Prepared on the road with a pilgrim coach

, ,
Departure Ceremony
Departure ceremony Walk of Wisdom, by Yolanda van Diepen

The first day I didn’t have the guts to tell people who spoke to me that I was running for a reason. But the third day – against two men, no less! – I blurted it out: I’m running for love.

Laura van Vliet (40) walked the Walk of Wisdom between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to get more clarity after a confusing time. Before and after the trip, she sought support from a coach: Lidia van Engeland.

By Damien Messing. Photos under Laura. For privacy reasons, Laura's name is fictitious.


Laura: “My reason for running was heartbreak. I was deeply saddened that the “great, true” love of my life had turned out to be a disappointment. We fit together so well and we got along so well with his children. But it didn’t work. When my job didn’t feel quite right and a new relationship broke down, I started to feel like I was making the wrong choices everywhere. I wanted to find my inner compass again. “

As luck would have it, I had been walking in the Nijmegen area with this new relation. “Hey, are you walking the Walk of Wisdom?” we were asked. We didn’t know the path, but after the relationship ended, I thought: I have to do something with that. I went to look at your site and it immediately felt right. I wanted time to come to myself and make new choices from there.”

Damiaan: “You were one of the first to call in a coach, why did you do that?”

Laura: “I wanted to talk freely without my mother lying awake all night or a friend crying. A coach looks along with you with an open mind, while your environment is completely in it. I thought: I’ll allow myself that.” [Breed glimlachend:] “I would grant that to anyone.”

Coach Lidia: “I think that many pilgrims experience a threshold.”

Laura: “From my work, I already had experience with coaching around leadership that I could see it as an investment. It has helped me a lot. That is also the reason why I said yes to this conversation: I think more pilgrims can benefit from this.”

The preparation

Laura had two appointments with Lidia: before and after the trip. In the meantime, they called once, but that was actually unnecessary.

Coach Lidia: “You prepared well and asked yourself: what do I need to walk this walk nicely?” Laura: “You alerted me to that! Gosh, start phasing out, meet less days in advance. An empty weekend.”

Damien: “Did your journey start on that empty weekend?”

Laura: “No. My journey started the moment I decided to start walking. I’m always on the move and can’t sit still. My decision to walk set a whole process in motion. I started reading stories on your website and facebook page. I was curious and wondered: what can I expect?”

Coach Lidia: “You did what you wanted to do.” Laura: “Yes, because of the decision to do the tour, I had to make it possible for myself as well. I had to sign up. I received a starter pack with a poem that touched me. That week I was going to write things down. “

Coach Lidia: “That’s my tip for anyone who is going to run: let it sink in. Go talk to someone about it, to sink in. “

Laura: “I’m the type of person with a lot of stimuli and directions, but I wanted to get a feel for where it was going.” Coach Lidia: “There was so much going on and Laura tried to give it all a place: one day of running with the theme of great love, one day about her new boyfriend, one day for her job…” [She looks teasingly at Laura] “I said to her, ‘Leave those men at home!'”

Together, they set out to see if they could boil everything down to one theme.

Angel by Huub and Adelheid Kortekaas

Where is your own self?

Laura: “While walking, my question was: where is my own self?”

Coach Lidia: “We translated that during our coaching conversation: How can you answer that question? How do you experience yourself during the walk? Not intellectually, but in the movement of walking.

Interestingly, it was precisely the practical preparation of the tour that provided a lot of useful information for this. Laura: “I used to have 25-30 kilometers a day in my head. I thought: Come on Van Vliet, you’re healthy, you’re not an old woman!Coach Lidia: “Then you spend a large part of the day trying to get to the inn on time. Laura: “So I let go of that.”

Coach Lidia:“A lot of people end up in something, not just when preparing for such a trip. But All your standards of how to do something: take a look at that. What is the control about? You can be open to what you encounter? I say: be nice! Don’t make it so yourself. Enjoy the hotel or the restaurant. What needs to be done is happening anyway.”

Laura: “I remembered that advice well along the way. I came across a bench early on and heard myself say: Van Vliet, you’re just getting started: keep going. But I sat down on that bench anyway. It was a nice bench with a view. Through the bench a tree grew in a specially sawn hole. It was between Christmas and New Year, and when I looked up, I saw an angel dangling from a branch of that tree, made of straw. That will relax your heart muscle, then you feel blessed!”

