In the beginning of December, I had the joy to interview two fantastic, enthusiastic people on mindful walking. Irina founded a company, inviting curious minds to wander the famous Camino trail in a small group with herself and a coach.
When I first heard about the idea, I was intrigued right away. Annika, about whom you’ve read before here, accompanies Irina with her courageous idea for a mindful experience. At this point, I don’t want to say too much and hope you will enjoy the interview.
Interview with the makers of Ultreia Camino
Utreia Camino, as I understand it from the website, is long distance walking combined with beautiful nature on the one hand and self-development as well as mindfulness on the other hand. How do I put that into a sentence?
Irina: oh my god, we have tried that for ages. Maybe we can describe it as an incubator for adventurous people.
How did the idea develop?
Irina: Well, I literally walked the idea. I used to work for a youth organisation in Spain and wanted to offer a hike along the Camino for the kids and their host parents. I was the one to guide it. At some point, I wanted it to become more meaningful. So, I started giving some exercises on self-development and tried out different elements. It worked out wonderfully and added what I had expected. This is how Ultreia Camino was born.
As I was experiencing this during a transitional phase of my life. Living the idea made me grow enormously. I now wanted to broaden the concept beyond the organisation I worked for. This is how Anni jumped into the game.
Annika: When I was in Georgia in 2014, I had a similar idea, but completely forgot about it. When Irina asked me if I wanted to join as a coach, I was right on board. My principle as a coach, however, is to know the terrain very well myself. That meant I had to walk the Camino before I join.
Since Irina did not really give me a chance to think twice, I really had to walk this myself as well. In March 2018, I teamed up with someone from my network. We did not really know each other. We actually went by ourselves throughout the day. Spending the evenings at the same hostels helped me a lot, as I am actually really scared of being alone. Plus, I tend to reflect much more when people listen to me.
I tend to reflect much more when people listen to me.
In the end, I saw how great it works out to walk the Camino and have someone to talk to. It is common to think that you have to walk it alone. That is awesome for everyone who can actually do that. I, however, noticed my process and reflection can be sparked on a much deeper level if you have people listening, asking, supporting and challenging you. Nevertheless, they also leave you alone from time to time.
Irina: And that is exactly what we do. I call it shared solitude: We are all alone, but share the sensation of being together.
So, what exactly happens if I book a trip with you?
Irina: The process starts before the actual walk. Metaphorically speaking, we want to understand what our group of maximum ten particpants carries around in its backpack. What problems and questions do they bring along? What doubts are there? What is their intention?
Anni: Utreia Camino is an old saying meaning “beyond Camino”. It’s the old way to greet each other along the way. As the translation suggests, we want to know your intention beyond Camino. This is important to us to get to know before we meet.
Irina: We start with individual or group calls via Skype. During the walk, there are two active coaches. One is a bit more focussed on logistics, when the other one only focusses on the coaching process. That happens before, during and after the walk. To support people in desired change after our walk, we have two follow-up calls.
How do you integrate mindfulness and self-development into ten days of walking?
Irina: First of all, participants set intentions with the coaches before we start to walk. Analysing the needs of the groups, we design the exercises according to that. During the trip, we start every morning with an intention, a question and an exercise.
The second day is intentionally left blank. We do not walk the second day, but focus on coaching. There are group, pair and individual exercises. From then on, we continuously walk the Camino. Most of the upcoming exercises are now focussed on mindful walking: notice your pace, speed of your thought change, notice the environment. You “stop” while walking.
Notice your pace, speed of your thought change, notice the environment. You “stop” while walking.
Annika: There is one really interesting aspect: we are the only group to arrive really late at the Albergues [pilgrim hostels]. It is very common to get up early, walk from six am to two pm and rest in the afternoon. In the beginning, this is exactly how our group behaves as well. Participants are destined to walk fast. During the ten days, however, people understand to walk slowly, rest and feel their surroundings. They sit down and listen to birds, find a nice resting spot and enjoy the whole process. That is a very different experience to most people on the Camino.
