Fear. Anxiety. Apprehension. All very real emotions, yet perhaps the ones that we give in to the easiest. Why is that we often limit ourselves and our dreams because we are uncomfortable, afraid of failure, afraid of what people might think, or any number of other ‘thinks’ that we create for ourselves.

I recently completed the Camino Portuguese. I walked from Porto, Portugal to Santiago, Spain using only my two feet as my means of travel. Over 170 miles traversed on seaside boardwalks, extreme cobblestone paths, rocky hillsides and rolling paths in Spanish wine country. There were days where the rain was torrential and I got soaked not just to, but through the skin. There were days where 85 degrees felt like 100, and I could not drink enough water.

There was one day in particular, early on during the walk, where I legitimately felt like giving up. It was one of the torrential rain days in Portugal, and on this particular leg of the journey, I saw very few fellow pilgrims. Perhaps they took the day off because of the weather, or perhaps it was just the nature of this particular route, but there I was, walking in a downpour–alone–the rhythm of my waterlogged steps and increasing doubt as my only companions.

Camino 2022–Photograph by k.a. johnson

There was a point on this day where I had enough of the rain, and, I suppose, the feeling of being on this journey completely alone. About 5 hours in, I stopped in the middle of a mud-filled road, looked up at the sky and yelled at the top of my lungs, “Why?? Why are You doing this to me?? Can’t the rain stop for just a little while??”

Well, the rain didn’t stop; in fact, it started raining harder than ever, as though the Universe was yelling back saying “No, not yet. You haven’t realized it yet.”

I kept plugging along, cursing my decision to make this journey and deriding the absence of any place for even a small respite from the elements and my thoughts. I pulled out my phone to look for some place to stay, or at least sit down, and was met with the message that can strike fear in our cellphone-dependent society: ‘IPhone unavailable for 15 minutes.’

Fear. Anger. Anxiety. ALL the emotions came out at the prospect that the rain had ruined my lifeline to comfort. So I did the only thing I could do: I kept walking. The rain kept falling. I started focusing on my steps, and only my steps. As I focused on the simple act of walking, my thoughts followed suit. I reminded myself that here I was, in Portugal, on the trip of a lifetime and one I had been dreaming of for much of my adult life. It did not matter that it was raining, it did not matter that I was alone. I was experiencing a long-held dream.

As my thoughts shifted, so did my emotions. Feelings of gratitude dissolved those crunchy feelings of discomfort. Feelings of pride at witnessing my own perseverance edged out the anxiety. Suddenly, I found myself yelling at the sky, only this time it was not in anger, but in gratitude for this experience and love for myself and what I was accomplishing. Instead of asking for the rain to stop, I asked for more. Because I wanted more. I wanted to show the Universe and myself that I could get through this with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

And then it stopped. Not more than five minutes after I shouted to the heavens for more rain, the torrent ended and I could see the sliver of a sunbeam breaking through the clouds ahead of me, illuminating the path as though inviting me to step into the light, my light.

That day was a turning point for me. As far as the Camino, I thoroughly enjoyed and embraced everything that this pilgrimage offered me. From that day forward, I viewed the Journey through fresh eyes, marveling at the power of my own determination and will. And I realized that the achievement of our dreams will not always be easy, nor will the path of our lives always be as soft as a forest floor; but if we focus on the dream rather than the obstacle, the dream will always prevail.

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