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Disconnecting to Reconnect – Our Search for More with Less

–Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Fairytales do come true. Miracles do happen.

Energized by what we genuinely believed to be Divine intervention, our walk continued mile by mile. I had to frequently stop to adjust my Velcro straps, and the pain was ever-present, but so was my desire to keep moving forward—no matter what.

Night after night, we checked into a villa and I made my way to the bathtub to soak my feet. Morning after morning, my wife inspected each foot and then dressed my wounds carefully with whatever ointment she had found that day. While the blisters ultimately claimed every inch of my feet, we soldiered on. My pace would be close to a crawl for the first thirty minutes of each day, but then I would find a steady rhythm. We avoided any notion of stopping once forward motion was in gear, fearing that the agonizing, feet-on-fire sensation might provide too great a temptation to stop for good.

Twelve days, 205 miles, and 485,866 painful steps later, we reached the Santiago de Compostela. A monk staffing the arrival counter did indeed ask, “What was the reason for your walk?”

My reply? “I did it for Dee.”

Over the years since then, many people have inquired about our experience. What did we learn? Did the walk change our lives? Would we do it again? Our answers are always the same.

We were grateful to have learned so much more about each other. Not only had we faced down a crisis, but we’d spent hours upon hours together each day, experiencing glorious nature coupled with quiet serenity. We rid ourselves of every post-it note that had been stored in our brains over the years, every story we had never shared, and every unspoken word.

We’d embraced hours of disconnected silence, allowing us to reconnect at a much deeper level. We learned that life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

In the end, we were changed by having this opportunity to think about each other, about our friends, and about our families. We returned home with a newfound understanding of what really mattered, which helped us decide where we were going to invest our precious time from that point forward. And as the title to this story portends, together, we ultimately discovered in so many ways how to have “more with less.”

Would we ever do it again? It took slightly more than six months for my feet to heal completely. Over time, our thoughts of returning to the Camino de Santiago began to surface. Yes, we were booked to return this year —taking our first return steps onto the Camino de Santiago almost five years to the day our last adventure began, that is; until the pandemic arrived. So it’s back on our bucket list when the coast is clear.

We will undertake the same journey—but with different shoes. In many ways, doing it again for the first time. And of course, blessed with yet another opportunity to do it for Dee.”

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Author’s Note: I hope you’ve enjoyed our personal story —as excerpted from the best-selling book,  Chaos to Clarity – Sacred Stories of Transformational Change. published last November. On the heels of such a positive worldwide reaction, we are collaborating once again towards release of the second anthology in this series later this year – with a limited-time opportunity for more writers to participate – See: Write Where We Left Off – by Telling Your Story of Change.

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Dennis Pitocco
Dennis Pitoccohttps://www.bizcatalyst360.com/
DENNIS is the Founder & Chief ReImaginator of 360° Nation, encompassing a wide range of multimedia enterprises, including BizCatalyst 360° —the award-winning global media digest; 360° Nation Studios —dedicated to reaching across the world in an effort to capture, produce, and deliver positive, uplifting messages via blockbuster global events, and; GoodWorks 360° —a pro-bono consulting foundation focused entirely on providing mission-critical advisory services to nonprofits worldwide. Collaborating with his Chief Inspiration Officer (and wife), Ali, everything they do is "for-good" vs. "for-profit". Their mission over the past decade-plus has been to rediscover humanity at its best, influencing and showcasing it every step of the way. Together, they do their very best to figure out what the world is trying to be —then using all their resources to help it to be better every day in every way. They understand and embrace the notion that it’s not about me or you; it’s about caring for the people we serve and more responsibly stewarding the precious resources in our care. And they believe it’s about showing up, being present, and intentionally giving our invaluable gifts of time, talent, and treasure "for good". Dennis is a contributing author to the Best-Selling Books ♦ Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational ChangeJourney Well, You Are More Than EnoughThe Four-Fold Formula For All Things Wellness: True Stories of the Heart, Spirit, Mind, and Body.

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16 CONVERSATIONS

    • Thanks for taking the time to read more of our “backstory”, Charlotte. In the midst of the adversity, we discovered the real meaning of perseverance, resilience, and indeed, we discovered so much more about each other. So our quest to disconnect to reconnect was a much more meaningful journey, despite the challenges …

  1. Dennis, this story completely captured my heart. Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us, and putting out such an excellent reminder to be present, step beyond the comfort zone, and live. This journey seems to have had a profound effect on you. It would have done the same for me.
    I’m sure Dee is proud and smiling – and that she was with you and your wife each step of the way. Your story, in some ways, reminds me of my mom. She passed away six years ago, however, the year before she had a leg amputation. She was 81 at the time. Many thought she’d never walk again and that a prosthetic was out of the question. But she refused to sit with that notion, and she did learn to walk with the help of a prosthetic – our very own Captain Dan.
    So, when I am feeling too tired to run or go to the gym or take that 4-mile walk, I remember my mom and I do it for her. Here’s to our everyday heroes. They are the most treasured gifts we could ever receive.
    I wish you well on your next journey and Godspeed.

