~ Emilio Estevez from the Movie The Way
The path to my next “journey” in life is now very clear. I’ve decided that it is time to fulfill a long awaited dream to walk the Camino de Santiago (well, at least 100 miles of it so I can earn my Compostela).
For a long while now, I’ve been very anxious about returning to Spain and the bonus of doing the Camino is in fact that a majority of the walk is located in a very beautiful part of Spain.
For over a thousand years, the Camino de Santiago (Way of Camino) has been an important Christian pilgrimage since way back in medieval times. It is considered one of three pilgrimages on which all sins could supposedly be forgiven. There are several routes for the Camino de Santiago, all of which lead to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia which is in northwestern part of Spain. It is here in the Cathedral that the remains of apostle Saint James (one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus) are buried. Legend has it that St. James's remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where he was buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. The most popular route to Santiago de Compostela is the Camino Frances which starts in the town of Saint Jean Pied de Port located on the French side of the Pyrenees.
On the routes, you will find pilgrims carrying their walking sticks (or staff) and hanging proudly on their backpacks, a scallop shell. This shell is a symbol that has come to represent the Camino de Santiago and they can also be seen on markings along the routes. The shell is seen as a metaphor for the pilgrimage, where the grooves in the shell coming together at a single point represents the various routes pilgrims travel, arriving at a single destination, the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. It is also a metaphor for the pilgrim where it is said that the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells upon the shores of Galicia and God's hand guides the pilgrims to Santiago.
Thousands of pilgrims set out on the Camino de Santiago for many different reasons. When you really think of it, why in the heck would anyone want to walk 67 to 500 miles and subject oneself to the elements, the blisters and the physical challenges? Aside from the religious and spiritual reasons, I've read that there are many people who make the walk in order to literally and figuratively find “their way”. And to what and/or to whom are they lead to? Is it to God, is it to find themselves or is it to gain a better understanding and appreciation for the value and simplicity of life? I think the answer lies within each of us as we make our own personal journey.
The decision to make this trip for me is more than just a travel and/or adventure decision. They say that this walk will be difficult, but to be honest some of the more rewarding things that I've done in my life so far did not come so easy. I remember when I first decided to train and run in my first marathon. It took me 9 long months and I had no idea what lessons I was to learn about myself or even that I would, until I did it. The only thing that I was certain about was that I was going to finish even if I had to crawl across that finish line. Well, thankfully that didn’t happen and I was able to finish the race leaping with joy and satisfaction across the finish line. In the end, the experience of taking that journey to train and run in my first marathon far outweighed the pain and struggles. I know that this journey will be the same. I really think that this will be a life changing experience.
My friends have challenged me to get in tip top shape for this adventure and I myself know that in order to walk the last 67 miles of the Camino de Santiago to earn my Compostela I must be in much better shape. Okay, I admit I’ve been very lazy the last couple of years, but I am so motivated to meet this challenge and train as hard as I know I am capable of training. Could it be that living a much healthier life is my calling here? In a book that I'm currently reading, the author (“I’m Off Then” by Hape Kerkeling) stumbled upon a poem that was written by an anonymous pilgrim along the Camino. Here's what he/she wrote:
"Why do I deal with the dry dust in my mouth,
The mud on my aching feet,
The lashing rain and the glaring sun on my skin?
Because of the beautiful towns?
Because of the churches?
Because of the food?
No. Because I was summoned!
Like others who are drawn to this pilgrimage, I'm not sure exactly "why" I’m doing it. The only one certainty I do have is knowing that I "need and want to do it." It too, is "summoning" me. And when something calls to my inner soul that profoundly, I simply must do it.
I have planned an intensive exercise and diet regiment which I hope will help me to reach my physical fitness goals. I’ve downloaded a couple of e-books and have started to bookmark several websites to keep me motivated and inspired as I prepare for this great lifetime adventure.
I’m going to journal about my training, my trip planning preparations and hopefully the actual experience itself. I haven’t quite figured out if I’m going to journal my experiences online or even that I should. After all, it would be quite an egg on my face embarrassment, if I write a lot about this adventure and “not” actually do it. But maybe sharing it online will help to keep me focused and committed to this journey. I guess as a compromise I can write about my training and trip preparations on my other site Trekcapri’s Travel Adventures until I have my plane tickets and I have 99% of my trip secured. And then I will blog here as I have traditionally done. I don’t know. Call it superstitious, but this has been a formula that has worked successfully for the past 7 solo trips that I've taken, so why stop now.
The plan is to do the Camino de Santiago this year although next year would actually be better because I’ll be able to have more time to train and I may be able to take more time off (maybe up to a month). And to be honest the more I'm reading about the Camino de Santiago, the more I really want to do the entire Camino de Frances route. Either way, I am looking forward to this adventure and dare I say, I may even go back for more. I mean after doing my first marathon, I didn't think that I would do another and yet I went on to do 2 more and several half marathons. Here's the thing, you can also do the Camino on a bike. Wouldn't that be an achievement to get a Compostela both by walking and biking. Snap! I'd better not get ahead of myself. What can I say, it’s the excitement. :)
I have seen a lot a videos of lessons learned by those who have walked the Camino. Here's one of my favorite YouTube Videos.
I will be very interested to learn what my own lessons will be. For now, all I know is that walking the Camino de Santiago is "summoning me" and so I must go.
Buen Camino, which means "have a good walk" is a saying/greeting that locals and fellow pilgrims say to each other throughout the Camino de Santiago. I shall practice this saying while training :), but I can't wait for the chance to say it when I get there.
So there you go. The Dream lives on. Buen Camino.