El Camino De Santiago: Embracing Life Lessons
I’ve always been an intensely pensive person, and this has only gotten worse over time. Incessantly overthinking is not good for mental health, I assure you. When everything feels senseless and pointless, sometimes you decide that you’ve had enough. We all have phases when we need to quiet our minds. And that’s what I achieved by doing the El Camino De Santiago.
“El Camino de Santiago” is a spiritual itinerary that leads from many points of the world to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, located in Northwest Spain. Originally, it was a religious path that guided the pilgrims to Saint James’ tomb. You can bike it or travel it by horse. Nowadays, thousands of people become pilgrims with many different motivations: as a retreat, an athletic challenge or, as I did, just to see what it’s like. I strongly believe that going with no expectations, or with low ones, makes everything better.
I strongly believe that going with no expectations, or with low ones, makes everything better.
Since I was born in the area, Galicia, I wasn’t very excited about El Camino in the beginning. I’d already been to Santiago de Compostela many times before, but I’d never gone there by the Camino. In the past three years, I’ve experienced many different stages of the walk. It’s a unique path that allows you to get to know the deepest part of this side of the country, far away from the touristy areas.
I made an effort to behave as any other pilgrim would despite being a local. I had driven through some of the roads many times and I was familiar with the names of the cities and villages. I was used to the green mountains, the rural inhabitants, and the herds of cows (and their smell). But I enjoyed seeing the astonished faces of the foreign pilgrims who were walking El Camino for the first time.
I can see the Camino now as a brilliant metaphor. It’s about discovering yourself, your feelings, your solitude.
On this journey, I arose fairly early in the morning to reach the hostel around noon. The beauty of this experience lies in that all you have to do during your day is hike and take care of yourself (your body, but especially your mind). I had unlimited time to listen to myself since these hostels are not the quietest places to sleep. I also needed to watch out for my beloved feet —they were my only means of transport. My single responsibility was walking and reaching my next stop.
If you, too, decide to make the journey, here are some tips to help you out. You’ll need a good pair of shoes (not worn for the first time), sandals to soothe your toes and vaseline to apply all over your feet in order to avoid blisters.
You don’t need to train for El Camino. Being in average shape will help, and you can try walking with a bag on your shoulders to prepare for it. Self-motivation is also a important tool, especially if you’re doing this alone. It was useful for me to remember that I was walking El Camino because I had decided to, and to constantly envision how I would feel when I achieved my goal.
As in any other travel, the experience will be different if you do it solo or with a group. On your own, you’ll be able to walk at the speed that is more comfortable for you, you will generally be more open to socialize, and you’ll have more time to listen to your own thoughts. Trekking with a group is a good team-building experience where people take care of each other and get to know each other in a deeper way. It depends on your priorities. Plus, solo travel doesn’t mean you’ll be alone.
I started to feel a sense of freedom—that magnificent sensation of knowing that you only need a few things to survive.
One of the lessons I’ve learnt from my first Camino was the backpacker rule: less is more. When you have to carry your bag for more than 13 miles each day, you just learn to use the minimum, realising that everything else is unnecessary. When I realised this, I started to feel a sense of freedom—that magnificent sensation of knowing that you only need a few things to survive.
A friend once told me, “Life is just like El Camino. It has its ups and downs, it’s beautiful, it gets tough sometimes, but you must never give up.” And she was absolutely right. I can see El Camino now as a brilliant metaphor. It’s about discovering yourself, your feelings, your solitude…
It’s about the people from all over the world who will share your experience and accompany you. It’s about surprises and stunning landscapes. It’s even about pain, about walking next to someone else and letting them get into your life while letting them go. Because in the end, El Camino is about learning how to walk through life with ourselves.
El Camino De Santiago: Embracing Life Lessons
Have you walked the Camino De Santiago? How was your trip? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.
El Camino De Santiago: Embracing Life Lessons top photo credit by unsplash.