The coaching worked well for Laura in that way: “After all, it was Lidia’s words that I thought about while walking and that guided me in a gentle way. Where is my own self? And then her answer: ‘You know that when you feel it.'”

Coach Lidia: “That feeling is also your compass. It was a form of strength coaching: you go to an experience where you felt very powerful. A key moment. You can go back to that feeling.”


Laura: “The feeling has indeed returned. I walked for four days and after those four days I had to think strongly about the new relationship with whom I had once accidentally ended up on the path. Gosh, I thought, how nice it would be if he was here. I wanted to call him, but I thought: am I doing the right thing? Is this allowed by Lidia? It wasn’t the plan: let those men go!

I went for a beer in a pub I arrived. I was already pretty much to myself. Walking alone was more of the same, I realized. I am where I need to be. Then I called him. He came right away and we walked together for two days.”

“One of the first things I noticed when we walked together was when we came to the tree where you can hang a piece of cloth with something you want to leave behind. I realized I didn’t have anything to hang in the tree. ‘Do you have anything to hang in the tree?’ I asked Johan. ‘No.'”

Then we walked on. It rained a bit and we took shelter at the chapel in Alverna, exactly halfway along the route. There we saw a logbook of the Walk of Wisdom. We didn’t know it was there and read it for a while. Then I lit a candle: “From here on I will walk together with Johan”. On New Year’s Eve we had our courtship ritual.”

How do rituals work?

I tell Laura that I like how her journey was given substance by making room for it in the form. She had not been able to arrange the wonderful moments and the connection with her boyfriend in advance, they arose.

Laura replies that this is the power of rituals. Laura: “I was not raised religiously, but I can see the added value of those who do believe and, for example, pray before eating. A natural moment in the day to get to a deeper layer of yourself. For me, this pilgrimage worked like this. The symbolism, the beautiful nature. When you used to be at church, you might have had the elder you could talk to, now I had Lidia. “

Coach Lidia adds: “I sometimes have the idea of setting up a mobile confessional in organizations. As a place to tell what’s going on. I sometimes see so much negativity in organizations. Then you entrust some of it to that confessional and it’s done. The rituals of religion have not been continued.

Laura: “At the beginning of the tour, a volunteer took me to the exit of the Stevenskerk: there is the route. No, I thought, I want to light another candle. When I go to a church, I usually light candles, for my grandmother, for… you name it. It was Christmas, there were Christmas things everywhere, there was a beautiful stable. I sat down in the chapel of silence for a while.”

Without expecting it, I lit a candle there for my ex. I said, ‘God, I don’t know if you exist, but I’ll leave Martijn here with you.’ I feel like it’s still resting there. I didn’t think about him and the boys all those days. So that’s how rituals work!

It was also just jerk sometimes

Laura: “Let’s be honest: sometimes it was just jerk. Then I would be alone in the room in the evening or I would have been looking forward to a restaurant and it would be closed! And later I ended up sitting in a restaurant between two families, the woman was full of pride in her children, while I was sitting there alone, I was a forty-year-old woman, no children…. I could cry.”

Still, those feelings of loneliness were worth the trip. Laura: “I’m full of judgments, but I’ve become more open and slowed down on the journey. For example, I was at a B&B in Germany, the people did everything for me. In that cold of December, a thermos with hot water is essential, you can do anything with it: noodles, coffee. The owner rushed to boil water until I said: ‘I have the time’. I put a hand on her arm, she immediately relaxed. Gosh, so this is the effect on others, I thought, time for yourself is also time for the other. I make the gesture more often now.”

Laura: “I’m now back in good energy: apart from the renewed relationship, I have had a nice new job for six months. The journey also made me think about how I can shape my inner life. I’m not religious, but it’s nice to have a time or place to reflect on that.

Lidia from England
Coach Lidia of England

Lidia: “Such coaching also touches me. When the other person suggests what he or she is doing, you come to the undercurrent that connects people. The other person gives you a glimpse and I’m happy when something happens there. Philosopher Joke Hermsen calls this ‘Cairos’: experience time. When time becomes broader than the goals we set for ourselves. The world has so much to offer.”

Lidia van Engeland is a pilgrim coach with whom we work. She has also walked the route herself. More about this.