Lessons learnt while walking the Camino

                

Enjoying nature and trail walking are two of my greatest passions. Walking the Camino de Santiago Francés in Spain was a fusion of these interests that make my heart beat faster (pun most certainly intended).

When I was younger, my parents took us on several hiking trails in South Africa and taught their children about God’s beautiful creation, respect for nature as well as personal persistence in completing challenging routes. Some of my favourite childhood memories have been created on mountain tops, below waterfalls, in mountain pools, in forests, on plains – mostly off the beaten track.

Experiencing the Spanish Camino was a top priority on my bucket list.  But for dreams to come true, action is required.

My life’s path guided me on an unexpected journey of growth through pain and loss in recent months. I needed a recovery plan to reboot and prepare for a new chapter in my life.  I cannot think of a more fitting way to recover than walking through the most beautiful forests and scenery in fresh air and a tranquil environment. The Camino pilgrimage has it challenges too, make no mistake!  I have been asked to share some the lessons I learnt while undertaking this amazing journey.

I have been infected with the walking buzz of the Camino de Santiago.  The famous walk through Spain ignites the walker’s soul, bringing on inescapable moments of deep self-reflectionhealing, and inner balance.

I discovered people don’t do the Camino. The Camino does them.

           

 Camino lesson 101 – things don’t always go as planned

We know this, right? But…. when plans don’t work out or you take the wrong route, it’s not always fun and games.  After completing 18km of our route on day one between VillaFranca and O’Çebreiro, my walking buddy and I discovered that we missed the turn-off and instead, we took a long detour to our destination.  We had a choice, carry on (as all roads lead to Santiago eventually) or turn around and find the turn-off.  We decided to continue.  It was a steep, never-ending uphill walk, with not particularly beautiful scenery, but we arrived at our destination after completing 42 km on foot.  I was exhausted, yet strangely I felt accomplished.  In the bigger scheme of things, detours don’t matter!

Camino lesson 102 – loss is part of life

I experienced some very painful losses prior to and during the Camino – an important relationship didn’t work out, an old friend died unexpectedly during my time in Spain, and I lost my life’s hopes and dreams somewhere on the journey of life.  I learnt that loss is like winter – trees are stripped, the path is lonely and cold sometimes, but spring and summer always follow.   Clinging to anything causes pain.  Especially clinging to the past.

Camino lesson 103 – how ‘unlonely’ being alone can be

Having plenty alone-time reminded me that being alone does not have to be lonely!  In fact, one can feel lonely in a crowd. I have always been surrounded by people, yet I didn’t always feel valued and connected.  The Camino taught me that I am worthy and that moving forward takes one step at a time.  Ultreia!  (move on!)  Some of the most profound thoughts and ideas surfaced when I walked all by myself.  God’s beauty, the silence, the woods, the birds and my own thoughts were often the only things I needed.  There is so much peace in being at peace with oneself. No justification required.

         

 Camino lesson 104 – choose the partners on your journey carefully

Not everyone likes similar scenery and walks at the same pace.  I mostly journeyed with a beautiful friend who gets me, what a privilege!  I learnt that walking the journey with anyone who doesn’t share my positive life philosophy, sense of beauty, values and need for savouring each precious moment, meant making too many compromises and stealing my joy.  Who do you choose to share your journey with?

Choose your partners carefully – life is not short, life is long and the journey often is arduous, so select worthy company.

Camino lesson 105 – meet new people and you find who you really are

I met many people along the way – often it was only a brief encounter and other times we walked together for many kilometres, conversing or in silence. Some people accompany us on long stretches of our beautiful journey called life, whereas others are seasonal or occasional travel buddies.

I met interesting people – a kind, gracious hippie hosting a coffee-stop on our path to Sarria, an Irish traveller who was still seeking meaning after walking for 40 days, a Dutch business woman who needed company for several kilometres and then decided to stay behind at a missionary station, an American couple aged 78 and 75 respectively who looked with absolute adoration at each other ….. true love!  New friendships and connections happened easier when I was alone, as groups are often intimidating for an outsider.  Be approachable, take note of your body language!

Camino lesson 106 – Eat, drink and be merry!  Have fun!

We had a lot of fun on the Camino – I haven’t laughed so much in years.  I was privileged to share this beautiful  journey with seven kind, yet strong women.  We drank good coffee and wine and were blessed with tasty pilgrims’ meals while enjoying each others’ good company.  Eating wholesome food and having stimulating conversations are crucial elements of a meaningful journey.  The body cannot be hungry when the soul needs feeding too.  Eat good food, drink excellent coffee and wine! You are worth it!

         

 What is this infamous Camino?

The Camino de Santiago is a collection of routes (or ‘pilgrim ways’) that track through the French, Portuguese and Spanish countryside and end in Santiago de Compostela, or more specifically, at the old Spanish town’s cathedral. The traditional route starts in France at St-Jean Pied de Port and continues for 800 km to Santiago de Compostela.

The Camino Francés or French Way is the most famous of all the Camino de Santiago routes, featuring in many documentaries, books and movies such as ‘The Way‘ and ‘I’ll Push You’. While St Jean Pied de Port marks the starting point of the Camino Francés, you can start your Camino from any town or city along the way.

If you would like to learn more about my journey or would like to plan a pilgrimage, you are welcome to contact me.  I also found the following websites useful:

www.caminoadventures.com/camino-frances

www.CSJOFSA.za.org

Next time I will share some more experiences about blisters, sisters and other lessons

 

4 Responses to “Lessons learnt while walking the Camino

  • Lidia Schoeman
    1 week ago

    Dit was lekker om te hoor van jou reis. Hoop ek sal dit eendag kan meemaak

  • Baie dankie dat jy hierdie ongelooflike ondervinding met ons deel – ek kan nie wag vir die volgende artikel nie!
    Vriendelike groete uit ‘n sonskyn Stellenbosch.

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