A compass has the magnetism to keep it pointed correctly. Leadership has not automatic feature.

My wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago five years ago. In late August of 2016, we walked 500 miles in 30 days across Spain. While walking, I had hours daily to think about a myriad of subjects. I decided I would write a few books about my experiences. One of those books is about the leadership (and management) lessons that were reinforced in my brain during our journey.


https://stingynomads.com/camino-de-santiago-tips/. All long journeys require extensive planning. Our goal was to walk between 15 and 20 miles daily to finish the trek in around 30 days. We wanted to take a day off for my birthday (70th) and another for my wife’s birthday (70th) while we were crossing Spain.

We visited several people around Houston who had walked the Camino de Santiago and asked many questions about what they did right and what they should have considered. At our local REI store, we talked to experts about shoes, socks, clothes, backpacks, and other equipment we should consider for the trip.

Part of any plan is to have the right equipment and skill sets to meet the daily goals as well as the ultimate goal of finishing without injury. Shoes and socks were the first things we bought. A daily walk for nearly a year allowed us to arrive in shape and ready to rock and roll. Except, we had never practiced walking up and down hills (and mountains). https://wp.me/p4ztmz-1rU talks about our inexperience in vertical hiking.

Another requirement of effective planning is to have a budget to meet the needs. My wife conceded to go on this journey if she could be guaranteed a private room and private bath nightly. I agreed with her. She does not want to share a room with others (even though one night we were forced to).

We were fortunate to fly military Space-A to save airplane costs going and returning. There were a few days of waiting to catch the Space-A planes going in our direction, but it was nowhere near the price of two airline tickets. Equipment costs were expensed the year before we left for Spain. I took $2,000 cash, thinking that we could easily convert it to Spanish pesos if and when we needed to. Big surprise, we should have relied on credit cards, and I would have saved a bundle of conversion costs – a big bundle!

The bus transportation system across Spain is excellent and cost-effective. It was suggested to us by several people that it would be a good contingency plan if we fell behind schedule. We took what we thought we needed after long conversations about what was necessary and what was excess. We could always buy what we needed when we got there.

Short-term planning is the daily outing. We changed our habits after the first week to accommodate our needs and the demands of weather and lodging. Each day was an independent journey. We started with the short-term goal of walking to the next town/city, then the next, and so on until we got to that day’s destination. On a daily basis, we could not be thinking two weeks or a month down the road – it would have been counterproductive.

The long-term goal was in our minds but not at the forefront. As we neared the final week, other walkers came out of the woodwork, so to speak. Many people only walk the last one hundred miles rather than the 500 we had chosen. As such, hotels in larger cities were expected to fill up quickly. We also needed to lock in the hotel accommodation in Santiago de Compostela, our final destination.

Four days out and roughly 100 miles from Santiago, we made hotel reservations for three nights in Santiago. Most people walk the last 100 or so miles in five days. We decided to stay in the smaller towns and do it in four days. One or two of those four days, we thought we were crazy, especially when you misread the map and end up walking many extra kilometers in addition to what your brain and body had planned to do that day.


https://stingynomads.com/camino-de-santiago-walking-guide/. Sharing is an essential part of life. Leadership demands a fair give and take when appropriate. Sharing our goals ahead of time kept us accountable for what we planned to do. Sharing our daily adventures with others along the way added to the bonding and overall experience.

We met many cultures – Europeans, Australians, Asians, and a few others – Brazil, Greenland, etc. The accents were an absolute delight. After two weeks, we could reasonably tell a British accent from a Scottish, Irish, Aussie, etc. I always saw a big smile on the face of a Korean when I spoke to them in Hangul – simple greetings I learned from many military excursions into Korea while I was in the military.

It was always nice when we guessed where a person was from as we passed on the road. We never asked what a person did – it was never necessary. We always shared the standard greeting – Buen Camino! We would ask if they had walked it before. And we asked what their destination was today and if they were walking all the way to Santiago. Many people walk segments of the Camino and return a year or years later to complete another segment or the remainder of the journey to Santiago.

People hear and see things differently. We may be dehydrated and cannot see it in our faces because we are miles from anywhere, the temperature is above one hundred degrees, and we are walking on autopilot. A group of three women stopped us and had us sit down because we looked extra haggard.
They insisted that we drink electrolytes, and they freely shared theirs. After resting and drinking the treated water, we felt amazingly refreshed and reinvigorated. We returned the favor many times, especially with health advice on foot and knee injuries.

