Untethered on the Camino

As someone who has been tethered to computers via the Net for many years doing my online teaching and consulting work, I have come to realize the need to create a balance between the connected self and disconnected self.

To achieve that goal, I spent five days in July 2012, not teaching or consulting, not in a car, nor with a computer, but rather walking the last 115 kilometers of the Camino Frances pilgrimage route across northern Spain (mostly in the mountains of Galicia).

Ok, being a technogeek more than a pilgrim, I did buy a sports watch with realtime GPS for location, altitude, and speed readings and it also has a heart monitor for bpm display. Oh yeah, a global cell phone in off mode unless I need help, and a smartphone that was deactivated so I can use it for wifi connection (where that was supported in my overnight accommodations) and for taking photos and videos on the trail.

My goal was more than to simply get untethered, I sought to walk in the path of the apostle St. James (Iacob in Hebrew and Santiago in Spanish) and those who walk after him in the true spirit of pilgrimage. Crossing mountain ridges made it an arduous journey, but in my prayerful approach and in the sharing of that with other pilgrims, it was a rewarding pilgrimage. What made walking more than 8 hours per day for 5 days possible was not my training or equipment, but the spirit that endows when the words “Para Dios” guides your steps. Those are the words that I received in answer to my question of two Spanish pilgrims on a previous visit to the Camino when I asked why they go on this pilgrimage.

Although my pilgrimage was completed, while still resting my heels (and knees;-) I made plans to walk the last 117 kilometers of the Camino Portugues from the border of Spain and Portugal at Tui this time northward, but to the same destination, Santiago de Compostela – arriving on the feast day of the apostle, whose remains are kept behind the altar in the Cathedral.

Click on the play arrow in the video frame below to view a brief video I took one morning on the Camino at Palas de Rei, Spain in the mountains of Galicia where I stayed in a cabin overnight (listen for the German pilgrims singing as they began their walk that day). I used my deactivated smartphone to take a video that was immediately sent via the restaurant WiFi to the Web.

Click on the link below to my youtube.com channel where you can view other videos (under the Uploads category) I took on the Camino and in Santiago de Compostela, some with a view of arriving pilgrims in the plaza and the tall spires of the Cathedral where I attended pilgrim mass at the end of my journey.


Although my words or my brief real-time videos cannot capture the full experience of being untethered and on pilgrimage, clicking on the play arrow in the video frame at the top of this blog entry displays an edited video of Camino de Santiago de Compostela from 2011 from an Irish Pilgrim’s perspective.

As you can see, my fascination with technology remains firmly entrenched, but I am finding the needed balance between being tethered and untethered from it.

I hope that you will find ways to balance your immersion in technology with the rewards of getting “untethered” and reflecting on our wider connection with life, each other, and a prayerful walk.

Buen Camino!


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12 Responses to Untethered on the Camino

  1. Joe says:

    Hi Doc,

    Great postings! I watched the trailer from Lydia Smith, great stuff. The camino is on my bucket list for sure. It seems like the common theme in all the messages I read are some tremendous inner reflection and perspective on what a really meaningful life should be about. I think it would be impossible to do the Camino and not take away some life altering critical thinking about yourself.

    I’m also attracted to the thought of “unplugging” from the grid. There are times where I think I’m going to puke if I have to sit another minute in front of a computer. Being a cybersecurity consultant myself, I actively use 3 laptops and one desktop. I couldn’t even begin to calculate how much time my face is looking at a computer screen. Sometimes I think I’m becoming a digital zombie.



  2. Doc says:

    Thanks for your feedback, Joe. Without yet placing your feet upon its ancient trail, I can see that you already understand what it can give to you in return. Consider planning a pilgrim walk of the last 62 miles or so in 5 to 6 days from the town of Sarria to Santiago de Compostela along the Camino Frances. You might want to consider bringing family and/or friends as well as I have seen fathers with daughters and dads and moms with little ones rolled along. Walking the last day from near Arzua or even the morning from Monte Gozo is a thrill as you descend this last ridge into Santiago along with all the pilgrims walking before you and join them in paying homage to Sant Iago in the Cathedral and attending the Pilgrim Mass.

