My Camino de Santiago
Updated: May 6
Before the Departure
“You’re too slow!” my husband waved his head with a desperate look while we did our weekly hiking training.
“That’d be a miracle if you survive from this tour.” my friend said it with a mischievous blink.
This tour is one-of-the-kind to me in many ways.First of all, I had never been a backpacker in my life so far, nor did I ever tried to walk 120km in 6 days in a row- even though this Camino de Portugues has been the easiest option among all pilgrim routes to Santiago Compostela.
Secondly, I never felt so many stresses and worries before any trip as a travel-mania.
The movie “The Way” and the book “The Camino” written by Shirley MacClaine inspire this trip.
Camino de Santiago ” is a network of pilgrims’ ways serving pilgrimage to the shine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. ” Many people step on the routes for spiritual growth. For me, it’s just to explore a new destination- very instinctive, without many thoughts.
However, with more hiking training I had and with the departure date closer, I injured my knees, received all kinds of “concerns” from around. At the end, I even started to doubt if it’s a bad decision. Few days before the departure, a bad flu hit me and released me from all preparations and anxieties. That’s the moment I realised from the universe- just let go and do it!
On the Way
♣ Learn to Have Self-Awareness and Let Go
The whole tour is a practice to learn let-go. Starting from the packing. The ideal weight of the backpack is 1/10 of one’s weight. In my case, the packing was all about removing until what remained was the most essential to sustain this trip. Then there are more “practices” on the way. For example, peeing outdoor is a very critical skill yet not any guidebooks even mention it. From feeling embarrassed to calmly accepting this norm, it only takes me half day to develop a strong awareness to my body, sharp instinct to identify a good spot in front, and totally let go my self-esteem, manners (also my pants) and only focus on the moment contributing to the mother earth- with joy and peace in mind.
♣ Go with the Flow
The 2nd day of our walk is the best orientation to the worst possible scenario on the route: 20km walk in non-stop shower- wet, cold, windy- plus hunger and an unbearable knee pain! I’ve been always a believer to self-healing and thus against western medication. Under such desperation, however, I gave up my stubborn, swallowed a panadol and dragged my painful knees to finish the remaining kilometres. The next day, a good rest enlightened me that the walk had to be carried on- same as our life- no matter how the weather or my condition would be. Thus, I surrendered all my insists, learned to manage my pain and face whatever would come in front. I took every chance to breathe in those beautiful colors of big nature while the sun was out, and focused more on my steps while it started to drizzle or pour. We drank and ate like no tomorrow while good food and wine were available. It turned out to be a surprise how easier it was to finish our daily walking target. I guess relaxing one’s mind and going with the flow would be the answer.
Coffee and food are the best reward to our hard daily walk. They are super tasty and with amazingly affordable price on this route!
♣ The Simple Happiness
Walking on this route makes everything simpler, even one’s expectation to happiness- having a good cup of coffee and meal, passing through beautiful forest trails and country roads with warm sunlight, safely and smoothly arriving the destination of the day. If none of these wishes happened in certain days, we created our own happiness through each encounter on the road- they could be cute farm animals (a pair of geese sang to me in duet while I was taking their pictures; several cats followed us after we gave them good pats!), amazing wild plants or the fresh smell from the grassland after drizzle. Those cheerful pieces enrich and make every moment in the walk memorable.
♣ We are all Passengers to Each Other’s Life
People on the way complete our story. Some impresses us for their pleasant personality and interesting life; others fuss us for misunderstanding or behavior we can’t agree on. Yet we could play the same role to others too at the end of the day. Therefore, I learn to stay at the present and take less seriously about what had happened- good or bad. We lose, we gain, then all will be gone anyway. Isn’t it?!
We bumped into this German couple by random everyday but we never exchanged names. The husband told us that it’s their second walk on Camino de Santiago. Therefore, they would like this time to be more relaxing- just enjoy what happened on the road without caring much how many kilometres they can walk everyday.
These passionate Romanian ladies traveled in a group of 13, yet each member walked on their own pace and the group only met at checking points. They are friendly and super talkative, insist that we shall visit Romania one day. When being asked what the first thing to do after arrival Santiago Compostela, they said, “to have hair and nail done!” They do know how to enjoy life:)
♣ What Meant to be is Meant to be
A scallop shell (an iconic symbol to guide pilgrims on Camino de Santiago) I’ve been looking for since the beginning of the trip only showed up in the middle of our tour while we had given up searching it!
The famous Botafumeiro ceremony (the swinging of thurible) in Cathedral Santiago is the most expected to pilgrims yet also the most mysterious- no one knows when it happens out of those solemnities unless someone requests it specially (very rare as it’s expensive!) We stupidly missed it on our arrival despite that we were only few steps away. Without holding any hope to the pilgrim mass the next day (something stopped us from participating an earlier one as planned), we witnessed the miracle at the end thanks to the special donation from a faithful group! Watching the swinging censor (weighted 53kg) being pulled up by 8 strong men, dispensing clouds of incense in the air with the beautiful singing in the background, I was touched and felt all the tiredness was paid back!
All the stamps on my pilgrim passport mark my steps on this route. My instinct has the tendency to always guide me to somewhere exotic or adventurous. If I have to share what the gains are in these trips, that may be the chance to understand myself and life more clearly through several encounters in unfamiliar contexts. That’s why I love to refresh/recharge myself through travelling, and that’s the meaning of travelling to me!