The Camino de Santiago is an ancient Christian Pilgrimage that dates back to medieval times. In those days, people walked from their homes to the pilgrimage site at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north-west Spain. Today, it is a pilgrimage made by many, religious and non-religious alike, along several official routes across Europe, all with Santiago as their destination.
In 2012 I set out from the French town of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrénées, a distance of seven hundred and ninety kilometres from Santiago, in the belief that if I committed myself fully to the power of the Camino it would be a transformative experience.
When I decided to walk the Camino, I was aware that what I wanted was to immerse myself in a holding experience that was lengthy enough for me to find out what calls me. I had the sense that I was meant to be doing something particular with my life and that I was holding back on what God had given me. In any event I knew my soul wasn’t being fully satisfied, there was a longing I needed to address and I hoped and indeed I expected the Camino to help me find the truth of that longing.
I realised before I left home that my camino was about letting go and trusting that I would be okay if I did, although I didn’t know specifically what I needed to let go of or how those challenges would be presented to me. In truth the challenge began before I even left Cork! The easy part was making the decision to go; a couple of months ahead of time it seemed no problem, I thought ‘I can’t wait’. However as the departure date got closer I became more fearful. I was going to have to let go of whatever control I had in my life; my comforts, my emotional crutches and safety nets and surrender to the unfolding mystery of Camino life.
At times comfortless and gruelling, living in simple hostels and trekking across mountains, hills and valleys it proved to be not at all what I had expected. With everything stripped away I found a vulnerability within myself that was beyond anything I had faced before and impossible to get away from! But I also found the Camino to be a profoundly rich inner experience with it's emphasis on simplicity.
Life after the Camino
In the weeks after arriving home I began to write, firstly in a blog and then after some months I said tentatively “I think I’m writing a book”. All I knew was that I felt compelled to write about my experience. At the time I didn’t know if I would publish what I was writing, although I thought I probably would. In any event I said to myself ‘just keep writing’. At the outset I thought it would take a year, however the writing process wouldn’t be hurried!
The Camino and Me is the result of that process.
It is available in print or as an ebook from amazon.