I’ve had to work hard at keeping my dreams alive. Haven’t we all?
One of those dreams I’ve had for like, ever. It was something I’ve wanted to do since my early 20’s but I never knew it was a real thing until many years later.
I was in my late teens when I first came across author Paulo Coelho. I was given a copy of his book “The Pilgrimage” and I devoured it – loving the sense of wonder and adventure of the spiritual journey he took the reader on while he himself walked his own spiritual journey. Coelho is also the author of the best seller and ancient fable, The Alchemist, my all time favourite book in the entire world – I know, that’s a big call.
As I wandered through the pages of The Pilgrimage, where Coelho took me on a journey through Spain, I thought that putting on a backpack and walking day after day sounded like an amazing dream. I had no idea at the time of reading that the walk he did was a real walk and that the book was autobiographical. I’d paid that little attention at the time.
I held this dream for over a decade – dreaming of this imaginary walk and wishing there was a way I could do something like this. I didn’t even own a backpack and hiking wasn’t in my repertoire of pursuits.
Life happened for the next decade or more and I recall over time hearing about this walk in Spain and it was with amazement one day I put the two together.
I realised the walk Paulo Coelho did in his book “The Pilgrimage” was in fact the Camino de Santiago and it was a real thing! In fact, the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.
The most popular route is the Camino Frances which stretches 780 km (nearly 500 miles) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago.
I am going to do this walk. I am going to put on my backpack and make my dream come true, and I am going to start this next week.
Have you ever held a dream in your heart for so long that when it finally looks like it’s coming to fruition, it’s almost surreal? That’s where I am at the moment and it caused me to have a think about how I made this dream come true and how I fulfilled an (almost) life long goal. Because you can imagine, taking off with your backpack for a couple of months to live in hostels and walk everyday takes some planning, some sacrifices and some deep commitment.
- Keep the dream alive – read everything you can about it.
When I understood that the dream I had was a real thing, a real walk, I devoured every piece of information I could on it. I read guidebooks – my first guidebook was delivered over a decade before I actually booked flights (needless to say I needed to upgrade to the latest version), I watched ‘The Way‘ movie once or twice. Ok I’ve watched it over a dozen times now. While I was never in much of a position to put the dream in to reality for all those years, I never lost sight of it. I even started to learn to speak Spanish over 10 years ago – just in case I ever pulled this off! It was always there, waiting for me to find the right time, the right place and to have the courage to take the plunge.
2. Know that there is a time and place
Up until a few months ago when I booked my flights, I knew I had no hope of doing this trip. I had a life that prevented me taking the steps to get on over there for two months. I chose those other things (like family and career) over this dream – all the while keeping it alive (see point 1) because I knew, deep in my soul, that this journey was meant for me and that when the time came, I would be ready. That’s not to say there were times when I felt I would never turn the dream in to a plan and then subsequently in to a reality – there were. But each year I would reaffirm my desire and wait until the time came that I could really start planning.
3. Hand it over to the Universe – but also take action
In saying there is always a time and a place, and espousing my patience around this dream fulfilment, I did have to be proactive. Keeping myself open to signs, I was also making plans that allowed for the dream to become a reality. Some of these more practical things were: saving up annual leave and long service leave balances; getting my family in on my excitement even if I had no idea when it might all happen; remaining healthy and well so that my body could handle the 800km walk; opening a savings account to quarantine funds especially for this goal.
4. Stop reading everything you can about it
Whatever your dream is, it is your dream and no-one else’s. I know this contradicts point 1 above where I said to read everything you can about it, but one thing I realised as the dream became a plan and as the time to departure drew closer, was that I was at great risk of heading out on this journey with the expectations and desires and experiences of everyone else except me! My advice would be to research enough so that you feel confident that you know what you need to know to get by, and leave the rest of the adventure up to the adventure fairies.
5. Take a moment to realise you are actually doing this
That moment I clicked the purchase button on my flights to Paris was surreal. I sat staring at my laptop screen for a while before I gave myself permission to actually celebrate. A friend said to me “that’s it, the first step toward fulfilling you dream has been made – your flights are booked”. No, I replied. The first step was many decades ago, when I promised myself that this dream was for me and I would not, could not, let it go by the wayside because the time and the place wasn’t right. I was on my way now and I could congratulate myself on getting this far. The excitement level just went up a notch!
And I’m off.
So while I have less than a fortnight to go before I board my flight, I realise now how important it was for me to keep this dream alive and work toward it’s reality. It has been a long time coming. My backpack is ready. My body is not quite as ready as I’d like. My soul is champing at the bit. My mind and spirit is open. I am at peace with whatever this journey ends up looking like and I am so blessed to have had the foresight to keep the dream alive.
So, as they say, adios amigos and buen camino.
I hope you find a way to keep your dreams alive.
PS: I love this poem by Spanish author Antonio Machado – it came into my life only 5 years ago. Here it is in English as well as the original Spanish.
Wayfarer, there is no path (English)
Wayfarer, the only way
Is your footprints and no other.
Wayfarer, there is no way.
Make your way by going farther.
By going farther, make your way
Till looking back at where you’ve wandered,
You look back on that path you may
Not set foot on from now onward.
Wayfarer, there is no way;
Only wake-trails on the waters.
Caminante no hay Camino (Spanish)
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.
“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi