I’ve just released the second edition of my book “Walking on Edge: A Pilgrimage to Santiago” – a novel based on firsthand conversations and insights with many fellow hikers on the Camino. For some people the Camino can be a life-changing experience – for others it is disappointing.
What Camino you walk depends very much on your expectations and your frame of mind. After months, sometimes even years, of preparation and planning, and reading some of the many books on the Camino, you are finally on the road.
If you start your walk in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in southwestern France, in the summer months from June to August you will be disappointed by the masses of people walking the Camino Frances – the most common route.
You will be staying in crowded hostels and sleeping on bunk beds. You might have to stand in a long line for a shower and have to cope with blisters and other aches and pains in your body. You will be frightened by cyclists coming from behind you at breakneck speed, and sometimes even pushing you off the road.
The first days of walking on the Camino are a real test of mind and body. It is also called the path of crucifixion. A fellow pilgrim once said to me: “Be humble on the path, or the path with humble you.”
On one of my walks I met a very frustrated pilgrim, who had refused advice from fellow walkers, to take it slow during the first days. He was going on and on about his disappointment, criticizing the “boring” landscape of the Camino and lamenting why he had not chosen a holiday on the Canary islands instead. A lot of people are obviously walking the same route and coming home with very different perceptions and experiences, judging by the comments in many of the social media forums.
My advice is: Don’t be duped by other people’s opinions and what you read. If you liberate your mind from preconceived images and expectations, you will have your very own Camino experience – that can be magical in many ways.
Call it the the Universe, God or just the “magic of the path” has been life-transforming for me and so many people I’ve met on the Camino. If you walk alone and confront those emotional demons along the way, you will make extraordinary discoveries both within and without. The Camino is certainly not everyone’s cup-of-tea. It can be a hard, uncomfortable, excruciating slog in mud, rain and heat.
At the same time the Camino is exceptionally rewarding on many subtle levels that sometimes only make themselves felt, months after the pilgrimage. The walk is an analogy of life as you deal with the daily ups-and-downs.
Reino Gevers – Mentor and Author – Your Health Matters
“Walking on Edge – A Pilgrimage to Santiago” available both in Kindle and paperback.