Do it again?

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Since I have been home some people have asked if I would walk the Camino again, or if I wanted to walk the Camino again or if I was going to walk again. I’m not sure of how to answer that. We met or heard about many people who have walked the Camino more that once. Some have walked it many times, like Jaime who was walking the Camino for the tenth time in eleven years. We met one man who was walking the Camino for the third time this year! (But we think he had some…”issues.”) Several of the people who ran albergues have walked the Camino more than once, their attraction to the Camino one of the reasons they are running an albergue. We met one man who biked the Camino three times and now was walking it. Granted he had broken his leg the last time he biked it. But the point is that walking the Camino more than once is not unusual.

Jamie said that each of his ten walks was different. I can see how that would be. You would meet different people with a different set of interesting stories. You would notice different things while you walked through the same places. The season and weather would be different. You might visit some places on the side of the Camino that you had not stopped for before. You think about and meditate on different things. We heard about one woman who had walked with her daughter. Upon completing the walk she said that she would not trade the experience of walking the Camino with her daughter with the deepening of their relationship for anything. But she was going back to walk the Camino alone because she needed to experience that.

When we decided to walk the Camino we decided that we were not going as tourists, but as walkers. Sometimes the difference was a little gray, but in general we did not stop nor detour to see famous relics, or churches, or monuments, or other things often mentioned in our guide books. We did tour two cathedrals but even that felt a little strange to me. While walking, though, I did wonder about taking time to visit some of those towns or cities for a little longer or about purposefully seeking out some of the very interesting sites that make up so much of Spain’s history.

As I walked I thought of several ways that one could walk the Camino in terms of “themes.” They would include:
…appreciating and learning more about the architecture we passed by. The old buildings, including the ruins were fascinating. Much of the construction that we passed was mud and straw (with some rocks thrown in). With the walls crumbling I could see how they were constructed and how they were preserved or modernized. Then, of course, there were cathedrals as well as modern buildings to study and appreciate.
…attaining a better understanding of the flora and fauna of the region. There were so many plants, weeds, mushrooms and flowers that I wasn’t familiar with as well as gardens with crops that I hadn’t seen before. We didn’t see many animals but we did see birds. It would be interesting to spend some time better understanding the ecology of the region.
…learning more of the history. The region is full of history. It is spelled out in buildings, monuments and in the towns themselves. It could be a interesting and full walk just trying to learn about the history of the region and of the role the Knights Templar, for instance, played along the route. Why did certain towns exist and then become deserted and decay?
…trying to capture the beauty photographically. I sometimes wished I had a good camera and the time to just take pictures. There were so many picturesque things alone the way. There were flowers, and weeds and gardens that captured my eye. There were incredible landscape views in different kinds of light depending on the time of day often with wisps of mists drifting through. There were old structures in various states repair from almost totally ruined to well maintained to reconstructed that were incredibly interesting. There were, of course, people that would have been great photo subjects, both pilgrims and the people living there.

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…sharing stories. It could be great to just have the time to focus on talking with people and learning their stories. My trip highlights were certainly the people I met and some of the incredible stories I heard. Imagine spending the entire walk focused only on that!
…focusing of food. How could I not think about spending more time eating on the Spanish schedule and really gaining an appreciation of the regional cuisines? We ate a lot of good food, but by not eating at the times that Spaniards eat, we missed the “normal” restaurant and cafe menus. It is really hard to believe that I didn’t make an issue of focusing more on the food.

I often thought it would be interesting to walk the Camino again. If I did it would be without a return ticket determining when I needed to end the walk. I would walk shorter distances and do more of the things I was just wrote about. It would take longer. June suggested that rather than walking again, it might be good to return as “tourists” visiting those places we knew from walking to be able to spend more time there to better appreciate them. I don’t know. There was certainly something about walking through Spain. The pedestrian view is much different and, I think, richer than taking a car, bus or train. And associating with other pilgrims added significantly to the experience. I think we will have to see what happens when the experience of the Camino sinks in more fully.

It’s interesting. They say that part of the magic of the Camino is that it often provides you with what you need when you are in need. After our walk I think we were both thinking about others who had walked the Camino more than once and we discussed if we would consider returning sometime later. In many ways the walk was sufficient. We had done what we had set out to do. But, would we return? In Santiago we headed for a book store almost immediately, as reading a good book was one thing that both of us had missed. There were not that many books in English but we both found something that we thought we would enjoy reading. June bought Isabel Allende’s book, Portrait in Sepia. She began reading it and told me I had to read the poem that Allende had placed at the beginning of the book. It was a poem by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda from his work, End of the World. Here is the poem:

And that’s why I have to go back
to so many places in the future,
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy,
ambling over rocks and clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road.

(Did I mention the rocks?) I don’t know if I need or want to go back and walk the Camino again. There are so many other places to see and walk where I can meet interesting people and hear their stories. But then again, I don’t know that I won’t want to walk that path again. I will just wait and see. After all, it may take some time before I discover why I walked the Camino and just exactly what that walk contributed to my understanding of my physical, mental and spiritual self.

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