Whether in search of beauty and solitude or a physical or mental challenge El Camino de Santiago de Compostella offers all you could wish for. Grab the opportunity with both hands and make the journey your journey of a lifetime.
No matter where you decide to begin the ancient pilgrimage, perhaps in St Jean Pied de Port or even from Logroño or León your personal pilgrimage begins from the seed of your decision. The gap between applying for your passport, your pilgrimage record from The Confraternity of Saint James to your first sore blister will feel seamless – and in the case of your first blister, inevitable!
If you have never experienced walking with a backpack, like me you may be surprised at how natural it becomes. For all your needs to fit like a puzzle into one small space the desire for ‘stuff’ begins to fall away to be quickly replaced by an acute sense of something far more real. Perhaps it is the walking itself and the physical toll it takes on your body especially your feet, maybe it is the sharing of often delicately personal or private burdens, the tears of elation or a heavy heart, reasons are plentiful nevertheless it become the fabric that weaves everyone together.
This appears to be true of life no matter where we are in the world but so often these realities become buried in the noise of our day.
El Camino de Santiago gives you space to breathe.
Whether a decision to walk, and indeed how far to walk is based on gratitude and thanks or as a spiritual or religious quest or a mix of many others before the first Albergue is paid for it is highly likely a shift of some kind will take place.
The spirit of companionship is evident as pilgrims walk together sharing conversation along the way. They may not stay together for long, perhaps for an hour or so. For some maybe a few days before their paths take different directions and for a lucky few a deeper love or friendship has developed lasting long after the spirit in which the decision to walk El Camino was made, has passed.
It is not uncommon to see supper tables heaving with animated banter as a result of a joint shopping trip of strangers coming together to prepare and share a meal. In kitchens that are often quite sparse with utensils the most magnificent feast have been served.
As the night draws in and the plates are cleared away listen for the strumming of a guitar or the voice in the distance of someone signing. The all familiar lullaby of sleeping bags being zipped up en mass signals lights out in readiness for an early start through the often low lying mist in search of the first café con leche of the day.
This is a snippet of my personal experience of walking from León to Santiago de Compostella and on to finish in Finesterre. I would love to hear your stories if you have walked any of El Camino. It has become a treasured memory that I never tire of talking about. My plan is to return and walk some more, perhaps next year. Perhaps I’ll see you there.