“It is only when you are ripped away from the familiar and the comfortable and forced into something challenging and new that you are able to learn who you really are” – Belgian man who just finished el Camino de Santiago
I just spent three days in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. This is a beautiful city, yes, but the real reason that it is a tourist estination is because it is the culmination of a famous Catholic pilgrimage. The most famous route is from France, which is approximately 750km. This pilgrimage began in 815 AD when the Catholic church confirmed that the remains of St. John had been discovered in northern Spain. It faded into history for a while but experienced a revival in the 20th century and remains extraordinarly popular today among the faithful, as well as among adventurers and soul-searchers.
Although I myself have not (yet!) completed this pilgrimage, I spoke with many pilgrims at the end of their journey, and here are some things that they had to tell me:
“I’m excited to see my friends and family back home, but I don’t think it feels quite like home anymore. Everything is different now. I’m different.” – Belgian pilgram, Brussels to Santiago de Compostela, 4 months
“I spent the last month walking alone. Or, well, I was never really alone. Even when I didn’t run into other travelers, I had the company of my thoughts and emotions.” – Canadian pilgram, Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela, 39 days
“The Camino is rewarding even if you don’t find what you were searching for. After all, do any of us really know what to search for? What we need to discover will be revealed to us if we make ourselves vulnerable and open to it.” – Belgian pilgram, Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela, 30 days