João Perre Viana is the mastermind behind the Walking Mentorship program, an innovative one-week experience that helps people face their personal and professional challenges while taking a 120-kilometer (74.5-mile) hike along the Camino de Santiago.
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"The purpose of this methodology is to help gain perspective on what is important (both personally and professionally), update our reality maps, and create an action plan for the future," Viana says.
On Sunday, August 28, Viana embarked on his latest hike. Over the course of this week, he will be updating us daily about the journey he and his participants are on. Read the rest of the series: part 0, part 1, and part 2. - Ed. Note.
7:00 AM: Slowly, we've been adjusting to earlier starts in order to accommodate longer daily distances. Before starting our walk this morning, we gave ourselves 10 minutes of stretching exercises to get our muscles and joints ready for action.
We had breakfast as early as possible to avoid the heat, and at 8:00 AM, we started individually and in silence, first in the direction of Bouzas, one kilometer away. Then it was two kilometers to Sobreira, three to Viduedo, two to Casas Novas, and finally, one to Cea, where we made our first stop of the day.
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In Cea, the traditional houses, community ovens, raised granaries, and barns greeted us everywhere we looked, but it was the famous wheat bread – among the best in Galicia – that we focused on. The bread from Cea has a protected designation of origin, and we all managed to prove why – putting away a few slices each.
Today's journey proved to be the right time for us all to look deep into ourselves. We used our walk to reflect on the things we would like to change in our lives. Supported by yesterday's exercises, we felt better prepared to face whatever would come next.
Perspective changes everything, but to gain perspective, we first need some distance. Nothing beats walking when it comes to disconnecting from your daily life.
While adjusting your body and mind to the rhythm of the walk, you use the time to silently think about the fundamentals of your life. That becomes the mental and physical fuel that keeps you going step after step, kilometer after kilometer.
After our stop in Cea and the second breakfast of the day, we headed to the "Magic Forest" path, a perfect section of 10 kilometers in the middle of nowhere that led us to everywhere inside ourselves. Alone and in silence, we reached a place to unload some of our burdens – especially those things that are not going well in our lives.
Along the way, we used little mountains of stone to "deposit" our burdens and leave them behind us. Some stones stay where we leave them, but some have to continue with us until the moment we understand it's time to unload.
After an intermediate stop for water, rest, and a little stretch, we began the final walking section of the day – this time in pairs. We reached the monastery of Oseira, a place where change is indeed the only constant – but one that follows a different notion of time.
The local Albergue (hostel) seemed untouched since the first pilgrims passed by in the 12th century, receiving the same peaceful welcome from the local monastic community that we experienced attending the vespers service in the evening.
The simplicity of this place clearly invited us to understand a sign placed at the dormitory: If you want to feel the real value of what surrounds you, reduce the amount of options.
A thought-provoking idea to wrap up our day indeed, especially in a world where it seems that nothing will ever be enough.
On our third day, we had continued to dig even deeper into ourselves, using the time in silence to reflect on some important questions and visualize change in our lives.
The stars appeared peacefully over the sky in Oseira, and our minds and bodies blended into the landscape around us.
Laying in the dormitory now, our minds oscillate between the sweet taste of being here and the challenge ahead of us. Tomorrow, we will walk our longest section on the route, roughly 30 kilometers of ups and downs.
Ultreia et Suseia,
Photos from Day 3:
João Perre Viana founded the Walking Mentorship program.