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What Would You Walk 500 miles for? El Camino De Santiago

Last Saturday, standing at the MovieBox at a local grocery store, I stumbled upon a movie called “The Way”. Being that I don’t watch TV, I am usually super ignorant to the latest movies. This was one of them. I hadn’t heard of it, but the description sounded interesting. Something about a father grieving the loss of his son who had lived a life on purpose. It went on to explain that the father was walking El Camino de Santiago de Compostela in honor of his fallen son.

I did get the movie, and I watched it that night. And of course, I am gonna tell you how I felt about it. But first, let’s talk about El Camino. (For brevity sake, and because I am feeling lazy, I will refer to this journey as just El Camino for the rest of this article).

Ever since I first heard of the spiritual journey into Spain called El Camino, I have been intrigued by the concept. I have done a little internet research over the years and it is interesting to read the thousands of different opinions about it. I also used to work with someone who would fly (from Florida) to Spain every year for a few weeks to complete “a portion” of El Camino.

Let’s back up a second. Just in case you haven’t heard of this journey, here’s a quick breakdown:

El Camino…

  • Is also know as The Way of St James in English
  • This journey is said to have originated by St James who completed it as a pilgrimage
  • El Camino (The Way) are walking trails from all over Europe. There are 5 main routes. Some start in Spain, some in France, etc. But they all converge on Santiago de Compostela which is (arguably) the final destination.
  • The most common route is called Camino Frances, which begins in St Jean Pied de Port in France. This route is approximately 500 miles.
  • Santiago de Compostela is a City in North-West Spain
  • The trails are marked with signs
  • You can walk or bicycle El Camino. Most people walk.
  • There are “Albergues” (places to pay to sleep/shower/eat) along The Way
  • People walk El Camino for their own reasons. Some say it is a spiritual journey, some love walking/hiking, some love that you get to meet people from all over the world who are all on the same “mission” (to make it to Compostela).

Now, here’s why El Camino fascinates me: I am becoming a big fan of slow travel. In previous years, I spent a lot of time hopping on and off of planes in a never ending rush to “get there”. I am finding that I now have a strong pull towards taking it slower. Maybe that’s a sign of getting older-who knows? Point is my travel plans for the next year include many a slow journey (Cross country Canada trip by train,  a Trans-Atlantic Cruise, cross country road trip here in the US, to name a few).

In terms of the physical aspect, I have only done a few skating tours where you skate every day for 5 days straight. On those trips I rack up a lot of miles on my inline skates. I absolutely love it. But a full month (or more) walking? That would be a real challenge. And that’s part of the desire for me.

Also, the trip is said to be a spiritual journey. Of course, everyone sets their own intentions for embarking on journeys. But for me, I relish the opportunity to spend days or weeks pondering purposeful questions. This is appealing for me. This is a time to think, reflect, listen, and perhaps do a lot of  reading and writing in the evenings (what else would you expect from a nerd?).

Some people say that the journey has become more commercial and less spiritual. Whatever that means. I believe that a spiritual journey is whatever feels true for you. Only an individual can determine that. There are no set in stone “characteristics” of what is spiritual, and what is not. You can go on a spiritual journey right in your hometown. In fact, you can stay home and go on one. I just love to travel, and love the idea of minimizing distractions to allow for deeper thought; Or no thought for that matter. I also love physical challenge. I make it a point to challenge myself regularly in my work outs. Just feels good to me. I am sure that is part of the appeal also. Will I have the mental and physical fortitude to see it through to the end? Only doing the journey can answer that question.

I haven’t made any solid plans yet about doing El Camino. And perhaps when I do, I will also have a more specific “reason”. For now, I am still just enjoying the fascination stage that I am in. This is typical for me when I first start researching about a new place to journey to.

As for the movie….

4 words: Highly recommend. Pleasantly surprised.

That’s all I have to say about the movie. I did mention earlier that I am feeling a little lazy right now. Just being honest. Rent it for yourself and decide. :)

Few questions for you: Ever heard of El Camino? Maybe you have done it? If not, would you? Why? Why not? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by CompostelaVirtual

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