On Pointe - Wanting the best for each other

POPULAR wisdom has a lot to say about walking, journeys and destinations.

Helen Keller said "walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light".

Lao Tzu said "a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step".

Gwynn Thomas: "... but the beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed by destinations".

Friedrich Nietzsche said "all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking" and then there is this saying that is often found on cards or memes – "life is a journey not a destination".

These are just a few of the many wise and inspiring quotes that can sound rather abstract and sometimes cliche until you experience it yourself.

So when I found myself with family and friends on the Camino Ingles, or the English Way, last month, I realised that there is a lot of wisdom to be learnt from making a 100km walk.

Many famous authors have written about their Camino journey, but here I was to experience it for myself and with a great bunch of people. It was an amazing experience; one I am very grateful for.

A 100km walk for us Malaysians is not as easy as it sounds. What we fast realised was that our whole estimate of what 100m was and what a kilometre is, was way off.

After all we drive everywhere and are guilty of jumping in the car for a distance of a mere 10-minute walk.

We park as close as possible to any entrance, so as you can imagine by the end of each day on the Camino, our feet were writing protest hymns.

While we were all on the same path, we were on different journeys.

The group of 14 had three clear paces – the frontrunners, the comfortable middle and the tree hugging stretchers.

I found myself at different paces on different days sometimes alone and sometimes with a group, all of which had its lessons but one important lesson was that we have to journey at our own pace. Sometimes you are ahead, sometimes you're not and sometimes we get lost or derailed but always, follow your own pace.

While we did train in different capacities, nothing prepared us for the terrain or weather. But what got us through was a common belief. We were there for a reason, a purpose and with our tribe.

I didn't know many in the group but they very quickly became my people. Each had interesting stories, nuggets of wisdom, songs to share but the underlying gift was kindness and love.

When we did not finish the day on time, there were those ahead who would wait for us even through their exhaustion and blisters.

People were sharing their loot of plasters and anti-inflammatory creams and ointments. Everyone wanted the best for each other, not just themselves.

There was so much encouragement which was so necessary after days of pain and tiredness. Starting each day was not always the easiest. But because there was a team, a group of people on the same page, we moved, even with small steps.

Everyone in the group had a unique role and it had nothing to do with the jobs they had back home. Each person's personality had a space to shine and contribute. It showed me that if we do things together with the right people, no matter how hard it gets, there is always fun to be had.

Each day we woke up amazed at how fast sleep healed our bodies. While we did hobble around at dawn, the pain was far less than it was when we had gone to bed.

The power of rest even when we had a schedule was so important. We learnt by the end that we were at least capable of walking 120km – you don't know how strong you are and what your body is capable of until you try.

But we also learnt that after almost a week of walking and looking forward to the destination, it was harder to stop walking because the end of the Camino was really a part of an un-ended journey.

While these lessons are personal, I thought about my country too on the walk and how important it is that as a nation, we have the same purpose, a common goal and always act with kindness.

But most importantly is a Malaysian tribe made of a people who want the best for each other and the country, then moving forward is all the more easier, one step at a time.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com