What happens when you walk through a foreign country alone for 8 days
29 APRIL 2018
A reflection on my 8 days on the Camino de Santiago.
I recently completed the last 230 kilometers of the Ruta Francés on the Camino de Santiago. I started in Ponferrada and ended at the idyllic Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. I felt overwhelmed and overdue for silence and solitude. Overdue for time away from my life that revolves around my laptop. I had a break from my semester abroad in Sevilla and decided to walk the Camino. I only had 8 days so I chose to complete the last 230 kilometers. I'm not writing this to give a play by play of those eight days. I'm writing this as a recap of my thoughts afterward. A summary of what I learned and realized during those eight days.
I did keep and put together a video log of my journey on the camino. I'm not sharing it publicly but am more than happy to share the link with anyone that is genuinely curious. It is highly regarded by critics (aka my family).
In general, never have I ever felt so thankful for my health. By no means was this easy. I'm quite positive I pushed my body to its physical limit. But even at the end of my hardest day (36kms) I could still eat, breath, drink, think and walk (barely). The simple fact that I thought I could physically do this makes me thankful. The hard fact that I physically did it makes me eternally thankful.
I've developed appreciation for things I typically didn’t think twice about. Glowing sunrises, one million bandaids, medical tape, a hot shower, a grocery store with produce, cold, cold beer and a strangers smile and encouragement.
Below is a few basic lessons I learned from this experience.
Lesson 1: This one may seem dumb, and maybe I'm dumb for not following recommendations for this (I for sure am), but.... Always follow the recommendations for the proper shoes in whatever activity you are doing. One week and counting straight of severe foot pain and approximately 15 blisters later, maybe more I stopped counting after a while, I wish I had listened and purchased proper hiking shoes.
Lesson 2: Don't take your health for granted. I believe a significant portion of your health is controlled by your everyday choices. If you're one of the blessed to be born healthy you have the power keep it that way. Suffering minor injuries made me grateful that I even have the physical capacity to suffer minor injuries and know that I’ll be fine.
We all have something we can and should be showing gratitude for each day. Do it.
Lesson 3: Practice gratitude. Every. Damn. Day. Sometimes it takes a walk in the wilderness to make you realize how easily you take the small things for granted. Like a hot shower or simple privacy. Generally, we all have basic, at least, food, water, shelter and security to go home to at the end of each day. These things seem like a given, but in many parts of the world they aren’t. I didn’t experience even the half of this on the Camino but I was incredibly happy to get food and bed at the end of each day. We all have something we can and should be showing gratitude for each day. Do it.
I met people from Australia, Wales, England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Hungary, New Zealand, Ireland and the U.S. Each encounter different from the prior. The social aspect and comradery of the Camino de Santiago is something truly special. Everyone is on their own journey, but everyone is walking the same path as you. I got inside my own head and more importantly, inside my own body. It was as close as I could have come to the week of solidarity and silence I needed without quite literally being alone in the middle of nowhere.
And I now have a damn good, and sincere, answer to the question "what is your greatest accomplishment?"