Called to the Camino

Today marks a year since I started my Camino journey. I decided as a way of celebrating, that I would re-post the entries I made on the 2 other blogs last year beingthebestyoucanbeblog.wordpress.com and travelalphabetabc.wordpress.com. The Camino was after all a big part of my 40 countries in my 40s challenge even though it only added 2 countries! It was also a journey in itself which you will find out if you haven’t read the entries before. 

Have you been called to the Camino?

When the Camino de Santiago (Pilgrimage of Compostela) is ready, it will call you! It does this by appearing in books you are reading and you will find yourself in conversations with people who have done the Camino or are wanting to do it. It also calls you by giving you the idea of wanting to do a long reflective walk which some of you may already view as a Pilgrimage. The Camino has been calling me in many ways for years and I decided that 2018 would have to be the year I say a resounding YES to the call and start organising it as the calls were increasing.

There are various routes to Santiago either starting in France or Spain and from Santiago pilgrims can continue on to Finisterre and/ or to Muxia. I’ll be starting my walk in St Jean Pied de Port although my journey will start in Chester taking the train to London, Eurostar to Paris and a connecting train to Bordeaux where I will have to stay overnight. Then I’ll need to take the train to Bayonne before finally arriving in St Jean Pied de Port. This felt a more fitting journey, although I could have started my walk from Paris to St Jean Pied de Port but that would have meant an extra 1000km along the Chemin de Paris and an extra 2 or 3 months. For now, it is enough to do the 800km to Santiago and the extra 90km I have decided to do to Finisterre ( the end of the world) and who knows once there I may decide to continue to Muxia. I’ve heard pilgrims keep returning to the Camino so I’m sure the other routes will tempt me at some point in the future.

As preparation, I’ve been listening to Camino podcasts and hearing all about the experiences of past pilgrims, reading guides and watching any documentaries about the walks taken. I especially loved ‘The Way’, a film directed by Emilio Estevez starring his father Martin Sheen who travels the Camino after the death of his son on his first day of his Camino. It goes without saying that my preparation also includes walking and preparing my kit to ensure a comfortable and injury free walk.

The more I learn about the walk the more I look forward to it. The idea of carrying a scallop shell with me to signify the fingers of an open hand, symbolising the good deeds of a pilgrim certainly appeals to me. The medieval pilgrims wore the symbol of the shell upon their return journey whereas pilgrims now wear a shell on their way to Santiago. The other item is a stone pilgrims carry from home to represent their burden which they then leave (both the stone and the burden) at Cruz Ferro which is nearly the highest point along the Camino Francés and consists of a tall wooden pole topped with an iron cross. When the stone and burden are left at this site, the pilgrim continues lighter (literally and figuratively) for the rest of their journey. I wonder what burdens I will let go of that day.

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Believe it or not I’m looking forward to a long and reflective walk which I’m sure will be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. I am ready for all the questions which will arise during my journey along the Camino. I enjoy walking and have long since seen the many benefits in taking time to myself or with others and going from A to B. Although if we look at my life journey so far, I haven’t always followed the A to B route but I have always ended up where I am meant to be. I trust in the calling of the Camino in that this is where I am meant to be at this point in my life and there will be lots to learn about myself and others along the way. I’ve always been a reflective person, partly due to being a Buddhist and also a teacher but mostly due to being an introvert who reflects on life, my acts and notices the finer details around me. A notebook and pen will no doubt be one of the most important items in my bag as I travel the route and record my thoughts.

Many have asked why a Buddhist wants to walk the Camino as it is still viewed by many as a religious pilgrimage and I know at the end when you collect your certificate you are asked if this was a religious or spiritual journey. At the moment, my answer is spiritual however I’m also open to it becoming a religious one along the way. My Catholic education means I’m happy to attend mass and I’m already looking forward to seeing the famous botafumeiro at the Cathedral de Santiago being swung back and forth and letting go of the incense over the pilgrims.

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Past pilgrims have talked about meeting fellow pilgrims along the way from all walks of life and how that friendship becomes deeper than others they have known in just a short amount of time. This for me is one of the many positive aspects of travelling as we open ourselves up to new experiences and people in a way we don’t seem willing to do in our daily life.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey as I plan to update from the walk as and when possible and I will be reviewing my kit on my return. Until then, as we will all be journeying in some way over the next few months I offer you the pilgrim greeting of “Buen Camino!

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If you have completed the Camino de Santiago or are wanting to then please get in touch through the comment form below, we always enjoy hearing from our readers:

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