Irina: Although we are a group of ten people, we are not walking together. Everyone walks at their own pace. If you want to walk alone, you walk alone. If you want to walk as a couple, you walk as a couple. It is the mantra to find one’s own rhythm. In the evening, we get together again, share experiences and do yoga before we go to bed.
Everyone walks at their own pace.
How many times have you lead groups by now?
We walked the Camino twice so far. I personally have done it five times already.
Have these two times met your expectations of what you intended to create?
Annika: I remember Irina on the last day of the Camino, seeing the people and crying: “That’s what I was doing this for!”.
Irina: Oh yes, it has exceeded my expectations. I managed to realise something that I so, so much wanted to share with the world. I had expectations that the changes that had appeared in myself will appear in participants. I am saying it went beyond expectations, because I see the long-term effects. To me, it is very personal for people to understand the connection between their mind and their body, to take care of themselves and not reach a burnout-level.
How is the experience for you as a coach, Annika?
Annika: The first Utreia Camino in May was very special to me. I had always been participating in programs like ROCK YOUR LIFE!, ROCK YOUR COMPANY! or The Arc, but this time, I was completely in charge of what to express. Irina invited me to just do what I think is right. So scary and amazing at the same time!
Irina and I are a good match. Designing a flow makes so much fun as she is into learning development and I am totally into creating the right feeling. What Camino changed for me is the trust in myself. I am needed. What can bring to the people has a really long-lasting effect on their lives. Irina made me see that by taking me on board.
How did you experience the participants?
Irina: The participants that we had in both of Ultreia Camino’s groups were very different in profiles and questions that they came on the Camino with. Although there were differences, there was one common element: everyone wanted to take a break from their busy and fast paced life, and enjoy simple nature and people, super tasty food and a space to answer some of the questions you don’t allow yourself to answer while you are ding your routine. We noticed that during the Camino, people stop and reflect upon their habits, their actions and the direction they want to follow in their life. That is why, UltreiaCamino is the perfect combination of nature, walking long distances and providing you the support to consciously answer to all of those questions.
We noticed that during the Camino, people stop and reflect upon their habits, their actions and the direction they want to follow in their life.
Many of our participants leave on the way unhealthy habits and emotions, discover their thinking patterns, get more in touch with their bodies and their mind and enjoy some well deserved solitude time where the cell phone is just another tool and it is not part of their daily life. Going back to basics, I like to call it!
Whom would you like to invite to join you?
Annika: People that want an adventure, that feel overwhelmed with their daily pace and need a rest. Curious people that want to discover the limits of their bodies, that want to discover something about themselves. That believe life is more than just work and routine. People that like nature and simplicity. People that want a boost in their wellbeing and are willing to deep into a coaching process that will reveal certain negative pattern and guide them in a direction that they desire.
People that want a boost in their wellbeing and are willing to deep into a coaching process that will reveal certain negative pattern and guide them in a direction that they desire.
Through UltreiaCamino, we want to bring more emotional stability, more contentedness with nature and with ourselves. We have the feeling that we live in such a fast paced society that, from time to time, we need a week at least to wind down and to go back to simplicity, being with yourself and noticing the irreversible process of nature. Si simple, yet so distant!
When are the next walks planned?
Irina: 2019 will be a very exciting year for UltreiaCamino because we have prepared 3 different walks, full with creativity and beautiful activities. We wanted this year’s walks to be more focused and targeted, as a group and specifically as topics to be tackled along the way. Therefore, we have one general UltreiaCamino (Reset your Mind) from the 30th of April until the 8th of May. A second one that targets women, we call it UltreiaCamino Women Empowerment edition, from the 10th until the 18th of May.
During the 2018 walks we had a lot of questions and requests for doing a UltreiaCamino focused on the topic of Relationships, tackling patterns of attachments, values, building a healthy relationship, how am I as a partner etc. So here we have it…from the 14th until the 21st of June we will have an UltreiaCamino Relationship edition. Meant for couples and people, no matter their relationship status, but that have a special desire to enter more deep into this topic.
So, as you can see we have many walk on our sleeves and we are very excited to answer all the questions you might have. Just write us to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit our website ultreiacamino.com. Special discount prices for the first month of the year!!! Just to start the year with a different vibe and looking forward to something special.