It is inevitable that I would be asked for my thoughts on the return of my 2nd camino. I ask of myself this question too, and many answers come into my head. Here is my attempt to organise these thoughts into a structure.
1. Camino Frances vs Camino del Norte – which is better?
They are so different that I could never say one is better than the other. Camino Frances will always have a place in my heart as it was my first Camino. It is here that I learned to travel solo, backpack, sleep with strangers, tend to my blisters, climb mountains, descend mountains, and walk till I’m exhausted only to wake up the next day and do it all again. It is because of Camino Frances that I learned to find the courage to go on the camino del Norte.
Camino Frances is definitely busier. It is the summer camp for adults. And I do love it for that. The ability to meet people, mingle, it is wonderful. I loved the abundance of the albergues, that there are so many towns to choose from. You don’t have to walk too many miles to find a coffee or a bed for the night.
For the section I walked in the del Norte, getting to the albergues could be quite far and distances of a minimum of 28 km a regular thing. As I’m not quite used to that, I would find it quite tough. Thankfully, del Norte is filled with plenty of private pensions and posadas, you could walk a long day and not feel stressed about not finding a bed. It is also quite peaceful not encountering other pilgrims. Though when I didn’t, I felt quite curious about them. But I didn’t feel the freedom to just approach anyone to ask them about their journey. The del Norte was very different in that respect.
For me, it was right I did the Frances first. One is not better than the other. They are both very different.
2. Time takes on a different dimension on the camino
In my second camino, time felt completely different. I only walked 4 days with 1 day rest. Yet I feel I walked for 2 weeks. And that is because I brought the journey of my camino Frances with me. My short one week stint on the del Norte reinforced my camino Frances. I felt like I had walked both. And I felt very happy for it. I was amazed at how I simply slipped into walking and was so quickly transported. I walked a new camino and relived a previous
3. The camino is a journey of deep anchoring
Nothing in my brain. I tried to think and there were moments my brain could not gather the thoughts. I was not in the past, not in the future, I was just here and here was all that mattered. And everyday felt forever.
4. The camino gives you what you need, even if you didn’t think you got it, you’ve already received it
When I returned, I had worried that I did not get what I needed from my first camino. But when I walked again, I realised that I had. I had all along, I simply hadn’t trusted that I did. I also realised that I made a second camino happen. I wanted it and it did. It nearly didn’t because my rational mind became worried at what I know to be inconsequential things, yet I found difficulty stopping my rational mind from carrying on like a bullet train.
Me and my inner critic. Time to shut it up!
5. The camino gives you a new identity as being a member of a self-select group
Wow, do I have a new identity as hiker walker girl or what?!!! When I first had this crazy idea, I didn’t feel it was possible. I didn’t know it was possible. I didn’t know if I would like it. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. And this makes it scary. Stepping outside of my comfort zone, leaning into the discomfort. Being scared and doing it anyway. That takes courage. I have courage.
So, I am reminded that I can grow. We can grow. We are capable of growing beyond our programming. How well you do it doesn’t matter. Simply doing it, any bit of it matters – even if it is not perfect. Perfection does not matter. Only doing and leaning and doing does. Micro actions.
6. It’s necessary to trust that the camino gives
Wow, was this hard for me. 12 months ago when I first started toying with the idea of the camino, I wanted answers. It was like buying a car – how fast can it go in 3 seconds? What’s the engine like up hills? Is the driving comfortable?
Doing the camino (for me) was like buying a car. Exactly what was I going to get? I wanted to know all the features and benefits of this experience before I embarked on it. I got a lot of answers and I got none, for in the end none of the answers were my answers because it did not fit the questions I had, if I even have a question.
I am brought to mind the Brazilian girl in the documentary Six Ways to Santiago. She said she didn’t know why she was doing the camino, just that the forward motion is motion. It is doing something instead of just standing still. I believe this to be true for me too. The answers come when you’re not focussed on grilling the question.
I do not believe these types of experiences are limited to the camino. Any deep experience where you remove yourself from society to engage in some form of meditation for an extended period of time might do it, in a manner that is out of your comfort zone, is capable of delivering shifts. The trick is to find the method that fits you, and to be prepared to lean into the discomfort.
There are a few things I am now doing with intent. These are the things I’m now doing to simplify my life.
- Create good memories and experiences.
- Declutter. I am my backpack. I shall only carry things that serve a function or bring me joy.
- Travel more. Travel makes me happy. This includes walking travel.
I keep re-reading my post. And I can see for myself that I am processing my thoughts and ideas still. But I hope what I’ve shared resonated with you.