Why did I decide to walk the Camino de Santiago? 7 Reasons.
After a whole year of contemplating about what is going to happen when I actually leave my workplace in the end of August 2018; I finally came to a decision which feels absolutely right with my heart and soul: Do a 1200 year old pilgrimage of 750 km in Northern Spain from the French/Spanish Border over the Pyrenees mountains, through rural Spain to Santiago de Campostella where the remains of St. Jacob are supposed to rest. Makes sense, no? So let me explain how it got to this.
The first time I heard about it was in the 8th grade of High school when my Music teacher, Herr Liedl took a sabbatical year. When he came back after a year he told us that he has walked the St. Jacobs way (this is how you call it in German, Jakobsweg) starting in Switzerland. It took him nearly three months. I thought he is absolutely nuts. I couldn't relate to this idea in no way and thought he must be an idiot. However, you know - I was 14. Since then I kept meeting somewhat 'spiritual'/crazy people who have walked the Camino and told me of how it has changed their lives. I loved to listen to their stories. However, really relating to it I was only able when I started hiking myself and suddenly the idea started being graspable...
When my friend told me about three weeks ago that he considers going for two weeks in September I seriously started thinking about it and within two days I decided that this is what I want to do! Here is why (the reasons are not sorted in order of importance):
1) I am at a cross road in life.
I quit my job after 6+ years and not looking for a new one. I feel I need to find a new place and define my existence from scratch. Oftentimes when you are busy with your everyday life it tends to be hard to see the things which really matter in life, which are worthwhile to be pursued. By taking such break from ordinary life I hope to realize what is important for me and by staying true to these values everything else will put itself into place.
2) I love wine.
Many of you know how much I love wine. This is Northern Spain - I will be basically walking through the places where Rioja is being drunk for breakfast. From what I understood from the research I have done so far that wine comes free with the pilgrims lunch deal in some places. Like WTF? Many call the Camino also 'the journey of spirits'. How can you walk 25km a day if you drink red wine at 10:30 am? I really need to find out.
3) It's a one-way-trek.
It's hard to describe how much satisfaction I get from the fact that I need to arrive at the starting point knowing what I need to do every day: waking up and walking. I maybe need to make decisions about where to have breakfast, lunch and whether to sleep on the upper or lower bunk bed. The way is the journey and it will lead you to the most incredible experiences and other than that I don't need to do ANY other decisions. There is an infrastructure with super markets, towns, cities, hostels and restaurants. I don't need to camp outside or cook my meals. I also don't need to worry about solitude because there are many pilgrims who are there for me whether I need a plaster, a wine buddy or a shoulder to cry on about my shitty day. Pilgrims cherish companionship during the Camino and are super helpful.
4) 'Other' people's stories.
I am already for a while adding multiple hobbies to my routine in order to meet 'other' people than the ones who normally surround me. Another reason which makes the Camino so appealing is the chance to meet people from all over the world and to actually have the time and attention to have meaningful conversations with them, to listen to their stories. We live very hectic lives in which I pick up my cellphone around 60 times a day (yes, I have an app for that) where I simply don't have the attentive capacity to deal with subjects on a level they should be dealt with. I want to listen, I want to get inspired by other people's stories, share mine and draw and disperse energy.
5) Asceticism and spirituality.
Although I am not coming from religious motivations I believe in a higher way of awareness where your existence is not bound to material things. You learn how little you actually need. At the end of the day it's a pilgrimage and you are supposed to suffer and by suffering you make realizations you've probably wouldn't have made otherwise. I always believed less is more. Even though it means sleeping with 150 other people in a hall, having painful blisters and eat super greasy Spanish food for over 40 days but in the end of the day I believe that I will learn so much about myself and the world. The moment I thought about the Camino I felt it; everything about it felt right to me. I needed to do it.
6) Hiking and meditative state.
I love hiking because it offsets me into a meditative state. The piece of mind I can experience during long hikes are addictive and I think besides the fact that I love nature it's the main reason why I love hiking. The longer I hike the higher the feeling of awareness which feels very rewarding to me. The longest hike I've ever done was 12 days in Nepal to the Everest base camp. I'm very curious how a 40 day hike must feel like.
7) Finding family.
From experience I know that you can form pretty intense relationships with people in a relatively short time due to the fact that you spend so much time walking and talking to each other. People call these unions 'camino families' at different sections of the hike. I'd love to make new families. Furthermore, my parents happen to live in Spain as well. Things with them are not easy for a while. I am hoping that they will join me on a part of the way and that we can share experiences together which will help us to strengthen our family.
People say that miracles happen along the way. I hope they will happen to me and that I will have the physical and mental strength to finish the whole journey. Maybe I even will go beyond Santiago to Fisterra - 90 km further to the end of the world at the Atlantic Ocean - to the last stop of the Camino where pilgrims traditionally enter the Ocean and burn their clothes as a sign of purification.
Buen Camino to me!