I first walked the Camino Frances in 2004.
I was a student at the time and I wanted something to do during the summer. One of my college mates had walked from Holland to Santiago a few years before and he kept going on about this “Camino de Santiago” – to me it sounded horrible, walking all day across Spain, carrying my own clothes, sleeping in a hostel / albergue with many others I did not know. No thanks.
Dara, my friend, ended up making it sound good and I decided to “give it a try” – I had no religious or spiritual beliefs regarding the Camino, even though I was a student at Ireland’s main Catholic University. My thoughts setting out on the journey were – if I don’t like this experience I will just go somewhere else in Europe for the Summer.
My Camino journey turned into “something” for me – and I still have problems putting that something into words many years later. My attitude and thinking about some things changed while there – I spent time talking to people who gave their time freely to man albergues, I talked to many others walking the Camino from all over the world – something happened to me, and it was good, very good.
I endured somethings that I never thought I would, I became ill and was helped – I came back from my first Camino a stronger and perhaps a more caring person – and in a strange way I developed some pride in an achievement that I had not set out to achieve.
I went back and walked again the next year. It was different, this time I went with a different mind and a softer heart.
I am not generally given to hyperbole or psycho mumbo jumbo, however the Camino changed my life and the direction. I now believe that journeys like this are very important for people and it is a great idea to do it at least once.
I would rather that pilgrims did not set out with a mind like mine the first time – but if that is where they are at that time, then so be it. I talked, listened, and read at lot on the Camino.
The one thing that I read that sticks in my mind today goes things like this, forgive my paraphrasing. While on the Camino you follow the yellow arrows, they show you the way, give direction. What do you follow after the Camino?
All the best to everyone for 2009