The Via Podeinsis

As a new digital nomad, walking the Via Podeinsis has been at the top of my to-do list. I was especially hyped after finding out that the starting point of Camino Frances is NOT in St Jean Pied de Port - as many people have believed. So at the first chance, I jumped at the opportunity and booked the flight to Europe.

I arrived the day after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, most of the places to visit were closed - not only due to the holiday season but also the inclement weather. While I was disappointed to miss out despite the long travel, I chalked the trip up as a journey of exploration and improvised my plan as I see fit.

Soon it was the day of the hike. But before starting the activity, I decided to stop by the largest museum in the city - The Cathedral of Le Puy - since I have a few hours to spend. With the extra time, I began exploring the rich and long history while enjoying the varied collections.

What I learned is beyond fascinating. Only few world travelers, including the experienced ones, knew about Le Puy en Velay. The city sat in the middle of a volcano’s remnants and is only frequented by French or local tourists. The prefecture is best known for its large statue of Jesus in open arms as if protecting and looking down the valley. I later also found out that the church was built on the top of the volcanic rocks as a thank-you to the King of Poland.

Right in the middle of Le Puy, there is a long country road that was built during Roman times. It’s now referred to as GR8 or to the local hikers, Chemin Saint Jacques. The long road connects the city with the rest of Spain and is considered a major and vital thoroughfare back in the medieval era.

From Conflicts To Reconciliation

Beginning over one thousand years ago, the pilgrimage of Saint James was established as a way to make sure the Christians continue their footprints in the Iberian peninsula. While many people start their pilgrimage at Saint Jean Pied de Port, the official place is hundreds of miles north of the borders.

As with history, the city went thru bouts of chaos and rebirth. During the French revolution, it went through a dark time and was even used as the guillotine location for the nobles. Along with the city, the large Notre-Dame-du-Puy cathedral on the hill fell into abandonment and despair.

It was not until one hundred years ago (around 1900) that the official town that is Le Puy en Velay, was officially declared by the Vatican as the starting place of Camino Frances. Later on (1988), UNESCO listed it as World Heritage Site and designate it to be historically and culturally protected property. Slowly but surely, the place had another chance at rebirth and gained a significant rise along the tourism boom.

My thoughts on my digital nomad’s first step

I must admit I was hesitant in taking the first step to starting my digital nomad journey. It was a huge step out of my comfort zone, so much so that I keep looking for reasons to cancel all the plans. I was fearful of the unknown. I dreaded the possibility of failure and so many things that I couldn’t even put my head around it. The more I envisioned it, the more fearful I got.

But in life, it’s important to see fear clearly to truly understand what the obstacle is about. In my case, the hardest thing was to give it a try and ultimately take the first step. All my life, I have been working in companies with a set of instructions to follow or permissions to go ahead. Similarly, I was looking for that kind of pathway, even long after I quit my corporate job. The feeling of needing validation still exists somewhere in me.

As I walked down the old town of Le Puy, I was washed with the experience of thousand years of stories in the making. There were dramas, euphoria, disappointments, regrets and all layers blended into one. These long-forgotten feelings and tales are written in each cobblestone, the seat, and the cathedral. Every single one of it unfolds consecutively over time and gives birth to this magnificent place.

Like the city of Le Puy, all of our accomplishments, experiences, success and especially our mistakes made us who we are today. Reflecting on it, I felt humbled and compelled even to let go of my fear. I won’t say, “ Don’t be afraid to start”, but I’ll say this “ Take the first step and let the rest follows”.

No one is too late to become the better-fulfilled version of themselves. Ignore the naysayers - whether it’s the society or maybe your own little personal voice. For every fear that is conquered, a new strength is acquired. That alone is going to make the hardest first step, all the more worthwhile.