“Just another pilgrim to heed the call of the Camino…”
That’s how I began the “about me” section before embarking on my first Camino de Santiago in 2015. I should have been apprehensive, worried I’d never make it the 500 miles to Santiago, that the Camino fraternity would shun me, that my out of shape body simply wouldn’t make the miles, but I wasn’t concerned at all. The Camino was calling me and it didn’t enter my mind that I might not finish. I had a perfect faith – which was odd, for a person with no faith whatsoever.
Little did I know, when writing that opening line, that my part time fantasy of walking The Way would become a full time obsession. I walked the Camino, or sections thereof, three times in twelve months after my first Camino but life off the Camino felt entirely less rewarding and often without purpose.
The Way offers the luxury of time, time to think, to gain perspective, to enjoy being in nature – it’s inspirational and uplifting and being anywhere else and doing anything else seemed dull in comparison. Today, I’m a fully fledged Camino de Santiago junkie and go on the road as often as I can hoping to meet like-minded people and each time I go I learn something new, something transformational on the road. The challenge with this walk is seldom the walking but your ability to bring the lessons from the walk home with you. To bring gratitude and patience home.
On Camino, it’s easy to be grateful when the smallest thing goes your way because you have nothing. All your belongings are on your back. Your future extends to getting a bed for the evening. You are continually in the now, checking your body, the distance, yourself and those around you, there is no future to live in and for someone cursed (and I mean that literally, I believe it is a curse) with a head full of future, being on Camino gets you out of your head and into your body. It’s bliss. See that beaming smile on the left? That’s from learning there was some hot Galician bean stew on the way! Did I mention the food? Guilt free eating is another positive on Camino – you can’t possibly eat the calories you’ll burn and losing weight is a nice bonus!
Today is the 13th August 2018, I’ve now walked the camino six times, with four Frances trips, a Via de la Plata and most recently, last month, the Camino Portuguese which ended with my first hug of St James and my first view of the cathedral without the scaffolding. I’ve walked to Finisterre and Muxia but I’m still to complete the Via de la Plata in full and the Norte awaits as does a new obsession, getting across the pond for a bash at the PCT.
“Ultreia” – the Latin greeting pilgrims exchanged for over eight centuries to encourage one another onward is still cheerily pronounced today. If you’d like to get a feel for what it may have been like walking centuries ago, I recommend staying at some parroquial albergues like the one at Carrion de los Condes below – Ultreia to my fellow Pilgrims in 2018