A few years ago I stumbled upon a book from Shirley Maclaine. While I don’t always agree with her spiritual preferences, I am always intrigued by what she believes. I decided to read her book and was amazed I had never heard of such a walk before; the Camino, a spiritual and physical journey in Spain. In a past life I have studied different religions trying to find the answers to life and the after-life. This walk intrigued me.
People from all over the world come here for the journey of inner discovery. The Camino is a pilgrimage to St. James, one of the twelve apostles in the bible. He is supposedly buried under the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage started in the 9th century with only a few thousand people a year taking the trip but has grown to over 200,000 a year.
The pilgrimage can be as long or as short as you like. The starting point is your choice but the most popular trek is 500 miles and can be completed by foot or bike. By bike it will take approximately three weeks but if you’re like me and want to travel by foot it could take up to six weeks. The task of walking 500 miles seems daunting but at the end the reward will be overwhelming. There is a saying “stop and smell the roses” and I believe it applies here.
There are options of where to stay. I plan on staying as the pilgrims before me did, in hostels. I’ve never been the type to use a sleeping bag, I’ll always opt for the hotel but here I want to get the real sense of beauty and discovery. I don’t want to miss out because I lack the discipline of not being without a pillow made of down.
I’m not sure what has drawn me to take on this journey. I’m curious of the people I’ll meet along the way; all coming for different reasons and different walks of life. I know I’ll be packing light. The idea of carrying a backpack with everything I’ll need over 500 miles is one of the few things I won’t be looking forward to but I know I’ll have a journal and a camera to record every feeling, every moment. I don’t plan to bring food as the hostels will have some sort of cooking facility or I’ll stop at one of the restaurants along the way, all being very affordable.
There will be some pride and self-respect when I receive my “pilgrim passport.” A cardboard pamphlet I’ll carry throughout my walk. Every day I’ll get it stamped and at the very end hand it in - getting my certificate stating I have completed the Camino. I wonder if I’ll be a changed person, having found something I didn’t know was missing inside me. Will I have the same experience as Shirley Maclaine, having out of body experiences and interacting with Adam and Eve? Probably not. Will I have an experience I couldn’t have anywhere else. Absolutely. There are many places I want to travel but the Camino isn’t just another place on the map for me. For whatever reason, this is something I have to do, something I’ve been drawn to do ever sense I read about it. As every spring passes I am reminded of what I should be doing and what I’m not doing. Walking the Camino.