(705) 443-9786 karenssoapbox@gmail.com

Three years ago today I started my trek on the Camino de Santiago, my journey started 3 days earlier as I took 3 planes and 2 busses to get to my destination of St. John de Pied in France. As I was planning my trip many people were astonished that I would be taking this trip alone, the bravery they saw because they would never think of being a solo traveler. Me, I saw no bravery in any of the travel, for most of my life my travels have been on my own except for family vacations. Just 10 years prior I traveled to India alone to start the business that I would run and own and it was upon that business closing that I knew it was right to finally take this Camino trip. A trip I had dreamed of for over 25 years, it seemed fitting that after a business closure, my 50th birthday, and the 10th anniversary of my mom’s death it was time. Traveling alone was never even a second thought, in fact, the idea of making this trek with someone seemed incredibly foreign to me.

As I lay in bed at a beautiful Bn B the night before I was to begin to start my journey the sheer panic and fear set in, something I had never considered in all of the planning of this journey. Between me and my pack, I weighed 245lbs. Really? I am going to march 245 pounds 800km through the Pyrenees mountains, what in the hell was I thinking? The first 2 days I would have my pack transported for me, lets do some math, that is still 225lbs that I am about to carry through the hardest part of the journey, not because it is harder than other parts of the journey it is just that it is the start. The part of your journey where saving your feet is imperative. To you, it may sound strange that this was never a consideration until the night before, but that is how I roll. I may personally struggle with my body when I look in the mirror, but my body size and weight have never stopped me from what I want to do. 

As I got to my first stop about 1-2 hours behind the ladies I had met at the bus stop I realized that my journey would be very different than the people that I was sharing a room with every night. 

My heart truly wanted to walk the longer distances of 20-25 km a day and my flight home was based on this schedule, if I was going to make it to the next stop in time to get a bed for the night I would need to get up and moving as early as possible, 5 am it was. That is what I did, I got up at 5 am and started with my headlamp in the dark, walking alone in the darkness for the first 1 or 2 hours. At about 7 am, I would begin being passed and lapped by the people who had started later than me. We would have amazing conversations as they walked at my pace for a few minutes and then off they would go off and we would either see each other that day at a lunch spot, at one of the Alburges (hostels), or I may never see them again. Many would actually pass me twice, they would stop for their breakfast and I would keep going and they would pass me later in the day. With hey, how ya doin, you are doing great, keep it up!! Admittedly there was a ton of encouragement for the fat girl, I say that with love.

I really could have decided to walk 15 kilometers a day, but I loved the feeling of being accomplished at the end of the day by walking the 20 km and most days I would finish by 2:30 or 3 still leaving me some time to wash my clothes, rest my feet and have a small nap before dinner. 

I am inherently really competitive, I blew my knee out 3 years before my Camino journey because I was trying to compete with a firefighter on a rowing machine. Having people pass me was discouraging and I spent many of my first few days in tears wishing I wasn’t caring all of this weight, wishing I had lost weight before I came, essentially beating myself up for all of my “should have dones.”

About 10 days in when people much fitter than I had to leave the Camino due to foot blisters, injuries, or homesickness. It was at that moment, I realized I needed to surrender to my journey, whatever it was going to be. I hadn’t trained by hiking trails before I left, but I had taught 6 Nia classes a week, dancing and stretching my body into a pliable strong vessel. My body, although larger,  was in shape. I felt very little pain at the end of the day, I stopped and cared for my feet often, I was not going home because of blisters!! I

I would land into each town exhausted, but physically, short of some foot pain, I felt fine. 

Surrender, this was my first Camino lesson, surrender to what is. Trying to make something different without surrender to the moment is what was increasing my struggle, my sadness, and sucking all of my joy from the journey because, in my mind,  I wasn’t measuring up. The moment I surrendered to what was, my journey changed. I was able to walk slowly and take in all of the sights, I was able to acknowledge my accomplishments,  my steps became lighter and the joy of the journey returned.

Wishing you the power of surrender and joy in your journey. 

In love, light, and laughter