I’m heading back to the Camino de Santiago
Anyone who willingly decides to walk 800km across Spain with blisters covering your feet, torrential rains, and the risk of bed bugs has to be at least a little crazy right? I know I thought that dozens of times when I walked the Camino de Santiago earlier this year. There were times when I was ready to quit, but I always knew I needed to walk it, despite the pain and struggles. Perhaps it is because of the pain and struggles – both physically and mentally – that we walk it.
So what do you call someone who walks the Way a second time? Bat-shit crazy? Probably.
When I arrived in Santiago de Compostela after 27 days of walking I already knew I would return some day. Over the weekend I made it official. I booked my flights for next May. Why am I walking it again? To be honest, I’m not sure. Last time I had this overwhelming need to walk the camino, to find myself. This time it is less about me. It’s more about the camino: the history, the albergues, the other pilgrims, everything but me. I don’t really know why, but the calling is there. I have to follow it, whatever will come of it. That’s how the camino works.
Just like last time, the Way is starting to consume my thoughts again.
Have I forgotten how bloody pain it was? No – absolutely not. The skin on my feet are still rock hard as a reminder of the blisters I endured and the searing needles of pain each time I started walking.
Have I forgotten the sparse, communal accommodation that drove me crazy by the end? No. I still remember drying my clothes and attempting to keep warm with tiny space heaters that kept tripping the electrical breaker. Or the albergue where a group of middle aged Polish men insisted on walking around in their underwear singing loudly while a fellow pilgrim and I hunted our bunks for bed bugs after we found one on a pillow? Nope. I remember that too. I even remember the nuns who fucked with my mind in Carrion. I won’t forget them any time soon. (but I probably won’t stay there this time!)
I remember it all — the good, the bad, and the times where I just mindlessly slogged away for miles and miles. But mostly I remember the time to think, to slow down, and to be happy with simplicity of life when everything you need fits into a small backpack, and everyone you meet is generous and giving.
I miss the cobblestone paths and golden light of early morning.
I miss the time to stop and reflect whilst the afternoon sun warms you and you look out over a landscape that has inspired hundreds of paintings and endless lives over a thousand years of the camino.
In the end, the call to walk The Way a second time comes down to growth and self-discovery. The more I explore and experience the world, the more I grow. I learned so much the first time when I walked the Camino that I want to continue this journey. And where better to do it then in an albergue surrounded by friends discussing life over a menu de peregrino and a glass of vino tinto grown in a vineyard on the hill next door. Buen Camino!