“It is only the 4th day and I managed somehow to twist my ankle. I hope that I will manage to finish the walk in time and that I will not have any other complications.”
We all look for answers during our lives: who are you? where are you going? is the path you are presently on the right one? is there a meaning to it all? what do you want to be when you grow up?
Some of us ignore these signs and continue living the “ordinary life”. Others, those who “burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman yellow candles” like Jack Kerouac describes them, take a leap of faith and dive fully into something in order to find some answers, to find themselves.
“I will start the Santiago walk at the beginning of September. I need to do this for myself.”
When you do not want to settle, when you know that there is more to it, that it has to, the only thing that you can do is to pack a 10 kg backpack and start your journey towards the “end of the world” point. No questions are needed or suggestions, nothing to keep you back — just the open road and the mind-set of a wanderer.
A couple of months back on the story line and the “why” played an important part for him in the whole decision process.
“You know, I really want to do the camino. Just to go and walk for days and days. Firstly, I want to do it because I need to challenge myself in order to see what I am capable of and this may be a good thing. Secondly, as I told you, I had some panic attacks in the last months and when I am going out or when I am in a social context I feel this sort of pressure on me that I never had before. I want to find a hack for it. In my mind, arriving to the starting point of the walk, looking at the road and saying: ‘From now on you can have the biggest panic attack on the planet because all you have is 800 km in front of you and nobody can help you. It’s just you, the road and your shoes.’ That’s the kind of thing I need to overcome my fears. I think it’s again a matter of baby steps. I think that once I will be there I will not want to rush. I will walk slowly, kilometer after kilometer, in order to get to the end and to remove all these panic attacks.”
The journey started on the 7th of September 2016. After 13 days on the road, out of which 9 with a twisted ankle, slowly learning once more how to listen to his body and keeping a positive mind set through the bad, the experience started to have a sort of significance. Habits were being built easily and, even though at the beginning he was anxious at the thought that he has to walk for 700km, he soon found himself taking things slowly, focusing only on the km that he needed to do in one day.
“Each day you meet different people, with different backgrounds and you just walk and walk. You need to be comfortable with your body and listen to it because sometimes your knee or ankle hurts and everything has to be in balance. So you really learn how to behave and manage your body. The funny thing about this walk is that you are completely free to do it in your own way. If you want to eat with people you can do so or you can just sit by yourself. 3 nights ago I slept under the stars. It was amazing — cold but amazing. At the beginning I was a little bit scared because my backpack was so heavy. The funny thing is that you start to get used to it. You start walking with your backpack and it is something that is a part of you. It is not an external object anymore. This way you can see how fast habits can be built and how people can adapt to things so easily. When you talk with people it seems like it’s been ages since you are walking. You feel like you are outside of this world. This is an example of freedom I guess.”
He soon discovered that people’s stories can be of great inspiration to another when you start listening, truly listening to what the other has to say. You learn how to be in the moment and how the past or the future do not matter in an instance….
“A couple of days ago I met this Italian woman who likes to travel. We walked together for 15 km and I was telling her at one point: ‘You know, I don’t know what to do next.’ She looked at me and she said: ‘Just go into the direction of your dreams. I chose something at the beginning that I was not sure of and I could not escape anymore because I started to earn my first money and then I basically accepted it quite positively. If you do not try at this age to get your dreams to come true, it will be harder for you to do it later.’ This was something that opened my eyes because many people told me that I should start from somewhere and if I do not like it then I can change it. But it’s kind of tough to be so rational and then quit and find a new job. You have to be either rational or just try to catch your dreams from the very beginning. I hope to find a clearer answer, a passion, a purpose. She opened my eyes and I was happy because maybe this is what this camino will give me.”
…and even the simple things become full of significance.
“The things that happen during the camino can be random but here, in this context, you can find a meaning. I am taking things more slowly and I am not focusing on the 700 km that I still have to walk but the 20 km that I have in one day. This is something that helps me with my panic attacks and my fear of relationships. I am starting to see the value of the small tasks and steps that will lead to a bigger picture. This is a lesson that I am learning day by day and maybe apply to my social problems.”
For 30 days he walked and walked and…walked, enjoying every moment of the whole experience, making new friends and learning how to see the beauty and significance in simple things once again.
“Right now I am trying to enjoy all of this because I know that one way or another it will come to an end. And this is my life — I kind of understand it now. I am a traveler and a wanderer and a seeker, I find happiness in talking with strangers and enter in their minds and lives for a few moments. This morning I found by chance this lovely cafe. The sun was rising (best sunrise of my life so far or at least the best breakfast) and I had a conversation with this Dutch guy who walked from Holland to Santiago and then on his way back he stopped in this place. He called it “the miracle” because he found peace here and he never went back to Holland (he has been living there for 2 years now). Then again, among the many things I learned today, I understood that I do not have to be so harsh with myself, to pretend but not to literally dismantle my own soul, to not criticize shortcuts too much because shortcuts can be sometimes the only thing we have to go further. Also, I understood how important languages are in order to communicate, share and exchange and feel fucking alive while lost in the middle of Spain.”
With one last stop at Finisterre, his feelings were mixed regarding the whole experience.
“One thing that I realized this last month (and this is the thing I really want to share) is that when I made it to Santiago, right before arriving actually, I thought that I am going to cry that I have made it after 30 days of walking and now it is all over. However, when I arrived, I felt fine — happy and to my surprise I did not cry, I did not get too emotional. The funny thing is that I realized how really beautiful the whole journey was. This walk made me realize that this is the same for life. It is all about setting goals and actually achieving them but the wonderful part is the journey.”
Reaching the end of the world’s point and the end of the journey, the things became a little bit clearer.
“I arrived at the beach and there was a bonfire where you could go and throw something as a sign of competing the camino. As I joined the others, I threw my boot inside the fire and took my time to enjoy the moment.”
P.s. If you wish to take a sneak peak at his journey: https://www.instagram.com/marcocornetto/