Starting the last stage of my Camino from Lires to Finisterre, I met an old granny on the road who advised me to take the Path along the beach rather than the marked route I had intended taking.
Sometimes the universe comes through the voice of a granny, telling you to make a change to your plan.
Finisterre is my last stop on this Camino. A key lesson this time: Stay on the Path less travelled, even if it appears more difficult. Keep your own rhythm, your inner peace and pace by avoiding the crowds.
The bigger the crowd the bigger seems the disconnect. Walking the last 100 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago this year was startling, to say the least. Most of the way markers have been defaced with graffiti. Piles of empty plastic bottles and other rubbish is carelessly left on the path. Pilgrims complain that a growing number of tourists – I wont call them pilgrims – are abusing the albergues for wild all-night parties. Groups of cyclists have the habit of aggressively pushing the slow-walking pilgrims off the road.
One of the reasons why so many people are walking the last 100 km is to obtain the Compostela certificate as ,,proof,, that one has walked the Camino. I observed hundreds of people standing in line for hours at the Pilgrims Office in Santiago waiting to get their Compostela – many of them still wearing their cycle gear. There are also a fair number of tourists who book the short walk with tour operators. I have my doubts that you will have much of a Camino experience if you race through on a bicycle or on foot just to get your Compostela. The Path is so much more.
So for those readers who now seem disheartened, I recommend walking the Camino early May or September outside the main European holiday season. The Camino Primitivo or ancient route from Oviedo to Melide is breathtaking, farthest from the madding crowds and the Path to walk within. Also recommendable is the Aragonese route from Col du Somport that joins the Camino Frances a Puenta la Reina.
The hardest part of a long walk is the last stretch. You feel you are close to your goal, yet the path seemingly continues forever. Energy starts sagging, doubts creep in. You go through an emotional roller-coaster.
We are capable of so much more than what our mind wants to make us believe. Most people give-up just before reaching the last horizon to the breakthrough. What makes the difference between the mediocre and the achiever is the pursuance of a dream or vision with persistence. There are voices all around questioning your dream, often from those people closest to you. This is the litmus test: Don’t be deterred. Stay true to your dream. Keep walking. Picture that goal with absolute clarity.
Some years ago I met a fellow pilgrim from the USA who told me about the big differences he saw between problems and difficulties in life. A good question to ponder about:
Walking on Edge: A Pilgrimage to Santiagogoo.gl/D2Tcec
When you are planning to climb a high mountain, preparation is everything. No wonder all the guide books warn pilgrims to be mentally and physically prepared. You need to check the weather report, take enough food and water and at the same time be open to changing your plan at the last minute. When you reach the summit the views are breathtaking, but if you procrastinate too long you could find yourself exposed to subzero temperatures.
When walking between 20-25 kilometres per day on the Camino you appreciate carrying as little as possible in your back pack. You have to go lean to go far which applies very much to life as well. The Hospitales Route or Hospital Route which we crossed yesterday is tough and called that because during the Middle Ages there were several hospitals on the mountain where ailing pilgrims were nursed.
Day four of our walk on the Camino de Santiago. We left the mountain village of La Espina this morning. A pilgrim wrote on a marker stone: ”You don’t choose a life. You live one.” It got me thinking. Happiness has so much to do with Being rather than Wanting. And, Being for me is opening yourself to the miracles of the moment. In the daily treadmill of distractions pulling at us from all sides we miss the magic.