A year ago, I considered walking the Portuguese Camino, an inkling that sparked after walking the John Muir Way in Scotland in 2019. I’d never considered a walking trip prior to that. When my friend asked me to join her in Scotland, I said, “I’ll go” before the thought had entered my head. What prompted my automatic response? Does the Universe have plan for us? And can we trust it?
As I researched the Camino, my desire became stronger. I had expectations of sun, cafés, delicious food and good company as we walked through Portugal and Spain. Three days in Lisbon and three in Porto would give me an opportunity to adjust to the time difference. Six glorious days of restaurants, exploration, walks, ferry rides, bookshops, and delightful companions matched my expectations.
I chose Portuguese Green Walks to book the hotels and map our path. Our coordinator met with us the evening before our walk to provide our Pilgrim shell, map book, and vouchers for each hotel stay. The following morning, we were driven to the start of the Portuguese Coastal Camino, a sandy picturesque spot at the ocean’s edge. The day was cloudy, our spirits high. With backpacks, walking poles, hats, and jackets we began. The weather worsened with each mile. Rain started as mist, then drizzle, then drops. No shelter, only “Onward!” The miles seemed endless as we slogged through sand when the boardwalk ended.
This was not my expectation. Expectation, as a friend pointed out, is programmed disappointment. Could I drop my expectation and accept what is? My defiant self said, “No.” However, that same part of me that had said yes to Scotland piped in and said, “Yes!” I’m committed to the walk, my first aha on the Camino. Could I play this out and see where it goes? With the support of my traveling companions, I did. Twelve miles and eight hours of walking in rain turned out to be our hardest day. We trudged into the hotel lobby leaving pools of water with each step as we registered. Underneath the exhaustion was a sense of accomplishment. Day one, complete.
Something in me knew I needed a challenge. The Camino Walk forced me to see life differently. It stretched my physical boundaries, welcomed new ways of seeing the world, and tested my communication skills in two other languages. My brain had to adjust to unexpected twists and turns each day.
Expectations act like a cork in the bottle of life, limiting flow. Releasing my expectations and trusting the invisible plan of the Universe allowed me to enjoy the experience of the Camino with more flexibility and confidence. My initial anxiety was replaced with a new-found aliveness. Bom Camino!