I live in Oregon and walked the Camino Francés in 2013.
In spring of 2016, I’m leaving my work as a teacher and consultant, leaving behind my partner and two cats for seven weeks to walk it again, this time with a different mission: walk the path in reverse.
Why I want to walk the Camino backwards
Jokes aside about trip hazards and wearing mirrors to see behind me, this second journey is a calling. Something bigger than me calls me eastward to discover what it would be like to walk as ancient pilgrims did, arriving at the end which was the beginning.
I loved my first Camino. Taking it was a leap of faith outside of my cozy, familiar life. The experience of walking, the wonderful people, and the beauty far surpassed my hopes. Seven weeks on the Camino nourished me spiritually and awakened a whole new awareness of who I’m meant to be in the world.
Yet, in the time since, a feeling lingers that I left a part of myself behind in Spain. Did I do it wrong? Was the journey incomplete somehow? This questioning made me wonder about ancient pilgrims who got to Santiago and then walked an additional five hundred miles (or more) home.
A small, still whisper kept telling me, “Go back. Go back.”
I’m a seeker, but not religious . . . exactly
I’m a lapsed lesbian Catholic whose heart melts receiving the Eucharist, but avoids Mass because of politics and conflict with Church doctrine. In spite of this, I’m deeply moved by Latin American liberation theology and Pope Francis’ message of caring for the poor. I have yet to find a parish that follows Jesus’ example rather than Paul’s watered-down, rule-bound Christianity. I’m not angry anymore. I’m at peace that my spiritual life is lived out in the wilds with other seekers, rather than in a well-lit and cozy building on Sunday mornings.
The Camino used to be a Catholic endeavor, but today it attracts all types, including Jews, Protestants (who officially eschew pilgrimage completely), and soulful “nothings” without any official faith. In other words, I fit right in . . . and maybe that plenary indulgence will do me good.
A deeper calling
For me, the Camino is more than a long walk, more than a hike; it is a lived spiritual experience like no other. Every mystical tradition practices a combination of physical work + reflection + community. This is the Camino. The walking taxes you physically, challenges you mentally, and strips down your ego in the process. At some point, you realize you can’t do this (this walk, or this life) without help from people and the Divine. You have time to resolve long-forgotten troubles, contemplate questions, and even ponder them aloud with other compassionate humans. This was my experience on the Camino. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s also remarkably common.
The simplicity found in the daily rhythm of walking opens a gateway to the profound. With an open mind and heart, a pilgrim will never be the same afterward. Possessions won’t matter as much, and all will seem more precious. A new standard is set for connection with others and conversations about things that really matter. To poorly paraphrase Thomas Aquinas, for those who haven’t experienced it, no explanation is sufficient. For those who have, no explanation is necessary. The Camino is life-changing.
So I’m going
Starting from the lighthouse in Finisterre—my west-most point, I’ll begin walking on May 1, 2016 eastward toward Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France for six weeks.
My prayer is for integration of the insights of my first Camino, and to connect meaningfully with other pilgrims as I swim my way through the westward throng.
As an interesting side note, 2016 was recently declared by the Pope to be a Year of Mercy. Among other sacred places around the world, the holy doors of the Cathedral in Santiago will be thrown open in welcome. All who pass through them will be granted a plenary indulgence (complete forgiveness of sins). Since a Holy Year was not anticipated again until 2021, the Camino may be even busier than usual.
Want to know more?
I am eager. I’m in the process of preparing myself, physically (weight loss and knee healing), emotionally, mentally, financially (I’m saving like mad!), and spiritually (surrendering control and attachment to outcomes). If you want to know more about this deeper calling, I’ve written a bunch more about it on my Sponsor page.
Also! If you want to receive updates about my upcoming journey (and possibly messages while I’m walking), there’s a place to subscribe top right.
Thanks for reading!