“The Camino has continued to shake and affect my world in the two years since I walked into Santiago. This isn’t to say that I had a religious experience, but I have had multiple experiences of faith… following faith. It was my intention when I started in May 2014 to surrender to faith and accept whatever came.
As a solo documentary filmmaker on The Way, I had to rely on faith more than others. I was carrying much more weight, so I had to have faith that my old legs would hold me up, and they did…barely, those innumerable times I ran up the Pyrenees or along highways trying to get my camera in a sweet spot between my subject and myself.
I had to have faith that I would find compelling narratives, and faith that people would have faith that I would do their stories justice. And I had to have faith that this project, which I had devoted a lot of time and money into, would have some measure of success. That the messages were relevant, inspiring and hopefully heart warming…I basically had to have faith that I didn’t completely suck at what I do. And as it turns out, I don’t. Filming ‘Beyond the Way‘ was possibly the hardest endeavour I have undertaken. I had no crew, no backup, and my legs and hips still snap, crackle and pop in response to the daily Camino hustle. But the people that I met and the beautiful coincidences that transpired throughout my journey reinvigorated my faith, at least a little, in the world and its people. But of course, as Dr. Seuss points out in ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’, just as the journey can fill your spirit with joy and wonder, it can also fill you with despair.
A year after I finished the Camino, I had gone through a soul-crushing breakup. I was lost in a sea of depression, guilt and self-loathing. The compass of the direction of my life had lost its bearing. And somehow, I found myself in Nepal in the midst of the relief effort. There is nothing quite like a natural disaster to make you re-evaluate your place on this giant planet. As I dug the cracked earth, negotiated wholesale jackets and blankets, disassembled buildings, was thrown around the back of delivery trucks crawling through landslides, distributed aid to empoverished communities, crashed delivery motorbikes in remote regions, and carried winter supplies up mountains, I rediscovered my gratitude and began to find faith. Or, to rediscover it – it was always there.
Within the pain and within the ardour of that experience, my compass began to point in the direction of my true worth. I began to realize that to prosper, we must first endure. There is a Buddhist saying: ‘No Mud, No Lotus.’ In order for the lotus to grow, bloom and be beautiful, its roots must come from the mud. The frictions and tensions in our lives, the pains of loss and suffering are the mud. Our spirits grow because of life’s hardships. As we grow, shaped by our experiences, we chase faith upwards, towards the sun so we can finally bloom on the surface. All the way back on my Camino 2014, I naturally experienced physical pains and challenges, as did so many of the people I met and whose stories I was able to film. But I endured – I grew, I learned, I became stronger, I followed the yellow arrows, I got those precious shots and videos, and I reached Santiago.
Now, after a different set of challenges that I had to endure, I am faithfully following life’s signs again, although this time they aren’t as obvious as the Camino’s ubiquitous yellow arrows. So now my work on ‘Beyond the Way’ continues, and also, new exciting projects for the future are being born from the mud of my life. For more information on the film series, I hope you’ll visit my new website, or head to the Beyond the Way Facebook Page, where I hope you’ll like the page and subscribe. More content is always on the way and a new project is in the works.
-Andrew “Beyond the Way” Suzuki, Australia