It’s all about the journey, not the destination,’ so goes the adage, and it is something that rang so very true for us on our charity trek along the Camino de Santiago, writes Ken O’Brien and Dean Lenihan.

When we decided to take on the epic El Camino de Santiago de Compostela trek to raise money for injured dentist Dom O’Hooley, we were very much focused on reaching our destination within the 10 days we had allotted ourselves.

However, what we found as we made our way up and downhill, over rough terrain and, on one particularly memorable occasion, past vultures doing what vultures do, was that reaching our destination and financial target was only part of what we were achieving.

We learned so many lessons along the way, from simply realising we were carrying too much weight in our backpacks to how important company is when you do something like this. Together we were able to stay strong, even though – as we found out later – we were both thinking: ‘What the hell are we doing?’!

What we hadn’t anticipated is how relevant our experiences would be when we returned to work, and how we could use it to support our clients to even greater heights (pun intended).

Taking care of business

That first day was extraordinary for us because, despite the terrain being so difficult, we somehow managed to complete 67km. We had got over the Pyrenees mountains and arrived in Pamplona in 14 hours.

We had put in this unbelievable day’s work, and when we finally got to sit down and relax, it was an incredible feeling; one of working so hard and relentlessly through different conditions to achieve our goal, which, of course, can be mirrored in our day-to-day working lives.

Perhaps the biggest realisation on our journey was it’s actually a pilgrimage, not a race to the finish line. It isn’t until you get there that you learn the path is not designed to be trodden quickly. It taught us to slow down and take in our surroundings at every step. In this day and age, when we are all so connected, not to be looking at our phones and to be with our own thoughts was revelatory.

So, while we acknowledge that keeping on top of the business of dentistry is incredibly important, so is having the time to look at and take in what’s around us. We’ve incorporated that into our everyday lives now we’re back home, checking our messages only every three hours, rather than reacting every time the phone pings with an email or text message. That way, we get to focus on the here and now, and our contacts get a better response, because we’re not rushed to get back to what we were doing; when we respond to messages now, we are fully concentrating on that.

Another thing we took away from the journey is that having support is crucial. There were times when we were in our own head space, struggling for whatever reason, and one of us lifted the other out of that. Just a conversation can take you away from the pain in your leg or the blisters on the bottom of your foot, and before you know it you’ve got another few kilometres done. It puts into perspective the importance of teamwork, whether you’re up the Pyrenees or at the coal face of a dental practice!

Strength through experience

By now, most people know that we both had to cut the trek short due to injury, which was a huge disappointment at the time. However, in hindsight, it taught us an important lesson. We didn’t fail, because we learned from both the experience and the journey, and we are stronger for it.

Too often in business, we see people frustrated because they believe they have failed. This is simply not true but, unfortunately, it is human to view things a certain way and we have become conditioned to measure ourselves in terms of either having succeeded or failed.

Imagine what would be possible if we only looked at every experience in the context of what have we learned. I imagine that we would be inspired to try more, do more and, of course, learn more.

Laying life ‘bear’

In addition, as we mentioned briefly earlier, one of the most amazing sights we didn’t expect was about 30 vultures on the ground and perhaps another 20 circling in the air. We did talk about whether we were in danger, decided not, took in the spectacle for a few minutes and then walked on, our beds calling after a long day.

After we got back, we found out that there had been a bear attack in that area, and for all we knew it was close to us as we stood there, fascinated by what we were seeing and pretty much oblivious to our vulnerability.

When we talked about it, we realised that in our daily lives we can be plodding along without knowing what’s around the corner. You can’t prepare for everything; you only have to consider why we were raising money for Dom O’Hooley and his family to know that. But you can try to live every day to its fullest, to get the most from life, and we learned that in spades.

Building on strong foundations

It was uncanny because, upon reflection, all our revelations tied in so neatly with Biohorizons’ core values such as upholding strong relationships, recognising that communication is a two-way street, the pursuit of excellence and a commitment to ‘doing the right thing’.

We are delighted to be able to build on those ideals following our experiences trekking the Camino de Santiago and are excited to share what we’ve learned with our customers.

We would like to personally thank all those who donated, offered words of encouragement and supported us during the journey. We truly are blessed to work in the amazing community that is dentistry, and although I speak to colleagues and clients daily on how lonely or frustrating their jobs can be, with a little guidance and kindness that picture changes for them. We are lucky enough to be seeing a change of attitude amongst the industry and believe it is definitely becoming a more inclusive and supportive environment, which is exactly what the Camino was for us.


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