Walking the Camino de Santiago over the past twenty seven days has been an amazing experience. I’m sure each pilgrim’s camino is different but my camino had three distinct phases.
The first phase – enjoyment – was filled with excitement and wonder. The beautiful landscapes and new food provided an exotic backdrop to meeting people from all over the world, hearing different languages and engaging in long, ambling conversations. Sleeping, showering and everything else in close proximity to tens of strangers was still a novelty and the caffeine, bread and chocolate for breakfast overcame the sleepless nights.
The second phase – endurance – was tough. The lack of sleep finally hit me. The landscape was dry, dusty and hot. The trails were rocky and seemingly endless. It was time to be alone; no one wants to talk with a dry mouth. The afternoon heat was unbearable and swarms of flies buzzed my face all day as I walked. Then one day it all changed. Blustery winds, cold persistent rain, damp rooms – the endurance continued.
The third and final phase – enlightenment – was really the last few days. The sun came out, the woodland landscape was quiet and beautiful, the walking was peaceful and reflective. I realised (or learned or remembered) some things in those last days. 1. I don’t need to worry. At no point did I have need for anything; everything was provided for me when I needed it. 2. I actually need very little to be comfortable; a clean, dry space to sleep, food and drink. But I do like my privacy. 3. Little things can feel like luxury – a warm shower, a hot coffee, a cold beer. 4. The pain of yesterday and today does not have to go with me tomorrow. A sore ankle can heal even as I walk twenty miles on it every day. 5. Other than God, my children are most important to me; nothing else even comes close.