This is where it gets personal
The Camino is calling and I must answer. I have been attracted to Spain since a backpack trip in 1992 that concluded with a month in Sevilla, where I lived with a family while taking Spanish language courses. Since then, I have been to Spain four times (see favorite places in Spain, so far).
The most recent visit was last October on a Trafalgar tour of northern Spain with my mom on our annual mother-daughter trip. I didn’t know much about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage until this trip. We stayed in some of the towns that are along the way, and toured the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. We saw pilgrims of all ages with backpacks, looking both exhausted and elated in the cathedral, cafés and the pilgrim office.
We met some wonderful people on this tour and I owe it to Mary and Faye from San Antonio, Texas, for getting me interested in the Camino. One of them is a breast cancer survivor who plans to do the Camino as a spiritual and physical bucket list challenge. The other taught me the toast “Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro” during our many Spanish wine tastings and dinners. Ay dios mio, we had a blast! But I digress. (This was an excellent tour and I will write a full review in a future blog post.)
Within a few months of my return home from Spain, I watched recommended Camino films such as The Way and the documentary Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago. The latter provided a realistic glimpse of life on the Camino. I was moved by the camaraderie that the pilgrims found among each other, and the vastly different reasons that people have for doing such a pilgrimage.
In April, I took a writing workshop and decided the Camino would be my research essay topic. This opened the floodgates of Camino consciousness and I dove right in. The more I learned, the more I was drawn to it. I went from thinking, maybe I’ll walk the Camino when I retire, to I’ve got to do this! It is truly amazing that once the mind is set on something, people and circumstances appear that confirm you are on the right path. Indeed, the Universe conspires to help the dreamer. I met many like-minded Caminoholics at monthly walks and events for pilgrims in the Bay Area. Although I’m a just a future pilgrim, these peregrinos have welcomed me into their group and have answered my many questions about the Camino. I learned that this community is a like a support group for Camino alumni who might have difficulty adjusting to their return home, or for those who wish to simply maintain the Camino connection.
During my research for the essay, I was excited to see the May issue of National Geographic Magazine featured an article by a photographer who blogged while on his Camino journey. See excerpt from Michael George’s Walking the Way below:
“There is a spirit of community on the Camino that connects everyone. Within days you will have walked alongside, talked to, and had dinner with many fellow pilgrims. Even if you begin alone, soon you will be surrounded by new friends from all corners of the globe. A community ebbs and flows around you; you never know when someone might disappear. I quickly learned to appreciate my time with others.”
Michael’s beautiful words and photos struck a chord within my heart and soul. This spirit of community converging on well-worn paths towards a sacred site is something that I know will be transformative. In fact, the Camino has already made a profound impact on me. The vision of “mi Camino” is an extension of my current lifestyle and values. I look forward meeting pilgrims from all around the world, walking the beautiful countryside, practicing Spanish, enjoying Spanish wine and cuisine, taking photographs, blogging, and sharing my daily yoga practice with anyone who’s willing and able. Moreover, I will appreciate and honor the sacredness of the pilgrimage.
I have decided to walk shorter Camino routes in 2016 (Portugués) and 2017 (Inglés), and plan to walk the Camino Primitivo in 2018 to celebrate my 50th birthday. For me, it is compelling to embark on this challenging pilgrimage that will require planning, research, physical training and introspection. It is a personal journey of crossing internal barriers while doing something that is good for the body, mind and soul.
Although you can certainly do the Camino without much planning and just go to Spain and start walking. I believe that mindful preparation will allow you to enjoy life on the Camino and enable you to be open to the many serendipitous opportunities that the journey will undoubtedly provide. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Planning series at-a-glance:
Part 1: The Pilgrimage to Santiago
Part 2: Camino Routes
Part 3: Route Stage and Season
Part 4: Camino history and symbolism
Part 5: Hospitaleros, Volunteers of the Camino
Part 6: Training and packing for the Camino
Part 7: What inspired me to want to walk the Camino
Thanks for following my journey. I welcome your comments below. Buen Camino!
If you’d like to share your Camino story through a written blog post or video interview, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See pilgrim interviews and Camino reflections.
Featured banner image by Michael George, excerpt from Walking the Way, National Geographic – May 2015