Doing the Camino was something that I had on my bucket list for many years and truly believed I could not do it until I had saved enough, until I was fitter, until the kids were older, blah blah blah. So instead of procrastinating any longer, I just said 'fuck it' and booked it. No longer am I going to fill the bucket list with things I want to do and get hidden beneath a fantasy of faraway adventures, now I am just going to say 'fuck it' and do it. I am so glad I have finally achieved one of my dreams and who knows where 'fuck it' will bring me next!
There are many people who have walked the Camino trails over and over again, but to experience it for the first time is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. To put into words would not do it justice, I can only explain how it felt to me.
We were blessed to be guided by Mark Reynolds & Cormac Evans from Into the West Adventures
who organised everything so all we had to do was book our flights and turn up at the airport. They were both professional, patient and very helpful literally every step of the way.
Our route for this trip was Sarria to Santiago -118km
On arrival to Spain the sun was shining and of course being Irish we were instantly happy to see fine weather, there was a bus ride to our first hotel of the trip and we were all like excited children going on our first school tour. After getting ourselves settled we took a walk around the town, there was an easiness and calm about it and we felt so welcomed and relaxed, I knew it was the start of a great week. Like all evenings, Mark had arranged our group dinner in a beautiful restaurant up in the hills and it was so welcomed after a warm shower and change of clothes, everyone was in great spirits and looking forward to the evening of relaxation.
I knew the majority of the group through my work, but some I had only met that morning, but after that first day it was like we had known each other for years. Our group ranged in age from 35 to 70 years of age but as the week progressed there was no difference in age as we all supported each other along the way. A lot of inner child came out to play that week! I don't think I have laughed so much in all my life.
We were all very enthusiastic the next morning as we took our first steps along the Camino route, the morning air crisp and the streets quiet apart from this mad group of 28 Irish people trekking up the hill, chattering about the impending journey ahead. Every turn brought something new and magical. The route brought us through forest trails, little villages, past farmyards and crop fields, there was so much to see along the way. The sun blessed us again that day and when we took our coffee and lunch breaks we basked in the mid day heat to rest and nourish the bodies with food and water. It was only when we finished that first day, walking 22 kilometres, did we realise what we had just accomplished. At times it was like a dream and we had to keep telling ourselves "we are here" and we have just completed our first day on the Camino! We weren't thinking about the next day and the number of kilometres we were going to walk again, we were very much in the moment and enjoying each other's company.
We walked 118 kilometres over five days and each day brought something new for each of us. We all went through days where we thought we couldn't take another step, but someone in the group would always encourage you to take a breather and then just put one foot in front of the other. We sang, danced and told jokes along the way and people shared their stories with each other. We had times of silence and reflection and everyone allowed each other to go at their own pace and maybe take a step back if they needed time on their own. Our group didn't always stick together as this is very much a personal journey but you always knew that someone in the group is watching out for you. It felt like one big family that week. We met so many people from all walks of life and different nationalities, each one all doing the same journey as us.
Our evenings were fabulous as we all love food and were so hungry after the day's walk that we were nearly licking our plates, the wine was cheap and the Estrella Galicia beer cold and welcoming. Our group always ate together and afterwards some would head to a local bar for an after dinner drink or two , sometimes we even danced the night away, I was in my element! The hotel bed was a welcome treat after a long day and sleep came easy. It wasn't long before we were waking to a fresh new day and walking shoes to the ready. I think we all surprised ourselves in that we could get up day after day and walk such distances, it truly taught each of us that limitations we place on ourselves are all in the mind. I watched our group pushing past blisters, sore legs and wanting to accomplish this journey for themselves. And they did it!
I can't begin to describe the beauty of the Camino as it just has to be experienced by you yourself. Every day I counted my blessings and felt so grateful to be able to put my feet on the ground and take those next steps. On the days when I was exhausted, I reminded myself that I could rest when I got home. I went through different emotions on different days, I thought of my family and friends who have passed and knew that they were with me in Spirit. I accepted my fears and vulnerabilities each day and pushed past them to reveal just me. There is no hiding on the Camino as you can not hide from yourself. It is a journey of self awareness . You don't have to 'be' any.thing to anyone else, just being 'you' is enough. Something we all need reminding of from time to time.
I had many doubts before going on the trip and tried to talk myself out of it a few times, I was afraid of failing or not being able to keep up with everyone else, but when I got over there I realised that there is no need to try and keep up, you go at your own pace and just enjoy the journey. Every day brought something new and wonderful either in the trail or with the people we shared the journey with, we laughed so much at times that we didn't realise how far we had walked. Sitting enjoying the countryside with fellow pilgrims, sharing blister plasters and comparing feet was part of our day. Evenings were full of fun and song, watching our group relax into themselves, smiles and laughter filled the evening air and strangers became life long friends.
It was a very emotional finish for each of us on the last few steps into Santiago, the people in before us applauded and welcomed us in with a warm embrace, the tears just flowed, it was natural and so easy to do. We waited for each and every one of our group to finish. To watch them coming in was a feeling of great pride to be part of this amazing group and to have achieved this together one step at a time. Every journey starts with one small step.
Join me next year for the experience of a lifetime. I am going twice next year in April & May 2018. Take that next step :-)