Finding Your Way: First 4 Lessons from the Camino de Santiago, Part 1



Almost three years ago on July 6, 2011, I embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime journey with two dear friends: the Camino de Santiago.

What is the Camino de Santiago (aka “The Way of St. James”)? The Camino is one of the oldest pilgrimages in the world. Over 1,000 years old, it includes a number of routes that all lead to Santiago de Compostela in honor of St. James. Some people go for religious reasons, other for spiritual, others for personal. I figured, 800 kilometers from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in southern France to Santiago in western Spain walking an average of 25 km a day on the Camino Frances route for a month?

Why the heck not.

My month walking from France to Spain certainly put into perspective many lessons and reminders to take with me in my everyday life. Last November, I had the distinct pleasure of bringing these lessons to my home-away-from-home on the plains of Hanover, New Hampshire, meeting with some student scholars and leaders at Dartmouth College. Many of these students were about to step into the “real world,” and for the first time have control over which path to take. With parental or familial pressure, economic recessions, and overwhelmingly diverse interests, it’s not easy to find one path, let alone the “right” one. Many believe that if they  don’t have it “figured out” by junior year, they’re going to be a complete failure.

These fears don’t just happen with students and the anxiety that comes with finding a path follows many of us throughout our lives.

The passport and shell that identified me as a pilgrim.


The Camino poses many personal physical, mental, and emotional challenges. It requires carrying everything you need for a month on your back, so you learn to need not so much. For those of you who are avid trekkers, you know that wonderful liberating feeling of limited physical possessions (not to mention making what-to-wear an easy decision: choose 1 of 3 shirts, usually the cleanest one available). Aside from physical lessons (i.e. buy good shoes, downward dog at the end of the day is fantastic), many other lessons arose – ones that have very real meaning to our professional and personal lives.

These lessons constantly reminded us that we must each walk our own path and find our way in life. This four-part series will highlight 17 lessons on Finding Your Way. Here is the first four:

1. Lesson #1: Be prepared & pack light
Bring the essentials: prepare your toolkit by identifying and streamlining what you really need for the journey. Is it a particular technical skill that you can take anywhere?

Pack light: don’t be slowed down by things you think you need. The multitude of certificates you think you need? Do you really need for where you are going?

Be prepared: it can rain at any moment. Consider what can serve as “rain gear” in the event that your plans get wet.

2. Lesson #2: Pay attention to signs
Stop at the signposts: don’t just rush ahead. Stop and assess where the different directions may take you.

Pay attention to signs: your instinct is telling you something. Listen to it if the path you are about to embark on doesn’t feel right. Consider whether it’s your fear or it truly isn’t right (the Roman Way down the Pyrenees lookedscary as heck, but it was worth overcoming the initial fear).

Read the signs: the signs tell you how far you need to go – and whether you are prepared for it.

3. Lesson #3: Follow guides
Follow arrows: it’s not always necessary to forge your own path. Learn from others’ experiences

Admit what and when you don’t know: ask for help.

Find mentors: become one too.

4. Lesson #4: Learn to work with people
Embrace company: be a part of a team

Learn from others: everyone has something to teach, and something to learn.

Constantly hone your people skills: learn manners, make small talk.

This was first published on

Dr. Belinda Chiu is a social change strategist, coach, and facilitator. Like you, she believes that everyone has the transformational ability to reach their potential and beyond. Dr. Chiu incorporates a practice of mindfulness to help individuals harness their natural strengths, achieve results, and carve their own paths towards professional fulfillment. She writes regularly on her website, Hummingbird research coaching consulting.



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