While walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I met other pilgrims who were walking the way for their second, fifth, or even eighth time.
While I was amazed and in awe as I struggled through my first Camino, I also understand now why some people get “hooked on” the Camino.
More than any pain, what stands out from walking 15-20 miles a day, is the time for reflection and a realization of what’s important in life. Everything seems so clear on the Camino.
Of course I promptly forgot all of this clarity upon returning home to the states. But these are the lessons I learned on the journey and am trying to relearn today.
- Most of my problems are not a big deal.
While on the Camino, there were inconveniences. Bed bugs, blisters, and general pain to name a few. If these problems had all hit me at once while at home, I would have been a mess. But by God’s grace, on the Camino I able to take them in stride and realize them for what they were: minor inconveniences that I’d laugh about in a week.
- Focus on today.
While walking, I couldn’t think about anything more in the future than getting to the destination that night. If anyone brought up the next day of walking, it was all I could do to keep from punching them. While slightly violent, this mindset taught me an important lesson: today is enough. We jokingly said to each other, “sufficient for a day is it’s own evil,” quoting Matt 6:34, and not just that the day was too difficult to think about another, but to soak up the joys and difficulties of today’s camino.
- Appreciate the little things.
During a difficult stretch of walking, or when I felt like I couldn’t make it any farther, I would notice some simple gift in nature that kept me going. Sometimes it was a beautiful landscape, sometimes a flock of sheep crossing the road, or even a friendly-looking cow would make me smile and be able to take another step. Now that I’m back at home, seeing the same things everyday can make it difficult to appreciate their beauty. I want to work on seeing with a new eye and appreciating small wonders.
- Live simply.
On the Camino, having one change of clothes and only a few possessions was freeing. Not only was the material simplicity liberating, but it was peaceful to know that all I had to do that day was walk, maybe it was 25 miles, but it was just walking. Even doing my laundry by hand in a metal basin with a washboard was a simple joy. So much of normal non-Camino life is complicated by technology, driving multiple places in one day and having an overwhelming amount of options of what to wear and what to eat. I hope to simplify some things in my everyday life like walking to meet a friend for lunch when I would normally drive, or hanging my clothes out on the line to dry, just for the refreshing time to think and the reminder not to hurry.
The Camino was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Hopefully I can remember what it taught me without walking 20 miles everyday.