“Months after I left Spain, I think about the Camino almost every day and it is calling me back.”
“On New Year’s Eve 2013, my neighbor whom I have known for several years, Art, presented the idea of hiking the Camino de Santiago to a group of common friends. I was looking for some adventure and some spiritual deepening after having retired recently, so I gave the proposal some thought – obviously the New Year’s Eve alcohol made it easier to consider a journey of such epic proportions. Uncertain of our physical ability to walk the 300+ miles that Art and I were considering, we trained by taking long walks over a period of three months. I told Art that if I could walk 10 to 12 miles for two days in a row and then be able to get out of bed on the third day, I could commit to the Camino. In late March 2014, the winter weather let up a bit to allow us a two-day walk, and on the third morning we committed to hike from Logroño to Santiago. Art and I decided that first, we would walk together for three weeks, and then our wives would join us in Sarría, which is about 100 km (60 miles) from Santiago, to complete the journey as a group.
I have so much to say about the Camino. One thing I found interesting was the diversity of the areas we walked through. There were hilly, rocky areas, and suburban street; small villages, mid-size towns and big cities; beautiful local churches and magnificent sweeping cathedrals. We really did experience the entire country. Physically, the Camino was the hardest thing I have ever done. I had a long episode with a nasty cold and got sick twice. I got my fair share of blisters. I found myself missing my wife, hot showers, and American food. I even remember a tough hiking day when a family passed us while we were taking a short break. This was no normal family – this family consisted of a blind man with a seeing-eye dog and his wife pushing a hiking stroller with their two children. Another walker came up to where we were sitting a little while after that and cheerfully asked me how I was doing. I sarcastically replied, “Not so great – I just got passed by a blind man and a woman pushing two kids.”
Emotionally and spiritually, the Camino was also the hardest thing I have ever done because I was forced to confront things about myself that I rarely noticed before. Along the way, Art and I had a few dust-ups and arguments, and we had to learn to live and compromise with each other. More importantly, both Art and my wife, Celeste, pointed out to me some mannerisms of mine that might come across to others as arrogance or worse. After reflecting, I believe they are correct and I still think about how to tone down that part of myself and to be a better companion on this journey through life. On the Camino I was reminded that it’s never too late to improve, or try something different, or learn something new.
Initially I thought of the Camino as a self-imposed physical test, but the journey transformed into something special: I met so many diverse people, received and gave charity, fought through hardships, transformed a neighbor into a friend, and shared a special experience with my wife. Anyone who will listen to me, I could go on and on about my thoughts on this journey – that’s how deeply I cherish my Camino experience. I recall people saying they hike the Camino more than once, and I thought I would never dream of that because of all the physical, emotional, and spiritual difficulties involved. Yet, months after I left Spain, I think about the Camino almost every day and it is calling me back.”