Why I am Hiking the Camino Frances Again

red earth on the Camino

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 El 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 for 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 Dragonte and being taken in by a local family. The stories of adventure and mis-adventure 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 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, excellently.

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 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

29 replies
  1. Jonny
    Jonny says:

    Inspiring! One day I want to walk the Camino France – I already walked the Portuguese route last year, the real challenge lies in this one!

    Reply
    • Victor Manuel Diez
      Victor Manuel Diez says:

      I felt deeply touched by your wonderful description of the Camino trail. I, too, enjoyed experiences similar to the ones you so accurately described.

      Reply
      • Genevieve
        Genevieve says:

        Was interesting to read of your experiences, the strongest message that came across was the value of people you met, the Camino gives us what we need but also challenges us, buen Camino
        Genevieve

        Reply
  2. Lang
    Lang says:

    Thank you Chris. I leave for the camino in two weeks and just this morning told my husband that I made a mistake. I’m absolutely terrified that I will completely fall apart obj physically and emotionally. Your post has helped me to take a breath And trust.

    Lisa

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Your welcome Lang 🙂 When we were hiking the Camino we came across a 80 year old woman and a blind woman hiking. Good luck and Buen Camino

      Reply
    • suzanne Franklin
      suzanne Franklin says:

      Don’t be terrified Lisa. My sister and I walked the Camino in Aug/Sept 2013 It was the most difficult, challenging, beautiful amazing adventure I have ever experienced. Would I do it again? Yes. 1000 times yes!
      Suzanne
      caminowalkers2013.blogspot.com

      Reply
  3. Ken
    Ken says:

    The camino was the greatest experience of my life. I left on April fools day of 2013 and still are in touch with people I met along the way. I started by mysf and also ended with life long friends. All I can say is it was amazing and I will return not a day has passed without me thinking about it. Ken from Mass

    Reply
  4. Grateful Pilgrim
    Grateful Pilgrim says:

    Thank you Chris for sharing your feelings about the Camino. That is exactly how I feel and now I know how to explain to family and friends why I want to walk the Camino again.

    Reply
  5. TheOldIrishman2012
    TheOldIrishman2012 says:

    Hi Jonny, how did you find the Portugese Camino. I have heard that it is the quietest and least frequented Camino.

    Reply
  6. Rod Mullen
    Rod Mullen says:

    I walked in 2003 with my two 10 yr old grandchildren– from St Jean to Finisterre. An experience to treasure for all. Despite arthritis , I hope to walk it again next year

    Reply
  7. Luba Lubinsky
    Luba Lubinsky says:

    I walked Camino Frances in August-September 2012. (I actually began in Lourdes, which was an amazing 7 day preparation for the first leg after St. Jean Pied de Port.) I recently re-watched a video of myself describing the surroundings and accounting a few of my experiences after my 5th day of walking: I declared at the end, that I could not figure out why I felt so fantastic. Then 52, I realized that I had never felt more alive — ever! There is nothing like the solitude, personal challenge and spectacular beauty of the Camino to quiet the mind and distill the best of all things in the heart. I hope and dream of walking again.

    Reply
  8. Beth
    Beth says:

    Wow!!! Chris your description has been the best I’ve read so far. I actually found the Camino by chance after watching “The Way.” I was so touched and inspired, and it was immediately added to my bucket list. The reasons you spoke of are exactly why I feel such a pull to do something like this. Since you were coming from the U.S., and I would be as well, what were your approximate costs to do this, if you don’t mind me asking? I want to have a number in mind so I know what to save up to, so we can make this a possibility. Thank you so much for your awesome post!!

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Hey Beth, I was inspired to do the Camino from the movie ‘The Way’ also. My friend recommended it to me. As far as costs go….well that will all depend on you. There are no approximate costs for a trip like this. I met people on the Camino getting by on 10 Euro ($13.50 USD at that time) a day. I also met people spending $70 USD a day. I recommend searching some blogs (this is a great one) and cost lists to see what others recommend. I budgeted $3000 USD and only spent $2500. I found that $2500 was even quite a bit of money. I had a very abundant Camino. So it will all depend on you. . I hope that gives you a good range to estimate with. Buen Camino Amiga!

