This was originally posted on beingthebestyoucanbeblog.wordpress.com on 10th June however this time I’m posting it on the 18th May which is when I arrived in Santiago last year.
This is indeed how I talk to people about my Camino. I’m a Proclaimer and if you grew up listening to the group ‘the Proclaimers’ as I did then you will of course know I’m talking about their song ‘I’m gonna be’. I often found myself walking along singing ‘but I would walk 500 miles’ however I didn’t add in the next line ‘And I would walk 500 more’ as I’m happy to leave that for the medieval pilgrims and any other modern ones who wish to walk both ways.
So yes, now that I’ve walked to Santiago from St Jean Pied de Port and have the certificate to prove it I can say quite honestly that as well as being a pilgrim, I am also a Proclaimer!
The last few days before arriving in Santiago, I got quite emotional thinking of the moment I would walk into the cathedral square and my Camino to Santiago would be over.
That final day from Rua to Santiago was 18th May and although I’m writing this post on 10th June, it still feels like I have just completed it. The Camino and that final day is still with me and if I close my eyes I can see myself walking along.
Of course when I say I’m a Proclaimer, I am joking but I’m definitely a pilgrim. One of the questions, I discussed with fellow pilgrims, Susan and Henry as we walked those final kms was ‘Do we ever stop being a pilgrim?’. This naturally brings about the question ‘Were we always pilgrims?’. I’ve not been a Proclaimer before as I haven’t walked 500 miles on one complete journey but I have no doubt been a pilgrim in some sense. I’ll leave you to decide for yourselves.
We also discussed what medieval pilgrims would have been thinking and feeling on that final walk knowing that they would reach Santiago. It’s amazing to think that many have walked the same path and stood in the exact spots I have stood in.
When you have walked so far on a journey, how do you stop? How do you return to your home? How do you walk and know where you’re going without following yellow arrows or km markers?
They say when you’re dying that your whole life flashes before your eyes. I don’t know about that, however I do know that you examine your life when you walk the Camino. I had conversations in my head with many people I’ve known through my life, some I’ve loved, some I’ve had negative interactions with and some who have positively impacted me. There are some I’ll be able to return to and others I will not see again either due to their death or our relationship having ended. You certainly get the chance to reflect on your life, who you are and who you want to be and how you will return to your same life differently.
On arrival in the cathedral square, I looked up at the cathedral and the statue of St James and all those emotions I had expected to feel, weren’t there. Did I feel glad it was over? Not really. Did my legs feel as if I had walked enough? No, not at all in fact they felt good and I was glad of that especially as I had already planned to set off for Finisterre by foot in a couple of days time.
The next day when I collected my certificates; my compostela and my distance certificate that’s when I felt the emotions, a feeling of achievement and accomplishment and a feeling of pride not just for myself but for all others who had done the same.
When I went to hug the statue of St James in the cathedral and offer a word of thanks for calling me to the Camino and for taking care of me along the way, that’s when the emotions rose up again. They came again when I attended an English speaking mass in the cathedral and heard each pilgrim share some words about their journey. There is something hugely humbling to know that you are not the only one to have been called to walk.
As it didn’t feel like the end of my Camino, I chose not to attend a pilgrim’s mass until I had returned from Finisterre.
There are more posts to come about my Camino and my thoughts, however I know and am willing to admit that they are taking longer to write. I know that once they are written and published that I have to admit to myself that my walking along the Camino de Santiago is over. Saying that though I also know that my Camino itself isn’t really over as they say that the real Camino starts when you return home so I know that it will impact my life for many years.