Camino simplicity

5 years ago, just about this day, I had walked more than half the distance of my 27 day Camino walk, to Santiago di Compostela. An about 830 km long pilgrim walk starting in France, going through northern Spain and finishing in Santiago on the Spanish west coast.

I remember making the decision to make space in my life and calendar to do this walk. It was January 2015 and I found myself in an unknown place. My children were doing fine where they were in their life, not needing my immediate attention like before, I was struggling to find peace within after a breakup and I had left a long career in the health care system and a shorter one in a private business….

People who know me recognize this sudden determination for something… and without questioning it further or seeking anyone’s advise, I’m yet again gone in a new direction.

At this time of my life this is The Walk that changed my life and my direction quite drastically. In a way I think I saw it coming. I was ready for a change in my life and I felt freer than I can remember feeling in a long time….

As I set out on my walk, October 1, 2015 I felt a little nervous, definitely excited and an enormous sense of freedom. As my body grew stronger, so did my confidence in me being able to walk the whole distance to Santiago, and I set off and walked about 30 km/day for 27 days in a row.

During my walk I met such a diversity of people, all with their own special story about why they were on the Camino at this point. I don’t think it was clear for me why I was there, I only knew I had to do it!

It’s a Camino saying that “what you experience on the Camino is a metaphor for life” and if you are willing, you can transform these experiences and learnings into your life, long after the Camino is finished. One of the “take a way’s” for me is the simplicity. When all you have to keep track of is in your backpack (mine only weighted 5 kg and I had 3 changes of underwear and socks, rain gear and a couple of t-shirts).  About every second day I would do my laundry usually in a sink or in the shower while getting clean myself. Refilling the water bottle whenever there was a chance, and of course the FEET! Several times a day I would inspect my feet, take off my boots and socks and let the feet rest and dry for a while. The tiniest redness that eventually could evolve to a blister got taken care of with a piece of plaster.

Every day I would set of just in time to see the sun rise and then walk for about 2 hours, rest and eat a bit and then continue for another couple of hours, a new bite and a little rest and then another couple of hours of walk. Then I stopped somewhere, just trusting my intuition (and the tired feet!) and entered one of the auberges in the village and asked if they had a bed for me.

After a shower and maybe laundry it was time for today’s main meal. As a pilgrim you can go to a restaurant and order the “pilgrim menu” for 10€, which includes a quite simple but energizing three course meal and half a bottle of wine. Simplicity.

Around the table I would meet both new people and others I’d bumped into on the way, and the conversations moved between “how are your feet doing?” and “what brings you on the camino?”

I loved this “repeat”. Every day I woke up feeling strong and rested and my body longed to continue walking. The small routines framed my days and it was very peaceful do just deal with the immediate situation like; the water bottle is soon empty – keep your eyes open for a tap. It starts raining – get the rain gear on. A small discomfort in the boot – stop and empty the little stone. Hungry – stop for a bite. Tired – rest. Feeling lonely – catch up with someone and connect. Feeling overwhelmed by too much talking – say “thank you” to the company and let them walk ahead…

By only dealing with what was immediate present, there was no place or interest for worries about what’s behind next curve or hill, what will the weather be tomorrow OR dwelling on why I made that choice of path a little earlier today. Because now I’m here, circumstances are different, and I can make another choice based on that. Trust. Simplicity.

And giving space to just being here and now, I found so much peace within. And joy!

Writing this, sharing my memories, I feel an expanding warmth in my whole body, and I feel the joy bubbling in my chest like champagne bubbles, almost as if I am having this experience just now, in this moment! And I do – because my nervous system doesn’t see the difference. Isn’t that just amazing! Again, I feel so grateful for these experiences and memories, and that it is possible to go back at any time and experience this nurturing expansion in me.

It also makes me wonder why it is so difficult to keep this camino simplicity way of living moment to moment, taking care of the most immediate and not worry about the next thing, because that next thing or moment will appear sooner rather than later whether I like it or not…I don’t have a simple(!) answer to that. All I know is that thinking back at this particular time 5 years ago, I got the reminder I needed in this moment, and I will try to remind myself more often about the benefits of simplicity.

And on the 19th of October me and Michel celebrate our 5 year anniversary of when we met in Hospital de Orbigo on the Camino. But that story you can read about in a previous blog 😉


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