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On the way to Camino de Santiago
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"Girl, I know what we are going to do in August".
It was Janice - my closest friend on the phone. We had planned to do a holiday together in Europe towards the end of August but the details were still undecided. Trips with some of my close friends is something I have committed to doing at least twice a year. Uninterrupted time with my best girlfriends tends to be good for my soul, for my marriage and also makes me a better mother. The plan was for my husband and daughter to go spend an extra week with his family in Tunisia at the end of our two month trip in Europe over the summer and for me to have a holiday with Janice. We had talked about doing a week in Sicily, she had suggested Ibiza or perhaps a week on a boat in Croatia. Any of those options would have been a dream holiday at another time, but for some reason this year it just didn't seem right.
"And what is that?" I said grinning at the sureness in her voice.
"We are going to walk" she responded. I got the chills - "Don't tell me you are going to talk to me about the Camino!" On a trip to India less than a month ago, a friend that I hadn't seen in over ten years had mentioned Camino de Santiago. While walking around Joggers Park in Mumbai, he had told me how transformational walking the Camino had been for him. I had filed that information away as something to look into for the future. Upon returning from India, on another walk with my cousin - the Camino came up again. My cousin talked about how she had planned to do it with friends but the plans had fallen through. She said "Perhaps it was for the best. Maybe I need to do it solo".
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
So when Janice called me and said we were walking I knew it had to be the Camino. It was the third time it had come up - all within a month. It felt like the Universe was telling me that I had to take this journey. I like to pay attention to messages from the Universe, especially when it's about a question that I've put out there.
"The universe works in mysterious ways. It is constantly working to make available to you the tools, the resources, the people, and the lessons you need to become the person you were meant to be which is why it’s so important to pay attention to signs from the universe." - Jack Canfield, Don't Ignore Signs from the Universe
Also, the idea of walking every day in nature or through small Spanish villages with Janice sounded pretty incredible. This was an opportunity for us to unplug, commune with nature and move our bodies on a daily basis. We were on board. We started looking into the details - bought special shoes, socks and a jacket.
In the past twelve days in Tunisia, I did four long walks, logging 25 miles in total. In some ways my journey to the Camino started that day when Janice called me. Why did I say yes? Because I’m excited by the adventure, excited about the journey itself. I think it’s going to challenge me in more ways than one and I’m looking forward to a little bit of adversity.
"The secret of the Camino is really it's utter lack of thrills. The quiet monotony is initially hard to deal with. At the beginning of the journey, interior shouting torments the modern pilgrim, who is generally unaccustomed to being understimulated. A thousand thoughts about life’s exigencies bite at the ankles; one is tempted to stop at every roadside café offering Wi-Fi to check in on the outside world. But by about day three, these torments begin to subside as the walk begins to slow the mind to the speed of the body at a pace that is natural and unforced. The walk becomes a long piece of music—andante, of course—that neither lags nor hurries."
- Arthur C Brooks, Go for a walk
For fun. When people ask why I’m doing the Camino, that’s the answer. It’s not for spiritual reasons, or to find myself. But I guess behind the fun, there are many layers of why, and why now.
The first time I heard about the Camino de Santiago was last autumn. I was staying on a farm learning about permaculture in a small seaside town called Kas, in southern Turkey. While on a walk into town with the farm owner, overlooking the Mediterranean, he seemingly out of nowhere said, you should do the Camino de Santiago. He said it was a transformative experience for him, backpacking alone with only your thoughts and nature, trekking for two straight weeks. It slightly piqued my interest, enough to do a bit of research into it, but not enough to add to my bucket list, or really to even think much about. Until one month ago while planning a holiday with Kinnari. Then during a conversation with Mitali, she mentioned the Camino. Instantly, it felt just like the right thing to do. Somehow, the idea of touring around an island, sitting by a pool… they all sounded frivolous. Instead, we decided to opt for a physically challenging experience - foot blisters, body aches et al.
Life presents so many opportunities for growth and self exploration, and much of the time, it’s the challenging moments that can bear the sweetest fruit, if you allow it. The Camino will likely test our physical capabilities, our patience, our ability to endure. I welcome them all.
But what I look forward to most on this journey is to be in nature. As the years go by, I’m understanding more and more why nature is restorative. We spend most of our days living in the psychological world of our own minds, disconnected from the living world, from the creator’s creation. Living in the city, we may go on hikes or to the park… but what would it be like to be immersed in the vast expansiveness, wild creation of life beyond our own bodies and minds? And without any transport but our own two legs?
So maybe I’m not looking for a spiritual experience, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Camino becomes one. Maybe I don’t need to find myself, but maybe I will find myself reflected in the shapes of life out there, just one of the infinite. Whatever it may be, knowing Kin and I, it most definitely will be loads and loads of fun.