The Camino de Santiago is a journey unlike any other. It crosses unforgettable landscapes and wonderful towns, rich in sympathy, gastronomy, and culture. It’s a unique experience that attracts more and more pilgrims with each consecutive year.
However, the best thing about the Camino is that it’s also a very personal journey.
By putting you into a new, natural, and unpretentious context, it provides you with a way to reinvent yourself. This fascinating excursion can teach pilgrims quite a few valuable life lessons – here are some of them:
Age, shape, and size don’t reflect your true strength
Before walking to El Camino de Santiago, many pilgrims feel super conscious about their bodies. This is particularly true for people who feel like they’re too skinny or overweight. Their low self-esteem makes them stressed, anxious, and depressed, ruining their daily lives.
But once you’re on your way to Camino, you start to notice the looks of other peregrinos (“pilgrims” in Spanish). Some are old. Some look like they can move mountains. Some are tiny. In other words, they’re of all sizes, shapes, and body types.
You’re a lot stronger than you think. Whether you’re as big as a boulder or as thin as a stick, your body type does not reflect your true capabilities.
Having the courage to make a change pays off
Although this depends on the season and the region you decide to hike through, the weather on the Camino de Santiago can be unpredictable.
There’s always a possibility that you’ll have to change plans due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. You may have to take a different route and then work extra hard for the next couple of days to get back on schedule.
However, it is exactly these kinds of detours that can take you to unforgettable sights. Sometimes, making a tough call pays off, and is completely worth it.
Life throws new things at us every day, and we need a moment to take it all in. One thing that can hold you back from experiencing the best opportunities is when you’re sticking to a strict itinerary.
By walking Camino de Santiago, you’ll learn that you should never be afraid to make a change, especially if it can make your life better.
There are way too many unnecessary material distractions
When you’re backpacking internationally, you have to pack light. Of course, essential hiking gear such as a light waterproof backpack, proper walking shoes, and a good hiking water bottle is mandatory, but you have to let go of simple everyday luxuries. A person hiking dozens of kilometers per day and sweating in the middle of nowhere has no need for makeup or jewelry.
After a couple of days, you suddenly notice how you’re enjoying life without Internet notifications and other unnecessary distractions. It feels liberating. Once you’re back home, you’re a new person – one that gives attention to stuff that really matters.
You need to be accepting of others – but also of yourself
When you’re walking next to other people for miles and miles every day, there’s bound to be a lot of deep conversations. You’ll find yourself telling other people about things you’d otherwise never share. Others will tell you their secrets, too.
Sometimes, people won’t agree with you. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Opinions can differ, but all of you are still heading in the same direction via the same path.
By connecting with fellow travelers, you’ll also learn a thing or two about yourself. The enlightening conversations you’ll have along the way will teach you to share your thoughts and be open to different perspectives and opinions.
Don’t lose hope and never give up
The journey on the Camino can be challenging. You’ll be physically tired, your back may hurt, and your feet will be on fire, covered in blisters.
There may even be days when you’ll think about giving up. The idea of getting a bus ticket to the nearest airport may seem tempting when you have hundreds of miles of walking in front of you.
If the Camino was easy, however, it wouldn’t be a real pilgrimage. Smile through the pain. Push yourself and don’t give up until you reach the destination. It’s a valuable life lesson – nothing compares to the feeling of accomplishing your own personal goals.
Be a better person
El Camino de Santiago is imbued with a myriad of values that are rarely present in our society. Virtues such as solidarity, fraternity, and companionship are often deeply hidden.
Traveling with other pilgrims, telling them your secrets as if you have known them all your life, being always ready to help those in need, are values often found on this pilgrimage. So much so, that there are thousands of people walking the Camino every year only to surround themselves with these values.
To put it simply, El Camino de Santiago often helps people become the best versions of themselves.
I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.