I just completed a 13 day and 150 mile walk from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela to bring you back a lesson
The journey I went on is a thousand year old pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago, also known as “the way”. People make this trip for many reasons, from spiritual, to courageous, to simply adventurous, I went for a combination of the three.
It probably seems ridiculous to pack your things into a single backpack and fly across the entire planet just to walk 150 miles. I went from Maui to Portugal – so 11 time zones exactly and not the shortest of flights.
I understand this is not something most people can commit to, but since I’ve done it twice now, I am sharing everything you need to know HERE
If out of the ordinary is the life you want to live, then you have to be courageous. This was not an expensive or luxurious trip, in fact you may be surprised to find out that walking is an incredibly cheap activity! Like most things in life money is the easy obstacle to blame but all the real hurdles for this trip all stem from saying “YES” over and over to things that are much easier to just say no to. It’s easier to stay home than to go for a walk, it’s quite a bit easier to stay home than walk in Spain
It took less than a day to feel completely disconnected from daily stress. This isn’t to say I didn’t take many of my responsibilities with me and I wasn’t going on vacation to retreat from my life, but as soon as I was away the small stuff that causes me daily anxiety almost entirely vanished. Bullshit stress is wholly manufactured by hustle culture and the incessant demands that other people place on us. Nature moves slow, and we are designed to move slow. The fast paced world we have created gives us this constant low level anxiety that builds over time but we get so accustomed to it we don’t even notice.
What the undistracted mind thinks about is what you need to move towards. With nothing but hours of undistracted walking to let my mind wander I kept coming back to the same few topics – it might sound obvious but not everyone is daydreaming about the same goals and future as you, the natural patterns that appear in thought is the mind and soul directly informing me of what I need to move towards in life.
Here is how this information can be useful to you:
Maybe you can’t convince your spouse to take time off work to abandon the kids and go to to Spain for 2 weeks for spiritual and physical enlightenment. Don’t worry, I’m happy to announce that you can actually go for a walk wherever you currently are and it doesn’t even matter where you live! What kind of sacrifice would this require? Is it even a sacrifice to leave your house for an hour and get some fresh air, some peace of mind, some emotional and mental clarity, and some time in nature?
For those that might say “Alex, walking in my neighborhood isn’t the same as walking in Spain” – You’re right, walking in your neighborhood is actually better because that can be done daily. If I can only get clarity and peace of mind by going on a voyage to foreign country then I am wholly defeated. The pilgrimage is old and the towns we went through were old, but they weren’t epic or particularly unique. They were just regular small towns with people who were mostly bored of tourists. The location isn’t special, it’s the commitment, the physical action, and being in nature that was important. I also think that more frequent smaller walks – without the internet or headphones – is probably far more useful than a big binge journey like I went on
Smart people who agree with me:
A walk is the lowest barrier to clarity that may possibly exist. I’m hardly the first person to figure this out either, many of my favorite thinkers swear that a daily walk is a cornerstone to a healthy mind
Nassim Taleb talks quite often about the benefits of a daily walk. This tweet sums up his opinion succinctly:
“Walking is misunderstood, underrate. Nothing, nothing substitutes for it”
Apparently, Henry David Thoreau (whom I adore) wrote a book on his love of walking called “Walking” which I learned about while researching this letter to you which I’m going to read immediately
“We must go for walks out of doors, so the mind can be strengthened and invigorated by a clear sky and plenty of fresh air. At times it will acquire fresh energy from a journey by carriage and a change of scene, or from socializing, and drinking freely. Occasionally we should even come to the point of intoxication, sinking into drink but not being wash totally flooded by it; for it does wash away cares, and stirs the mind to the depths, and the heals of sorrow just as it heals certain diseases”
My opinion on walking is that it’s similar to meditation but for people who are more kinetic minded. Some people’s physiology just works better when still and for them meditation is great, and others need constant movement. I think best and converse best when I’m moving around so I love the idea of walking as a peaceful meditation and I think our culture does a terrible job of expressing that ideas which benefit large types of people, like meditation, aren’t necessarily universally beneficial.
So much of our modern stress is manufactured and then exacerbated by the bandaids we use to distract or numb our pain. Pills, a few beers at night, doom scrolling for hours, the endless excuses, the promises to start improving ‘tomorrow’
Taking a 30 minute walk at sunrise might be the healthiest thing you did tomorrow.