Signs along the Way: The Camino de Santiago, Investing, and Life
Updated: Mar 12
During the summer of 2018, I had the privilege of achieving a long-anticipated goal: walking the Camino de Santiago—the Way of Saint James—in Spain. One of the many interesting things about the Camino is that, despite the name, it isn’t really a single road. This pilgrimage, which has been made by hundreds of thousands of persons since its inception in the ninth century A.D., is really more like a network of routes originating from various places in Europe. Also, many feeder roads converge on the main routes, which means that those making the pilgrimage originate in many different places and traverse a wide variety of terrain. But all the routes end at the same destination: the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the city of Galicia, near the Atlantic coast in northwestern Spain. Santiago de Compostela is the resting place of the holy relics of St. James the apostle (“Santiago” in Spanish), the patron saint of Spain.
One of the common sayings among those traveling the Way of Saint James is, “The Camino will give you what you need.” Indeed, as I walked the various stages of the pilgrimage, one of the things I treasured most was the abundance of opportunities this journey afforded me to reflect on my own life and work. I also came to value deeply the comradery and fellowship among those making the journey. People of different ages, from different countries, different walks of life, different political backgrounds and religious beliefs—all become fellow travelers on the Camino. The greeting, “Buen Camino”—which can be translated as “good journey,” or even “happy trails”—is on everyone’s lips, whether they are just starting their walk or reaching the end of their route. In fact, the greeting shows up on signs, walls, posts, and even rocks as one travels along. (Note: The image in this blog was my favorite photo on Day 35 of my walk. See the PostScript below.)
One of the fellow travelers I was privileged to meet on my walk was Marcos, from Germany. As we walked together, he told me that he had quit his job as a software engineer and was in training to become a physical therapist. He said that the change meant a big pay cut, but he had decided that he really wanted to do work that directly impacted people’s lives. We also discussed the spiritual implications of such a decision. Like Marcos, I thought a lot, as I walked the Way of St. James, about the importance of impacting people’s lives for good. I reflected a great deal on our work at Bernhardt Wealth Management and our commitment to use our expertise always in our clients’ best interest. Just as with the Camino, our clients travel many different roads, but they are all aiming for the same destination: financial security for themselves and their families. I also realized that, when we try to help clients understand their emotional relationship to their investments, as we work with them to incorporate sound, evidence-based principles of investing, as we advise them and work to develop asset management and other financial strategies, and as we focus on our four core values of Character, Chemistry, Caring, and Competence, we are exerting an important influence on their lives. We are helping them incorporate their own core values into their financial planning. We are walking with them on life’s journey, doing our part to provide guidance and vision. We are, in effect, helping them attain their own “buen camino”.
In the final analysis, my experience on the Camino de Santiago taught me: we may be walking different paths, but we are all seeking the same destination, and we need trustworthy traveling companions. At Bernhardt Wealth Management, we are committed to walking alongside our clients, providing professional, fiduciary counsel—doing our best to help them accurately read the signs along the way.
And so, I close this article with our wish for you. Whether you are contemplating your finances, your family’s future, your career, or any other important life matter, our hope for you is that your journey goes well. As a fellow traveler, today and every day, I wish you,
PostScript: Here are three paragraphs I wrote from the heart on August 23, 2018,—the day I saw the image above:
I saw the image you see in this photo on today’s 21.11 mile walk from Muxia to Finisterre. Buen Camino is a term pilgrims tell each other and a term many locals tell to pilgrims when they walk by. It means “Walk well, happy trails.”
However, when I saw this it really hit me that today was my last day of purposeful walking on the Camino. It seemed that the Camino’s message to me was “Good-bye, Gordon. Thanks for embracing the spirit of the Camino. Thanks for listening to my messages to you. Walk well as you continue your Camino elsewhere.”
I knew today was the last day of walking but this made it real. It is over, but it continues. I am going to miss the Camino, miss the people who have been important to me during these 35 days, and miss learning about people on the Camino. I am beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to complete this walk on the Camino de Santiago.