Camino Sum and Substance
What began as a wild hair, grew into a fascinating idea, then a consuming obsession, finally the experience of a lifetime. The abstract goal of 500 miles became a sobering reality when my feet first hit the trail in Roncesvalles at the foot of the Pyrenees.
I had my itinerary, a plan to walk 10 to 20 miles each day for 38 days. I had reservations for accommodations since I had heard that during the busy season overnight rooms can be very hard to find. I had reduced my backpack to a mere 10 pounds. I had the stories and advice from dozens of books, websites, and blogs about the Camino swimming around in my overloaded brain. I thought I was prepared. I was wrong. NOTHING can prepare you for the experience of walking 500 miles.
I thought the Camino would be about the beauty of the land, the changing vistas. I thought it would be about the adventure. I thought I would feel proud of my accomplishment. But in reality I felt profoundly humbled.
Every day my journal gushed about the people I met, not the scenery, the churches, the fascinating history. The pride I felt was not for me but for the remarkable people I met along the way.
The cyclists who outfitted their bikes so they could transport profoundly disabled people should feel proud.
The family who was helping their 93 year old mother achieve her lifelong dream of walking the Camino should feel proud.
The 63-year-old woman who lost a lung to cancer a year previously and was now walking out of gratitude for still being alive. She should feel proud.
The girl who walked in flip flops because she had blisters on every one of her toes, but just kept walking should feel proud.
The spirit of the Camino, the profound experience of sharing the trail with strangers from everywhere, broke down all barriers and opened all hearts. I can only hope that I can take the lessons of the Camino with me wherever my journey takes me. http://santiago-compostela.net/