Reflections on the Camino

I was honored when Laurie, of The Camino Provides, asked me to write about what “the Camino provides” meant to me.

In all honesty, I put this task off for a long time. I didn’t believe that I could actually put pen to paper and articulate how much the Camino provided me. But, when I sat down to think about it, and reflected on my life in the half year since the Camino, I knew that I finally had the answer.

It has been exactly six months since I started my Camino. Notice, I anchor to my start date, because I don’t believe that my Camino has ever really stopped.

I began on June 1st, 2015. My Camino took me from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela in 18 days. In those 18 days, I walked and I talked, I laughed and I sobbed.

I sweated through the Meseta, and shivered in the rain in Galicia. I drank too much red wine, and ate too many Spanish tortillas.

I got lots of blisters, and I made lots of friends. 

I cried too many times to count. I also smiled too many times to count.

I pushed myself to my limits, both mentally and physically, and all along the way, the Camino provided me with all of the tools I needed to keep going.

The Camino provided me with open hearts to connect with every day, and open minds to share stories with.

The Camino provided me with the comfort of community, and a sense of purpose, in knowing that I was never alone along The Way. It gave me peace, in the form of the nature and beautiful landscapes that surrounded me, especially in the mountains of Galicia.

It provided me with shoulders to lean on when I limped, and the hands of complete strangers to bandage my blistered feet.

It provided me friendships with incredible people from all over the world. The Camino gifted me Peter, Nadja, Mundo and Austin, among many others, who all now hold a very special place in my heart.

But, the Camino doesn’t stop providing when a peregrino reaches Santiago. Instead, during the months after your journey, it slowly molds you until you realize that you, at your core, have somehow become a better version of yourself.

Since my Camino, I have become more patient, I love more openly than ever before, and I have developed an incredible amount of faith in myself and my capabilities, as well as in the kindness of others.

Most importantly, the Camino provided me with the conviction that I am the creator of my own path, my own happiness. By pushing me to my physical and mental limits, the Camino taught me that my state of mind is not merely a product of my environment, but rather, can be whatever I choose for it to be. We cannot be defeated, we simply choose to feel defeated. Likewise, we can choose to be happy.

And just like that, these last six months of my life have been the happiest I have ever been. I know the Camino played a part in that.

To everyone who has already completed their Camino, and is now on the Camino of life, I hope my words brought back beautiful memories.

And to those peregrinos, like Laurie, who are looking forward to their journey, my heart warms at the thought of all the things the Camino will provide you.

Buen Camino,

Pauline

Camino

Santiago de Compostela with my Camino family

Camino Afterthoughts

I miss the Camino every day. 

Maybe it’s because I’m reading Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” or maybe it’s because I’m in Slovakia staring at the Tatra Mountains while they tease me. 

“Come climb me, come play,” they say.

It’s been over a month since I’ve been on the trail, yet every day I still imagine that I’ll wake up, lace up my boots, swing my backpack on and just go. 

All through my lunch today, I stared longingly at two Slovakian hikers sitting a table over. I watched them drink their ice cold beers, knowing how good they tasted after a long day of walking. I couldn’t help but stare at their backpacks that were fuller than mine on the camino. I wanted to ask them where they were hiking, what gear they had, and silly enough, if I could please come with.

I had to stop looking because one of them started to wink at me, and I’m afraid I gave the wrong impression.

Walking the Camino gave me purpose and clarity. I had a clear mission every single day, met inspiring folks left and right and I got to be outdoors for hours on end. The views of the Galician mountains, reminiscent of scenes from The Hobbit, and the poppy covered fields of the Meseta, which made me curse while I sweated and blistered, are burned into my mind. 

It’s kind of like childbirth, I suppose, which is another topic I know nothing about. It’s painful and uncomfortable at times, but when you look back at it, none of that matters. You remember how beautiful it was and how much joy it gave you.

I suppose that’s a good thing, to miss it. It’s motivating. It helps you create goals, my newest being to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and one day complete the triple crown of hiking. That is, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian trail and the Continental Divide Trail. 

I already have the backpack and the boots. And hell, my two missing toenails are probably never going to grow back anyways. 

The Triple Crown. A combined 7,900 glorious miles of smelly sweat and bloody feet, across 22 states. What a dream. 

Yes, I think I’ll do that. 

Come climb me! -Tatra Mountains