      Reply
  9. Erling Agnew
    Erling Agnew says:

    After seeing the film, the way, I too decided that a point in my life had come where I needed to do some soul searching and find new dirrection. At age 53 I was becoming more of a couch potato than I cared for. So in August 2013, my life partner and I started our walk from St. Jean. At first I felt the urge to hurry to reach our destination for the first day, but after a few hours in the warm damp drizzle it seemed senseless to rush to the finish. This feeling of slowly merging with nature and the sounds along the trail gave me a truly relaxed view on the road ahead. We had a master plan for our journey, but this soon changed to waking up in the morning and accepting whatever happened during the day, and enjoying wherever it was we ended up in the evenings. We made a point of having our evening meals with our fellow travellers, and made some very good friends from distant places, some of whom we still keep in touch with.
    We are returning this year in august to continue where we ended last year, and have more time to complete the distance remaining.
    We are looking forward to continuing the journey.
    ps. I am no longer a couch potato.
    Thanx for reviving good memories from the camino.

    Reply
  10. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    This was a spur of the moment trip for my husband and I. We met our daughter in Pamplona and started from there. I am not a walker so I was very reluctant to do this trip. I arrived home just 3 days ago and decided I need to do this trip again and do it slower to take in every sight and sound. We met some of the most wonderful pilgrims on this journey. Two walked almost the entire route with us and we “leap frogged” many others. It is amazing how close you get, You feel you’ve known these people all your life and in reality it may be just two weeks. What a bond!! What an experience this trip has been. And how I love walking now and can’t wait for my next trip!

    Reply
  11. David Barrett
    David Barrett says:

    Hi Chris, You have summed it up completely and I am so glad that you are returning to walk again for a heart-warming cause. In my own case, back in about 1998, I had been trekking in Nepal for several months, and during a rest period in Kathmandu, was browsing through a book shop in Kathmandu (named appropriately ‘Pilgrims’) when a book with the title ‘The Ten Best Walks in the World’ drew my attention and I discovered Camino de Santiago. I thought that sounds like something I could do when I am older. So in 2010, age 79, I walked from St Jean to Finisterre. In 2011 I walked from Pau in France over the Somport Pass to Santiago, and in 2013, walked part of the VDLP, then Pamplona to Santiago and also the Camino Portuguese during which I celebrated my 82nd birthday. So for those who think they are too old, age is only a number, not an impediment. I hope to go next year on the Camino Frances from St Jean.
    Buen Camino. David

    Reply
  12. Ken Wahl
    Ken Wahl says:

    With so many paths in life, why walk the same again? Because it’s easy, and people lack the inner force to try something truly new.

    Reply
  13. Terence McHugh
    Terence McHugh says:

    Also walked the Francis in 2013 :and said I would never be one of those idiots that went back for more punishment. I started to write a book about my journey and by the time I finished I knew I was one of those idiots and went back to walk the Frances again in April this year 2015. Once again I said never again and once again I am going back. Dont yet know when, just know it is going to happen within the next 2 years
    Buen Camino
    Terry

    Reply
  14. Agueda Monica
    Agueda Monica says:

    I am 69 I walked the Camino Frances three Timesand i hope to’ do it again next year. Buen Camino to every one

    Reply
  15. Angelo
    Angelo says:

    We will walk the french Camino again because it offers more accommodations choices to the pilgrims.
    Sept 18, 2015 will be ours 7th Camino Frances..

    Reply
  16. tapir tales
    tapir tales says:

    I think every pilgrim is struggling with the same question. Walk another one or keep it unique? I’ve walked from St. Jean to Cape Finisterre in May. It took me 30 days. I’ve enjoyed every meter and lived every ritual. I didn’t do too much research as I wanted to walk into the unknown. I’m not sure I can ever relive this. Now I’m writing down every stage on my blog. I notice tons of missed opportunities. Maybe I should have spent more time here or there. But hey, you win some, you loose some. I’m mostly grateful for an exceptional journey. One part of me wants to walk another one, maybe the Northern Camino. The other half says: no, keep it unique. I guess only time will give the final answer. Buen camino.
    rik aka tapir tales

    Reply
  17. Louis Barrau
    Louis Barrau says:

    When I had finished my camino and returned home, I felt this yearning to walk again the Camino Frances. A few years later I started the pelgimage all over again. The adventures were quite different especially the people I met on the way. The Camino has set me free from the rigours of the past. I felt reborn. For that reason I started to go back again, but now I was driven by the urge to do something back. Half way there is a refugio run by the English Fraternity of St James. For two weeks I ran it as the host to accomodate pilgrims. That in itself was an unforgettable experience. Buen Camino ! Louis

    Reply

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