A few months ago I found myself in a Post Office in mid Spain clutching a sun hat, Bible and a whistle. I gingerly offered them to the lady behind the counter with a few Spanish words and a lot of artistic gestures. I wanted to parcel them up and send them on to the post office in Santiago de Compostela, to be picked up there by myself in three weeks’ time. She was completely unsurprised, even bored by my request. She processed the job efficiently, then wished me ‘Buen Camino’.
I was walking ‘The Way’, the ‘Camino’. My wife and I were ‘Peregrinos’ or pilgrims on our big adventure walking for a month to Santiago. Proper pilgrims carry everything in their rucksack, walking from hostel to hostel. 250,000 souls walk the Camino each year and so the lady saw people like me most days.
Before you set off all the guides tell you to travel light. People who give up do so in the first week or so, and it’s their knees and ankles that cause them problems because they’re carrying too much. We were told to pack less than 9.5kg for the month (well under half what you take on a plane) and we’d honed things down in military style: one jumper, three pairs of socks and three shirts (one on, one drying, one clean), a Swiss Army knife (no cutlery), blister plasters, no books, etc. I started below target weight and was pretty chuffed with myself. But on day one I threw three or four items in the bin. A few days later we went to the post office for the first time and shed more, anything spare I could buy again en route if I needed. This was now my third shedding (There was an electronic Bible on my mobile). I’d gone from two metal glasses cases, to 2 light plastic ones, to one soft material one. We were enjoying the walking and gradually feeling our bodies getting fit, but it was THAT LOAD every day, every kilometer, that stopped it being a breeze. We’d learnt the gift of ‘Lightness’.
We’re so used to gathering possessions, holding what we need closely around us, and having spares and nice things; we delight in it all. But when you’ve got .to carry it, and look after it, and unpack it and pack it, your mind turns on its axis. Soon there’s a joy in letting go and traveling light. It literally puts a spring in your step
Now that my wife and I are back home, we’re holding tight to the lesson of ‘Lightness’. Several cupboards have been rationalised and things in the attic have gone to charity. But I think the lesson is a bigger one. I’d ask you to reflect what ‘Lightness’ means for you in your work. Not weighing down your staff with extra things they have to do and have to have, but allowing them to travel light. Shedding the unnecessary, and then shedding some more. Just having what is sufficient and not loading yourself up with clever things (tools, policies, approaches and aids). Perhaps just going into a situation with the few things you can trust in and have made familiar as friends… in the main just going as yourself.