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 first post in the series here, and the second post here. - Ed. Note.
7:30 AM: The daylight came to tell us that it is time to start our new routine.
Leaving Ourense is quite a challenge – probably one of the reasons why very few people start walking the Camino from this particular spot. I once heard someone say that there are two route variants: One is difficult, and the other one is very difficult.
After leaving the hotel, we walked until we reached the old Roman bridge, where we used the open-air garden to stretch our bodies (key for success in any walking exercise) before we crossed the river Miño.
The first part of the day provided us with the right setting to tackle and wrap up the different exercises each participant received prior to the start of the program, after we crossed the bridge – about 400 meters up the hill the Camino divides.
Nobody said the way to happiness is easy. We took the very difficult variant.
The steep climb to get out of the valley, a 300-meter ascent spread over four kilometers, was done in silence. We contemplated the river view, the fresh morning air, the sun coming out behind the mountains, and the omnipresent big blue sky.
As we started gaining perspective into our lives, we reached our first stop of the day: the tiny chapel of São Marcos da Costa.
With a breathtaking view, it was the right place and the right time to drink water and rest our feet. Enjoying Ourense from up above helped us to recover our energies. The gigantic stone tables were also the perfect setting to write our first notes in our "survival kits" – our important walking companions.
The day evolved, and the group started gaining its unique dynamic. After our first climb, another important piece of the puzzle was delivered to each one of us: We all understood that we were here to help each other, but we also came to understand a very powerful metaphor: No one can walk in your shoes.
The simple questions we have to face while climbing challenge us to gain perspective into our own lives, both professionally and personally. What is going well? What is not going well? What is "home" for me? What does "work" mean to me?
Again and again, we connected the dots of our lives, step after step, kilometer after kilometer, listening to our bodies adjusting to our new routine.
The next six kilometers took us through a beautiful forest that invited us to begin a different type of exercise. We walked in pairs and shared our feelings and findings from the first part of the walk with one another.
Once we reach the "Old Guardians" – millennial oak trees that are impossible to miss – we stopped again mainly to rest our eyes and listen to what nature continuously tell us.
After a few more kilometers, the route turned left to Tamallancos. From there, we walked all together, recharged by the knowledge that today's journey was almost over.
Our final stop was at Via Stellae, a precious place (the Private Pilgrim hostel) run by a very special family.
After showering, a light lunch, and a well-deserved nap, the evening fell on us with a warm breeze that seemed to whisper to us that we were moving in the right direction.
Around a simple table, we recovered the pleasure of casual conversation, where sharing and listening highlight the flavors of the day. The only technology I could see from my seat was the blinking light of an airplane deep in the dark sky.
My feet are sore. Indeed, no one can walk in my shoes, but my heart beats at a familiar rhythm. It is the sound of pure happiness.
Tomorrow, we continue to walk.
Ultreia et Suseia,
Photos from Day 2:
João Perre Viana founded the Walking Mentorship program.