Walking the Camino de Santiago was a great experience, one that contributed a lot to my adult personality (if you ever will find one in me).
Here I will list five learnings that I either expected, from my scouting experience, or did not see coming at all.
Your body is able to walk every day for 30+ Km
This was one of the biggest question marks in my head, before leaving for Saint Jean Pied-de-Port. As it’s happening now for the Shikoku Henro, I did not train at all before the start of my walk.
Back in 2013, however, I could claim preparing my thesis as an excuse. This time I have no alibi but my deep laziness, which I hope to sweep away as soon as I land in Japan.
The age doesn’t matter too much either. I’ve seen 20 y.o. pilgrims take a taxi and men in their late 60s or even 70s walk as much as I did.
The pilgrimage is a mental challenge first, and a physical one secondly.
You don’t get bored
Walking more than 8 hours per day can seem boring to many people. On the contrary, being alone on the road, with just your thoughts, was extremely entertaining to me.
I did not listen to music or read books or anything. It was just me, thinking about my stuff and listening to the rhythm of my walk.
To be fair, 60% of my thoughts (on average) were curses either to my feet, or to some cyclists, or to a group of tourists etc…
At least I did a good job at keeping most of them in my head without saying them out loud.
You can become a close friend with a pilgrim in two days
This is probably the thing I anticipated the most, thanks to my previous experience as a Rover Scout. However, it’s something that people who never lived these sort of experience find difficult to believe.
By walking together for so many hours every day, you get to know your companion in a special way. You share your thoughts, you learn about his/her life and you give him/her counsel.
You laugh together and you try to ease each other’s pain. Sometimes, though, you have to face a difficult decision between walking your Way and walking together.
Leaving a friend behind is not easy, but on the other hand you know you will meet each other again along the way, or afterwards.
You will also hate a lot of people
You just fell asleep after one day of walk under the sun. After ten minutes, somebody in the room starts snoring so loudly that you can’t actually believe a human being is capable of that.
Like babies who heard another baby cry, other people start snoring in different tunes, one after the other.
Some other guy comes back from the toilet and decides it’s the best time of the day to empty his bag and move all his plastic bags around.
I know what you’re thinking: use some ear plugs!
Believe me, I did. Though the plastic sound, for some reasons, provokes the pilgrim next to you into dropping a nuclear fart.
Ear plugs can’t protect you from that. You will hate people.
It stays with you
The Camino stays with you, every day after you finish your journey.
It stays with you when you buy groceries, it stays with you when you are in a tram, it stays with you when you look at a map and compare the distances in Km with a new measurement unit called “1 Camino”.
The Road becomes a companion of yours, a sort of guardian angel.
It becomes the hope of something better, when you are stuck in a shitty period of your life.
It stays in your heart as a sign that you can do what you love doing, and it’s not impossible.
You will think about it every day, and you will miss it every day.
What are your top learnings from the Camino or any other similar experience?
Let me know in the comments!