Unloading My Fears, Lightening My Pack

“Don’t let your fears load your pack,” Rick said to me on our third day on the Camino. He’d read this advice on a Camino Forum, but admitted he didn’t follow it close enough. As we walked along, he decided to heed this advice and let go of his bedbug spray. Years ago the hostels along the Camino had a problem with bedbugs, but I’d read it had since been remedied. I hoped that was true. So did Rick.

It took me six days to get up the courage to leave my fears behind. At my hostel in Estella, I left a pair of flip flops, a paperback book, and a pair of rain covers for my shoes. Indeed, fear was what had me pack those things to begin with. The flip flops were packed after my sister’s warning about contracting foot fungus in the communal showers. The paperback was to combat potential boredom. The rain shoes were the hardest (and heaviest) to let go, but easier once experienced pilgrims told me all the ways to dry my shoes should they get wet. (Besides the fact that my mother had doused my hiking shoes in waterproofing spray before I left.)

Talking to Rick later that day, he couldn’t even remember what he’d left behind since last we spoke. “Shows you how important that stuff was!” he told me. He was right. I didn’t miss any of it.

“Let go and let God.” It’s a phrase I try to remember and live, and once again it has proved true in my life.

God sent me some rain and proved to me my shoes will stay dry. Boredom only shows up on a rare occasion, but at that time God has a habit of having someone show up along my path. My feet show no signs of disease. And those bedbugs? We’ve yet to see a single one.

Rick and Rebecca on the Camino.
It’s very common for pilgrims along the Camino to leave items from their pack at hostels along the way, deeming them not worth their weight for the rest of the journey. There are boxes for this very purpose at many of the hostels. At first I considered mailing these things home. I soon realized they weren’t even worth the effort, time, or postage.

Letting go of my possessions is not new for me. Before I left for my self-prescribed one-year sabbatical (of which the Camino is part), I let go of a lot of things not worth their weight in my life. Letters from an ex-boyfriend. More candles than I’d ever burn. Fondue pots once well used and loved, no longer part of my entertaining. I had decided to give up my apartment and live without a permanent home during this year. Some items would get stored, but I gave away or sold everything I could possibly bear to part with. Martini glasses, framed prints, and clothes went to a consignment shop so I could make some money to fund my travels. Candles, decorative pieces, art supplies were given away to friends who wanted them. Some items were taken to the Salvation Army donation bins. Some went to be sold at a garage sale my parents held that spring — though many of those items were snatched up by my siblings. “You’re getting rid of this? Can I have it?” I had decided to let those items go, and God had sent my siblings in to ease any fear I felt of “losing” those items to a stranger.

As part of my sabbatical I did a work exchange with a friend. In return for helping her de-clutter her storage room, I was able to live — for the first time in my life — someplace other than the northeast for the winter. It worked out perfectly for both of us. I enjoyed a warmer winter, and she enjoyed having someone to help her tackle a room that had been collecting years of memories. After we finished, she said something that simply delighted me: I feel lighter. We talked about how shedding physical weight often sheds emotional weight. Things she’d kept in fear that “one day” she might need them were now gone. And space was opened not only in her storage room but somewhere inside her — and she could actually feel it.

I ran into Rick again today. We’ve walked for 14 days. He’s let go of something nearly every day. “Wouldn’t it be nice to know what it’s like to walk with a light pack?” he asked. Indeed it would. He’s inspired me to shed more fears today. I’ll let go. And let God take care of the rest.

What fears are weighing down your “pack”?