Making Time for the Camino de Santiago

If all goes well, and God wills it, at the end of March, I will begin to walk the Camino de Santiago. It’s about time.

I have been thinking, dreaming, and planning for this for nearly 20 years. I first read about the pilgrimage to Santiago Compostela in a 14th century biography, The Book of Margery Kempe. Margery, a quirky English mystic, took several pilgrimages over the years, including Rome, and Jerusalem. The medieval and ancient concept of pilgrimage fascinated me.

Then a year later, I got to know a couple who cycled the Camino, and I found out about the French Way, the Camino Frances. Each year it seemed I met someone, a work colleague or a friend, who had walked the Camino. Author/friend Arthur Paul Boers wrote a book about his experience, The Way is Made by Walking. I loved reading about the community of seeking people that he met along the way. I especially liked the way Boers described walking as “going at the speed of life.” I wanted myself to slow down—my life speed was way faster than walking.

In more recent years, I have met even more people who have walked the Camino, and as I drew up lists of places to go or adventures to have, walking the 500 mile Camino Frances was always on the list. Author Dave Landis of the Village to Village guidebooks is another friend and neighbor, and a few years ago, he handed me a copy of his book on the Camino de Santiago to review. After devouring his volume, I knew I had to do it, and I began to lay plans. But time was still the question.

Now, being able to walk the Camino is about finally taking the time to fulfill a dream.

But taking this pilgrimage is also “about time” in another way.

Cliffs of Moher Ireland

Over the past dozen years, I have relocated my family twice and changed jobs, launched the last of my six children, risen to the pinnacle of my profession. But my last job, as a publisher for the Mennonite Church, was demanding. I traveled a good deal, spent time on the road, in the air, in airports and hotels. My life was very scheduled, with meetings to attend, phone calls to make, a constant stream of emails to pour over, manuscripts to review, spreadsheets and reports to read or prepare. I had “to-do” lists that were impossibly long. I became good at what I did, but my spirit was suffering from too much “busy-ness.” I wanted life to slow down so that I could savor it more. I had a longing for the “luxury of time.”

Ironically, during those years I even taught seminars about how to cure “hurry sickness” even while I suffered from a seemingly incurable case of it. I knew something had to change.

So when I say that it’s “about time,” I also mean that the desire to walk the Camino is about seeing time in a very different way. It’s about having time, experiencing the “luxury” of time.

This year I left my job and I am taking a sabbatical—for the whole year. I’m opening myself up to what I can experience in life if I lay aside all the planning and stress that normally comes with each day. For years what I had longed for the most was to eliminate “hurry” from my life. Walking the Camino now becomes a way that I reorient myself to this new way of living. As my friend Arthur Boers said in his book, “Technological culture—in spite of ‘labor-saving’ rhetoric and devices—actually makes us busier. Pauses, breaks and respites have disappeared. The norm of multitasking leaves us unaware of what goes on within or around us. But walking can move us into a different mode. Einstein showed us that time is relative. Moving on our own two feet has its own pace; I call it the speed of life.” What I hope to learn as I walk the Camino is how to move into this new mode and live at the “speed of life.”

Old rag Virginia

While I know that I can walk 500 miles in 31 days, I am going to allow myself a longer time. I’m not going to schedule myself. My only plan is to get up each day, walk and see what happens, see who I meet, experience whatever the day has for me. I will try to go about 15 miles a day, and that’s the most structure I will keep. When asked about what I intend to do while I walk, I reply, “think, pray, talk to strangers and new friends and see what opens up for me each day.” This is the opposite of my tight schedule, fast-paced work, and home life. It’s an attitude that I hope that I can keep when I return.

In the 1970’s I went to a large state university where I had to walk four to five miles per day between my apartment/dorm and classes. I enjoyed the walk—I often found it allowed me to think freely and creatively. Lately, I have taken to walking to any destination I can around town, even if it takes me longer. (I often frustrate neighbors and other drivers when I turn down their invitation for a lift.) I hope and pray that simply walking will allow my creative juices to flow, that I can let new inspiration percolate to the surface of my life again.

Lastly, I hope and pray that when I return from Santiago, I will keep with me a new orientation as a “Peregrinatio” or pilgrim in life. I pray that I may keep  with the words of St. Columbanus, who in the sixth century said, “Therefore let this principle abide with us, that on the road we live as travelers, as pilgrims, as guests of the world…, singing with grace and power, ‘When shall I come and appear before the face of my God?’”

This post was written by Russ Eanes, who will soon be starting the Camino.

9 thoughts on “Making Time for the Camino de Santiago”

  1. Bon voyage to you, Russ Eanes. You’ll find plenty to occupy your time on the Camino but you should have more control over your time than when at work. Happy walking.
    Best wishes
    Catherine Parker (who walked, along with the occasional train journey, the Camino in 2000. It changed my outlook on life – for the better.)

  2. Buen Camino! I completed the miraculous journey into Santiago in 2018. May your journey bring you blessedly closer to yourself, your brethren and your Creator.

  3. Russ
    Enjoy ´living in the moment’…. Immersed …one step at a time, acknowledging your surroundings through your senses.
    His Presence will give you rest.
    Buen Camino!!

    • What a lovely sentiment, which is exactly the way I foresee doing my Camino in 2022.

      I had it all planned & scheduled for June-July 2020 because I was going to take my time; we all know what happened, but things happen for a reason. I am looking forward to doing it next year … God willing, of course.

  4. Enjoy! Like you, I put off doing the Camino for years do to finding the right time. Finally I put everything on hold and was scheduled to walk my Camino in 2017 – and fell at home on three little steps and shattered my femur the day before I was to leave! Two years ago- 2020 – I was finally released to do more than walk around the block. However, I think I waited too long as I don’t believe I could do it now. I will just have to live it through those of you who can!

  5. How exciting Russ!
    My 74 yr old father has done 3 Caminos almost consecutively and has fallen in love with it, being a Pilgrim. You will do well. BUEN CAMINO!!

  6. Hello Russ
    Thank you for your story, how wonderful to be at the start of your journey. I walked in April/May this year in 40 days. I’m an older woman and not very fit and went quite slowly. It was a truly life-changing experience. I did want to say that you might like to consider building in reflection days at the end of your walk. I didn’t and think it may have been a helpful way to consolidate and integrate the lessons and peace of the Way. I know from friends on the Camino that there is a wonderful Albergue which specifically offers this service at the end. Every blessing on your journey, what a glorious place to be – at the start!!

  7. As the previous post said – what a glorious place to be – at the start!
    You still have ahead of you that unrepeatable feeling of walking in to the square in front of the cathedral for the first time – that feeling alone is worth walking 500 miles to experience.
    I would suggest that you walk on to Finisterre and Muxia if you have the time, as there are fewer people about and the scenery is fantastic, especially around Lires on the way to Muxia. Many people do not bother to walk on, which is a loss for them I think.
    May God bless you on your journey – the Camino will provide everything that you need. Buen Camino!


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