Transformative travellers: Christian on the St. James Way
Today I introduce you to Christian @viaggioltreillimite, a transformative traveller (learn more about transformative travel).
What does it mean? It means that travelling has transformed his life.
However “One trip is never enough to transform you thoroughly”, he tells me.
“When I was 24, I started to be fed up with the “usual” holidays with friends in tourist destinations based only on parties and having fun. I felt I wanted to live something more, a true journey that could take me beyond the simple exploration of a destination, a journey that allowed me to go within”.
Since he was a teen, Christian used to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, for this reason he usually travelled with friends to avoid being alone. One day, he decides to give up on a trip to Ibiza where his friends were waiting for me and he books a flight to travel to Thailand alone instead.
“Because since I was a child I have always been fascinated by wildlife and travel documentaries on tv, and I dreamt of visiting these exotic places myself”.
How has this trip changed you?
“Honestly I didn’t change with this single trip but surely it helped me to grow up and better myself, especially to cope with my anxiety and panic attacks, overcoming my limits for the first time”.
“I have decided to walk the Camino not because I felt a “call of faith” as it often happens to religious people.
Indeed, my objective for 2020 was to travel by Transiberian train to Asia. I had decided to take a gap year and gave up my job, but then I couldn’t travel because of the travel restrictions due to the corona virus.
Since I still wanted to make the most out of my time, I have opted for the St. James Way, though I didn’t have much expectations.”
How did you choose the St. James Way compared to other pilgrimage routes?
“My choice was mainly influenced by the travel restrictions as I wanted to start my walking trip directly from home (that is near Torino).
I must say though that my experience of the Camino has been unusual and very different to what I had been told by other travellers who did in different periods.”
Did you plan everything in advance or did you live day-by-day?
“I hadn’t planned anything at all. I left from home in Turin hitchiking as far as Toulouse in France from where, due to the corona virus restrictions, I had to continue by public transports across the Pyrenees as far as San Jean, my departure point.
I have travelled for one month and two weeks, walking approximately 30 km a day for a total of 800 km.
I didn’t book anything in advance, for this reason I sometimes found myself to walk extra kilometres because I couldn’t find any accommodation open when I arrived. For example when I got to Leon the city was “closed” due to the corona virus so all travellers were transferred by bus to the next city.
I usually slept in youth hostels but in Burgos, where I couldn’t find any open, so I booked last minute a room online”.
Which was the biggest challenge you had to face?
“I had no experience whatsoever in walking trips, plus I was not very fit either, so for me walking 30 km per day was not a joke, though the biggest challenges have been the corona virus restrictions and the weather!
I don’t like cold weather so walking every day in pouring rain and wind, with low temperatures (sometimes even below zero °C) was not easy at all.
The first days in particular were tough, but slowly slowly I got used to it.
Travelling helps you to know yourself better, and if you use your heart and mind, you can go beyond any limit. Now that I am back home I have transformed my bad relationship with the weather and I go jogging with my dog every morning, even in winter days.
The other challenge was being completely alone, because the Camino was not packed with travellers you can meet and make friends with as we are used to see, due to the travel restrictions I met hardly anybody.
During the day while you are walking it is nice to have some time for yourself but, at the end of the day, you feel like talking and sharing your experience, that’s part of the journey too.”
Tell us three wow moments that you are most affectionate to.
“The first that comes to my mind it the first stage, the hardest one, 35 km uphill, I thought I was about to die 😊. I was alone walking across the mountains but at least the weather was nice and sunny, and I made it!
Another wow moment was when I met Mark, a spanish guy I met at a huge hostel where we were the only two guests. I had met only few people by then, but with him I felt immediately at ease and we decided to walk the last few days together as far as Santiago.
I must confess that when I saw the sea in Finisterra, where my trip came to and end, was more emotional than Santiago itself. I don’t know how to describe it but this place holds a special energy and I felt at Home.
I would like to add an extra wow moment, that is my arrival at Malpensa airport in Milan where my girlfriend Soraya was waiting for me with our little dog Coco”.
Travelling alone is certainly an enriching experience, but I think sharing is much better.
Which are the pros and cons of the St. James Way?
“I believe each trip is empowering no matter the positive or negative experiences you live because you always learn something new. When you are travelling it’s hard to recognize yourself and understand if you are truly yourself or if that is when you are at home in your everyday life, because we all know that what you live when you travel is not your “normal” life, for this reason it is an opportunity to know yourself better.
The cons for me have been the corona virus situation that has impacted heavily my experience, making it hard to find accommodations open and meet people along the way. Another negative aspect was definetely the bad weather and the rain, as well as being alone all the time”.
How do you feel transformed by this trip? What did you learn?
“Honestly, I don’t think this trip has changed my life. Certainly, it has given me more strength and inner balance, but I must say I also suffered a lot both physically and mentally.
I have understood that many things we are used to read on the social medias are not entirely true because most influencers tend to show only the positive side of travelling without mentioning all the difficulties you have to face.
I felt like there are many readers who are in a sort of adoration for travel gurus and look only for the “good” side. The more I travelled the more I realized there is a sort of Instagram vs reality experience.
Finding myself in the situation and having to overcome many challenges, I have decided to show everything including my difficult moments, because I wanted to show the “truth”.
For this reason, when I came back home I felt the urge to stay out of the social medias for a while to be coherent with what I had been showing on my account and also to enjoy my everyday “reality”.
“This experience has been an opportunity to grow, to get lost and feel grateful, to challenge myself and become a man.
It helped me to get to the essence and, also thanks to all the challenges I had to face, to find out what is really important in life to give a new meaning to my existence, to live instead of simply survive”.