    • Simply amazing how much our experience (challenges aside) transformed our lives for the better, Laura. And it is a gift that keeps on giving every day in so many ways. Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your Mom’s story – clearly an everyday hero …

  2. An amazing story Dennis! I am in awe at your determination, I think you channeling Dee was a step (or 450K of them) in the right direction. One of my beloved engineers just left, sadly. Yet we rejoiced for him as he departed. He had already hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Shortly after finishing the PCT in 2018, he was back at work. A few months later he went in for his annual wellness check and they determined his heart was failing due to a birth defect. In April 2019, at 30 years old, he had the top third of his heart replaced. Then in November he was approached to join a fully sponsored hike of the Great Western Loop (over 7,200 miles). Only two people have ever made this hike. He couldn’t say no, and just 9 days ago, started off on the journey of a lifetime. Now he is part of a 12 person team that will hike the entire length of the loop while being filmed for a documentary. Your story had parallels to the stories he told of his hikes, the hardships, the triumphs, the motivations. It also reminded me that we can never take for granted the value of a good pair of shoes!

    • Thanks for weighing in here, Aaaron with your amazing (and inspirational) story… Few people can comprehend the “legacy” created via our walk – one that we never expected but one that we will treasure for a lifetime. And under the “lessons learned” column, our first entry is ignore the so-called “expert advice” and wear the very same everyday walking shoes you wear at home. Because (contrary to Nancy Sinatra’s song) those expensive professional hiking boots we were sold certaintly weren’t “made for walkin … “

  3. Dennis Strong Ink Indeed. A quest into the unknown, an epic journey. All journeys change us in someway and add to who we are. Each journey allows you to grow and discover more about life and yes more about yourself. Remember your friends always always have a cool bucket of water by the well for the dusty traveler.

  4. Sister would be very proud of you and Ali bro – she would of made you one of grandma’s favorite meals along with dessert to celebrate. Oops! Based on your plant-based diet, I would have to enjoy it for you.

    You and Ali along with our two baby sisters will be in our prayers on your soon upcoming sojourn to Compostela de Santiago – Buen Camino!

  5. This is a remarkable experience, Dennis! And beautifully written! It never ceases to amaze me how people surprise us with their challenges, and mind-over-matter attitude to overcome the impossible odds. Your experience of Divine Intervention is as true as it gets. Choosing a virtue against all odds. My hats off to you! Family bonds are an extremely strong incentive to carry on, one more step at a time. Love is all.

  6. Dennis — As you were sitting on that stone bench with your feet on fire, my wife’s outlook on problem solving popped into my head: “There is always a solution.” But who knows, maybe Dee was smiling down on you and pointing the way back to the shoe store.

    What a beautiful story, as Mark noted, of trial and triumph, and I’ll add, impact: “less is more” is a beautiful remembrance, more powerful than any photo.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    I am on a similar journey now albeit a virtual one. I am reading Timothy Egan’s beautifully written book: A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of Faith. Egan embarks on a thousand-mile pilgrimage along the Via Francigena “through the theological cradle of Christianity.” As I am not a person of faith, lapsed perhaps, but ever curious, I am “walking” with him.

    • Indeed, Jeff, we believe that Dee was providing me and us with a sense of purpose/direction. As we’ve said to many, we found “more” than we were looking for, and truly came back better versions of ourselves. So much history along “the way” – no doubt all of which would of particular interest to you…

  7. Dennis, this is a wonderful story of trial and triumph. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Joseph Campbell, but your story is “the hero’s journey”, the manifestation of Campbell’s notion of the monomyth:

    https://www.amazon.com/Hero-Thousand-Faces-Joseph-Campbell/dp/B001U09A4Q/ref=sr_1_2?crid=39XEKXH5XJ1IC&keywords=the+hero+with+a+thousand+faces&qid=1581096656&sprefix=the+hero+with%2Caps%2C145&sr=8-2

    I admire you and your wife tremendously. And I wish you Godspeed on your second Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

    P.S. When my son, Quinn, was nine, I made the mistake of buying him new soccer shoes to take to a week-long summer soccer camp. I had to soak the poor kid’s feet for the week after he came back.

    • Unfamiliar with Joseph Campbell but checked the Book out (“This is a book that should be read by almost everyone. We live between a flux of reality and a perpetual state of consciousness.”) and put it in my basket as a great read on during our next travel adventure. And thank you for your kind words. We came back different (but better) versions of ourselves, Mark in so many respects and our journey continued on the homefront as we approached life & relationships in a (positively) different way. In retrospect, our Camino trauma ultimately became the gift that simply keeps on giving. No doubt our return trip will be full of more, wonderful experiences. And this time around, I’ve got two sisters who were so inspired by our stories that they are coming along so they too can disconnect to reconnect. Ps. Quinn’s soccer shoe experience mirrors mine, as we made the mistake of taking “expert advice” on shoes versus simply walking in the very same “everyday” walking shoes that we’re most comfortable with at home. Won’t be making that mistake this time around 🙂

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