For those of you who don’t know, I walked the Camino de Santiago in June 2012. I plan on writing more about it, but suffice to say for now it was a life changing experience in more ways than one.
My experience on the Camino has been on my mind a lot recently, partially due to where we are living. Our wee village is actually ON the Austrian Camino route. Before starting the pilgrimage I was unaware that many people actually start from their front doors, all across Europe. I recently heard of someone who began in Estonia(!). What luck that of all the places, in all of Austria, where we ended up is a stones’ throw from the actual path.
Walking past yellow arrows and shells is now a daily occurrence, and a daily reminder of all the wonderful things that I learned en-route.
The Camino brought many things to my life; healing, clarity, confidence, a reminder of what was important to me, new love…but what I wasn’t anticipating were the friendships that developed on this journey.
Meeting people was the last thing on my mind when I took my first few steps toward Santiago. I was struggling with a lot of things in my life at the time and believed that what I needed was time alone to process, to think and perhaps to even pray. Drinks, laughs and daily conversation were at the bottom of the list of things that I thought I needed.
Was I ever wrong.
Meeting people on the pilgrimage was different than anything I have ever experienced before at home, or even on previous travels. There was an openness and an honesty that was refreshing, albeit a little surprising. People walk the Camino for a myriad of reasons, but there is an underlying core that ties everyone together. Regardless of the reason for partaking on this journey, it takes a certain madness to decide to leave your ‘regular’ life behind for a month or more to walk across an entire country. There was a courage, a tenacity, an openness and a searching that tied together everyone I encountered on the trail. Unlike at home, within twenty minutes people were sharing more about their lives than most of my friends at home had in the first year of knowing them.
These conversations provided me with more insight and perspective than all the time spent walking alone/thinking/journaling tied together. Snapping out of my narcissistic mindset, truly listening to others and honestly sharing allowed my brain and heart to work through problems far quicker than if I had just spent each day walking alone with the mad flurry of thoughts in my brain. I laughed, I cried, I learned and I healed.
And I remembered how to be grateful. It’s easy sometimes, particularly when going through a hard time to hibernate and withdraw. But I’d say that the best answer to being down is to reach out. We’re social creatures, and caring for others and letting them care for us doesn’t just make our hearts happy, it also makes us healthier. I read a study recently that said social isolation was as bad for you as being an alcoholic, or smoking 15 cigarettes a day! http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/24/health-relationships-longevity-forbes-woman-well-being-social-isolation.html
Guess who’s feeling better about her smoking addiction. Yup.
But I digress. To all those I met on the Camino, I just want to say THANKS! Those I met briefly, those who came and went along the way and those who have now become dear friends – my life is better for having met you all.