I carried Coban wrap (used for joints) and attended to one young lady who had severe pains from chondromalacia (knee pain). As a runner, I had many running injuries over the years and attended several with family and friends as part of a running culture. I asked several questions to ascertain the exact problem and suggested the Coban wrap for her knee. She accepted, and I wrapped both her knees. Thirty minutes later, she passed us on the road, and she was unable to walk when we found her sitting on a large rock, asking people for help as they walked by.


https://officercandidatesschool.com/2012/08/25/marine-corps-leadership-traits-judgment/. I found that the military does an excellent job of developing leadership as people rise in rank. Judgment is the ability to think clearly and logically amid normalcy through chaos. Potential courses of action can be rationally assessed with different levels of uncertainty.

The Camino de Santiago throws all the pilgrims together on the same road. We do not know why people do what they do. About one-third to one-half of the people are on the Camino de Santiago for a spiritual or religious reason. They are personal. Very few share their reasons, and we should not judge them.

The same applies to us. Spend ten days walking alone in a country where you do not speak the language, or many do not fully understand the culture and combine it with a fifteen-twenty-pound backpack with temperatures over one-hundred degrees and a few thousand gnats/flies per mile. After we go into autopilot, our brains keep our feet walking in one direction, and we tend to drive everything else out of our vision and minds.

We cannot take the daily hardships personally. We planned to make this journey, and we must take it one day at a time. Thinking outside that box – the daily grind will cause more issues that need not be in your path. They prevent you from stretching – becoming a better/stronger person.

Do not judge others, and absolutely do not judge yourself. Instead, after completing the journey, reflect on what worked and what did not and learn from both.


https://www.edutopia.org/article/5-strategies-minimize-bad-leadership-decisions. Minimize can mean many things in both leadership and walking the Camino de Santiago. Why take five days of clothes when you need two days’ worth? The extra weight is not needed two weeks into your trek. The space savings is also a big deal when you unpack and repack each night.

We started carrying our backpacks and did so for about a week. My wife’s backpack broke, and we used a local transportation system to take backpacks to our destination each day. We bought a small carry pack for daily supplies and only brought what we needed.

I had five flashlights on the table at home, ready to pack (along with many other things that never made the backpack). I thought I had extra flashlights to handle the early morning departures – one or two hours before sunrise. Instead, I had to use my cellphone as a flashlight for two mornings until I could buy a flashlight. I had a small umbrella that became worthless when the rains caught us between cities. The temperature dropped from the hundreds to the sixties in a day. I needed another sweater and bought one. The windbreaker was lightweight, but with a sweater underneath, the discomfort of lower temperatures was bearable.

Uncertainty reigns when you are in the middle of nowhere. Can you get something when you need it, or must you have it with you the entire time? I recommend two things to new people planning to walk the Camino de Santiago: get a net to put over your head (under your hat) to keep the flying creatures at bay and buy your walking sticks when you get to Spain. No need to worry about airport security and hiking sticks. Leave them there when you return home.

Be Prepared

https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-train-to-walk-the-camino-de-santiago-3434979. Preparation will make your experience enjoyable. We walked for months before arriving in Spain. Many people did no extra walking, nor did they walk in the new shoes they had for the trek. This resulted in many blisters and lost toenails. A few people had to stay extra nights to recover from their unexpected injuries.

We had walking sticks, and we needed them for the downhill parts of the walk. Most people carried a walking stick in their backpack or in their hands. A few had none. I had extreme difficulty going downhill in a few places and wondered how those without sticks did it.

Regardless of how well things are planned, you will get lost. We did – three times. One time in the middle of the day and two times before sunrise. The Camino de Santiago is well marked. As you arrive at a place where you must turn left or right, a sign gives you the right direction.

When there is no sign, a walk of two or three hundred yards will tell you if you made a good decision or not. We followed the early morning crowd and would stop at an intersection and send a guy in one direction and another person in the opposite direction. We would wait until we knew the right path to take.

We walked one afternoon about a half-mile out of our way because we were not concentrating on the path we were on but the giant haystacks that we had seen in the movie, The Way. So we figured that the road going by the haystack was the right path, and we soon found out it was not.

We turned around and returned to the last known sign marker and started walking again, paying closer attention to our surroundings. It is good to take frequent rest stops, but when the tired body stays too long in one place, it isn’t easy to get going again.

Preparation of keeping the daily grind consistent keeps you on track and able to handle the minor diversions and obstacles in the way.


We had a lot of time to think daily—more time than I had ever devoted to that topic before in my life. When my mind and body are on autopilot, I allow my subconscious mind to solve problems. It works well when I am driving hour after hour on the highway or after an hour or so of running. I know I can approach problems and see them more clearly when my mind and body are not focused on the here and now.

The Camino de Santiago allowed many hours daily for reflection, problem-solving, planning, and more. In our daily lives, we must actively remove ourselves to plan more effectively. We rarely run on autopilot in our daily lives. In leadership or management, planning is the name of the game. Master it, and you will be farther ahead in your quest for success.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com



2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *