What to do when things go sideways

Things will go sideways, by the way, somewhere along the way when you decide to walk the Camino de Santiago. Things may not go majorly sideways, but there will be bumps in the road, some big, some small. You will be tested, and some days will be harder than others. You will meet people you have been waiting your whole life to meet, and you will meet people who annoy you and push every one of your buttons.

When it comes to walking the Camino, sideways is just a question of when, to what degree, and what will you do with it.

Walking the Camino is no small undertaking, and you may need to tap into a part of yourself that you are not yet acquainted with. You will be called to be bold, brave, and courageous. And you may need to locate the most tolerant, flexible, and resourceful version of yourself – or to develop those qualities as you go.

It’s a bit like life, really.

Let’s look at some strategies you can tap when things get bumpy.

1) Take a deep breath

This is often what people say when they want to calm down a crazy person, or someone who is hysterical, and it’s often said in a condescending tone. But there is great wisdom in this strategy.

The idea here is to pause. Take a moment to gather your wits and to reconnect with your body. Breathe in, breathe out.

Breathe in, I’m okay.

Breathe out, I’m going to be okay.

Breathe in, I’m safe,

Breathe out, I’m okay.

Breathe in, I can do this.

Breathe out, I’m doing this.

Repeat as many times as needed to quiet your mind and slow your heart rate.

2) Go for a walk

What better way to reconnect your body and mind than to go for a walk. And bonus, you need to walk to get ready to do the Camino.

As you walk, breathe. Breathe in, breathe out, consciously, mindfully, calmly.

My best ideas come when I am walking. Maybe that’s true for you, too? Take along your phone and record your thoughts as you go – but here’s the important part: record the calm, measured, sensible (useful) thoughts, not the crazy mind-racing ones.

3) Adjust your thinking

It’s easy to panic and assume your Camino is done / over / ruined when things go sideways. But what if this is simply all part of your pilgrimage? This – this thing you don’t like and don’t want – is your Camino. If that were true, how would you relate to it?

Here are some questions to ponder to walk yourself through unwanted situations:

What opportunities are hidden in these circumstances?

What can I learn from this?

What if this is happening for my overall big-picture benefit, then how would I relate to it?

Who do I have to become to overcome this obstacle?

Why is this person part of my Camino experience, and why now?

Who can help me deal with this? Which leads us to the next one . . .

4) Gather your people

This is when we need community and our friends and family connections.

But don’t talk to just anyone. Here’s who you want to talk to:

  • the people who believe in your Camino dream
  • those who know what this means to you
  • someone who is good at making stuff happen
  • people with experience overcoming obstacles, and who have the attitude that that’s just what you do when obstacles come up

This reminds me of the conversation I had a few weeks back with two-time Camino pilgrim David Ault. When walking the Camino Portuguese last year, David realized “solutions already exist”, and this empowered him to get through some tough times on the trail.

The answer to your problem, or the resolution to your situation, already exists. You need only to open your heart and mind and call it to you. And then, be ready to receive. (By the way, this is what pilgrims mean when the say “the Camino provides.”)

If things are going sideways while you are on the Camino, your “people” are your fellow pilgrims and the local people who serve the pilgrims. They can help; you simply need to ask. Which brings us to the next strategy.

5) Take action

Once you get yourself to a feel-good point (or at least the not-having-a-heart-attack panic point), it’s time to take action, which may be asking for help.

Show of hands, who likes to ask for help? Right. No one. But this is such a big part of the Camino experience, recognizing that we are all in this together and we are here to love and support each other.

You do what you can, I do what I can, and then we come together and do what we need to do with the support of our families, friends, and communities.

Here are some practical ideas for overcoming Camino-related challenges . . .

Physical challenges

Before you go:

Seek medical help – get that which ails you checked out by a medical professional

Get physical therapy – you may have to ask for it, but do ask. And then do whatever they tell you to do!

Clear time in your schedule so you can spend time on stretching, walking, resting, and elevating an injured body part.

When you are on the trail:

Slow down your walking pace.

Take a rest day or two, or skip a stage.

Send your backpack ahead for a couple days with the luggage transport services.

Emotional challenges

Before you go:

Get on the phone with a trusted friend.

Schedule a coffee meet-up with other pilgrims in your area.

Reach out for encouragement in the Camino Facebook groups or the on Camino forum.

Take the day (or week) off from planning your Camino.

When you are on the trail:

Take a rest day.

If you are staying in the albergues, upgrade to a private room for a couple of nights to get some privacy and deep sleep.

Find a quiet spot like a church, field, or park off the trail for some solo reflection time.

Let your pilgrim friends know how you’re feeling. Chances are good they are feeling the same way.

Call home and talk with your people.

Financial challenges

Before you go:

Review your daily spending and cut out any fluff.

Sell some stuff – start simplifying before you go by getting rid of things you don’t use or need.

Get a part-time or second job and put the earnings directly into your Camino fund.

Host a fund-raising event. What are your skills and gifts? Can you offer them to a targeted audience in exchange for donations?

Rethink your Camino plan – were you planning to stay in hotels the entire way? Maybe seek out some lower priced guesthouses or private rooms in the albergues. Or plan to cook instead of eating at bars and restaurants. Consider borrowing gear instead of buying new.

When you are on the trail:

Adjust your budget as needed.

Seek out the Donativo albergues and offer to help out in lieu of paying for a bed.

Cook your meals instead of eating at bars and restaurants.

Offer to cook a meal for someone if they will buy the groceries.

Learn more about walking the Camino de Santiago, with a little help from a friend.

Are you the do-it-yourself type? Then check out the Camino Francés Getting Started Audio Guide!