We’re only a couple of weeks away from leaving Valencia for my second Camino. This one will seem very short compared to the last one – only 114 km from Sarria to Santiago de Compostella. But much of the gear I’ll be taking will be similar to what I ended up with the last time. With a few modifications.
When I say ‘ended up with’ it’s because I started with much, much more. Last time, I read every blog, FB group and tweet about what essentials I MUST bring. And then I brought it all. Emilie and I left St. Jean with everything but the kitchen sink and two very heavy packs. I would begin leaving half of it at Albergues and cafes, or giving it to needy Pilgrims between St. Jean and Pamplona over the following 4 days.
‘Bandana? Here, take one – I have 3.’
‘Need a Band-aide? Please choose from the 10 different sizes of the 300 I brought ‘just in case.’.
As we were walking from the Pilgrim’s office in St. Jean that first day, down the cobbled street, we saw a gear shop on the left where we could have shown up in our birthday suits and gotten fully outfitted that morning. And probably with half of what we’d brought from the US.
And so begins lesson numero uno – Less is More. And when I say that I don’t just mean stuff. Less stress in advance. Less worry about whether I can get what I need if I forget anything. I brought so much stuff the first time I could have homesteaded in the Pyrenees or performed emergency amateur surgery with my fully outfitted first aide kit.
But they say your Camino starts before you leave home, and I know this is true. It’s when the reasons you’ll walk all that way, and the lessons you’ll learn along the way, start to reveal themselves. Sometimes quietly. Sometimes with a roar. Where you go from total elation at the prospect of adventure, to waking up in the middle of the night asking yourself ‘What the hell am I doing? I have no business going thousands of miles from home, for more than a month, on this crazy trek!’. And when the self-doubt will be fueled by the majority of the people you know.
But this time it will be very different for me. I have walked this route before, so I know what to expect. However, last time I walked it in late June and early July. It was hotter and sunnier. This time I’ll be doing it in October. It will require less hiking skirts and sunscreen, and more waterproof, warmer clothing choices. I know the mud in places between Sarria and Portomarin will make navigation interesting.
And other things will be very different this time. I live in Spain now. The fears I had before around finding what I needed along the way are no longer there. Now I know how to navigate. I know where to go and what to ask for. And more importantly – I know HOW to ask for it. Is my Spanish Perfect? No. But if I can find and inquire about goat butter in Valencia, I can find anything else I might need in the week we’ll be on the trail.
So, it leaves me wondering – how will this Camino be different than my last one? Of course, there will be lessons to learn. Like in life, there always are. But I’m less clear about what they will be. So much of the stress of the unknown is gone and I don’t need to learn to slooow down. I’ve already done that. And I know where to pick up the trail in each village – it’s burned indelibly in my memory along the 800 km route. I know which Albergues to stay in and which to avoid. When Emilie and I went, she looked to me to make all the decisions about where we would stay and how we would follow the map. Keeping us on track and safe was my top priority.
So much of my last Camino was about the people I met and how much I came to value their love and friendship by the time we walked into Santiago. How those I met helped me and how I was able to help them when they needed it. So I’m looking forward to meeting others on The Way again. People who are searching in this life – just like me.
And it gets me thinking – hmmm. Maybe this time its about sitting back and letting someone else guide the adventure. Being on their Camino and not mine. Seeing it through their eyes for the first time and listening to their insights and lessons as it unfolds for them. Perhaps for this Camino the lesson for me is not in the planning or directing, but just in the being there for someone else. And right now that sounds just about right. – Buen Camino
*If you want more insights into what to pack for and helpful hints on the Camino - based on past experience - I'm adding a heading for just such advice. But as always, everyone's Camino is theirs alone, so take it for what it's worth and make it your own.