What is your life’s purpose?
To be happy and help others find their own personal happiness.
How are you living your purpose?
At 56, I retired from coaching soccer to start a tour company to take people to the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James in English) in northern Spain—Duperier’s Authentic Journeys. This ancient pilgrimage route has existed for over a thousand years, and has been an integral part of my life for the last 25 years. The Camino began as a religious pilgrimage where people from all over Europe walked to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, believed to be the burial site of St. James the Apostle and where a cathedral was erected in his honor. In modern times, people come from all over the world to walk the 500-mile journey through Spain, or some section of it, for a variety of reasons – religious, spiritual, athletic, etc. The Camino has undergone a bit of resurgence in the last 5 years following the release of a movie starring Martin Sheen, The Way, chronicling the journey of a father grieving the loss of his son.
Hundreds of thousands of people walk the Camino every year. Most carry their backpack 15 to 20 miles a day and stay in government-run or private dorm-like facilities for a few euros a night. There are many people (including people in their 60s and 70s, women who want to walk alone, and people with physical issues) who would like to walk the Camino, but who worry about being able to get through the tougher parts of the trek without assistance, traveling alone, and/or walking so far with so much weight on their backs. Authentic Journeys provides the physical comfort and support to our clients on what can be a challenging emotional and spiritual journey.
We run two different tours: (i) one from the French border to Burgos, approximately the first third of the Camino and (ii) one from Leon to Santiago de Compostela, the last third. Each tour lasts 10 day and our pilgrims walk roughly 10 miles a day. We have selected the very best sections of the path to walk in terms of a modest level of difficulty and maximum beauty in the countryside. I want people to not only experience the beauty, history, and powerful energy of the route, but to also experience some of the food, wine and culture of Spain, where I lived for the first 40 years of my life and that I consider my home. Therefore, we take great care in selecting beautiful country inns for lodging, along with handpicked meals and wines reflecting the cuisine of the region in which we are walking.
I feel good about enabling people to discover the beauty and power of the Camino who otherwise might not, either because they cannot or would not want to walk in a more rugged way. The Camino has something for everyone, and I am so happy to make walking it a reality for more people.
How did you find your purpose?
I had been walking parts of the Camino every year for 20 years. It gave me a lot of gifts, helped me through decisions in my life, and gave me space to reflect on who I was and how I could improve. For those first 20 years, I really walked mostly for me, although my wife and friends often joined me on the journeys that I had planned.
In 2012, I realized that the physical punishment of coaching soccer all day was really taking a toll on my 56-year-old body, and while walking the Camino that year, I thought about what else I might be able to do since I was too young to retire. While walking one day, the idea came to me: “What if I brought people to the Camino to make them happy like me?”
So, the idea of bringing people to the Camino was actually born on the Camino. And from that idea came Authentic Journeys.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
I think it is important to know what you value and what makes you happy. Once you figure that out, which is not always easy in a busy and hectic life, think about how you can share what you value with others. Maybe you love to read, so you can think about volunteering at a library or tutoring kids who struggle with reading skills. From your passion may come your purpose.
What resources do you recommend?
In my case, my purpose and my passion had been right under my nose for 25 years. I had just never thought about turning my passion into my business until that day on the Camino, when life presented me some challenges. So I think your first resource is you! But even if you don’t make a living out of your passion, it doesn’t mean that you cannot share it with others and positively impact your life and theirs by sharing it.
A lot of these questions arise for us in midlife, so I think Life Reimagined by Barbara Bradley Hagerty is a good book to help you think about various midlife transitions and how to lead your own more fulfilling and purpose-driven life in various respects.
I am also a fan of Brené Brown and her focus on vulnerability and having the courage to share who you really are; that is where I think you find your purpose, when you know who you are inside. Check out her TedTalk and her book on the subject, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
I also want to give a shout out to the book that my wife Laurie Duperier wrote, The Endless Path: A Memoir. Among other things, it is a poignant story about how she changed careers, inspired by her love for our dog, and found her purpose helping geriatric dogs through water therapy. It is the real-life journey of someone who found her purpose and how she went about making it her daily job.
And I recommend that everyone think about walking the Camino, in whatever way makes sense to you, as a great way to take time out to reflect on your life and what you want to do with the time you have.
Juan Carlos was born in Madrid, Spain and moved to the USA when he was 40 years old. For most of his life, he lived his passion of playing and coaching soccer professionally both in Spain and the USA. When that took its physical toll on him, he decided to turn his other life-long passion, walking the Camino de Santiago/Way of St. James in northern Spain into his second career. He and his wife founded a luxury tour company that offers only one product: walking with people on the Camino and immersing them in the beauty and culture of the Camino and Spain.