Huffing up into the Pyrenees on the first day of my first Camino a compact woman who looked to be in her late sixties caught up to me. “Bonjour,” she said. “Bonjour. Ça va?” I asked. After exchanging details about where we were from she asked me if this was my first Camino. “Yes,” I said, thinking, Why on earth would someone walk 500 miles more than once? She told me it was her seventh. I thought I misunderstood her French. “Septième?” I said. Yep. Seventh time.
Half-way through that first Camino, I began planning my next. And on September 2nd I will embark on my third Camino in four years. I’m walking the Camino Frances–the same route I walked in 2012. With such a big world out there, I’m not surprised when people ask why I would do it all over again.
Actually, returning to the Camino is quite common. Nearly everyone I’ve met who has walked the Camino has walked it more than once–or is planning to.
There are numerous routes to get to Santiago, so a pilgrim could traverse up from Portugal one year (my route in 2014), from southern Spain the next. But why return to the same route?
Well, why do you return to your favorite restaurant week after week? Why do you spend time with the same friends repeatedly? Why do you go to the same church? The same gym? And root for the same sports teams over and over again? Because there’s something you enjoy about those places, those people, those experiences. And that’s why I’m returning to the Camino Francès.
- Where else in the world can you walk a few miles, sit for a cup of coffee with strangers doing the same, then walk again, into an ancient town that wouldn’t exist anymore were it not for the tens, hundreds of people who walk through it each day?
- Where else can you meet people from nineteen countries in the space of one month–people who will, within a few minutes of meeting you, tell you their deepest fears and their highest hopes?
- Where else can you turn off technology for an entire day (or month) and be present nearly every moment, with more than enough time to reflect on your life–alone, or with people who are genuinely interested to hear about it?
- And where else could you spend forty nights in forty different towns and share meals with people from all over the world for a grand total of $1700?*
I’m sure the Camino de Santiago is not the only place in the world one can experience all of the above. If you know of any others, do let me know, and I’ll add that to next year’s adventures:)
*$1700 does not include airfare. It does, however, include every penny I spent from the moment I touched down in Europe to begin my journey–food, lodging, one doctor’s visit and three medications as a result of that visit! How do I know this? I logged every cent in a small notebook I kept in my pocket.
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