I have recently returned from a life-changing adventure where I walked the well-known ancient trail across Northern Spain called the Camino De Santiago. I started this journey in 2016, with the intention of taking a week every year to complete the 799 km (500 miles) route from St Jean Pied De Port in France, through the Pyrenees and ending in Santiago De Compostela. But, like most entrepreneurs, I was impatient, and was keen to achieve my goal and get that all-important certificate to say that I had completed the trail. So on June 30th 2018 I packed my rucksack and headed for Spain to complete the last leg of the route.
Why was this trip life changing?
There are so many aspects to the Camino that are life-changing, but in this blog, I will explain the changes in me that have had an impact on my business.
Hit that delete button!
As I was sitting on the plane I made the decision to delete the email application on my phone. Hot sweats appeared as my finger hovered over the little “x” but I did it! I know that sounds crazy, but that was a big step for me. In my heart of hearts, I half expected to re-install the app somewhere in the first few days of my trip, but I am pleased to report that I got through the whole three weeks without looking at my emails!
Next on my list was Slack. If you have not used Slack, and you have a team of people (we use it for our freelancers and internal staff), then I would recommend this free tool as it is amazing for communication. As the air steward was running through the safety features of the plane, I absorbed every communication on the Slack app from my team. I then sent a message to everyone to let them know that both my emails and Slack had been removed from my phone. If anyone needed to get hold of me in the next three weeks then please send me a Facebook message or text.
There. Done! Other apps that I removed whilst away were Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. The only social media site that I had access to was Facebook, and I made a promise to myself to only upload one post a day. For someone who has worked in the world of social media for the last ten years, and very much led by example, I knew it was going to be a challenge to not reinstall the apps. It may sound dramatic that I deleted the apps, but I knew the temptation would be too much for me otherwise. It was actually easier than I thought it would be!
I had already activated my out of office, and I had created a text message out of office response. I was serious about this pilgrimage and I was ready to embrace a non-technology holiday (sort of).
All the hard work has paid off.
When walking a trail such as the Camino you have lots of time to think about life. Each day, the only things you need to do are put one foot in front of the other, drink lots of coffee/wine, and experiment with food that you would never dream of eating at home. Life is simple. You don’t need to think about what you are going to wear each day as you only carry two sets of clothes with you (and wash a set each night). I didn’t even need to think about navigation as I simply followed yellow arrows that were painted on the floor. Walking 15–20 miles a day gives you plenty of time for contemplation. The first week my mind was full of work stuff. Organising to do lists in my head for when I return, mentally writing blogs and creating projects that I would get excited about. I wanted to sit down at every available cafe and just write all this stuff down so that I didn’t lose the train of thought, but a little voice said to me “Julia if it’s important, you will remember it”. I got to know this voice of reason quite well by the end of the trip.
An epiphany as I thought about my life
There was one area of the trail where I walked for about 3 miles through a beautiful wooded area. I was on the edge of the forest and it was lined by a fence where people had made crosses out of sticks and placed them in the fence in memory of someone. I naturally picked up some sticks and felt the need to add a few of my own crosses to the fence. I am not a religious person, so I am not sure why I was compelled to do this, but something told me it was the right things to do (that voice again!). I probably spent about 40 mins at the fence making crosses for people I wanted to remember. To name a few business people that some of you who are reading this blog may remember:
- Phil Snelling (A HR consultant who was taken from this world last year from cancer).
- Alistair Campbell who collapsed at his desk last year and is now in a vegetative state — he is the same age as me.
- Wayde Rathbone (Website guy) from Northampton area who died of cancer in 2015.
- Peter Clare (The Tax Man with a wicked sense of humour and purpose in life).
Camino Crosses in the fence
It was time to let go
As I spent time thinking about these people, I realised how lucky I was that I had a business that could support me to live my life to the full. If I wanted to explore new places in the world and take time out of the business to do the things that I really wanted to do in life then I needed to make some decisions. You never know what is around the corner, so now was the time to let go (just a little bit). I decided there and then that it was about time that I gave my team their wings so they can fly on their own. I had subconsciously already made that decision when I deleted the channels of communication whilst sitting on that plane. That little voice was talking to me again “Let them fly Julia”
What’s next on the agenda?
I had zero calls, zero text messages and zero Facebook messages from my work colleagues in three whole weeks. Christina and Mark took the reins and made the decisions in the business that I would usually make. Result! or was it?
One of the worst feelings in the world is to not feel needed. When I returned to work after an amazing trip away and realised that my team didn’t need me as much as I thought they would, it felt a bit depressing. No-one ever talks about that side of being a business owner. If you talk to business consultants and mentors then they will tell you that you don’t really have a business until that business can survive on its own without your input. I cleared the 2000+ emails, had an update on what has been happening in the business and felt dejected knowing that everyone coped absolutely fine without me, for three whole weeks! It took me a few days to get my head around this. Why was I feeling sad, rather than elated? Isn’t this something that I always wanted?
It actually didn’t take me long to realise that I just needed to let my guys do what they are good at, whilst I started to implement the new ideas that had come to me whilst I was walking. Yes, I remembered those important ideas and a new fire was ignited. I have many new ideas for the future of Green Umbrella and I am looking forward to developing those and taking this business to a new level. I can now get my teeth into these new projects with confidence, knowing that the ship is heading in the right direction.
I will tell you all about the new ideas in a future blog!