The Way of Saint James of Compostela; what to expect?
Looking for a unique adventure? A spiritual quest? A way to reconnect with time? Then the way of Saint James of Compostela or the camino de santiago is for you!
When my mother told me that she would like to do the Camino de Santiago or the Saint James of Compostela Way I wondered if I would be able to join her. I should tell you that we watched together a movie about it and since that day we both wanted to go for it – together or not, that was the question. It just so happens that my mother and I have always enjoyed hiking and given the year that both of us had just gone through, this road seemed to be THE journey to undertake. Both my mother and I had to reconnect with ourselves, find a goal and accomplish something out of the ordinary. The Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James of Compostela is more than just a simple hike; it is a pilgrimage in the true sense of the word, not necessarily religious but intimate, personal, a journey to rediscover one’s faith.
The Way of Saint James of Compostela to find an objective
This year, after having gone through harassment, burnout and having been fired, I decided to focus my energy on our project, this blog, The GreenPick. But as it happens with every risky undertaking – especially after having lost all confidence in my capabilities – I had a tough time believing that I would be able to make it happen successfully. I still don’t believe in myself, but at least I am working on it! I did not have the opportunity to walk the whole Camino Francès (the French way) but my mother did. She crossed 784 km in 33 days at the age of 50 with oosteoarthritis and bone calcifications. I am in such awe of her accomplishment…
And when I asked her after joining her on the road in Saint James of Compostela if she had found a purpose, answers that she needed by starting the Camino de Santiago, the only thing that she told me was as follows: “No, but I know that I do not want to go back home; we, humans, are not made for this imposed sedentary lifestyle! Before leaving I could barely walk. And now it’s been a month that I’m only doing that. The Camino de Santiago doesn’t provide answers but allows you to change your notion of time. One step after the other…This is how I would like my life to be lived, by taking the time to ask myself the right questions, by feeling my body and through sharing.”
“One step after the other, this is how life should be lived”
I think that my mother was happy to have walked the Camino de Santiago on her own, but glad to see me and share this part of the journey with me, something, that according to her, made the trip special. I believe that my presence gently brought her back to reality before life resumed its usual course, while giving her the opportunity to share a piece of her wisdom and experience with me. I represented the end of the effort and the culmination of a month’s march.
Post-camino impressions (Way of Saint James of Compostela)
I do not know exactly how to describe what I felt during the 5 days spent with my mother on the Spanish roads: suffering, freezing and sweating, being hungry and thirsty, and forgetting about the existence of time. An experience so intense and vivid that I would like to be able to relive it. I find it impossible to compare it to my other trips or even to other hikes of several days – this sensation of freedom, of linking myself to the essential things in life and of not living for any other reason but advancing on the road. It’s difficult to explain but as I am writing these words from the Madrid airport, I feel completely disconnected from the real world. I guess it’s the side effect of having lived such an enriching experience in such a short amount of time. And obviously, the Starbucks where I am sitting is playing songs that are rather melancholic and depressing, a total mood killer!
So, if you are doing the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage to find answers, it’s completely useless. You will only find yourselves ridden with more questions. The true answer is to be found in the road itself – this intense, consistent effort – as hiking with a backpack comprising all your “life” weighing 8 kg is very different from a walk downtown, trust me! The physical effort, the brief encounters with people from all walks of life and cultures (like this guy we met who saved a kitten on the road and carried him since then on his backpack), but especially the solitude – if you do it alone which is actually recommended by the majority of pilgrims – are your answers. This road is a surpassing of oneself, a questioning of one’s life rhythm and a body awareness buildup.
Comparison with the movie The Way; a non ending road
The movie “The Way” ends in a manner that makes you understand that there is no real finish line to the way of Compostela. The Camino de Santiago is more than a simple pilgrimage or a hike, it’s a way of life. During a month habits settle in – the way of packing and unpacking, the preparation of the bed in the hostels or the cerveza cana at the end of the day…Then sleeping, eating and walking, listening to music, reflecting, hearing oneself think, saying “Buen Camino” while meeting other pilgrims then starting again for the duration that you want. Your path, your way, becomes your life for a while. So, there is no end to the camino and I can assure you of one thing: you will realize that each step counts and you will never walk again without having a thought for the camino.
Now that I am finalizing this article that I started writing a month ago, I am realizing that my sensations are just as vivid as they were when I finished the way of Saint James de Compostela. On the other hand, my memories are lost in a conscience of time that has been altered. I am not sure anymore of the days or of the exact moments when I crossed certain spots. During the camino time is different and I am under the strong impression that those 5 days were actually weeks! And that’s where the charm of the camino is to be discovered…In figuring out that it’s not because we do hundreds of things daily or we gain an appropriate return on investment on our days that we will have been left with the impression that we have accomplished a great deal of things. On the camino you don’t accomplish anything but walking the number of kilometers that you set for yourself. And yet days will feel so full that you will completely lose the notion of time.
Translation & Copy Editing by Liana Marinoiu