Reflections on my Camino de Santiago
To me the Camino was a thing to be done because it sounded physically challenging and a completely different experience from those I’ve had before. It was in a country i knew little about and involved an intriguing history. The Camino certainly was physically challenging. In the beginning my muscles cried out with pain, going up mountains my breath came out as ragged gasps, my shoulders ached at their burden. In the later stages problems with new boots caused blisters that made it feel at times that I was walking on needles. By this stage the rest of my body was strong and could walk for hours on end if need be.
Mentally the Camino was also challenging. Some days it was difficult to get your mind into gear or to stop thinking about your aches and pains or to find the scenery monotonous. It was at these times that mental fortitude became important, the ability not to give up but just to move on. Mental toughness became necessary again when blisters came to play. Early morning starts were especially painful and it took some gritting of teeth to get through this.
The Camino was a journey of inner peace. The beauty of the walks, the simple daily routines brought you to a mental oasis that allowed your thoughts to soar. When your body began to walk automatically your mind began, like a bee flitting from flower to flower, to move from thought to thought in something that resembles dreaming but still being completely cognizant of what’s happening. It reminded me of how my mind used to fly around when sitting in a classroom as a bored pre-teen.
The Camino was about community, as disparate people from disparate age groups, ethnicities and beliefs became, for a brief time, a roving closely knit community, supportive and encouraging of each other. Lost things were returned, food was shared, commiserations given, blisters attended to by others, massages given, wine drunk, stories told, jokes shared, laughter joined and pleasure taken in each others company.
The Camino is for many a life changing experience. I can see how this could be. Everday is the same routine but delivers new surprises and joys. You never know where you’ll sleep or what the town you’re in will be like. You don’t know who you’ll have dinner and drinks with. You do know that it will nonetheless all happen somehow. This creates an inner peace, a confidence in the fact that things always work themselves out. You are someone who has walked 800km, almost a marathon everyday for a month. This is not a small feat. This creates an inner confidence.
I’m not sure if the Camino is life changing for me. Perhaps time and distance will tell me that. What I know is that it is life affirming. People are good, nature is stupendously wonderful, our bodies are remarkable machines and our minds love simple routines so they have time to thrive.
I loved my Camino. An entirely fulfilling experience. At the end of the Camino at the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela the signs for alpha and omega (signifying the beginning and the end) have been reversed signifying that this is a new beginning. It echoes the sentiments of the elderly Spanish gent, whom I walked into Léon with and who gave me a rundown on Camino history, when he said, “the end of the Camino isn’t sad it is happy because it signifies the beginning of something new”.
My personal take on the Camino.. Get up, walk, shower, wash, eat, drink, talk, sleep. These simple things are the Camino. Walk, just walk … the rest of life will take care of itself.
— Posted from my phone