From Corporate Life to the Camino Way

Growing up I always felt different. I felt there was more to life than what was considered normal, and I yearned for freedom from the norm. However, being young, and not really knowing any different at the time, I went about conforming as was expected. 

I got a job, a law degree, became a lawyer, bought a house and a new car. This was all just part of ‘growing up’ and what I ‘should’ be doing - right?

I spent seven years being a rat on the corporate treadmill until one day I realised that it would be harder to continue to live that life, than it would be to walk away and find the life that I truly wanted to live. So I left my relationship of seven years, sold the house I’d bought with that person, sold the new car, and gave away custody of our dog. On top of that, I moved to a new city and for the first time in my life, was living on my own. I lost friends and the security of a familiar life that I was comfortable in. A couple of years later, with no real savings, I quit my career as a lawyer. I had no plan. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, and this was really hard to reconcile.

How could I be almost thirty and have no idea what was going to make me happy? Everybody around me constantly told me how crazy I was because I’d worked so hard to build the life I had recently dismantled. The pressure and judgement was unrelenting. I was constantly justifying my decisions and myself. People just could not understand how I wasn’t satisfied in a life that apparently ticked all society’s boxes for a ‘happy life’.

Often I struggled to hold onto my truth. Even though the decisions were mine, and I knew I was doing the right thing, I still grieved the loss of my old life. At times I couldn’t imagine how I was going to find my way forward. It was like someone had turned all the lights out and I was
left standing in the dark and my eyes just weren’t adjusting. It got to a point where I was deeply unhappy and becoming increasingly frustrated and overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness around finding the life that I knew I wanted to live. I needed to do something really big. Something that would shake me to my core in the hope it would lead me to the life I knew I was looking for.

What I got was beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

I had vaguely heard of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage that people make from all over the globe to Santiago de Compostela, where religious scholars believe the tomb of St James resides in the Cathedral. I am in no way religious, yet I knew that I had to walk the road to Santiago. At 8am on 10 April 2013, I took my first steps on the Camino and began an 820km walk across Spain that pushed me to my absolute limits, physically, mentally and emotionally, and would ultimately change my life.

With no research other than where the best place to start from was, and with ZERO prior history or experience of doing 'this sort of thing', I booked myself a flight to Paris, bought myself a backpack and a pair of walking shoes and hit the road. Starting in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees, I walked up and over, crossing the border into Spain and followed a series of yellow arrows that would take me across the North of the country. I quite literally walked across Spain, and it set me on a path to a new way of life.

For thirty-five days I walked, slept, ate, walked, ate, slept, walked and walked and walked and walked! I cried. I laughed. I experienced anguish, pain, frustration, pain, and more pain, until I experienced peace, calm, community, a level of happiness I didn't even know existed, and a real sense of truly living in the moment. I encountered my authentic self, and with nothing except the bag on my back, I was happier than I had ever been in my life.

It has been ten years since first finding the courage to live my truth, and walking the Camino was the most significant experience that led me to my life now. A life I feel at home in. I’ve kept walking, literally and metaphorically, and with each step I become more confident in my choices, and more comfortable in my way of life.

It is hard to shift beliefs that are ingrained from an early age; to not conform, to speak your truth to a collective doubt that surrounds you in the shape of society, family, and friends, but the truth is, that there are no rules, no normal, no usual. If you are brave enough to really live your life the way you want, to shine your light and speak your truth, then you will live a life of real happiness, love and freedom.

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Caroline Packer

Caroline is a writer, freedom enthusiast and disciple of the trail.  Since first meeting herself on an 820km walk across Spain, Caroline has become an avid believer in the transformative power to be found outside daily routine, beyond self-imposed limitations and within the completion of individual challenge.  Caroline helps to inspire ordinary women to explore beyond their comfort zones and challenge themselves to complete things they never thought possible.