Making the decision to walk the Camino
It was early in 2011 and I had thought about walking El Camino for two years. Ever since the summer of 2009 when I had walked ‘the Kings Trail’ in the northern mountains in Swedish Lapland. Hiking in the mountains had left me both euphoric as surprised. I had always imagined that I probably would enjoy hiking, but on the other hand I didn’t see myself as the outdoor type. More like your typical city dweller working in the media business. Shortly after returning home from Lapland, Paolo Coelho’s book The Pilgrimage came in my way. I had of course heard of the historic pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela and just thought it was something the medieval Catholics did, to atone for the sins the church’s men had told them they were carrying. But I didn’t know people still were walking the road to Santiago. Or the Way of St James as it’s also known.
Coelho’s ‘The Pilgrimage’ woke up a strong yearning to walk the Camino de Santiago. And I needed to do it alone. At the same time documentaries and newspaper articles about El Camino started to pop up wherever i looked. I decided to do it.
A few minutes after my decision, all conceivable problems and obstacles started to fill my brain. Inhibitions like ‘A whole month? How do I manage to be away so long?’ . “How can I justify to my partner that I take a full month off, just for myself ?’ , “What if it’s dangerous ? ” and tons of practical questions on top of that.
The multitude of obstacles somewhat dampened my resolve and I settled with the weaker ‘I’ll do it someday in the future’.
Obviously, with that kind of affirmation it would never happen. By placing the adventure in the illusory future, it would keep moving forward, away from the present, forever.
It took me two years to realize I needed to decide to walk the Camino NOW if it was ever going to happen. I looked in my calendar for possible dates and found 30 days beginning in March 2011. Maybe not the most attractive time of the year weatherwise, I thought, but now the decision was made. Any obstacles from now on, were to be overcome at all costs. It’s amazing how much easier everything went with that attitude. The perceived barriers weren’t nearly as high as they looked from a distance. Some obstacles turned out not to exist at all.
Suddenly all arrangements were made and the date of departure drew closer. With it, also a mutual separation anxiety for myself and my partner . It was clear to both of us that anyone who embarks on a 800 -kilometer walk in solitude, comes home as a changed person.
When I looked for support from a wise friend, who knew the Camino well, he just smiled and said without hesitation, ‘You need to do it. And you will meet yourself on the way.’
If I had known what would happen to me on the Camino (or rather, what I would do to myself) I’d probably forgotten about the whole thing and stayed at home . But now, looking back, I’d have never wanted to be without any of the tough experiences that came to pass. Although my carelessness during the first half of the Camino, nearly was going to cost me my life.