A group of tired young Russian pilgrims from St.Petersburg arrived late last night in the Municipal Albergue, or pilgrims’ hostel, in Najera. It was the last group we registered before we concluded our 14-day term as a four-member volunteer team.
During these two weeks, we registered some 805 pilgrims who stayed overnight in the hostel.
The Camino is becoming an international experience
When I walked my first Camino in 2007, most people walking the path seemed to be middle-aged Germans, Dutch or Scandinavian. The pilgrims arriving in Najera were from a far more international diversity. Apart from the Europeans, the largest groups were from Asia and the Americas.
Together with my fellow three Hospitaleros Pedro from France, Carmen from Toledo in Spain and Ebo from Argentina we were responsible for keeping the hostel clean, and catering to the needs of the between 50-70 pilgrims arriving each day. A good part of the day we spent scrubbing bathrooms, cleaning floors and washing bed sheets.
Najera is the eighth stage of the Camino Frances, starting in the French village of Saint-Pied-de-Port, and taking the pilgrim on a more than 727 kilometers (451 miles) journey across northwestern Spain to Santiago de Compostela.
An adventure turns into a spiritual journey
It was a privilege to converse with many of these people and to hear their different stories and motivations in walking the path. Some people start the Camino as a sporting adventure that then turns into a spiritual journey. An American pilgrim I walked with some years ago said to me: “If you don’t approach the Camino with humility it will humiliate you.”
The Camino is telling you that this journey is not about accomplishing something but in un-becoming from everything that you thought you were and touching that place deep in the soul who you are truly meant to be.
Is the Camino part of the bigger journey of humanity seeking a common spirituality that transcends the boundaries of religious dogma?
A test of emotional and physical resolve
When I spoke to a British man, leaving the Albergue in the morning he confided that “this very emotional journey” was much more than he had anticipated.
After a good week on the Camino, it is a real testing time for physical and emotional resolve. The Camino is in many ways an analogy of life. If you can deal with the roller-coaster of the walk’s trials and tribulations, you will be steeled for whatever challenges life throws at your feet in the acceptance of the impermanence of all things.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant