It wasn’t my aunt Elaine’s Camino six years ago that inspired me. It wasn’t my friend Carol’s Camino the year before that. I honestly thought these two smart, fun ladies were just a little bit whacked.
500 miles? For fun? Maybe for the intrepid outdoor enthusiast, but not me. I like a good cozy hotel room as much as the next girl.
Yet the last few years, I’ve been called to do a whole lot of introspection. I started doing retreats 10 years ago, but in 2010, I started taking whole weekends, even a whole week away in the mountains to reflect on my life every few months. I loved the solitude and the inner spaciousness I discovered in myself while retreating in a beautiful and sacred place. I craved more — to the point where I daydreamed about selling all my worldly possessions and joining an intentional community or hermitage somewhere.
One day in 2010, at a mountain cabin on the Mackenzie River, I wandered into the retreat center’s tiny library. Have you every perused a bookshelf with your eyes unfocused and lightly scanned, waiting for a book to jump out to you? That’s what I was doing that day when a tiny white book called out, “Pick me!”
So I did what any open-hearted, trusting soul would do. I picked up the book. And it was about the Camino de Santiago.
I wasn’t ever planning to go on this trip of 500 miles. Spain has never called to me. But I read that little white book from cover to cover and an impression was made on my heart. In disbelief, I asked the Divine, “Am I supposed to do this?” I could already feel the answer within me. Yes.
I’m blessed to know two amazing women who’ve done this trip in their 50s and 60s. When I casually asked them if they’d recommend it, the intensity of their voices, the light in their eyes, and their willingness to discuss every intricate detail of my preparation was astounding. Spirit was speaking through them. I was listening.
Without prompting, my aunt lent me an armload of books written by people who’d already done the journey and wrote to tell about it. My friend Carol offered to lend me any gear I might need. We met for a walk in her town and I asked her dozens of tedious questions about how much it cost and where to stay and what to eat.
Ever since I picked up that little white book, the Divine has been sending me messages that this is my next retreat. A big one. When big fears or doubts came up, someone would unexpectedly lend me a new book. One of my dear clients brought a book back from Ireland only distributed in that country — that she’d coincidentally heard about on the news. Several people lent me copies of books about the trip that had been out of print. And when she learned that I was really going to “do” the Camino, my aunt gave me a scallop shell (the symbol of the Santiago pilgrim) for Christmas — and seeing it gave me chills. Unfailingly, these little gifts from the Universe arrived at times of uncertainty and doubt. They buoyed me.
Something about these coincidences seem not at all coincidental to me. And I’m trusting that.
I feel called to walk the Camino de Santiago. I feel this experience calling to me. Although my brain can’t define exactly what a calling is, my heart knows. My spirit knows. I believe all the practice retreats I’ve done over the last two years — each one of increasing duration and spiritual depth — have been training for this next intense, most rewarding retreat of all.