In one word: ‘no’. But one word does not a blog post make, so I shall continue. Since 2014, I’ve walked the Camino Frances, Ingles, Portugues, Sanabres, the Le Puy route in France, and from my home in London to Santiago. I’ve seen a lot of pilgrims walking the Camino in their own way. Were they doing it the right way or the wrong way?
I don’t know because I’ve stopped judging others. I haven’t done that since my first Camino in 2014. That was when I learnt the wisdom of St Matthew’s injunction to ‘judge not that ye be not judged’. That’s a story I tell in the free download of my forthcoming book Stumbling into Wellness. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, you can do so here.
Let me say that I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to do the Camino. My first Camino experience took place in 2011 on the Frances. I didn’t walk, and I didn’t complete the entire route either. I almost died in a cycling accident just outside Santiago.
At the risk of repeating myself, that’s also a story included in the download. And I swear I haven’t chosen this topic just to showcase the download. I never know what my pen will produce until I start writing.
In spite of this inauspicious beginning, the Camino has transformed my life. It could do the same for you. Having this experience has nothing to do with right versus wrong, cycling versus walking, hostels versus hotels, solo walking versus guided tours. It has to do with creating enough time and space.
When we prepare for the Camino, we spend a lot of time on practical matters such as choice of boots, rucksack, guidebook – all good. We also tend to worry about whether our boots will cause blisters, whether we’ve overloaded our rucksack, and whether we’ll be faced with challenging situations such as bedbugs and a shortage of beds.
This focus on the external world that will become our reality for the next month or so can lead us to ignore our internal world. That can be something of an oversight. Walking day after day on a pilgrim route, even if you only do it for a week at a time, will bring you face-to-face with yourself. That can be an unnerving experience. Best then, in my view, to do what Boy Scouts have always done: be prepared.
Let’s look at those external aspects again, but with an internal focus this time. As well as considering our boots and blisters, we could ask ourselves which aspects of our life are rubbing up against our values and aspirations, causing chafing and a sense of unease. We usually know the answer, but it can be hidden deep within our psyche.
Bringing that answer to the surface and giving ourselves permission to become better acquainted with it as we walk can be a liberating experience. What would we be doing differently if we accepted that living the life of our deepest dreams was possible?
Reducing rucksack weight can become a competitive sport. I’ve seen such wonders as truncated toothbrushes and flip-flops made out of a yoga mat. But our back isn’t the only place we carry weight.
Our hearts and minds can be heavy too – with unresolved emotions, judgements, and situations from the past, as well as fantasies that we’re projecting into the future. If we acknowledge these as a burden that we’re ready to release, the act of walking daily will loosen the ties that bind us to them.
Challenging situations arise. They’ve arisen on every Camino I’ve walked. But they haven’t been the ones I was expecting. And they haven’t floored me either. Au contraire, they’ve made me realise how resourceful I can be. Instead of surrendering to hopelessness and helplessness, we can develop the habit of tapping into the inner resources that we all possess.
We can ask ourselves useful questions such as:
‘What have I done in similar situations?’
‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
‘What can I do?’
My father’s favourite mantra was: ‘There’s always something you can do.’ Throughout his life, he put that mantra into action, getting himself, my mother, and all four of us children out of countless sticky situations. He was my role model, but, as one of four siblings, I know how to share.
Forget right and wrong. Focus instead on bringing all of yourself – the hidden, unbidden, derided – and see what the Camino can do for you. I know this works. In 2014, I brought my dyspraxia – the most hidden and derided part of myself – to the Camino for healing.
Three years later, I’m still having the time of my life discovering the extent to which I can rewire my dyspraxic brain through the wonders of neuroplasticity and walking. You can learn more by following my adventures in my Facebook group.