How The Camino Messed Me Up


It all began in September of 2013…

It was my first encounter with by beloved Camino de Santiago, the 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. Since that day, I’ve struggled with words to adequately describe this unique experience, failing miserably each time.

Trying to explain this little blip in time, so outside anything I’d known in my life, both before and since, leaves me stammering and stuttering.

It’s no exaggeration to say that who I am was forever changed – profoundly and to my core. Trying to put that transformation into words that make sense is futile.

Instead of talking about it, the natural next step for me was to bring other women to experience this life-altering phenomenon for themselves. I created groups, providing every method I could imagine for this adventure to be easy and stress-free. My deepest desire was to have others feel like I did.

The lesson with my first group was definitely mine. I learned I had to let go of my attachment to having everyone else experience what I had. It was their Camino. They had their own lessons to learn, and blessings to receive that had nothing to do with me.

Since that first return trip, I’ve accompanied two more groups of women with hopes of several more to come.

Each time I arrive in Spain and make my way to our designated point on this precious trail, I breathe deeply silently rejoicing at being in this place I love. And as I walk through the doorway of our first albergue and am greeted by the loving hospitaleros, I am home. Home to a place that my soul is peaceful and at rest.

The ironic thing about this situation is that at my own home, I don’t feel stressed or unhappy. I am very calm and comfortable there, grateful for my joyful life. There is just something different on the Camino. Something words don’t describe.

I like who I am when I’m there, and I feel that for this short period of time, I step into the fullness of who I was created to be.

So, now, here’s how this centering loving place has messed me up…

For the time I spend in this soulful place, or alternative universe as I like to call it, I feel deeply connected to nature. This is something I was a bit surprised by, not even realizing what I was missing. There is this heart connection that I experience with people that I can only relate to the way I feel with my family or very good friends. Some of these people, I know for less than 24 hours, yet tear up saying good bye to them. The most profound awakening for me was my spiritual connection. I consider myself a woman of faith, but what that meant to me completely shifted from my head to my heart. What I believed as a concept became a very real and personal knowing.

I know this sounds very ‘woo woo’ and maybe even unrealistic, but that is my true experience. Not just the first time – every time.

The struggle is: How do I continue this elevated state of being, once I return home?

I try. When things are rough or if I’m having a hard day, I close my eyes and visualize myself some place on that trail. I smell the forest, I hear the birds, I feel how I felt, and it soothes and comforts me. But that’s temporary. I’ve yet to find a way to have that become a regular way of being in my everyday life.

It leaves me longing for the Camino like a lost child, counting the days until I can be back in its inviting comforting arms again, safely enfolded in its unconditional love and pure beauty.

This is the closest I can imagine to what it will be like to be in the arms of my Heavenly Father again.

So, thank you, Camino, for a glimpse of that joyful precious reunion. I guess you haven’t messed me up after all.