Thank you for stopping by! If you have decided to walk the Camino you have chosen to take on something really, really big. Walking the Camino takes courage. It is hard and challenging and life-changing. And some days it is beautiful beyond measure.
On my first Camino walk people were tight-lipped about their motivations or reasons for walking the Camino. Last year when I walked it seemed that people needed to talk about their reasons. What has changed? What is your reason for walking the Camino?
When I first walked the Camino in 2005, I was searching intently for something, anything, which would give me direction and show me what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I was looking for clarity, and I really needed the Camino to provide it. As it turned out, the Camino wasn’t a solution in and of itself; instead it was the start of a long journey to learn how to be true to myself. Life is funny that way – no matter what I think I want, I always find what I really need.
I have such fond memories from my first pilgrimage on the Camino. I set out in early September to Pamplona, and I arrived with no idea of what I was doing or what I was taking on. I had no idea where I was to sleep on my journey – hostels? I learned from a fellow pilgrim on the bus from Barcelona that pilgrim hostels are called ‘albergues’, and together we wandered the narrow streets of Pamplona to find the one there. I didn’t know I needed a ‘credential’ to stay at the albergues; I’d never even heard of such a thing. I had no map, no guidebook, nothing. I only knew I would be walking towards Santiago de Compostela, that it would take about a month, and that when I got there, all would be right with my life. Well.
I learned so many lessons while on the Camino the first time, many of which we learn as young children and then forget as we collect adult responsibilities. I learned how smart it is to double tie my boot laces. Silly, right? But it meant I didn’t have to stop and re-tie them when what I wanted to be doing was moving ahead. I learned how to live simply and how to go at my own pace.
There were dozens of little lessons, but the biggest thing I took from that first pilgrimage was the idea that I could no longer use the words “I can’t do that” for anything in my life. I might choose not to do something, but it wouldn’t be because I wasn’t capable. Wow.
On that first walk I struggled with knee problems for the first week, and I had to take the bus and skip some parts of the trail. I was sad and upset, but I knew to stay with it. When I walked into Santiago I nearly fell to the ground and kissed the stones in the plaza in front of the cathedral. Despite the strong finish, the Camino felt incomplete, undone. So I returned in Fall 2007 and walked every step of the way from Roncesvalles to Santiago. Every kilometer. Every mile. Then I swore I’d never be back.
I have since returned six more times. On every walk I set an intention or a task for myself – to be more tolerant, to be more comfortable with uncertainty, and the big one: I walked at the age of 46 to honor my mother who died at that same age.Now it’s time for me to give back to the Camino, to share with people what I’ve learned and support them as they begin their own pilgrimages to Santiago. Is it time for you to walk the Camino? It would be my pleasure and privilege to be a part of your journey.
Here are some photos from my first Camino:
Day 1 in Pamplona ~ wearing jeans, backpack too heavy by 5 lbs, one trekking pole when I needed two...amateur!
In Leon, still one of my favorite cities and home of my first cathedral-love.
My one and only rain day - thankfully, because those plastic pants didn't work out at all!
In Palas do Rei, knee problems solved and now having a blast!
Two trekking poles, and the jeans have been left behind.
I even made it to the end of the world - Finesterre. Okay, it was by bus, I confess. I did walk from Santiago to Finesterre in 2008 - wow!