  3. Sunnie says:

    Hi Doc, I found your wanting to disconnect from the online and internet world a useful tool. Some of us do it in different ways, such as going vegan one or two days a week, or turning off the TV and only reading a few times a month. For some reason, we always want to have a “spiritual” reason for making such a move; not spiritual in the religious sense per se, but just a more profound reason for making the choice. For me, it’s simply a way to go back to a simpler time without all the hassles of everyday life connected to the net! We know that these small changes are better for us all around – the challenge is having the willpower to commit to doing them.

  4. Doc says:

    Thanks Sunnie, for sharing your insights into getting untethered from technology. I agree, there are many reasons to do so and many ways to achieve this goal. Seeking simplicity and the quietude that comes with it is in itself profound if it brings us back in touch with nature, ourselves, and other people. And you don’t need to travel and set your feet on an ancient pilgrim path like the Camino de Santiago to achieve that, but if you do, you will be rewarded with the simplicity and beauty of being surrounded by the sights, scents, and sounds of nature in its pristine glory – along with those who walked this path before you, those who walk it with you, and those who will follow you. Buen Camino!

  5. Tiffany says:

    What an absolutely incredible concept, although I struggle with the thought of having to go a long period without all of my technologies. You really showed that untethering from technology can really be very freeing and allow you to really dig deep and find out who you really are. As well as just giving you the opportunity to stop and look at life in a whole new light.

  6. Doc says:

    Thanks Tiffany, for highlighting the liberating aspects of getting untethered from technology. I also felt that sense of struggle when I began preparing for this pilgrimage, but now that I have experienced the benefits, I am looking forward to walking a similar path from the border of Portugal north to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. I hope that you will find similar benefit in the ways that you discover to find a balance between constant connection and reliance on technology and time spent with nature and loved ones without technology in the way.

  7. Andrew says:


    I found video of the first pilmigrage to be amazing, many people wish they could accomplish something such as that journey. My favorite part of the video only lasted a few seconds, found at the 6:10 time frame with the windmill. Im not even sure why that part of the video made such an impression on me, perhaps it was the combination of a manmade technology and nature with the fog. Interestingly for me also, is the fact that your journey was to remove yourself from the tethers of technology but, the only way to share this is to reconnect. It seems existing untethered in the present day, is almost unattainable.

  8. Doc says:

    Hi Andrew, You make a great point about reconnecting in that we not only return from our “pilgrimages” refreshed, but we want to share our experience with others and we typically do that via mediated communications using technology. We also need to reconnect with our work and the technology in which we are immersed, but our return to others and to work is as a changed person who has created a buffer of sorts that retains a sense of the value of quietude, reflection, and sharing life experience with others without the distancing effects of mediated communications.

  9. Melissa says:

    This is such a wonderful thing to come “untethered.” So much work all the time and yet to think about walking in the foot steps of those before us like St. James who left a legacy to continue. It sure must leave the overwhelming feeling of bliss knowing you have been on the same path. Thank you for sharing. God bless, Melissa

  10. Doc says:

    Thanks Melissa, for sharing your thoughts about getting untethered from work and our increasing absorption into technology. How and where we achieve this feat can be varied (near or far, short or long), but I echo your sentiment that it takes place in wonderful ways when you set your heart on pilgrimage, and when you are following in the footsteps.

  11. Chris says:

    Very surreal, peaceful, and picturesque. I found the Catholic influence via the pictures and statues to be very interesting. I would take a guess and say that after your pilgrimage, your body, soul, and spirit were never the same. I do have a question though. Did any of your family members take the journey with you? I must commend you as my knees would have failed me after the first few miles but that’s what over 23 years in the military will do. I really enjoyed your journey : )

  12. Doc says:

    Thanks Chris for sharing your reaction to the Camino pilgrimage. You are right about it being a transformative experience, one in which every aspect of your being is changed, whether or not you recognize it or whether or not it is profound or subliminal. On the first pilgrimage I walked it with two friends who immediately expressed a desire to join me on the journey after viewing the Emilio Estevez movie, The Way. On the second pilgrimage I walked it alone, but you are never alone because whether you see them or just their footprints, you are leading or following other pilgrims along the way. As for knees or other ailments, I have seen young to old and strong to weak setting their feet upon this path and very few were without some degree of bandaging or elastic support. It’s part of the journey and your awareness of the stress or injury is ever-changing with your attention to it or to the journey. All this is my way of saying you should consider taking a pilgrimage – whether it’s walking one day, a week, or a month, and in Spain or nearer to where you live. Buen Camino!

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