Hiking the Camino Frances Again

Hello, Camino friends I was recently reading the Camino Forums and felt inspired to write a little about my pilgrimage down the Camino Francis and why I chose to hike it again the next year before I had even finished my first one.

camino-frances

I first heard about the Camino de Santiago from a friend whom I went on a yearly trek with. We had climbed the peaks Mt. Chirropo in Costa Rica, went to the depths of the earth together to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and hiked the ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

So, it was only fitting that we walked the Camino together. We set our date to leave in June 2013. But, as many of you know and some will find out, that your pilgrimage does not start the day you leave.

Your pilgrimage starts the day the idea enters your mind. And, then even more so when you make the commitment to go. As time passed my friend decided to drop out, but I was committed and went without him. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart it was one of the best choices I had ever made.

I am a sort of a nomad myself. A digital nomad if you will. I have lived all over the US, spent a year on the beach in Costa Rica. I have also lived in Cusco, Peru while contracting myself out online to produce income from my laptop as I go. So going abroad all alone isn’t my greatest fear, although it is a present fear. But, what I have found, and so many travelers agree, is when you take that leap of faith, The Universe brings you some of the most amazing, enriched and kind people to help you along your way.

This is what I happened during my pilgrimage. I took another great leap of faith into the vast unknown and left the US for St. Jean Pied-de-Port on June 19th, 2013, the day after my 33rd birthday. I used the wisdom from my guidebook and booked my first night at the hostel named L’Esprit du Chemin. It was the perfect start to the perfect Camino. We had a communal dinner together hosted by volunteers of the hostel and received a really nice blessing from the emcee.

What I didn’t know at that moment, within that group of people that I was eating with, four of them would become lifelong friends. They would become a part of my Camino Family. They would become so close to me that I miss them on a daily basis and think of them all the time.

I left St. Jean the next morning and walked for the next 33 days. Our Camino family grew to around 12 people with some hikers tagging along and dropping off every now and then. For me, the other Pilgrims….the other hikers….the Camino Family was the absolute best part of the hike.

Within a matter of days, we grew together and bonded as none of us had before. In a sense, we truly needed each other because, in a way, our survival depended on it. We all have a family and are blessed in one way or another to have that family. But, to bond with others in a way that you would trust your life in their hands, while not knowing who that person was a week prior. This forms a relationship that is not only priceless but a relationship where there are no words that exist in any language to truly describe.

The closest one could come to that bond is using the word ‘LOVE’. And that word still shoots short of how I feel for my Camino Family.

The next 33 days were challenging…but graceful. At times it was peaceful, other times frustrating, sometimes the euphoria was indescribable and sometimes it was just plain boring. But this exists with all things. I could go into detail about intimate conversations I had with priests, or a lost inspiration I re-found in religion. I could tell you about the singing nuns in Carrion or getting lost in the mountains near Dragonite and being taken in by a local family, and discussion over boots or shoes. The stories of adventure and misadventure could go on and on, as resides true for most pilgrims.

But, I will keep it as short as possible to tell you this story. Within 3 weeks of being on the Camino, I had decided to walk another pilgrimage somewhere. By the 4th week, I had decided to come back and hike Camino Frances again.

After making this commitment many people have asked or told me “Why don’t you hike another trail?”, “Are you trying to re-create your first Camino?”, “Don’t you think you should hike another pilgrimage in another country?”, “It will never be as good as the first time.”. Well, I have an answer for all of those. I realized I wanted to go back because…for me…..for my life, it is not about doing as many trips or pilgrimages that I can. It is about doing the ones that I favor.

Some may not fancy hiking the Camino Francis a second time. But for me, the Camino Francis is like a woman that I love. Why waste my time finding more excitement and connection with others, when I can gracefully grow and reside happily in her presence. It’s not about being with all of them, it is about being with one of them…with excellence.

Not only did I choose to hike the Camino Francis again, because I love it. But, I also decided to add a little caveat to the hike this year. A group of us are hiking this year to raise money to build an orphanage in Ghana, Africa. This home will provide a safe haven and support ex-slave children. Children that were sold into this horrible life will be removed from slavery and brought to a place where they can be children again. They will receive an education, clean water, good food, and parental figures that they can trust and love. In August, we will be traveling to Ghana to build this home and work side by side with the villagers.

I have found, that in life when you commit to one thing when you are wholeheartedly committed to what you truly want, limitless inspiration and opportunities will grow from that. When I fell in love with Camino Francis and my Camino Family, I also fell in love with commitment. And this fact will change everything for the rest of my life.

Buen Camino, Chris Reynolds

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6 Comments

  1. Alan on October 15, 2018 at 3:25 am

    Hi there,
    Yes the second Camino is never as amazing as the first, but it is still wonderful, meeting people from all over the world, and the Spanish people who you have never met before, will help you if you have strayed from the Way, to anyone who is thinking of going, Just Go!- any preparation will make it easier, and more enjoyable, I am going again in 2020, to celebrate my 80th birthday, Buen Caminos. Alan

    • E. Jensen on October 16, 2018 at 4:46 pm

      I just returned last week from walking the Camino from Pamplona, a week ago and miss it already. I’m 72 and already thinking about going again. After reading about your plan to walk again for your 80th, you just gave me the inspiration I need to walk again for my 74th or 75th! You really did. Thank you and buen camino!

  2. Howard Kaufman on October 15, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    My experience on the CAMINO Frances was identical to yours. I keep in contact with my CAMINO family on a weekly basis.

  3. Marcia Shaver on October 17, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    I walked my Camino Frances in 2008, and since then I have walked the Via de la Plata, Portuguese, and Le Puy routes. They were all beautiful and different and amazing. I learned what I needed to each time……but none of the others had the meaning for me that the Camino Frances did. I have wanted to take my husband on the Camino Frances for years, because he just doesn’t get it. He walked part of the Portuguese and the whole Le Puy routes with me, but not until we reached St. Jean Pied de Port at the end of our walk across France did he feel the change in the energy. We walked on to Pamplona and he has commented so many times about how different the spirit and friendliness is. I think he is ready now for this most special of all the Caminos!

  4. Kevin Rogers on October 17, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    Well said Leslie,
    I have been on the Camino Frances
    4 years in a row and meet wonderful people each time. The social aspect is by far my favorite part of walking.
    People never cease to amaze me.
    Kevin

  5. Richard Kurniawan on October 24, 2018 at 4:53 am

    Hi Chris,
    I did my first camino in 2014 from Leon and in 2017 from Porto. It make me feel something different that I am curious to walk again and the again. So I plan to do again next year from St.Jean de Port on my 70 yrs birthday. I feel walking in a big family in peaceful. Best regards from Indonesia.

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