In an effort to bring you some new voices on Ottsworld, here is a guest post from artist, writer, and hiker, Kate. I met Kate when she contacted me about her Camino de Santiago art business. I thought it sounded like such a great idea and way to have the Camino live on in a unique way! She had hiked the entire thing twice and that made me curious. I wanted to know what was it about the Camino that brought her back to walk the same route again. There are a lot of readers interested in the Camino de Santiago, so I asked her to share that experience on my blog. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did! All opinions and experiences expressed here are hers. –Sherry
Tired, sick, completely exhausted and wondering what on earth I had just committed myself too I arrived at the albergue in Roncesvalles. It had been a grueling 36 hours of travel from Calgary, Canada (where I was living at the time) to Northern Spain to hike 800k, completely alone, with very rusty and bad knowledge of the Spanish language, just the clothes on my back and feeling absolutely petrified! What was I doing!???
Let me tell you how it turned into the most amazing experience of my life! The reasons below, from big to small, explain why and how it turned into my life’s passion. Why I’ve been back a second time and why I want to return again and again! Don’t be afraid, even the bad things are good! You’ve heard why you should walk the Camino de Santiago solo, but let’s back up and just talk about why you should walk it in general, and come back again!
Why Walk the Camino – I’ll Give You 12 Reasons
1. The People
For a lot of people, the sheer number that walk El Camino de Santiago; Camino Frances, especially in the summer months, may be enough to put a person off! I know it puts my mum off! And to be honest I’ve never been good in large crowds either, but I decided the pull to hike the Camino became strong enough that I ignored any doubt and just booked my ticket.
In the end the people honestly became one of the biggest reasons I love the Camino and reasons I miss it just as much! I miss the community of pilgrims, learning other people’s stories and journeys. I’m still connecting with pilgrims across the world through forums online and Facebook groups.
2. A Challenge
You don’t just feel a sense of accomplishment when you arrive in Santiago, you feel it every day, for 34 days! (or however long it takes you!) Each day faces its own challenges, from the heat to blisters or if you had to push yourself to do a few more kilometres to reach a bed for the night. 800km can seem daunting and unachievable, but just like in life, everything we want to achieve is one step at a time; the Camino echoes this perfectly.
3. Can Help Direct Your Life
In our normal lives we don’t always give ourselves time to think, to allow the answers to come to us. The Camino gives us this time, to reflect on our lives and the direction we are moving.
For me, I realised I needed to paint full time. My passion for art and painting is as strong as my love for the Camino is. I want to be an artist that connects with people through my art. That’s why right now, I paint the Camino, for myself and for others. I love painting it and I really would love one day to paint and walk at the same time. But for now, I’ll settle for painting people’s memories from photographs in vibrant and robust alcohol inks. Pilgrims have commissioned me to paint a favourite photograph and memory from the Camino so they can have something visual to see everyday that is almost as special as their Camino.
4. Food and Drink
This one doesn’t need much explaining; the food is simply amazing! From patatas bravas, olives, cheese and hams to paella and octopus. Yum yum yum! And there’s only one way to really enjoy these meals to its maximum, and it’s involves learning a couple of Spanish words … vino por favour! The wine is amazing! …and you walk right through the Rioja region.
5. Life Lessons
One of the biggest lessons I learned on the Camino, is perspective. Pretty much every situation comes back to it. A difficult situation with a positive perspective can seem less daunting. For each of us that walk the lessons we learn will be different, whether you realise how few material things you need, find a new appreciation for the people in your life… or something else!
See my Essential Camino de Santiago Packing List
Boots vs. Tennis shoes, rain gear needs (don’t forget your camera protection!), laundry supplies, the best ear plugs, and more. Before you go, make sure you have all of these items on my Camino de Santiago packing list!
6. Connection with Nature
Wow! The scenery is beautiful; even along the Meseta (A stretch of flat plains on the Camino), I found it therapeutic and calming. But I do love a good climb as the reward is so worth it. One of my favourite views the first-time round was when I climbed O’Cebriero. Sneak-a-peak at the views here. It was such a clear day, quite a tough climb as it was steep and a hot day, but when I got to the top the views were worth it. There is so much to enjoy from the Pyrenees, to the Meseta, to pathways of poppies, fields of sunflowers, and the woodlands in Galicia, each just as beautiful as the last.
7. Less judgement
We’re all guilty of judging someone on first appearance, but the Camino teaches you to be less so. You meet amazing, inspiring people. People you don’t expect to be walking, of all ages, sizes and abilities. There’s a massive acceptance for all our imperfections, limitations and our quirky personalities.
8. More thankful
I’m not going to sugar coat it, there are some ‘lesser’ fun things about the Camino, but it all becomes just a part of it that you learn to embrace. When you arrive home, you really become thankful for the fresh clean sheets on your bed that you know 100% will be bed bug free and that you won’t have to share a room with multiple snorers (we all may share a room with one!). You’ll be thankful to be able to shower with constant hot water that you don’t have to wait an hour to be available. You will have more options of clean clothes in your wardrobe that you don’t need to wash as soon as you’ve removed them, so they’ll be dry for the next day. You may even be thankful for blisters and achy muscles because it reminds you, you’re healthy enough to walk 800 km and this just makes the effort even more worthwhile.
9. You’ll surprise yourself
I think we all wonder what we’re capable of, the Camino gives us time to discover that. Even if your experience isn’t life changing you will learn something about yourself, others, nature or how to move forward in your life. Sometimes we need to leave something behind to find something new.
10. Religious or spiritual reasons
I personally am not a religious person but have met many who are that have walked El Camino de Santiago. Being an ancient pilgrimage, it’s understandable, there are many churches and cathedrals to be admired by even a known believer. For me it was more a spiritual journey and I walked because I wanted to understand more about myself and learn how to trust in myself, my decisions, and how to deal with what the world threw at me.
11. Learn Spanish!
I already had a beginner level in Spanish and found it a great opportunity to immerse myself with Spanish speakers. I also loved the opportunity to help other pilgrims that were struggling to communicate, and my confidence grew. Even if you don’t know a word of Spanish, learn a few of the essential words before you leave and have fun using them! A couple just to get you started…. Buen Camino! (Heard multiple times a day!)
12. Because you can!
There’s not much more to say about this one, other than, no matter your age or abilities, you CAN do it, so you should! There are so many inspiring stories out there, Sherry’s is one of them sometimes it’s just a matter of finding your way, and HOW you will do it.
Still not convinced, or have more questions? Check out these Camino de Santiago FAQ’s.
Kate did a painting of one of my favorite Camino photos from my hike! I love it – what a super memory for me!
Meet the Author
Kate is a person of spirit and adventure and hiking the Camino de Santiago has given her the confidence to follow her dream of being an artist. It isn’t an easy road but then neither is the Camino. She’s completed the Camino journey twice and it’s changed her life. Kates art now focuses on painting custom work capturing the memory of the Camino for others