It was my time to walk the Camino de Santiago – my heart and head told me so. I had the money, the time and the support of my husband, and it just seemed the next indicated thing to do. Six months after becoming aware of this long walk across Spain, I was flying out to begin a pilgrimage along an ancient path that spiritual seekers have walked for more than 1000 years. My journey on foot would cover more than 880 kilometres and take one month.
People walk the Camino for many reasons, each as different and individual as the people doing the walking. These callings include historical interests, spiritual growth, to get skinny, to stop smoking, a gastronomical tour, a social gathering, to find a partner or to just enjoy the physical challenge of walking across a country. The reality is, if you choose to walk the Camino, you are there for a reason and probably seeking transformation in your life. It just may not be apparent what that transformation is but, rest assured, it will happen when the time is right.
Personally, I wanted time for me. Not only to get to know me, but to also have a richer relationship with the power in my life greater than me. I craved the solace and meditative state that putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, would bring. To achieve this I chose to take the journey by myself, and to leave behind technology to minimise distraction. Walking by myself most days allowed me to find and experience my rhythm, which was often much slower than my head and body told me to go. My soul was much happier going slowly, allowing me to absorb my surroundings using all of my senses. It was at these times I felt completely humble and, to put it simply, a part of.
My days consisted of getting up, swinging on my backpack, and walking on average 25 kilometres per day to source food and shelter. Sounds simple, but the ordinariness did bring challenges. In the early days my thinking took over and fear set in asking questions like, ‘would I get a bed for the night’, ‘will I find the food I need’, ‘will I get bed bugs’, ‘will I be lonely’? I learnt very quickly to practice letting go and trusting, to not make plans, and just letting the day unfold to see what would happen. It turned out I always had a bed, food was plentiful, the bed bugs didn’t bite, and each day the people I needed at that time crossed my path.
There were many highlights for me on this journey. The breathtakingly beautiful views, the architecture, the Spanish culture and the beautiful food. The physical achievement of walking such an incredible distance and forming friendships with people from all over the world. Most importantly for me, I have returned to life as I know it with the gift of the Camino Spirit that will live on in me forever.