clarity. I remember coming home one day in May 2014 and telling my roommate Libby all this. She asked where I could possibly go to find my answers, and I told her that I planned to walk the Camino – a journey that I’d actually been interested it for years.

After I finished my explanation and shared a little bit about the Camino’s history, to my surprise she asked if she could join me! We spent the next three weeks planning and mapping out our trip. We decided to begin in Léon, giving us about a two-week journey to Santiago. We flew into Madrid and during our long bus ride to Léon, neither of us knew what to expect from the coming journey. We just resolved to take in the experience as it unraveled before our eyes.

The next 14 days were insightful, inspiring and eye-opening. We met people from all over the world who had come to Spain to walk the Camino, all for different reasons. Some had come for religious reasons. Others had come for the physical and mental challenge such a journey posed. Some that we met had a traumatic experience that led them to seek peace on the Camino – I was surprised that people would share things like that so willingly. While the landscape was captivating and enthralling, I believe it is the people we met along the way that truly captivated my heart.

I decided to go on the Camino to try to find some clarity about my future. I remember spending some days walking with Libby where neither of us said a word. We simply walked, took in our surroundings with each step. At the end of each day, we would do our personal writing over a café con leche and share our views about the day and the trip so far. It was somehow easier to talk about certain personal feelings, and even about our lives. Both that daily silence and that evening discussion made our friendship stronger than it had ever been before by creating greater depth and understanding in our friendship.

When we finally arrived in Santiago, I remember an understanding coming over me. I still had spent quite a bit of time on the Camino trying to figure ‘what was next,’ but now I realized that fear – fear of the next step, fear of the unknown, or fear of making a bad decision – had not only stirred up insecurities and self-doubts in me, but it also made me focus only on the ‘what’s next’ and not on the things around me. I came to understand that you can’t spend your life planning ahead, because you will miss the true beauty that each day has to offer. It sounds so simple, yet I find that most people live in a constant state of comfort and conformity, constantly planning and waiting for tomorrow for things to happen. They don’t dare to go outside the norm. The Camino taught me that life is much more than that. It encouraged me to be more fearless in my approach to life. It gave me so much more than I had originally intended. Today, I find myself in a job I love, surrounded by people who fuel my heart and soul with love and passion. I take part in all kinds of projects that continue to help me grow, and that allow me to contribute to different communities. I look forward to retracing my footprints in the future, and I just know I will return to Spain to re-embark on that journey. Until then, I will use what I have learned to live a life full of adventure.”

-Jessica, Canada

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