A lot of people walk the Camino Frances to resolve or forget something without really knowing what it is they have an issue with.
Henrik Agne was no different and after walking the Camino it took some time to figure this out and take the control of his life back.
He has done this and hasn’t looked back. His Camino truly began when he got home.
It was at the end of the year 2007, and my personal and professional life was a mess. At the time, I was working for the United Nations on a humanitarian mission in war-torn Colombia.
On the face of it, wonderful and meaningful work. But because of the suffocating bureaucracy and toxic work environment, I had lost all my faith in the humanitarian aid system. I had become so cynical at work that I had to drag myself to work every day.
My personal life was also a disaster, especially in the relationship arena. It was an emotional roller coaster. I spent my days complaining and walked around in self-pity. Of course, at the time, I was convinced that it was not my fault. It was the other person’s fault, and I was the victim. My boss was an aggressive narcissist, and my then-girlfriend was unstable. I wanted to escape from this. But how?
Then I remembered that three years earlier, during a semester at a university in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao, I had walked a stage of the camino. At the time, I resolved to walk the camino all the way someday. This personal crisis seemed a perfect moment to make that wish come true.
At the beginning of April 2008, I started the Camino Frances, the French Way, on the border between France and Spain. I had only one straightforward question I wanted to answer; where lies my professional future?
I had parked my relationship issues for a while by literally distancing myself from my then-lover. At least, that’s what I thought. Precisely those painful issues kept haunting me during the camino. Later I found out why.
It was April 1, 2008. I was in Roncesvalles, a small village at the French-Spanish border, staring at the road sign that said “Santiago de Compostela 790 km”. My eight hundred kilometer camino on foot throughout northern Spain was about to start.
On the camino, I met terrific people and exchanged many stories. The journey was challenging but beautiful. I started at the beginning of April and walked into spring. It was lovely. It was also very symbolic, from the bleak winter to a fresh start. But no matter how far I walked, the answer to my seemingly straightforward question didn’t come.
What did come were memories of my recent relationships—the drama, attraction and rejection, passion, and jealousy. I wanted nothing more than to step out of that dynamic because it made me feel miserable. But I failed. I was addicted to the intense emotions but also afraid of being alone. I felt powerless.
A month later, I arrived at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela with no answer. Where my fellow pilgrims, four Portuguese ladies with whom I had walked the last days of the journey, were ecstatic, I was mostly disappointed.
Here the story could have ended. But I didn’t know then that the camino truly begins when you go home.
When I wrote down my experiences two years later, the answers to my questions unfolded before my eyes. Only then did I see why the memories of my love affairs haunted me. It was because I had gotten stuck in a victim role.
That I felt so miserable was because of the other person. At least, that was my conviction. I had given control away. I waited passively, hoping the situation would improve. But, of course, I had a role in that dynamic myself. Once I saw that, I realized I was caught in the same dynamic at work.
This simple insight changed my life. More and more, I took responsibility in all aspects of life. I now have a wonderful partner and two lovely children. I have successfully pursued a new career that gives me satisfaction.
Ps. By the way, it’s funny that you are often the last to realize that you are in a self-made prison of limiting beliefs. I told a good friend about my breakthrough insight that I constantly lose control over my own happiness. He replied dryly, “Did you need to walk 800 kilometers for that? I told you that years ago.”
Henrik collects short camino stories from fellow pilgrims from all over the world to inspire others. You can already read more than 25 camino stories via his social media sites:
He is also the author of the camino novel The Pilgrim, a Camino Story. It’s a humorous feel-good novel about the art of self-discovery, the inner transformation on the camino, and finding your destiny in life. Available on Amazon: The Pilgrim, A Camino story.