A couple of days ago, Simon from Australia waited for me to settle into my chair with my zumo y hielo and then asked me The Question.
“What are your ambitions, mate?”
We’d already exchanged “hellos” and introductions a few moments before, after finishing the long 17km stretch of the Meseta into Calzadilla De La Cueza, so it wasn’t too outlandish a question to ask – Peregrinos ask each other existential and philosophical questions all the time.
My instant response was “I haven’t got any”, which prompted an approving smile and handshake, as if I’d given the correct code word reply and was now considered “ok”.
Simon looked like he could strangle a croc with one hand, so it was good to have earned this tacit approval, although I was also slightly surprised at myself for my answer.
For a large part of my adult life, I’ve been obliged to measure myself in metrics imposed by others, or listen to those who knew where they were going to be in five years time – and I always wondered why I didn’t have A PLAN like they seemed to have.
I used to have an idea – to quit my job, rent out my flat, go and live in Iceland for a while and then walk the Camino.
So that’s nearly completed.
I kind of have a little bit of a plan for what might come after that, but I don’t really have any ambitions.
Ambitions are quite a different kettle of fish, it seems to me.
Currently, my life comprises of a long morning walk, an afternoon talking with people from all over the world and then a night of rest – my day is split into roughly equal thirds of exertion, engagement and ease.
The biggest ambition is to find a place to sleep each night and that’s really quite easy.
That same day, I met Duane from America, who said that he had learnt some important things on his first Camino, but felt that he’d forgotten some of them and so he had come back to do it again and to try to remember those lessons properly this time.
I’m already thinking along those lines – my instant response of not having any ambitions in mind is a key lesson that I’m going to want to hang on to as long as I can.
This may be impenetrable and I’m potentially placing myself in danger of getting the “safe word” I asked a few friends to use if ever I got too Zen on this little jaunt.
But I’m hoping that I’ll be able to maintain the current state of mind that I possess – a base simplicity of needs, a relative lack of ego, undemanding of others and – more importantly – undemanding of myself.
Calm, peace and serenity can only come to a person if they can counter unwarranted pressures and expectations from society at large and, to a certain extent, from those around them.
Naturally, having a job and a boss rather implies submission to those pressures and expectations, so it’ll be interesting to see how long my conclusions survive after my reintroduction into the workforce at some point in the future.
But no matter what happens, I’ll be better equipped to handle it than I was before.