St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela (2011)
I would like to give you a brief summary on the events that changed my life forever, which set me on a course of self discovery.
My world came crashing down after my mum passed away, and then a few years later my 25 year marriage ended, and then I left my job.
I was lost, and had no idea what I was going to do next.
One afternoon, a close friend of mine rang me to tell me about her plans to walk the Camino and I heard this tiny little voice inside my head saying “You’ve got to walk the Camino too Jo” It is time..and instantly I knew that my soul had already decided I must go!
After 6 months of being unemployed, I landed my childhood dream job of working on a cruiseship.
Half way through my 7 month contract, I received an email from head office advising me that I was going to be transferred to another ship and they hope I liked the itinerary...The ship was cruising to England, Ireland and Spain. I sat there dumbfounded as tears rolled down my checks....
Little did anyone know, those 3 places were the only things I had written on my bucket list...
Another one of my dreams was coming true.
After my cruise ship employment contract finished I went to England to visit my my sister (My Aunt), then Ireland to see where my dad grew up and meet my Irish relatives and then to Spain, to walk The Camino.
Starting from the bottom of the French Pyreness in the town of St Jean Pied de Port climbing up 1400m overlooking meadows and valleys reaching as far as the eye can see.
Walking through little Spanish villages where some of the houses look more likes ruins, and the locals smiled and wished you a “Buen Camino” as you pass by.
Reaching the major towns such as Burgos and Leon and feeling the hustle and bustle of city life and remembering not everyone is lucky enough to be walking the Camino.
Walking through the flat tablelands of the Messta with long stretches of nothing but the path under my feet. It reminded me of an Arabian dessert. There are no trees and no wind to find shelter to hide from the sweltering heat of the midday sun at most of all, no distractions from my own mindless chatter.
And finally reaching my destination –790km later I arrived at St James Cathedral in Santiago De Compostela, where the remains of St James (The Apostle) are kept.
During my 33 day journey along the Camino, I experienced generosity, kindness and acceptance like I have never experienced before.
Like the time I was walking through the Messetta, and complete stranger, (another pilgrim) noticed that I was suffering from the blisters on my feet, offered to give me a foot massage .. the next hour she rubbed and soothed my pain away and my offer to pay her for her kindness was politely refused. And then there was the time, I ran out of band aide for my blisters, so I asked the group of pilgrims whom I was dining with.. if anyone could spare a band aid.. Within minutes I had enough band aides to open up my own chemist. This is the fellowship of the Camino.
There are a few things that is said about the Camino..
1) Your Camino starts long before you step on the ancient path to Santiago. (The seed is planted, the dream begins, the planning and preparaton is in motion and when the time is right ... everything aligns up and your are ready).
2) Your Camino doesn't finish in Santiago, the lesson is to bring the insights and teachings into your everyday life. Here are just a few:
- Live in the present moment,
- Appreciate the simple things in life,
- Open your heart to others and allow yourself to be authenic without fear or judgement
- Trust and have Faith - All is Well
- Every act of kindness regardless of the size makes a difference.
3) You don't walk The Camino..The Camino walks you.. (It feels like there are unseen forces bringing experiences and people to you that will present you with opportunities to grow spiritually. (Mind, Body and Soul)
A lesson of the Ego - Walking too far in one day and not listening to my body.
A lesson in Humanity - Helping others without expectation.
A lesson in Self Love - Treating myself with the same kindness and generousity I give to others.
A lesson in Faith - The Camino provides.
A lesson in Faith - Believe in myself and never under-estimate my ability to fulfill my dreams.
For me, the Camino continues to weave is magic into my every day life. The memories, the people I met along the way and the new friends that have came into my life as part of my "Camino Community in Melbourne".
One finial note: The person who stepped on the path to Santiago in 2011 is not the same person who arrived home 6 weeks later and I am forever grateful to Saint James and the world wide community that support "The Way".
by Joanne Cashman