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  • Peg Hunt

No Matter Where You Go--There You Are

Thoughts on a Pilgrimage

For the last 5 years your blog co-authors, Anne and Peg, along with our spouses and another couple, have been walking segments of an ancient pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, in northern Spain. This year we completed the pilgrimage—over 500 miles, averaging about 14 miles/ day. We thought we would share some thoughts about what we learned about ourselves, and the opportunities provided by pilgrimage.

In our experience, being on the pilgrimage was like the rest of our life, but more physically challenging and with jet-lag. In other words, we had moments of joy, fun, frustration, intolerance, forgiveness, and anger (normal stuff). What we found most powerful about the experience was that there was less of the hub-bub of life to distract us, so we had time to notice and reflect on our thoughts, feelings and choices.

Here are some reflections:

  • Focusing on what was immediately in front of us, instead of projecting out into the future and fretting over how far we had to walk for the day, or the trip, made the journey easier.

  • One thing we practiced (and often forgot to practice!) was consciously acknowledging the parts of us that were struggling at any given time and letting them “come along” as they were without trying to change or deny them. Acknowledging and making space without judgment for all the feelings that emerged, made it easier to keep going.

  • Taking the opportunity to be present, both to our own internal feelings, as well as what was happening around us (views, weather, birdsong, etc.) made the journey more interesting, fun, and meaningful.

  • Enjoying the camaraderie among ourselves as well as with all the people we met along the way, helped us appreciate our shared humanity. We met people from all over the world, of many different ages, beliefs, abilities—and we were all united by our shared experience of the Camino—the miles, the blisters and other injuries, and the commitment and sense of accomplishment!

  • We witnessed over and over that our thoughts and feelings were “passing” and changed over time; we didn’t have to let them define us or the experience of the day.

  • We learned how restorative taking a break was, whether it was a short rest by the side of the trail or a great dinner and a good night’s rest—taking a break from the pain at hand made things better!

  • We came to see that everyone travels differently and reacts differently to pain or discomfort, and we learned that it was ok--we didn’t have to be in alignment with others or be responsible for changing their experience. It became clear that our job was to focus on how we wanted to complete this journey and be responsible for our own experience.

  • We learned it was unhelpful to focus on the intentions of others—it’s hard to judge others’ intentions due to culture, language, mishearing, not enough information, etc.—and we got better at asking questions to better understand a situation.

In the end, our five-year experience did not lead to a grand epiphany but rather we had a growing awareness and acceptance that there are many ways to complete the pilgrimage, just as there are many ways to live a life, and that we each got to define what success looked like. We learned to make space and developed a greater acceptance our fellow travelers and pilgrims. At the finish, it was a joy to be with others as we all arrived at the same end point from all over the world, walking for many different reasons. We celebrated a common connection in completing this path and felt the connection to all those who had come before us and all of those who will come after.

For us, this pilgrimage was a rich opportunity to continue building self-awareness and for personal growth-- something we value for ourselves as well as our clients. If you would like to know more about this pilgrimage or coaching, please contact me at

© Peg Hunt, MS and Anne Garing, PhD

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