A Reflection on the Camino Journey

Dear UUCE,

One of the sayings that gets repeated along the Camino is that everyone walks their own way. Another is that once the walking stops, the true journey begins.

This month’s theme is Journey, and you would think there would be no better theme for me to write on than this one, given that I spent 6 weeks and 500 miles journeying along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela a mere few months ago.

But I am having a hard time figuring out how to articulate what happened for me along the Way, and how the Camino has impacted my life. In fact, I’m having a hard time grasping just what changes occurred, what lessons I learned, and what transformations are underway as a result of embarking on that journey. It’s still too fresh, I suppose. Although, in talking with other pilgrims, it does seem that what I am experiencing post-Camino is all part of the process. People come home and change their lives entirely. People come home and drop back into the same old patterns. People come home and realize where their gratitude has been hiding. People come home and realize it’s no longer home for them…

One of the things I prayed for and chanted about while I walked was to have patience with the process. Journey is all about works in progress – we are, each of us, works in progress.

Here are a few things – snippets, really – that I can articulate about my journey so far:

Everyone walks their own way:

People have rules for themselves and their lives, and I am no exception. I went into my Camino thinking that I would not use transportation aside from my own two feet. I decided I would never use my phone except when I called home, and I would only ever call home once a week on a Sunday. Instead, I would only navigate the Way by my guidebook maps, and perhaps the stars.

I also set the intention of only capturing the beauty of what I saw through painting. So I took my watercolors and a sketchbook/journal with me, and these were the tools I intended to use, solely.

However, it soon became clear that 1) my wayfinding via starlight is not so hot, and 2) if I stopped to paint everything that was charming or beautiful, I would only make it five feet down the trail, let alone 15 miles! So, I quickly set down my initial rules and established new, more flexible rules for myself. 1) I would use my phone only as a last resort for wayfinding, and 2) I would be sure to paint at least one image a day and would capture other beauties via phone camera.

But even these, more flexible, rules didn’t actually work for all circumstances. In Burgos, for example, I was so exhausted and felt so sick that I needed a day in bed. But the taxi driver I called to take me to my pension couldn’t find the street my accommodations were located on. Before you know it, out came my phone so that I could research my destination while he turned circles through the city until we finally discovered the newly renamed street. I stayed in bed the whole day. I watched all of the third season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on my phone. I played a stupid cookie crush game on my phone up to level 254. And while it’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I did not live the life of an austere pilgrim every single day I was on my journey, I am not ashamed of it either. I needed rest. The rules needed to change.  

A little later in the trip, I ran out of sketch paper, and it wasn’t until Leon that I could locate an art supply store. So, there went my one painting a day at least rule, too. My point is that the rules I established for myself didn’t necessarily work for me, and they definitely wouldn’t have worked had I laid them on other people. Things that seem obvious to me may not even be a part of the equation for another person. Everyone walks their own Camino. Everyone can only live their own life. Everyone has their own journey.

Once the walking stops, the true journey begins:

When I first got home from my Camino, it was a huge shock to my system. The people, the bustle of daily life, the needs of my family, the things I thought I would be so happy to get back to, but that ended up being distractions instead…

Walking along the Camino, you move at human speed. Walking through life here in Eugene, you move at the speed of traffic, internet, cell phones and deadlines.

It is a very hectic pace we set for ourselves, and almost immediately upon my return I realized that I wanted to keep moving at human speed. Some of the changes I have begun to implement in my life are a direct result of my desire: not a desire for more, but for less. Or, more aptly put, it is the desire for more of myself, less of everything else. I can still tap into the sensation of movement that was established while on the Way. I want to be able to tap into that always. Moving at human speed continues to be the journey that most intrigues and excites me, because the impacts are still happening within me.

What impacts of your life’s journey are still happening within you?

How aware are you of the messages and lessons you have learned along the way?

Are there stories you tell yourself that could do with a little rewrite, or a major rehaul?

Do you try to determine other people’s way for them? How’s that working for you? For them?

Are you paying enough attention to your own human speed?

These questions, and more, will be explored throughout this month, and I am delighted that I get to explore them along with you, walking side by side on this stretch of the journey.

Buen Camino,

Katy