Today I am celebrating the first anniversary of an epic adventure and journey in my life.

I was slowly emerging from a very painful and soul-destroying experience that left me feeling battered and beaten. I did not know my up from my down, felt unrecognisable to myself and at times felt like I had reached the end of the line.

There was a fantastic support network around me but my inner numbness and broken spirit did not always allow me to see the extended hands of love reaching in my direction.

I experienced extreme restlessness and felt the propensity to leave, that desire to walk out the door and never return. I had one major limitation to following through on that thought, as a well-established, overweight, unfit, couch potato, I was not about to exert so much effort escaping from myself.

In mid-May I declared, “I think I’m going to walk The Camino” and felt horrified by the nonsense spewing forth from my mouth. However, twenty-seven days later at 10 a.m. I left Germany heading southwest towards the French-Spanish border arriving at the foot of the Pyrenees the following evening. I had driven 1829km and started walking 789.1km across Spain the next day.

I was on Pilgrimage.

In the short build up to this unplanned, undesired adventure, I often wondered what the hell was I thinking. Me! Couch Potato Queen of the Universe, setting off to walk across a foreign country, in the middle of summer, with barely a plan in my head and few muscles in my legs.

The Way of St. James aka The Camino was not something with which I was familiar. I have no religious connections, no close friends who were pilgrims and am not prone to extreme vacations. All I had was the compulsion, the drive, the call – “I’ve gotta walk. I’ve gotta go!”

Those who were familiar with my circumstances thought I was running away from myself. However, if this were the case would I not have driven or flown to an exotic location which did not require pain, suffering and excessive exertion on my part? Others thought I was looking for something and to some extent, I was, but I also felt that something was looking for me.

In the days prior to my departure, I had strong, mixed emotions. I experienced huge amounts of fear. I did not know what was awaiting me. Would I find shelter, would I be safe, would I manage to walk across Spain, what type of people would be along The Way?

Was it unwise to leave behind all electronic gadgets, what if something happened to my health, would I cope with the exertion? What did the future hold, would I be disappointed and more broken when I reached Santiago de Compostela? Was the whole venture in vain, what if I found no answers, or my slothful body rebelled, and I returned home a failure?

While my fears were numerous and varied, I concurrently felt euphoric expectation. I was brimming with it, and as a somewhat cynical traveller, this buzzing excitement surprised me.

Walking, I experienced the first crisis of the soul within 10 km of departure. I literally felt slapped over the head by those majestic Pyrenees Mountains and stood breathless, feeling unable to continue. I remember thinking to myself that it was too much to handle, I could not do it alone, and I should hitch a ride or catch a bus or perhaps sit down and weep.

Standing there, I asked for help. I said, “I cannot do this alone. I seriously need help. I need angels, guides, divine intervention, my body, my higher self I need you all to assist me.” Little did I know that my help was literally around the next bend showing me clearly that if I ask, I shall receive.

A year ago, I could not fully comprehend what a pilgrimage would entail or even what it meant. I could not grasp the full depth of the journey my body, soul, mind, and spirit would undertake. I had no idea of the immense joy I could find, while in pain and suffering, walking 789.1 km across Spain.

Based on my own experience, I do not believe that anyone can undertake a pilgrimage without undergoing major life and attitude changes.

In retrospect, I can say I was looking for something. I was seeking direction for my life, healing but most importantly I was seeking myself.

What I now know for sure is - the only way out, is in.

So often, we want to escape from dreadful situations or look for solutions in trivial distractions. We numb or deflect our pain with substances or modern entertainments. We look to gurus, religion and seek outside advice. We look for the easy way out, but there is none.

The way out of anything that causes us pain, is to go within ourselves. Not to become a hermit secluded from the world; but to find our true selves the essence of who we are. When we go within, we discover who we are, and what we stand for. We begin to know our inner strength and learn from our inner wisdom. By going within, we experience the stillness of our soul that place where we find full acceptance for who we are.

The way out of an unfulfilled life, is to go within ourselves. It is deep within that we can find our own joy, tap into our innate inspiration, and grasp the wonder of our own potential and magnificence.

Today I look back at the events leading up to my pilgrimage with great joy and gratitude. I marvel that so many wonderful blessings, adventures, lessons, and wisdom came from a place of such deep pain and suffering.
I look at myself today and simply feel love and self-acceptance. That is what I was seeking, this is what I found, and I know that if I never went within I would never have given myself the gift of me.

I realise that not everyone feels called to walk a pilgrimage or has the resources to do so; however, we do all have the ability to go within, know ourselves, love and practice self-acceptance.

Whatever your life circumstances be encouraged to explore your inner treasures, you really are worth it.

Buen Camino!

Author's Bio: 

Angela Barnard’s ultimate desire is to live an inspired life and help others achieve the same. She believes fully in the innate potential within us all and at Inspire for Life Coaching, she helps her clients set creation in motion towards living inspired lives. Additionally she is a Speaker and Author of the upcoming book Letters from The Way