The Camino de Santiago has ended for us — some of us went home and others have continued to travel on. We all can agree that we appreciated the journey, and have been enlightened in big or small ways. We pushed our limits, and made it to the very end, and that feeling of accomplishment is something we can never forget. Now that it is over, we have a better understanding of why people continue to travel along the multiple ways of St. James — some had religious reasons and some had spiritual or recreational reasons, but regardless of that it is time needed away from the daily stressors of life, just like they did during medieval times. A pilgrim will go through times of reflective solitude and also times being vulnerable with a complete stranger. Phil Cousineau, the author of The Art of Pilgrimage says, “Pilgrimage means following in the footsteps of somebody or something we honor to pay homage. It revitalizes our lives, reinvigorates our very souls.” The people in the past carved the path, and we people of the present continue to use the path in our own ways.
When one walks 116km, it can challenge the way you look at your world. In my hometown, and many places in America, a walk of more than five minutes is considered a long walk. In Spain, in the cities especially, that was not the case. We walked everywhere out of necessity, and this is after already walking 15 miles from town to town. My feet held up well, but my illusions of distance did not. No longer will I lament a ten minute walk if I miss the bus. I know how far and, to be frank, how easy a thirty minute walk really is. I actually enjoyed walking — it brought prospective and easy time for reflection. Or, if you tire of yourself and your thoughts, some earbuds and an album always serves to keep you occupied. Plus, while you see the landscape from the backseat of a car, you FEEL the landscape when you walk it. Each hill becomes a journey, each stretch of open ground in the hot sun a gauntlet. I did not feel the elation that was reported upon seeing the Cathedral of Saint James, but I did when John and I scaled the hill to the hotel after walking forty minutes from the center of town. Do I regret walking? No, and my feet do not either.
The Camino for me was a pretty moving experience. I really got to know myself and what I am capable of achieving. Hiking the Camino, even for only 100 kilometers, was extremely difficult. We forged friendships and created lasting bonds together, but we all grew individually as well.
It took a lot of personal perseverance to achieve what we did and I look at my Compostela now, knowing that I am capable of more than I think sometimes. The Camino is a metaphor for life for me, it has moments of pure joy as well as arduous hills to climb, but every step of the way is an achievement.