How much should I prepare to understand the Camino de Santiago? I’m not talking about my packing list or budget. I mean:
Have you read books on Spanish history or the Camino pilgrimage, beyond the guidebook of course? Seen Spanish movies? Learned Spanish? I like to see what other people read, study, and learn before hand to enhance the quality of their journey.
The Camino provides seems to be a familiar saying but being prepared is better.
The Western North Carolina Chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino hosted its December meeting at REI Asheville. Priscilla Richter and her brother Steve Pierce talked about their respective Camino experience.
They first showed a picture of themselves as children, Prissy and Steve, and dubbed their walk as Prissy and Steve’s excellent adventure.
Priscilla walked the Camino Frances on her own. She looked at the experience as Life at the speed of walking. Starting on April 22, it took her seven weeks all together.
She emphasized the pleasure of walking into a village, a “shelter from the storm” she called it.
“Villages are economically depressed,” she concluded at the end of her walk. “There are no young people, no kids in school. If it wasn’t for Camino pilgrims, I don’t know how they would make it.”
“There are so many icons on this journey. The plane trees, which are sacred,” said Priscilla. The plane trees, which line so many streets, are related to the sycamore. And the storks. I never thought that storks would nest on top of stone ruins but they seem to be common on the Camino.
However, I have a feeling that it’s the people she met that made Priscilla’s trip. Some people like solitude but there’s a balance between community and solitude.
”Some people carried ashes of their loved ones,” she recalls. The Camino pilgrimage attracts a world community. Fellow pilgrims gave Priscilla the moniker, Speedy Gonzalez, which she found funny. In the US, she wouldn’t be considered a fast walker.
She introduced a new concept in my Camino lexicon, “Camino brain” which I looked up.
“On the Camino most people at one time or another forget what day it is, the date, and even where they slept two days ago.” A blog from Slim on the Road explains the phenomenon.
Steve was on The Camino Portugues from May 18 to June 8. He walked from Port in Portugal to Santiago and then onto Muxia with Priscilla.
“It’s good to have an itinerary to deviate from,” he quotes advice from Don Walton, a longtime Camino walker.
“The villages were very quiet,” Steve said echoing Priscilla sentiment. “Every day felt like Sunday morning.”
Steve enjoyed the routine, even doing the laundry – by hand, you understand.
He learned to choose a bunk bed against the wall so he would have one fewer snorer to contend with. He praised the seafood of Portugal.
Then he and Priscilla met outside of the Santiago cathedral. I’m amazed that they could meet in the huge crowd without prearranged it.
Together they walked together to Muxia and back to Finisterre, the end of the world, and finished their adventure.