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

I’m Going on an Adventure 

“What the hell am I doing.” 

These words played over and over in my head this morning as I drifted in and out of sleep on a seven hour train ride from Barcelona to Burgos, a city in the north of Spain. 

You see, I have decided to do the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the bones of St. James are, allegedly, buried. 

In the next 21 days, I will walk over 300 miles. I have only my backpack, thrown together last night, with an extra change of clothes, some documents and a few other essentials. 

I’ve known for months that I was going to undertake the Camino, but this morning it started to really hit me. I had gotten home at 6 am and had to be up at 7:30 am to catch my train. I laid in my bed this morning thinking about who the hell I thought I was, to just hop on a train I booked only yesterday, without any idea where I would even sleep tonight or how exactly to go about starting the Camino. Also, I couldn’t figure out why I thought it was a good idea to go dancing in five inch heels for eight hours the night before such a hike. Although I do look as adorable as Reese Witherspoon with her backpack in The Wild, real life isn’t a movie and 300 miles is quite the stroll. 

Then, a beautiful thing happened when I arrived in Burgos. Any anxieties I had, immediately dissipated. 

I hopped on the first bus I saw outside of the train station, strolled into town, got a hotel room and had some frozen yogurt. I entered the Gothic cathedral in Burgos, and immediately felt at peace inside its intricate walls. 

The town was bursting with life and everyone was dressed in their weekend best. There was a book festival in the main square, a wedding being held at the church and little Spanish girls pranced around in white dresses after having their first communion today.

After I visited the cathedral I went to the city’s pilgrims office to pick up my pilgrim passport, where I was helped by two little old men, who encouraged me and told me that I was going to be okay. I felt as though I could explode from joy, because I knew a great adventure was about to begin. 

Their last words to me, were also the very first and most important of my journey, 

“Buen Camino.”

 

Everything I have for the next 21 days

  

The cathedral in Burgos