Helena Swanstrom


Three years ago, beginning of October, I had just started walking from St Jean Pied de Port in France towards Santiago on the west coast of Spain. THE Camino. About 800 km on foot were in front of me. I hadn’t booked any accommodation beforehand, I didn’t know if what I’d packed in my 6 kg backpack would turn out to be what I needed. But all I could feel was joy and an amazing lightness and freedom!
I walked an average of 30 km/day. I met people from all over the world in all different ages. And all of us had different reasons for doing this pilgrimage to Santiago. And that was usually what was spoken about. That, and “how are your feet doing”…?

I liked to walk alone. I usually started early before the sun rised. And walking out of a village in the morning, led by a torch which was needed to find the necessary yellow arrows or shells (which are the signs used on the compostele) was always moments of emotions for me. I don’t know why, but almost every morning I cried. Sometimes over memories and people that I’d left behind, but sometimes I cried out of pure gratitude! Over the amazing sunrise, the horizon, the fields, the sky, the fact that I was there, strong, corageous and healthy to do this walk… Interesting enough, other pilgrims that would pass me seeing me crying, would slow down, look closely at me with warm eyes, as if the “how are you doing question” was totally unnecessary, say “buen camino” and keep walking. I felt the respect for whatever I was crying over, needed to be released and dealt with in my way.

In the evenings, after getting a bed in a hostel, a shower and some laundry done, I would go out for dinner with some other pilgrims. Simple, good food and meaningful conversations. No problem closing the light at 10 pm (that’s the rule in the hostels, where it could be up to 50 people in the same room)
Walking day after day after day… does something to you. I felt I got more and more grounded for every step on the dusty sand roads. The simplicity of not carrying more than 6 kg, only a few changes of clothes, rain gear and a water bottle. So called “problems” were the ones that needed to be dealt with immediately, like stopping to empty the boot from a small stone, filling the water bottle, putting on or off rain gear. Eat if hungry. These were the important things, and just attending to these were enough. No need to “create” problems by worrying about tomorrow, next week or regretting I didn’t take a different route. Because one step at the time brought me forward, slowly and with the awareness on the now, HERE and NOW.
Well, as I said in the beginning, three years ago I’d just started…and I will write another post about what else I’d discovered during these 4 weeks on the Camino…

More to come.


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