What Hiking 650 Miles Across Spain Taught Me About Patience

Post by Shannon Lynberg for the Kind Kindred series.

photo courtesy of wikimedia.org

“Patience is a virtue.”

“Hold your horses.”

“Sew your pants on.”

These are the phrases my mom regularly told me growing up. I’ve never been one to have much patience.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve come from the mindset that “I want what I want, and I want it now!”

This way of believing and living has driven me to work hard for what I want. But it’s come at a great cost. Because being patient means you have to be comfortable with the unknowns. And living amongst the unknowns has been one of my greatest life struggles. It has caused me countless hours of crippling anxiety.

So when my fiancé and I decided to trek 650 miles across northern Spain, you better believe I freaked out. As someone who has never hiked more then 10 miles at a time, let alone with a 30+ pound pack, hiking El Camino de Santiago was full of unknowns.

How hard will it be?

Can I handle the pain and intensity?

Am I going to be OK with all the issues this hike brings up?

Will I survive?

What if something bad happens to me? Or worse, to Eric?

What if I give up?

Am I the type of woman who can do something like this?

For weeks, leading up to the start of the hike, I tortured myself with these
questions. I wanted the answers, and I wanted them instantly.

Like so many things in life, those answers were not mine to have right then. It was only through hiking the Camino, that I realized the importance of patience and letting things unfold as they needed to.

Here are some of the things the Camino taught me about patience:

1.) All you can do is take action on moving forward. 

You can’t know what’s going to happen until it happens. The only thing you can do is keep going. Up until my last step on the hike, I questioned my ability to
finish the hike. It wasn’t until I was done, that I fully realized what I could do. Yes, there were moments and glimpses throughout the hike, where I saw what I was capable of doing. But if you truly want to know what happens in the end, you have to allow yourself to go through the experience, no matter how hard things get.

2.) You can’t force the answer. It will come to you when it comes to you. 

For me, doing this hike was about exploring myself, my thoughts, and my rela-tionships more deeply. It was about pushing myself and giving myself a space to deal with things in life I had avoided. So you can imagine all the things I ques-tioned. There were many times where I was mad at myself for not having the
answer. For not knowing what I wanted. There were moments, where I was
angry at the trail for not being over, and for not giving me what I thought I was searching for. There were days where I screamed at the hills we were climbing, for how much they pushed me and made me ache. It was only in these moments, or after these moments, where I found what it was I was looking for.

3.) You have to let go of your crutches in order to fully find what you want. 
On this hike, my crutch was listening to music. Before we started, I didn’t think I would have the patience with myself, or with the trail, to hike without listening to music. For the first few weeks, I listened to music nonstop. Then one day my earphones broke. After going one full day of hiking without listening to my iPod, I bought new ear phones. Two days later, I lost them. I immediately bought a third pair, and the right ear bud fell off. I took it as a sign that I needed to hike without music. For the last month of the hike, I only listened to music 10% of the time. I would occasionally listen to a song through my busted ear phones, but over time, I didn’t feel like I needed music to get through our daily hikes. By letting go of my crutch, I was able to go deeper inward and really tune into how my body was feeling. Not having music to distract me forced me to strive to find patience with myself and the trail.

4.) Things don’t happen to you. They happen for you. 
This was one of my biggest realizations during our hike. As the days went by, I started to see why I needed to go through some of the harder, more painful
moments. Each one lead to something bigger and more purposeful. I could see how each and every moment stacked onto each other to make up the entirety of my experience. Without those harder moments, I wouldn’t have had the experience I had.

5.) You have to practice living in the moment. 
When you are hiking 20-30 miles a day, you don’t have time to think about what’s next. You are focused on the here and now, putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward, and breathing. As someone who often thinks about the next thing, and all the things I have to do, this was one of the greatest lessons
towards patience that I learned.

It’s so easy to let the feeling of impatience make us want to speed up time so we can figure it all out, get to the next thing, or get past the rough stuff. But when we are truly living from a place of being patient with ourselves, with those around us, and with our situations, we allow ourselves to feel it all, experience everything fully, and find what we need.

Am I the most patient person in the world now that I’ve learned that patience is in fact a virtue? Not by a long shot. But I am more aware of when I am living from a place of impatience, which reminds me not to fall into my old ways and learn how to better apply what I learned on the trail to everyday life.

Shannon Lynberg is the head adventurer at the Life Adventurista, and I help big dreamin’, adventure seekin’ women figure out what freedom means to them & learn to leap (or tiptoe) outside their comfort zones & create their own adventures – around the globe and in their own backyards. 
You read more about her travel adventures on 
2 Travel Everywhere and her hike on the Camino de Santiago at Love on El Camino.

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