Alessio shooting with a bow. Ph: Agnès Andès

The mental challenge

Mens sana in corpore sano, the Latins used to say. A sound mind in a healthy body. You should aim at achieving this status, during your pilgrimage. It’s not an easy task, however, on both the physical and the mental sides.

As experienced during the Camino, your first enemy is your brain: see that town over there? You walked enough for today… why don’t we call it a day and get some rest?

And even before that, when you just have woken up, your brain will not miss  reminding you of how painful it will be to put your boots back on and start walking.

But these friendly “reminders” are still related to your physical endeavours. The real challenge comes from being alone for a long time, with very little possibility of interaction with other people.

The consequences of such challenges linger over the years, well after your journey is over. It took me a long time to get back to a pseudo-normal status after walking the Camino. I was much more closed and disillusioned, almost avoiding to let other people in my life, although I met some really amazing people on the Way.

Being alone just felt right, even though I knew it wasn’t.

This time I’m (or should be) more experienced and I expect less of a fallout from such experience.

The mental challenge, however, has already started since I announced my travel plans. There’s a number of people I care about that were sincerely concerned about this journey: to face them and to explain myself was not as easy as I’d expected.

There is one good thing about all of this, though: it gives me a purpose, it gives me a goal to achieve, it makes my mind focus on what’s important and what is not. It makes me sleep better. It relaxes me, even when some troubling thoughts come to cloud over my mind.

It’s not a dream coming true, but it’s bloody close to it.