The most memorable parts of the 118km walk were those I took in the forest—alone. I walked with some degree of confidence and yet, also with some degree of trepidation.
What if I’m on the wrong path? What if after walking so many kilometers, I find no clearing? What if this path leads nowhere? Will I see the yellow arrow? And if I don’t, will I have the strength to retrace my steps and find it?
What dangers lurk behind these trees? They look innocent enough, even magical. But should I fall for their beauty? Should I trust what I see? Or should I forge on, focused on the destination?
And yet despite my apprehensions, I was at peace.
As far as my eyes could see, there was no one else among the trees and yet, there were times in the forest when I eerily felt like I was being carried by some unseen force. My feet were practically gliding through the stones and leaves on the ground.
Was I scared? No. I was busy trying to comprehend what was happening. I certainly didn’t partake of any magic mushrooms. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But things returned to normal on the country roads.
And I was completely focused on finishing the walk. I never saw the phone numbers of the cab companies emblazoned along the way which my fellow pilgrims told me sorely tempted them to call and quit.
Perhaps, I was so single-minded in my goal to finish the task before me that I chose to see only what I wanted to see.
It’s been said that each pilgrim’s experience mirrors their journey in life. I find this to be uncannily true—because while I’m fairly confident of the choices I’ve made in life, I still seek validation for them.
In the walk, I sought the yellow arrows and found comfort when I saw them. In life, I seek guideposts and find solace in God’s wisdom. It is why I constantly pray for courage, strength and light. And why I often ask, “Is this the way, Lord?”
I walked the Camino de Santiago like I live my life—with focus and precision, with some degree of confidence but also trepidation.
Walking with another pilgrim makes the walk easier. When you exchange life stories, 20 difficult kilometers feel shorter and lighter. It is the same in life, when you walk with someone, life doesn’t feel as hard.
But I savored the times I walked alone. I felt I could do anything—despite my trepidation. And I knew I could do it—despite the odds. It is liberating to make it on your own.
The single state becomes me. I live it without second thoughts. Finally. Because to love me means to be there for me—not to hold my hand but to let me be.
Camino means road, way, path, journey. Santiago is a combination of two Spanish words: “santo” (saint) and “Yago,” (old Spanish form of James).
When you walk the Way of St. James, sometimes, you find your way too. Finally.