Fears about doing the Camino

Someone once told me that worry is creativity pointed in the wrong direction.

What a relief to know that there’s an up-side to this paralyzing behavior! “I’m not an anxious hypochondriac, I’m just creative!”

Everything a person could worry about on a trip like this, I’ve worried about it. My worries march right up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Level 1: Physiological

  • Shelter: Where will I stay? How do I decide which hostel is right for me? Will there be bedbugs? Is it affordable?
  • Sleep: Will I able to fall asleep and stay asleep? Will there be snorers? Will I have any space to myself? Will I be able to get up and down from the top bunk?
  • Water: How much water should I carry? Where do I refill while I’m walking?
  • Food: What will I eat? Will it be all meat? Will the food give me indigestion? Will the restaurants be open so I can have a dinner before the hostel locks up? Will I have to eat squid? Will I be able to find nuts and chocolate? Should I bring a bunch of snacks with me? Will I get so hungry I can’t think straight?
  • Excretion: Will I be able to find the bathroom in the middle of the night in the dark in the hostel without waking everyone up? Will there be places to use the bathroom while I’m walking? Do towns welcome pilgrims in using their facilities? Will I have to go poo near the trail? What will I do if someone comes along while my pants are down? Should I carry a plastic shovel for burying waste?

Level 2: Safety

  • Body: Is my body ready for this much walking? What will I do if I get injured? What will I do if I get lost? What if I encounter vicious dogs? What will I do if I get bitten by bedbugs? Will the pharmacies have the medicines I’m used to if I need them? Will my clothes keep me warm? Will I get hypothermic if my clothes get wet?
  • Resources: Can I afford this? What if my stuff gets stolen? What will I do if my money is stolen?
  • Family: How will I get in touch with my family in an emergency? How will they get in touch with me?
  • Morality: What if there are not-nice people?

Level 3: Love/belonging

  • Friendship: Will I feel lonely? Will I have anyone to talk to? Will the people I meet speak the same languages I do? Will they tolerate my remedial French and Spanish? What if no one I meet likes me? What if I don’t like the people I meet? What if someone I don’t like insists on walking with me?
  • Family: Will I get homesick? How will I keep in touch with them?

Level 4: Esteem

  • Self-esteem: What if I worry myself to death and have a miserable time? What if my self-criticism takes over?
  • Respect: What if I don’t like or trust anyone I meet? What if someone is disrespectful of me?
  • Achievement: Can I really do this? What happens if I get over there and chicken out? What if I get hurt and have to give up in the middle?

Level 5: Self-actualization

  • Spontaneity: What if I get all driven and don’t enjoy the journey? How can I minimize how controlled I am by my more basic fears? How can I halt my pattern of doing what others want?
  • Problem-solving: What if I get so freaked out that I can’t figure things out?

This is unfortunately not a conclusive list of my fears, but it’s close. And here’s the kicker: I’m doing this walk anyway. I’m not paralyzed by the fear because it’s a companion I’m used to traveling with anyway.

I should note that I have a lot of solutions to the list above, so there’s no need to reassure me in your comments. Fear comes up. And then it passes. I’m okay with that.

Still, if I could get a little less creative with my worst case scenarios, I’d be a happy camper!

12 thoughts on “Fears about doing the Camino

  1. Jen – I believe it’s a tradition for friends and family to contribute funds to pilgrims so that they can make their journeys, no? Do you have a a way to pass an offering basket around?

  2. save this list!!!! it will be one of the most hilarious artifacts of the whole adventure! i can’t wait to hear your responses to each doubt after you get home. (full disclosure: i had most of them myself before i took off; i laid awake at night, especially the week before i left, staring at the bedroom ceiling and asking, “WHAT HAVE I DONE?!!!”

    1. Yah! Carol — I haven’t gotten to the forehead-slapping stage yet, but I love the idea of re-reading the list after the fact! πŸ™‚ You are so full of great ideas. HUG!

    2. I was thinking about your comment this morning, Carol! And you’re right – this list is hilarious!

      It’s been a year since I left for Spain and I can honestly say that nothing I was afraid of came to pass. I did get caught with my pants down–just once– and it wasn’t nearly as awful as I feared.

      The astonishing thing is how resourceful I felt when I encountered challenges. I did encounter bedbugs, for example, but I managed. It wasn’t a catastrophe. You just figure it out!

  3. I just bought my plane tickets for the Camino and have been besieged by fears since. Thank you for your honest and amusing list! What a blessing it is to know that I am not alone

    1. Hi, Xina! I’m so glad to know my list helped you. I was equal parts excited and “Oh, God, what have I done?” scared. The good news is that doing a pilgrimage is supposed to be a little uncomfortable – otherwise it’s just a vacation. πŸ™‚ I hope that doesn’t sound unsympathetic. What I mean is, if the Camino is calling you, there’s some great gift to be gained from feeling your fear and walking with it and moving forward in spite of it.

      I’m not sure if you read the comment from my friend Carol, but she suggested that I revisit my list of fears when I got back to see if any of them came to fruition. They didn’t. And the few that were close were completely manageable. Color me surprised! πŸ™‚

      Sending warm thoughts to you as you embrace your new role as pilgrim. Once you say yes (and certainly once you buy tickets), your pilgrimage has already begun. Buen Camino! ❀

  4. Hi Jennifer – thank you so much for your kind reply both here and on Facebook! You are absolutely right about the fact that a pilgrimage should be filled with effort and not just enjoyable, although I’m sure it will be that as well. I’m so glad that none of your fears came to fruition. I hope it’s all right to follow your journal to see all that you have to say. God bless you!

    1. Of course! Follow away! πŸ™‚

      I thought of you this morning and remembered a thought that came to me many times on the Way that brought me solace: the millions of feet that had trod this path before me. Somehow my fears eased when I remembered they’d made the journey too. Perhaps in that next footfall, Saint Francis had stepped there too, or my aunt, or my friend, Carol. I felt supported even when I was alone, remembering that I was part of something much bigger than my own, private journey.

      Anyway, I’m glad to be connected and am sending you prayers as you journey with your fear and your excitement. ❀ Buen Camino!

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