The Camino Frances de Santiago de Compostela
It´s definitely a misnomer to title this final thoughts as I know I will be thinking about this Camino journey for a long time to come and I´m sure my impressions and memories will be enhanced when I have more time to reflect on this experience. However, here are some initial final thoughts. Ha!
It is what it is and it is what you make of it.
Wanderlust or pilgrims´quest, it is what you make of it. It can be as spiritual, as solitary, as communal, as cultural or as physical as you choose it to be. For me, it became an exceptional physical challenge as early on I developed tendinitis in my left ankle (probably because of the weight of carrying a backpack and overstriding to keep up with the others). We chose to walk every day, to push ourselves (although at the time I did not think of it as pushing myself as much as just keeping at it), to not take rest days, to walk more than 25kms most days and so the physicality of it all seemed to dominate. Actually, it wasn't so much that we chose to push ourselves but that one just gets caught up in the momentum and then you just get up and go each day.
While dealing with tendinitis emphasized the physical toll the camino took on me, the most impressive aspect of the camino was the people we met and the friendships we made. I know we will meet up with so many of these people again sometime in our life.
Arthur Boer noted several affirmations to think about on the Camino and I amended them for myself:
I am where I want to be.
I am doing what I want to do.
I am enjoying who I am with.
I will remember this.
Arthur Boer also started his book with "I once walked 500 miles to go to church".
I´m starting my book with "I once walked 500 miles to lose .3kg". Unfortunately that weight loss was short lived as I quickly regained that .3kg three days after that I quit walking.
Was it what I expected?
It took more of a physical toll than I expected. I never anticipated an insidiuous injury I couldn´t just tough out.
I don´t know at what point you can define something as spiritual so I can´t say if it was as spiritual as I expected. I certainly had many moments of zen when I was at peace with and in awe of my surroundings. The first three days walking the Meseta were particularly zen-like, so vast, green, serene, still and endless.
The community of pilgrims met my expectations. Wonderful, enjoyable and fun.
The scenery, the culture, the people of Spain and the pilgrims we met, were all as wonderful as I had expected and hoped.
It was more expensive than I thought it would be but that´s our economic style anyway. We always spend more than we planned but at the same time we didn´t spend on anything but food and wine. Well, there was one little 18carat gold shell pendant but that was planned before we left Canada.
I enjoyed the Camino community of pilgrims. I enjoyed the comaraderie and fellowship of meeting and sharing stories and life experiences, of eating together and walking together. I never got to the point of enjoying the communal living in terms of sharing dormitories or communal washrooms or showers.
I toughed out a lot of walks, toughed out carrying probably too much weight, toughed out being a vegetarian in a meatarian society but couldn´t get around toughing out cold showers or lack of toilet paper. Come on!
Things I´m Grateful For
That I did this with Dayton. He´s a great map reader and path finder. He was patient with my slower walking pace ( he didn't adjust his pace to it but he did wait patiently for me to catch up) and with carrying some of my stuff; sleeping and shower gear and my Keens.
I'm grateful for the alternative routes and the detours which he suggested and which we took: Bercianos, Samos, the high route out of Villafranca del Bierzo. Each one turned out to be a delightful surprise.
Would I Do it Again
I would definitely like to do a Camino again but would most likely try some of the other Caminos such as Le Puy on Velay through France and, maybe later, the Camino Via Plata from Seville, or the Camino Portuguese or Camino Arles. I would probably try to be less of a purist (if that´s the correct word I´m searching for) about it, taking some time off instead of making it a marathon, treating and resting the injuries instead of pushing through them and making them worse. Well that would be my intent anyway, whether it would evolve that way is another question. And I might investigate more private alberques or pensionnes. And like all pilgrims, I would pledge to be more ruthless about the weight in my pack and carry less. Ha!
Admiration and Respect
I admire and respect and am in awe of those who undertake this Camino on their own, especially the women. I know I would worry or second guess myself all the time wondering if I was following the right path, especially early in the morning.
Did I live up to my personal goals? I think so.
Did I whine? I had set a goal to not whine and I don´t think I did although Dayton will note that I did mention my bad left ankle more than a couple of times. Even on the days when we had to add a few extra or even 15kms to our walk I didn´t voice my inner whines.
Did I live in the moment? Maybe. I enjoyed the moment but confess I was often thinking ahead to the next village, the next alberque, the next café stop or the next pilgrims´meal.
Did I pay attention? Definitely. I learned on the Wainwright Coast to Coast that all I was seeing were my boots so this time I was determined to pay attention and remember where I was, what I saw and, with the help of my journals and blogs, I think I will remember so much more about the Camino.
Did I let things irritate me? Nope, I was pretty good about accepting things. A couple of times the snorers and the pushy people kind of put me off my camino feelings of zen. The most irritating things on the camino were the cold showers and the lack of toilet paper.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda?
What do I wish we had done differently? Taken less (like everyone else). Stayed one more day in Santiago. Planned four days to get to Fisterre and then maybe added Muxia.