Where one journey ends, another begins. On a long bus ride from Santiago de Compostela I wanted to write my final reflections about the Camino. Perhaps final is a poor choice of words, for one statement I heard that resonated with was that “the Camino begins in Santiago.” It’s somewhat true: of all the growth, learning, change from the Camino, the work to carry it forward to the rest of my life in further travels and then in going home starts now.
People often asked me why I decided to walk, and my best answer was something along the lines of having a *pull in my heart* to do so. As I started walking, I began learning about the real reasons why, what I truly wanted, needed in my heart to learn or change. At first it was kindness and avoiding the path of greed. Later it also became about an ever-increasing spontaneity, and in the last half or so, it became about truly making the Camino my own way, without a guidebook, sleeping outside wherever I wanted, near or far from civilization, walking well into the evening, not being dictated by the terms of others or where the albergues were.
Early in France I felt some kind of spirit or power along the Camino, of kindness and openness in both pilgrims and locals that had accumulated over hundreds of years and resided in the land, a collective energy of millions of people. I can’t describe what I felt and experienced almost every day more than in a simple maxim: The Way provides, whatever you truly need, whenever and wherever you need it. I talked often about how it seemed to deliver from nowhere the people I *needed* to see again but not expected to, perhaps because something was unfinished, something unlearned; Anna in Cahors, Maciek in Santiago; the Brazilians in Finisterra. But it also delivered, only once, the people I needed to only meet once: them to learn from me, me from them, our time finished after; and often it delivered encounters that made me angry, perhaps because another pilgrim was arrogant or mean or angry and brought that onto others, or perhaps because they were reflections, mirrors revealing my inner heart and showing some aspect of myself or way I was walking that I had hitherto subconsciously wished to be different. The Way also kept me safe and sound, with churches appearing in forests during rainstorms, signs and pilgrims telling me of long stretches without food and water so that I stocked up beforehand. If ever there were a cure for not believing in something, not necessarily a god, but something inexplicable, unseen, natural and organic, it was this walk for me.
There is an excellent book and a quick read out there, The Alchemist, by the Brazilian author Paolo Coelho that captures the essence of the Camino for me: the gist is that whatever the heart desires, needs, the universe conspires to fulfill. The difficulty is finding a way to listen to what it’s telling us.
As to the Camino’s significance and meaning I found that almost everyone had an opinion, view, on what the Camino is, or means, or how it should be done, in a general sense as applied to all people; the only view that makes sense is that it probably cannot be generalized and instead is a highly individualistic journey, with different meanings and outcomes for each person, a different way and style of traveling it for each person. But if approached with an open heart and mind, being open to unexpected changes and opportunities, I believe it can be rich, rewarding, powerful, even life-changing and defining for everyone. Hopefully my two months of writing about it inspires someone to take their own Camino one day, wherever it is, not necessarily in Spain, just a long walk somewhere, according to the means their heart tells them to go.
Now, it’s farewell to one continent and Spain and hello to another and Morocco. The picture at the top is me coming into Tangier on the ferry, here’s a farewell one towards Spain.