What is The Camino de Santiago de Compostela?
For those who are not familiar, “El Camino de Santiago de Compostela”, also called “The Way of St. James” or simply, “The Way”, is a pilgrimage to the medieval Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the remains of the apostle St. James are believed to be interred. This pilgrimage began around the 10th century when devout Catholics, rich and poor alike, began making the journey as a show of their faith. Throughout medieval times, Peregrinos (as those who walk the camino are called) began their journeys from the doorsteps of their homes, wherever that happen to be. As can be imagined, it was a treacherous endeavor. Many Peregrinos never again saw the homes or families they left behind. Of those who made it, many simply stayed around Santiago, while many others perished along the way, either going or returning.
Today "The Way" is, by all accounts, safe, yet still tremendously demanding. It is now also traveled by people of varying faiths, for myriad reasons, with self-discovery and enlightenment at the top of the list. While some still start their journeys from their homes, most modern-day Pereginos follow one of several now established routes, the most popular being “The Camino Frances”, or “The French Way”. This route begins in the south-western France town of St. Jean Pied a Port, crosses the Pyrenee mountains moving west across northern Spain through Pamplona, Burgos, Leon and a host of other towns and villages then culminates upon arrival at the Cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela.
About six (6) years ago, I saw the movie "The Way" for the first time and discovered The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, on which it is based. I had a visceral reaction to the camino and knew immediately it was something that I had to do. I became somewhat obsessed and over the years, have watched the movie and read Paulo Coelho’s “The Pilgrimage” on countless occasions. After years of trying to find the right time, this past spring, everything lined up. I made the commitment and for months, prepared, studied, accumulated my gear and trained. My training consisted primarily of walking the streets of NYC (FYI, for those who don't know, 20 uptown/downtown NYC blocks equals roughly one mile). This training came in very handy as I chose to walk “The Camino Frances”, one of the longest and most demanding of the established routes.
July 29th, 2017, I set out on my camino from St. Jean Pied a Port and over the course of the subsequent 27 days, walked over 800 Km’s (a bit over 500 miles), arriving at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela on August 24th, 2017.
Before and during my journey, I was regularly asked questions like “what moves you so much to pursue this endeavor”, “what is your purpose” or “what do you hope to gain”? Early on, I honestly had no real answers. All I could really say was that I was drawn and driven to doing it and that I knew something great awaited me. However, as my departure neared, I began feeling the strong urge to somehow use my camino to promote prostate cancer awareness and research.
Earlier in the summer, I had been selected as one of five “opinion leaders” featured in BMW’s “Power of 5” promotion for their latest 5 Series Sedan (more on that in another posting). During the filming of my spot, shortly before I was to leave for my camino, it came out that I was not only a prostate cancer survivor, but that I was also about to embark upon this incredible journey.
The amazing BMW representatives were so enamored with my story that they immediately decided to support my endeavor and donate on my behalf to prostate cancer research. I am sincerely grateful and would like to thank Kevin Williams of BMW and Leonard Burnett of UPTOWN Magazine.
As amazing as this all was, my experiences as I walked the camino were even more so. I met some of the most incredible individuals and had some of the most enlightening and meaningful conversations I’ve ever had. I rediscovered a focus, drive and determination I had forgotten I had. I rediscovered the power my mind and spirit have over my physical. My faith was expanded even beyond the high level I’ve always had and became an even greater source of comfort, hope and strength, capable of propelling me forward even when I thought had no more to give. I experienced a greater ability to stay in the moment and truly appreciate each. I discovered a greater satisfaction in serving others. And perhaps most surprisingly, I realized that my walk was not just about me and what I needed; that I was there for others who needed me.
As is said during the journey, most people’s caminos begin when the return home. For me, my challenge and work is to now continuously apply all that I have experienced to my daily life moving forward, be it my private life, my health or my business.
I am blessed and grateful…