To be curious is a natural inclination for humans but for many as they grow older they seem to be less so. I’m not sure why this is. Is it about losing a sense of wonder, the child within?
It’s no secret that I turned fifty this year. I don’t hide my age and I have no qualms about growing older because I know what a blessing it is to be here, in good health. Not everyone gets to do that. My life is full of blessings. Too many to count.
To signify turning fifty, I went on a little adventure. I wanted to commemorate and give gratitude to all of my blessings whilst doing something for myself. On this adventure I learned so many things about myself and other people.
It wasn’t really a ‘little’ adventure. I walked across Spain on the Camino de Santiago carrying everything that I needed for six weeks. It still feels surreal to make that statement. For those six weeks I walked over 800 kilometres and went through a gamut of physical, emotional and spiritual transitions. I also met a lot of people from all over the world doing the same thing (I’m not the only hairbrained person). We were all pilgrims looking for something. Some didn’t know what they were looking for, but that question was often answered for them by the time they finished. I certainly didn’t know I was looking for anything, but I sure did get a lot of answers.
The most surprising thing that I noticed about my interactions with other pilgrims was the level of intimacy that was established so quickly after meeting each other. Complete strangers would tell me their deepest desires and secrets. I know it wasn’t about me being receptive to this because others expressed the same experiences. It made me think about why this happens. Was it something about the Camino that allowed people to feel safe? Was there some spiritual force at work?
People were always curious to know more about other people. This curiosity opened up conversations that were beyond the obligatory talk about the weather. On my first day I met a 32-year old German man (how old you are, where you come from and why you’re walking the Camino are opening questions with everyone you meet) who said that he was happily married with a young daughter but felt that something significant was missing from his life. His pain was palpable. I only saw him for a day or two because he was walking faster than me. I hope he found what he was looking for.
The daily inquiry from other people was very revealing. I realised that people wanted to connect with each other and the Camino allowed this to happen at a much faster pace. Not only were they looking for answers for themselves, they wanted to learn about what made others tick: Were they the only one to not feel satisfied with their life? Had they spent their whole life not looking after their body, mind, spirit? So many questions, so many imperfections.
The simple act of embarking on a journey to look for answers, to be curious about life, to want more than they already had was a repeated theme. Talking to a stranger about life somehow allowed for a connection in a safe place. It’s something that we seem to forget in our everyday life and it made me realise that humanity is capable of love, compassion, generosity and kindness despite the fact that there is so much of the opposite in the world today.