Camino de Santiago

After the Camino de Santiago

Tomorrow it will be a week since John and I walked into Santiago de Compostela.

Santiago skyline


 

Got it – my Compostela


Our bodies are beginning the journey to recovery. 

Sure the level of fitness might drop away a bit, but I suspect doing something like this is a physical reset. At the very least, when I think of the Camino, I no longer ask myself can I do it. I know I’ve got the physical strength and the psychological grit it takes. That’s quite something. 

The 0km Way marker at Finisterre


One reader wondered what made me do this. I don’t have a clear answer, other than beforehand I suspected that the act of repeatedly doing the same thing day after day would likely be contemplative, meditative in its effect. That it would, as one graffiti artist along The Way wrote: make space for the state of grace.

The long term physical exertion has the effect of silencing internal chatter, and it does so relatively quickly. As I quipped to a fellow walker, there’s nothing like the pain of blisters to keep you in the now.

But walking the Camino is far from a solitary experience. 

More often than not, especially in the albergues, and often on the path, it’s a crowded experience. The motives for walking were as varied as the people. John remarked at one point that it’s a bit like being on an active cruise, and he’s right.

For some it’s a sporting event, others see it as the trendy thing to do, many are making a religious or spiritual pilgrimage. 

I was surprised by the number of women who told me they thought it was a safe activity for women to do on their own. For myself, I doubt that it is any safer than most other travel activities. Sadly, as is the case anywhere women on the Camino de Santiago need to be vigilant.

People of all sorts and types walk the Camino.  John and I encountered bullies, the snide, the creeps, those who were only too willing to tell me how to make my way; there were braggarts, and, sigh, those who openly made a play for my beloved right in front of me. 

All that made me wonder about the benefits of a silent retreat. At least in such an environment one would be less exposed to the vagaries of others, although more exposed to the vagaries of the self. And that, I don’t doubt, is likely even more challenging.

The meditative state the walking induced in me did increase my vulnerablility to the less commendable attributes of fellow walkers. Sometimes I wondered whether that was a good thing. 

A week later I’m sure it was, even if it was uncomfortable. 

Sunrise at Fisterre – the small fishing village near the end of the world


Along The Way we also met the thoughtful, the gentlest and kindest and most generous of souls; the prayerful, the friendly, and those who were always cheerful despite their enduring pain. They are the people I’ll remember. They are the people I’m grateful to have met, they are the ones who taught me the most, the ones who were like a salve to my soul. 

My prejudices, my weaknesses, and my greatest strengths have all had the brightest of lights shone on to them. I’ll be growing from that for a long time. For me that’s what a pilgrimage is all about.

Finisterre – the end of the world


 

We’ve followed in the footsteps of millions, those who’ve walked this way for more than a millennium.

I suspect The Way has always been the same way and for me that is both consoling and redemptive.

18 replies »

  1. Congratulations on this fantastic achievement Jill (and John). I’ve enjoyed following along on your journey and reading your thoughtful, articulate reflections. Like Anabel, I am full of admiration for you both.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My admiration for you both is total … and I miss the vicarious journey already! You made it to the end and beyond! It is great to see that Finsterre in your photos looks like today’s view of Hawke Bay! Which leads me to quote ….
    “We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.”
    ― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your very honest reflections about the Camino, Jill. I imagine for me, the hardest thing will be coping with the vast array of humanity, some of them very challenging and not very likable. I imagined the walk being more solitary, but after reading your posts and watching the movie, The Way, I know there are many people who can be difficult to deal with. I’m sure the whole experience tests your mettle to the core. I think these sentiments are expressed very well: “My prejudices, my weaknesses, and my greatest strengths have all had the brightest of lights shone on to them. I’ll be growing from that for a long time. For me that’s what a pilgrimage is all about.”

    When and if I walk the Camino, I will be doing it alone as my husband is still working and has no interest in doing it. I’ve traveled solo extensively all over the world, in places as far flung as Nepal, Myanmar, China, Vietnam and Cambodia, and I hopefully will be wary as I usually am. But it’s interesting what you say about single women doing the Camino alone. I’ll certainly take it to heart. Thanks so much for taking us along on your amazing journey. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Congratulations on your immense achievement. Such determination and perseverance. I can’t imagine the day to day stick-with-it-ness that would be required. Sorry to hear about the not so wonderful folks and thank goodness the kind and helpful souls outnumbered them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jill and John – massive congrat again….nothing beats the compostella in thy hands, especially when you started at the REAL beginning. !. Take a double bow Jill for each and every day writing your blog. This takes time, energy and commitment to do this, and add in photos…its has been truly wonderful to read (and see) your daily reflections, including this one. No matter the hardships,challenges and struggles, the pluses, positives and take away life lessons will always shine the brightest light. Have a think about the Camino del Norte next …….keep smiling and rejoicing in what is an inspiring achievement.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so pleased you have given us these final thoughts on your great achievement. You have well and truly earnt your compostella. Thank you for finding the time and energy to post each day, I looked forward to the daily report and realise how hard it must’ve been to do at the end of a hard day of walking. So what now I wonder. I’m sure you must be already thinking and planning your next adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

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