Not According to Plan


May 20, 2012

Things are settling in on the Camino. That´s not to say it is not a very different trip than I had anticipated. It is a very different trip. Very. For example, having trained extensively with my pack, I could not have imagined that the day I got here that my pregnant body would have changed just enough that I no longer felt comfortable carrying it. Or that I´d suddenly need to pee all the time.  Like: All. The. Time. Or that it would be so cold and rainy. (To think I thought I was being savvy when I eliminated pants in my final packing edit! I ended up buying rain pants in Pamplona that I did some handy work on to fit like maternity. Let´s just say I have never been so happy for ill fitting pants in my life as I did trudging through the rain today.) Or that walking 14 miles a day would feel like a lot; we thought walking 15 miles a day would be no problem.  Or that I would start making choices based on the fact that it is not just me and Aimee walking, but that we have got a baby with us too – I’m 25 weeks tomorrow.

So yes, things are not going according to plan. But things are really wonderful.

We thought it would be no issue taking an international flight and having one day to recoup before starting the Camino. Despite arriving at 10am it took us until 10pm that night to get to Roncevalles, get a room, eat dinner, and locate my bag (lost in transit). We had a beautiful first day walking.  But we were not recovered.

We have not walked 15 miles a day. We walked about 13 for two days, took a day off (it rained 40 liters in Pamplona making headlines in the paper this morning). Based on a forecast of thunderstorms today we walked 5 kilometers this morning…after eating almond croissants in front of Hemingway’s statue in the Plaza de Toros.

We thought we might stay in one hotel a week. 5 nights in we have been in two hotels…both times because the albergues were full. (Turns out you need an early start on the Camino.)

But things REALLY ARE WONDERFUL. Today, after our short jaunt from Pamplona where we watched the city fade to country, we arrived at the albergue at 10:45. It didn´t open until 12.  There was a church across the way.  Happily mass started at 11.  A wonderful family sat in front of us.  A little boy with lazy eye (his right eye was patched beneath his glasses – fire engine red arms and Carolina blue rims…fabulous glasses) smiled and drew in front of us.  He walked the church saying peace to just about everyone there (much to his dad´s chagrin).  When he took my hand, I knew things were starting to shift.  His sister, maybe six months old, sat wide eyes in her bassinet stroller.  And I thought to myself…what might it be like to walk through their eyes.

Things here are not what I expected, but they are wonderful indeed.


Planning, we quickly learned, was not going to be an effective modus operandi on the Camino. I’m not suggesting that the legwork we did to prepare for our journey wasn’t fruitful. I think it was. My thoughtful approach to what I brought with me and what I left behind was really helpful. Walking 6-9 miles a day for several months in advance of leaving for Spain gave me strength physically and emotionally. And I’m sure glad I learned in that process to upgrade my hiking boots. I still wear those things! But as much as I valued that upfront planning and training, we quickly learned that we had to trust that the preparation we did in advance had made us ready for the journey. On the Camino itself, though, we needed to let go of our plans. We needed to adapt to what was happening right in front of us.

I could have kicked myself for days about leaving maternity pants behind. Why didn’t I realize that they couldn’t be easily replaced? Why did I think I wouldn’t need them in May? See how easy it would have been for me to spin my wheels in self judgement? But that doesn’t solve the problem. Sure it took me a lot of miles walked in the pouring rain in Pamplona to find a makeshift solution, but a solution was found. One that I couldn’t have planned for if I tried.

I wasn’t thinking about this at the time, but today I can see what a universal leadership lesson this is. It is far more important that we are present to what’s happening right in front of us than it is that we are executing our strategic plan perfectly. An ability to adapt to what is keeps our work and our organizations fresh and responsive to the real demands standing in front of us. (Which might not have been there when that strategic plan was created.) It is more important to be present than prepared. (This is a concept I really value and you can learn more about it in episode 23 of Design Yourself.)

The thing we’ve got to be conscious of is that each task requires a different kind of upfront preparation to allow for presence. This is where planning and execution play a critical role. If we haven’t done the work, it will be exponentially harder to get present. Effective planning, counterintuitive though it may sound, offers us the gift of letting go. And my Camino experience taught me again and again that this is a gift worth receiving.

I am wishing you all a beautiful Spring weekend filled with peace, love and an opportunity to let go and let be.


My Pregnant Pilgrimage is a blog series that I’m sharing in the Spring of 2017 during my present-day maternity leave. The arrival of my third little seemed a fitting time to return to these journal reflections from those last months of my life pre-parenthood. Learn more about the inspiration for this series here.