The deep need for the Camino experience
Every pilgrim I’ve ever met longs to reconnect with the Camino experience after they return. Sometimes you feel it so deeply, it’s like a physical ache—yet it goes mysteriously unnamed. What is this? Why do I miss it so much? What can I do to make this uncomfortable feeling go away?
This feeling reminds me of the springtime buds about to pop where I live. How uncomfortable to be a swelling flower, furled up and encased in a husk. The Camino revitalizes the soul after years-long winter. Post-pilgrimage longing is an urge to burst into bloom, to be radiantly alive every day, the way we were as pilgrims.
Out of that feeling, at least for me, comes a desire to connect meaningfully with other pilgrims. Nothing nourishes me more than connecting with other souls who willingly challenge themselves and ponder life’s deep questions.
Walking is a kind of meditation. To intentionally walk with others can be a sacred, moving ritual.
Training Hike #5
Distance: 5.5 mi
Elevation gain/loss: 25? ft.
Pack weight: 8lbs
Although the easiest, most obvious choice would be to participate in the monthly event hosted by my closest APOC chapter, the idea of gathering with friends to do longer walks held more appeal.
So, for training hike number five, I met up with two aspiring peregrinas and a veteran. Together, we walked along the interconnected paths and parks of Salem. The weather was astonishingly beautiful for early February.
The walk was full of happy accidents. One in our group realized she needed a hat just as we approached Salem’s independent camping gear store. From a hilltop in one park, a guy practicing his trombone, giving us a free, quarter-mile performance. When we stopped for a restroom break, we broke metaphorical bread by sharing chocolate (maybe that’s even better).
Along the way, we compared the merits of gear options for long-distance walking. The aspiring pilgrims asked wonderful questions about the Camino, probing especially for the meaning, the significance, and the moments that made it so much more than just a walk, but a life-changing, soul-healing experience.
Addressing my arthritis diagnosis is still a relatively new thing for me. I mean, how can I be old enough to have arthritis in the first place??
After finishing the previous training hike with Nancy, it was clear my knee had had too much. Within a few hours, it tingled, felt mildly warm, and was a bit puffy. I suspect that the combination of a ten-pound pack and almost 1000 feet elevation loss and gain over 2.5 miles had been too big a change from all the mostly-flat walking I’ve done so far.
On training hike number five, I was glad for the flat walking, but my knee was still uncomfortable. A few times, it even hurt a bit. This was new and unnerved me. I can’t be messing with this in Spain. I can’t just walk the way I did last time with only meager training. I’ve got to be ready.
Writing it will make me accountable, so I’m recommitting here to doing my daily physical therapy exercises and taking all of my physician-prescribed supplements. Doing yoga was really helping me too, but I just got bust. So I’m going to do that at least every three days.
I do not want to be caught by surprise while walking the Camino. I want my body to be in great shape before I get there.
On the up-side, I’ve lost seven pounds so far. This is helping lighten the literal load on my joints. I would like to lose another seven before I leave (10 weeks left!), so I might have to forego the chocolate I love so much—at least until I’m walking on the Camino!
Simulating the Camino at home
I loved walking with these ladies and talking about life, our respective journeys, and the Camino.
The need to connect, to gather, to share unstructured time in community is a deep human need. As hard as it can be to find, all we need is a clear intention to create it. Although not everyone can walk (or return to) the Camino for various reasons, the experience can be simulated or recreated to similar effect.
After the walk, we gathered at my home to share a potluck meal—a cozy end to a beautiful day—all vowing to walk again soon.