What the Spirit of the Camino taught me about love
By Jane Blanchard
My husband Dennis and I walked the Camino Francés in 2011. In 2013, we attempted a biciCamino, bicycling from Barcelona to León where I crashed. After completing 500 miles, we terminated our Camino by bike. Even though we could have walked from León to Santiago to receive the Compostela, we decided to walk the Camino Portugués instead.
As with most pilgrims, the Camino provided me with many insights and gifts. I developed a love for nature that stills calls to me daily, a kindred spirit with other itinerants that I now pass along to people who come and go in my life, and a deeper understanding of what it means to live in the now. The spirit of the Camino is forever in my heart: be kind, be aware, and be open to the possibilities.
One of the most surprising gifts that the Camino provided was the rekindling of our love for each other. Dennis and I had been married 38 years when we did our first Camino. We were close and had created a lifetime of wonderful memories. We were comfortable and secure in our relationship. We had grown accustomed to each other and were accepting of one another. Our friends looked at us as a paradigm of love.
Over the forty-three days that it took to walk to Santiago, we found ways to strengthened our marriage while being mindful of the Camino and all that it offered. We did not consciously incorporate the gifts that the Camino provided into our relationship; it just happened. The Camino changes people. When they internalized the lessons learned, they treat others differently. As a couple, we double-dipped in the benefits.
What the Camino provides
Acceptance: On the Camino, I learned to accept who I am, in spite of my limitations. I also realized how accepting Dennis is of me and saw ways to reciprocate by embracing his humanity. To me, his “imperfections” were endearing, they made him unique and did not diminish him in my eyes. As we validated one another, we strengthened our bond.
Kindness: Along the Way, I realized that over the years, Dennis had become such a wonderful person. How could I not have seen his evolution? Was I so busy with life’s goings on to not notice how kind and loving he was? Or was I just taking for granted the qualities that had initially attracted me to him? The Camino provided me the opportunity to see Dennis in a new way. As we walked, I saw how he treated others with warmheartedness and love. He was good to everyone, not just to me and I fell in love with him all over again.
When I developed tendinitis, he was more than accommodating. He carried my pack on top of his for several kilometers until we reached a hostel. I was grateful to him for doing this and knew that he would have done it for anyone in trouble.
Joy: Many pilgrims experience joy on the Camino. Elated by no longer feeling pressures to conform to the expectations of others, they laugh, sing, and play with others. We joined in the “alegria,” sharing this playfulness and joy with others and between us.
Sense of well-being: Many pilgrims find peace and happiness along the Way as they learn to trust themselves and listen to their intuition. Having someone you love there to share that sense of well-being strengthens the bond.
Camaraderie: A special bonding develops between pilgrims. As they share the rigors and joys of the Camino, they develop a trust and friendships. This fellowship is often listed as the number one reason for loving the Camino. As a couple, we formed long-lasting relationships not only with other couples but with individuals of all ages.
Even though we walked as a pair, we often separated to enjoy the Camino camaraderie. We stayed in hostels for the most part and loved sharing dinner with other pilgrims. We also enjoyed our privacy in hotels or in our tent. We learned to be in the present, whether alone or together.
Gift of time: On average, the Camino takes thirty days. For many, time seems to stop and they live in the moment. For most of our adult life, we shared our time with family. As we walked across Spain, we took advantage of the time alone.
Many people talk about transitioning from “in love” to real or mature love. On the Camino, we did just the opposite: we not only rekindled the spark, we created flames. We walked hand-in-hand. Without the daily distractions, we talked more than when were back home. We laughed a lot. As we reacquainted, that euphoric feeling of young love returned.
Since the Camino, we have kept the flames of love and passion burning bright. Having found this Camino “gift,” we didn’t want to lose it.
The Camino calls out to me to return—at times, the wanderlust is palpable, so intense that I ache to walk on cobblestones and dirt paths towards Santiago. I wonder what lessons I will learn in the future and how it will affect our relationship.
Using Camino gifts to rekindle love and passion in a long-term relationship
- Try to remember why you fell in love with your partner.
- Hold hands and make eye contact.
- Tell the other that you love him/her.
- Acknowledge his/her feelings.
- Make plans together.
- Surprise your mate with a gift. It doesn’t have to be big, just a way of letting your feelings known.
- Do something just for him/her.
- Be lighthearted and laugh together.
- Be playful.
- Make memories.
Sense of well-being
- Trust your mate.
- Be at peace with each other.
- Be friends.
- Be loyal.
- Be happy to see each other.
- Remember birthdays and special occasions. Reminisce.
- Spend time with your mate, alone and without distractions.
- Create a ritual. This doesn’t have to be very long—a short walk, an afternoon tea, or whatever you like. The goal is to be fully present with the other during this special “us” time.
Keep the spark going
- Touch each other often. Show how you feel with little pats and hugs.
- Kiss each other several times a day, not pecks on the cheek, but long enough to express how you feel.
- If possible, make love. If not, create romantic times. Make it a priority to do it as often as you would like.
Jane V. Blanchard is the author of the Woman On Her Way series. Her second book, Hadrian’s Wall Path: Walking into History was a finalist for the prestigious 2015 President’s Award from the Florida Authors & Publisher’s Association.
Since retiring in 2011, she has visited sixteen countries by foot and by bicycle, and written two books about her wanderings. Now 65 years old, she plans more backpacking trips and books.
In addition to traveling, writing and publishing, Jane enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
For the month of February, I’ll feature Camino love stories on this blog. Why? Because love is in the air! I certainly respect the premise of what happens on the Camino stays on the Camino. However, love is a splendid thing that should be celebrated. Has the Camino provided you with more than just a long walk? If you have a Camino love story to share, email me or use the form below. Photos and video links welcome.
Share the Camino love! ♥