Others have told me so, but now I believe it.
After my last group trip, I decided it WAS my last group trip.
I even left my pack in a bin in a bus station,
never expecting to need it again.
I was done.
No more Caminos.
I told my friends and my family, "That's it! I'm finished walking the Camino! I will never return to Spain again."
And in unison:
Well, turns out they were right.
What IS it about walking the Camino that calls us?
Keeps us going back again and again?
Why does walking the Camino,
with all the difficulties it presents,
make us feel happy?
I think there are many answers.
Walking gives us time to THINK.
Our modern lives are so busy.
We have so much planned,
that we rarely take the time to just sit and think.
To think about what we WANT out of life.
To think about our experiences and how they've affected us.
To think about difficult decisions we need to make.
On the Camino, walking 6 hours each day,
alone, if we prefer,
we have time to do nothing but THINK.
Even the Greek philosophers believed
there is a deep intuitive connection
between walking, thinking, and writing.
Our hearts pump faster,
giving more oxygen to the brain,
helping clarify thought.
The Camino connects us with Nature.
Most of us live in a concrete jungle,
where the earth is covered with asphalt.
If we're lucky, we may have a back yard with real grass,
where we can lie and look up at the trees
and the sky.
On the Camino, we are surrounded by nature
for a full 6 weeks.
Instead of being overstimulated
by the sights and sounds of modern life,
we are softened and relaxed
by the sighs and sounds of nature.
We walk through forests and parks,
and up hills and across rivers.
It is a known scientific fact
that exposure to plants boosts our immunity
and our mood.
On the Camino, we touch all the elements;
and it reinvigorates us.
Walking the Camino exposes us to sunlight,
and to the natural earth rhythms we've lost contact with.
At homes filled with artificial light
and artificial weather
our bodies crave the natural cycles of light
that help us heal.
We can experience watching the sunrise,
and it helps set our body clock
back to "normal" -
back to the way it is supposed to be.
At the end of 6 weeks
we are ready to face anything!
Walking the Camino gives us time for community.
At home, our community may be limited
to a few close friends and family.
On the Camino,
we meet and experience people
from all countries,
from all walks of life.
We eat together as family.
We sing together.
We walk together.
We pray together - no matter our religion
or lack of it.
And we cry together
as we bind each others' blistered feet
and rub each others' shoulders.
The Camino teaches us to be receptive;
and to receive,
to have patience with ourselves
and with each other,
to help when help is needed,
and to ask when we need help,
to depend on ourselves
and on the kindness of strangers.
The Camino teaches us to be good friends,
The Camino shows us our strengths
and our weaknesses,
so we can correct ourselves
and become more balanced humans.
And if nothing else,
it will improve your health
and teach you good habits.
This is just a smattering of reasons
walking the Camino is helpful to us.
And over the past year,
I've come to realize
that my friends knew me more
than I knew myself.
here I go again.
Planning to walk in Spring 2018.
Looks like I'll be buying a new backpack.