“We are all on the Camino together, we all have the same goal, but we have different ways of getting there.”
“’Why? Did It Change You?’ Those are probably the most common questions asked of any pilgrim returning from the Camino de Santiago. For some, the answers are easy, but for most of us probably not. What made me embark on this journey is difficult to fully explain. It was not a life-long dream of mine. Actually, I didn’t even know about the Camino until I visited my daughter in 2007 when she lived in Biarritz, France. She had told me about a wonderful little village called St. Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees, so we went up there for lunch on a beautiful August day.
Seeing the backpackers filing in there was my first encounter with the Camino. More than a year passed after that day, and on a trip back from Denmark I stumbled upon a book in the Copenhagen Airport about a Swedish woman’s pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. It grabbed my attention, so I bought it and on my flight back to California I was glued to it, reading it from cover to cover. The moment I stepped off the plane in San Francisco I told myself ‘I think want to walk the Camino.’ I wasn’t sure yet, but I would be soon. The following day I was running errands and went to a newly-opened REI store near me. A big poster on the entrance door announced a slideshow presentation the following evening by Susan Alcorn, author of ‘Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago.’ I felt like fate was giving me a big nudge! Of course, I attended the presentation, and at the end of it I was convinced. I had to go!
I read Susan’s book, and pondered when I would be able to take the time to walk 500 miles? I have never been very athletic, nor a backpacker, so the thought of 500 miles did seem daunting, and I had serious doubts if I would be able to complete such a long walk. A few weeks later I mentioned my plans of doing the Camino while talking on the phone with my best girlfriend in Denmark. Instead of the shocked reply I anticipated, she calmly asked me if I knew her girlfriend Vibeke? No, I didn’t. Well, Vibeke had walked the Camino and written a book in Danish – in the English translation, the title is ‘Walking with God and Blisters.’ My girlfriend promptly sent me the book along with contact info for Vibeke. Well, after reading Vibeke’s book and corresponding with her, I was ready to throw all caution aside, and embark on the monumental adventure of not only walking the Camino de Frances in the Fall of 2009, but taking the whole year off to travel, paint and write! It was an amazing year, and you can read more about my Camino and my other travels in 2009 at my blog, ‘Where in the World is Eva.’ That year and the Camino also gave me the courage to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time artist – my photo here is one of my paintings, inspired by the Camino of course. You can see more of my art at ‘Beauty On Location.’
Did it change me? Yes and no. I now know that daunting tasks can be accomplished, one step at a time – literally. I also know that what really matters in life has nothing to do with material things. Human kindness and generosity is everything. The feeling of being one with my fellow pilgrims and the universe on the Camino was overwhelming and awe-inspiring at times. We are all on the Camino together, we all have the same goal, but we have different ways of getting there. I have always known that, but now I really know it. In the end, I am so grateful that I heeded the call of the Camino!”