“I planned to walk the Camino in the summer of 2020 when I finished my master’s degree in ‘Planning and Sustainable Development’ from University College Cork. It was a ‘goodbye’ to education and that stage in my life, almost like walking into the next chapter. However, as everyone knows, Covid hit in March 2020 and canceled that plan. I got a new job as a town planning consultant in a private consultancy in Galway City. But the Camino was always in the back of my mind. One day I just quit my job. I did my research and packed my bags.
After years of waiting to walk the Camino, I had to prove to myself and everyone who had heard me talk about it for years on end that I could do it. It was something I just had to do. Growing up, I felt I didn’t have many achievements. While I did well enough in school, I was never overly academic. I never did any extracurriculars, be it sports, music, etc. And I don’t really feel that I ever had any talents in that sense. I used to feel like I was constantly behind all my peers. I thought I wasn’t as smart as other people, as talented as others. For example, it took me longer to get through college and three attempts across about eight years to get my full driving license. While I don’t feel less than because of this, it definitely was something that used to play on my mind.
Also, I have a nasty tendency to just give up when I can’t do something. It’s happened a few times in my life, and I regret not sticking things out when they got tough. I usually just quit. So in that sense, I felt I had something to prove.
I started my walk on the 4th of March 2022 and reached Santiago de Compostela on the 7th of April 2022. I walked the entire Camino Frances route from Saint Jean Pied de Port. After a few rest days in Santiago, I continued to Finisterre and Muxia.
I didn’t have a religious or physical reason for walking the Camino. If you could call it spiritual, then maybe that was why I walked it. I hoped the Camino would give me answers, not literally, but that it would give me enough time to think about the direction I wanted my life to go. I hoped I would figure out who I was on the Camino and learn about myself and my capabilities. I wanted time to ask myself these questions because I constantly feel like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do in life.
I believe it isn’t a good thing to say, as I was only in my job for 16 months and really liked it, but I constantly felt that I was not in the right place. However, I wasn’t sure if that was really the case. I am trying to overcome that nagging feeling because I think things have been over-glamorized in recent years, especially on Instagram. The implicit message it sends is that we should all be doing more and living these dream lives, which obviously is not a reality for most people. But I guess I just wanted that time with myself where I could try and spend time thinking about what I did want.
As I had chosen to walk the Camino alone, I didn’t expect to make such good friends and rely on those who became such a huge part of my journey. I expected most days I would walk alone and maybe bump into some people now and again, here or there. As it turned out, I made what can only be described as a ‘Camino Family’. I definitely didn’t expect to make such strong connections. On the Camino, it almost feels like you skip the first 5 years of friendship with people. You’re sharing rooms, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, crying together, laughing together. You see each other at your highs and lows, sharing the silliest parts of your personalities. It’s impossible not to become close to people. Also, you share so much with each other in such a short time that you feel that deep connection. It’s such a unique friendship and bond that I don’t think you can find anywhere else, and that’s why we would refer to ourselves as a little Camino family.
My most significant insight on the camino was probably the value of human kindness and the human spirit. There were so many tough days, physically and mentally, where all I felt like doing was quitting. But the positivity of good people guiding and cheering me on, listening to my story when I’ve had a tough day.
The climb to the top of the O Cebreiro was definitely my highlight. I was having a mentally low day, entirely down on myself. I think I spent most of the day crying. That one day, I was thankful for the rain as it disguised the tears. I kept thinking, ‘I could just stop here and sit down and do nothing.’ But along the way, friends I had made would stop, wait, check-in, and ensure I was okay. When we got to the top of the o Cebreiro, I was the last person to arrive because I was stopping and starting so much and on a real go slow that day. The whole gang I had made friends with was waiting in the rain. They chanted my name and cheered me to the end. The fact that they waited in the rain made a profound impression on me. They could have gone to the Albergue and sat down in the warmth. But they all waited! And honestly, I just cried even more because I had never experienced anything like that before where people were genuinely supportive and acting out of complete selflessness. It was such an uplifting moment. It will stay with me forever. There’s a lot of sadness in the world and negativity. But the Camino really showed me there is some good out there. Good people and good stories really make a difference.
I heard many stories on the Camino, and I was extremely grateful that people shared their stories with me, especially considering how personal in nature they were. I don’t think I can share a particular story here, just because it is not my story to tell, and being told these stories as a trusted friend. But I can tell I was, and still am, inspired by my fellow pilgrims Kate, John, Katie, Francesca, Claire, Noreen, Eddie, and Andy. I shared very personal conversations with all of them and can only thank them that they chose to share a part of themselves with me. I think it’s so special that collectively people all congregate to carry out this one walk, and at the end, everyone goes home and shares this as their good story. The Camino spreads good energy and becomes a pivotal part of people’s lives. It’s a positive force, and you can’t help but go home feeling energized and grateful for all the good things you have in life.
The Camino brought me far more than I ever could have expected. I didn’t expect to feel as good about myself after doing it. I learned a lot about myself, about my strength and determination.I realized that I’m tougher than I think and capable of achieving great things. I know now that I’m not a quitter, that I’m a nice person and a good person, that I care about people, and that I’m allowed to let people care about me. I learned that life gets better, that we’re all fortunate to be here, and that I am worthy. I finally felt proud of myself for the first time in my life.This ties back to the question about the feeling I had to prove something to myself. I’ve never really felt highly accomplished and sometimes have imposter syndrome. I’ve suffered from poor mental health a lot in the past, which results in me only ever seeing the bad over the good, the negative, and not the positive. I always believed that I wasn’t good enough or a failure. But this has definitely improved and continues to improve for me today! I am learning much more now that life is not a race or a competition. I am more at peace with the path I took. Certain things in my life today might not have happened had I not gone down the path I did.
I didn’t get answers to all my questions, but I realized that the mentality I went into the Camino with that “it would answer all my questions” was wrong. I can’t expect an 800km walk across Northern Spain to magically fix all my life issues and concerns. That’s not how life works. But I’m not disappointed. All we can do is work every day to become better people and improve ourselves somehow. That doesn’t have to be a huge drastic change. It can be small daily achievable changes. While I didn’t have all my questions answered, I came home with a much more positive outlook on life, which is a far more significant achievement for me. Plus, if all my questions had been answered, I wouldn’t be planning my next Camino!” – For more camino stories visit the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/sharingcaminostories or follow us on Instagram: www.instagram.com/camino_stories
About Lucy: “I’m a town planner, and currently working in Dublin, Ireland. I love to travel when I can. I am already planning my next Camino, either the Camino Portugues or the Camino del Norte – I have yet to decide. Unfortunately, for now, I won’t be able to do it in full again. But I sure am looking forward to continuing my Camino journey!” I’m on Instagram: www.instagram.com/caminochronicles