Camino story Emma (34, UK): “On the Camino I found a new community I didn’t expect to find”

“I took a career break from corporate London life to travel and wanted to start with something that would feel completely different. Before traveling, I was working a typical desk job, so the idea of being physically active spoke to me. One of my favorite quotes is, “Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” This became my ethos for my new chapter, and I couldn’t think of anything better than drinking the wild Camino air every day!

In July 2022, I started walking the ‘Camino del Norte’ [the Northern Route] with my partner John. Friends have walked the Camino and told me such amazing stories; I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off my adventures than walking the Camino.

In terms of motivation for the Camino, I wanted to challenge myself, physically and personally. I’m naturally very introverted, and during the covid pandemic, I found I was socializing even less. I was very excited to get out, meet new people, and experience everything again. I thought the Camino would be the perfect place to do this.

John and I wanted to walk together as we thought it would be an amazing challenge we could do as a couple that would bring us even closer. We were lucky that we developed a more intimate bond after spending 24 hours a day together on the Camino and didn’t drive each other bonkers. Looking back, I think we learned how to support and motivate each other more, care for each other’s needs and express what we needed to one another too. For example, when I was in pain, John learned what to say to support me and when to leave me to work through it on my own to avoid facing my wrath! And from my perspective, I learned how I could help John when he needed me to make him laugh, when he needed time alone, or just a beer in his hand. We loved the experience so much that we are about to start our second Camino together (the Portuguese route this time) in October.

One surprise on the Camino was that my physical limits were harder to push through than I expected. I’ve always considered myself to be quite tough. Still, I hit pain barriers and sometimes surprised myself by how much of a baby I was in response! I had knee pain due to a prior injury, and I remember four days into the Camino hiking to the top of a big hill and just sitting down and crying. We had to pull up that day after only 19km, and I was so angry at myself for not being able to push on. John consoled me with a bottle of wine while we chatted about whether I could continue or not. That night, I spent hours researching how to manage the knee injury. I worked through it with the support of a knee brace. I recovered from the injury over the next week or so and could not have been more grateful to be able to continue on my Camino journey.

I also got to push myself out of my comfort zone as an introvert. It’s no bad thing to be naturally introverted, but I learned that it’s sometimes important to “put yourself out there” socially and reach out to people. Just being the first to start a conversation and showing some kindness and interest in other people goes a long way. I remember starting a conversation with a girl in a bunk bed next to me and asking how her day had been. It felt terrifying at the time, but I realize now it was not scary at all. The Camino is a great place to practice!

One of the things that I LOVE about the Camino is that it’s a community, and I hadn’t expected to find that. It’s special because everyone is pushing forward in the same direction. Although we are all searching for something different and have challenges, we are all going the same way. At home, everyone lives such busy lives and has their own priorities and own direction to take. It can feel hectic, and sometimes we don’t have time for friends and community when work and domestic commitments take priority.

It is hugely comforting to know that whatever happens in my life in the future, the Camino community, and the walk itself, will be there for me if I need it.”

About Emma: I’m taking some time out of corporate life and writing as I travel. I’m about to publish some children’s books (find out more through Whiskers_Words_World Instagram), working on a longer novel, and John and I run a travel website (lotuseater.travel).

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