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.
"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, part 2, and part 3. - Ed. Note.
Life is not difficult. It can be brutal in every single way, but we can learn to enjoy it by turning everything that comes our way into an opportunity to learn and progress.
I am asked often if the Walking Mentorship program is difficult. My answer is always the same: "No, it is not." Then, I pause for a second before concluding, "It is brutal, just like life."
It is a very honest answer.
The fourth day of our walk demanded no less than the very best of ourselves. The journey started at 6:30 AM. It was still dark and cold outside. The ascent out of the Oseira valley was absolutely magical. When we were almost to the top, we took one last glance down at the monastery. It gave us the energy we needed to reach the summit. When the monastery was out of sight, we could hear the bells warning us that it was 8:00 AM. They also sounded like a blessing to continue on our way.
The theme for today's reflection was extreme attention on the road ahead. We thought carefully about where we have to place our feet in order to head toward our desired futures with consistency and determination. A footnote in our survival kits also advised us to stay flexible and adapt to unexpected challenges – which are always likely to arise.
The descent from San Martino mountain is extremely technical. More than once, I have seen or heard about broken ankles and similar outcomes. We kept a good pace for the most part, and when I looked, back I could see that everyone in the group was enjoying the process and the challenge.
At the bottom of the trail and ahead of the group, I reached a very special place – a small bridge that called to mind many amazing memories for me. It also reminded me to stop, rest, and refresh after the difficult morning.
A few moments passed, and some members of the group had still not appeared. Something was odd, but those of us who had finished the descent sipped our water and tried to relax.
A few seconds later, a chill passed through me and I heard a voice call out my name. I knew change and unpredictability were about to visit our group and our capacity to be flexible would be put to the test.
Ironically, one of our brave companions tripped after completing the descent. A loud cracking sound seemed to announced the end of that day's journey.
These are the moments when the very best of ourselves can come to the surface. We understand that our nature is not what we see so often on the news or in our social media feeds. As a group, we rallied together around our new objective of helping our companion, proving once again that the Walking Mentorship laughs together, suffers together, and always finishes together – no matter what.
This event changed our approach to the intermediate milestones, but it did not change our final objective. Without a doubt, it was the most dramatic metaphor for handling change we ever could have faced.
As the day went on, we found solutions. Everyone reached our final destination for the day, a magical hidden spot in Galicia where we could soothe all our pain and extreme exhaustion. For both the people walking and the one not walking, it became clear that no matter what, we must always find ways to take ourselves further and further. With every step, we must reflect on our thoughts, the power of our actions, and what we can do when life throws challenges at us.
Our fourth day continued deep into Galicia. There's nothing like an almost endless journey to help you reflect on your life – especially with the help of the analogies that the path provided us with.
Without (many) more distractions, we trekked 20 more kilometers until we reached Lalín station, where a light meal and strong coffee helped us climb the last six kilometers of the day.
After 11 hours, our walking day was crowned by a marvelous stay at an old manor, a massage, and a delightful dinner together with our unfortunate (or maybe not!) companion.
Projecting change in front of yourself is not difficult – but it is brutal! And yet, once we accept the task of living fully, we start building real stories. Beauty unfolds in front of our eyes, step after step, kilometer after kilometer.
Tomorrow, we walk again.
Ultreia et Suseia,
Photos of Day 4:
João Perre Viana founded the Walking Mentorship program.