Mick Dean was a very successful advertising photographer.
He won lots of awards, owned a very nice studio, made lots of money, bought pretty much whatever he wanted, and generally had a good life.
Mick is also an intelligent, thoughtful bloke, he likes to read a lot.
Especially about history.
Mick read about the ancient pilgrimage trail to Santiago di Compostela.
A route pilgrims have walked for over a thousand years.
Starting in a small village in France, and going on foot across the Pyrenees into Spain.
Over six hundred miles, all the way to an ancient Cathedral in a small town.
Mick was intrigued with the idea of walking the route.
He loved the history of it.
Not just third-hand history from the pages of a book.
Mick liked the idea of connecting directly with history, being a part of it.
Putting your feet exactly where those ancient people put their feet.
Feeling the wind on your face exactly as they did.
Smelling the fields exactly as they did.
Almost like time travel.
A chance to actually be there.
But, like a lot of things in life we’re fascinated with, we know we’ll never actually do it.
Real life takes over.
We’re too busy, we’ve got too many jobs on, too much work, too many deadlines.
And he put it on the back-burner.
But then strange coincidences began happening to Mick.
In a restaurant, he mentioned it to a friend of his.
The friend said he’d read the book too, and he’d love to do it.
But Mick’s friend was very sick and knew he’d never be able to walk that distance.
As they talked someone at the next table leaned across.
They said “I hope you don’t mind me interrupting, but I couldn’t help overhearing. It’s possible to travel that route on horseback you know.”
And they began giving Mick details.
What are the chances of that?
And gaps began opening up, at work, and in Mick’s private life.
Gradually, a month appeared on his calendar when nothing was happening.
It felt to Mick like he was being pointed towards this.
Mick began to get the feeling that he was supposed to do this walk.
And eventually he gave in.
And Mick, leading his friend on a horse, began to walk back into history.
The walk still takes about three weeks, just as it did a thousand years ago.
Mick said it was a life changing experience for him
He’d never done anything like that before.
Never intentionally slowed everything down.
Never allowed every tiny detail of something to gradually unfold at its own pace.
Normally, Mick would just look at the purpose of the journey.
Then get to the end point as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The end point of the pilgrimage was the Cathedral at Santiago di Compostela.
So Mick would normally get a cab to Heathrow, a flight to the nearest Spanish airport, then a cab to the Cathedral.
See the Cathedral, and get a flight back.
You could do it all in a day.
How could it make any kind of sense to spend three weeks doing something that could be condensed into eight hours?
And it dawned on Mick that his whole life had become about the result, about getting to end.
The bit until he got to the end was just something to minimize as much as possible, in order to get the result faster.
All that counted was the end of the process, not the process itself.
And Mick thought, what is the purpose of life, the end of the process?
Well, for all of us there is only one possible end to the process.
And we won’t be around for that.
So effectively the end doesn’t exist.
Like the walk to Santiago di Compostelo.
Once you get to the Cathedral, the walk is over.
The walk itself, the purpose of the journey, is finished.
Mick saw that the journey was the destination.
He’d been living his whole life for something that didn’t even exist.
And, in stretching a two hour plane journey into a three week walking journey, Mick realised what he wanted his life to be about.
He wanted it to be about the journey, the part that actually existed.
Not about the end, the part that didn’t exist.
And Mick came back to London and gave up being a photographer.
He went to art school to become a painter.
And now Mick spends every day doing what he loves.
He enjoys every second of the journey.
Of course he doesn’t make anything like so much money.
He doesn’t win awards, or have big cars, or a big house, or expensive clothes.
What happened to Mick on that walk was he got to see the end of the journey.
And he got to think “When it’s all over, what will I wish I’d done?”
Then he thought “If I’ll wish I’d done it when it’s too late, why don’t I just do it now?”