How can travel change your life perspective.
We as humans have a long tradition of journeying for the soul’s benefit. Pilgrimages might be
the best example of traditional spiritual travel practices. The pilgrimage has taken many forms
over the centuries – from ancient religious ones to modern pilgrimages for a humanitarian
cause, all of them have the same basic principle – leaving your everyday comfort zone for a
higher purpose. And underneath that, there is also the hope of getting to know yourself better,
of finding your own soul on the way.
I’m a firm believer that there is a certain amount of faith at play when it comes to picking your
soul-searching travel destination. After all, the words “destiny” and “destination” have the
same root. We all have our rational preferences by which we can explain our choices, but
sometimes destiny will meddle with your destination pick, perhaps giving you just what your
My soul-travel story.
In the spring of 2015, I was already planning my summer vacation. I was trying to locate a
perfect getaway, since I really felt like running away. My new job required a substantial
amount of socializing – something I wasn’t quite good at. I loved the job itself, but all the
constant interactions made me nervous. This added up to the pressures I felt in my personal
life. All of that together increased my urge to get away. Thailand seemed far away and
different enough. I had already visited its southern islands, but I’ve never been North, in the
Just before I made my reservations, my good friend from high school appeared out of the
blue. We were really close back in the day, but have grown apart once we’ve entered
university. We were so happy to be together again. And then she made a suggestion – to go on
vacation together. She told me that she wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago, specifically
the Camino Frances – the most popular and busy route.
It was the opposite of what I wanted for my vacation. I pleaded with her to change her mind,
or at least pick a less busy route, since the Camino de Santiago actually has several major
trails. But she was so insistent that in the end, I gave up. I really wanted to catch up with her,
and something was telling me that this major change might hold some hidden treasure for me.
The Camino and its discoveries.
We haven’t had the time to walk the entire Camino Frances, so we decided to start at
Ponferrada. That way, it took us 12 days to reach Santiago. Walking from Ponferrada includes
a steep climb to O’Cebreiro, the highest point of the route. I was happy about that – this
guaranteed beautiful surroundings and some physical exhaustion which is always good for the
mind. I also secretly supposed that I would be too out of breath to socialize, so that was
Indeed out of breath, we arrived at our hostel at O’Cebreiro just before dinner. There we met a
group of friendly people a bit older than us who were taking the same route. The rush of a
completed milestone seemed to make it much easier to start communicating. I was silent as my friend engaged in conversation, but I listened. Soon the conversation moved from sharing
common observations to more personal things, motivations for taking the road.
Everyone seemed to have had their own struggle which got them on the Camino. For some, it
was recovery from an illness. For others, it was family circumstances. Suddenly, I felt so
humbled. These people carried their load with such humility and modesty that it made me feel
bad about always judging people so casually, about always dismissing them as a burden, a
threat to my own peace of mind.
And though I was so tired, I couldn’t fall asleep easily that night. When I finally managed to
get some sleep, I had a vivid dream – I was singing in a choir with a group of strangers. But I
felt they were close to me as if they were my family.
Witnessing all the natural beauty, experiencing the hardships of the climb, and then stopping
to truly listen to people with an empty mind and an open heart changed my experience of
others profoundly. I started seeing everyone we met on the road as my fellow people. I still
haven’t talked much, but even when I was silent, now it was not a distant silence, but a
Walking on the most social part of the route – from Sarria to Santiago – was the biggest
challenge for me, since at times I felt like in a human swarm. But I almost managed to enjoy
it. Being together with others, with motivations so diverse, but with the same final goal, is a
really special feeling. And sharing the excitement and the gratitude when we finally got to
Santiago de Compostela. I hugged my friend and thanked her from the bottom of my heart.
Always on the Camino.
Since taking the Camino de Santiago, my co-workers became my fellow pilgrims, and I
learned to have a common experience with them, instead of trying to keep them away all the
time. We’re all troubled and nobody’s perfect, but that’s all right. We’re all in the same boat,
but the boat we’re in is not all by chance. And neither was my Camino holiday.
Author Rebecca Brown is an avid traveler and an observant writer. More of her travel insights and recommendations could be found on Roughtdraft.eu