Walking this Camino Called Life

April 1, 2022Blog

Eight years ago I boldly announced to my friends on Facebook that I intended to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Why in the world would I want to follow an ancient pilgrim’s road 500 miles across Northern Spain to end up at a Cathedral that has no real significance to me?

I love adventure and conventional travel has never suited me. The thought of walking through picturesque medieval villages, finding my way solo through unknown territory and enjoying the conviviality of people I meet along the way is very appealing. Plus, it’s not like the Appalachian Trail. In Northern Spain one is never more than a few kilometers from the next village with all the services a pilgrim might require. No need to carry a tent or food.

There’s also something very appealing about slowing down and putting the rest of life on hold for a while. To wake up in the morning with nothing to do but walk, walk as far as one can, and then stop to rest, is an exercise in meditative living. It’s the journey that’s important, not the destination. With the act of slowing down comes paring down. Carrying everything you need on you back for days on end in all kinds of weather forces you think about what is really necessary to your well-being and comfort.

That’s the poetic stuff, it sounds great, and yes it’s all true. But there was no way at that time I could have bought a plane ticket, flown to Spain and started walking. I was out of shape and seriously overweight. At the time I thought this would be a goal to work for and would provide the motivation I needed to get my ass in gear. Two mistakes here. The first mistake was overestimating the resiliency of my post-menopausal body. In the past I’d start to exercise and quickly see results with little or no consequences. Not this time. Every time I started walking daily my knees and feet would begin to ache and sometimes my hip would chime in too. After several false starts I knew that some weight had to come off before I could begin training.

My second mistake was forgetting that the Camino is a metaphor for life. The meditative life I longed for on the Camino is accessible anytime anywhere. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other and staying present to whatever is in the moment, and asking yourself what’s really important regarding your possessions, time, and relationships.

Eight years on, I’m 90 pounds lighter. I’ve made substantial changes in my lifestyle. I’m fit, I’ve let go of food as my drug of choice and I’ve made some progress around letting go of things I was carrying that were weighing me down emotionally. So am I ready to buy a plane ticket? Not just now.

It’s about the journey and this journey has taken a detour away from Santiago de Compostela, at least for the moment. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, at least on foot, but I have learned that I’m already walking the Camino. We all are.

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