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Five Lessons I Learned Walking The Camino

Author: Rachel Rose

Picture: Pexels

Five Lessons I Learned Walking The Camino

After twice walking the Camino, Rachel Rose shares five lessons she has learnt from these life-changing experiences.

1. Nature’s Beauty and the Changing Seasons

Walking the Camino is a wonderfully physical and visceral experience, providing opportunities to appreciate the natural world in different seasons. My first walk, the final 112km leg of the French Way from Sarria to Santiago in Easter week 2013, was very damp. A combination of torrential rain, hail and even snow proved challenging.

The following summer, walking the same stretch, plus an additional 100km from Ponferrada, was an entirely different experience. Starting before 6am to avoid the midday heat, I was reminded, with each walk, of the changing seasons in my own life and led to a deeper appreciation of the opportunities each provides. With rain and damp feet comes the promise of shelter and dry socks at the hostel. Sunshine may mean sweat and dehydration, but it also provides renewed joy at finding an unexpected watering hole.

2. Openness To Others

“Buen Camino!” is the cheering greeting exchanged among pilgrims. I found the friendliness of fellow walkers in the simple willingness to acknowledge another on the path healing and encouraging. So often we are too preoccupied to exchange even a smile or eye-contact with others. I walked both times with friends but on each occasion, we developed familial-like bonds with strangers. The openness I experienced in conversation with people from all nations, and the desire to form a group along the way, is truly special. I have now undoubtedly become more open to spontaneous exchanges and letting down my guard which says: “I’m too busy to stop.”

3. Physical Challenge

My moderate level of fitness prior to walking each time meant the walking aspect of the Camino was not too far out of my comfort zone. However, the hilly undulation of the landscape and the distances covered daily (between 25 and 35km) did take their toll. A combination of sore shoulders from heavy bag-carrying, blistered and tired feet, plus mild sleep-deprivation due to snoring dorm-companions, contributed to the physical challenge of the experience.

The Camino’s lesson to me has been about pushing myself; while a distance of 25km can be covered comfortably by car in half an hour, on foot it can constitute a day’s activity. The sense of satisfaction and achievement at making it on two legs rather than four wheels is without comparison.

4. Journey, Not Destination

For me, life has often been about the destination rather than the journey; where I am headed, not what I will see along the way. The Camino forced me to focus on the immediate sights, sounds, smells, feelings and flavours. A cup of fresh coffee was never more welcome; a blister-plaster provided by a kind stranger never more needed; the sounds of the dawn chorus heralding the beginning of a new day never more joyful. Instead of concentrating on arriving at the cathedral at Santiago (journey’s end), the Camino was an important reminder of the Way, the walk, the path.

5. Appreciation Of Solitude

A natural extrovert, my moments of solo-walking along the Camino were among the most blessed and fruitful periods of thought and prayerful reflection. As somebody who habitually surrounds themselves with conversation, music and general noisy bustle, the silence and solitude of walking alone was not an obvious or even entirely comfortable choice. Undeniably, these stages of the journey were vital for me to tune in to the ‘still small voice’ and listen to God’s word for me along the way.

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