‘I have walked several Caminos since 2018. The Camino Frances and Portuques in 2018, the Camino Primitivo in 2019, the Camino Norte in 2020, and Via de la Plata in 2021. The camino I completed in May 2022 was the sixth. In all those years, I have walked over 4,200 kilometers. With the first five Caminos, I mainly cleared away old emotional burdens and gained new space in my life. I did not know that when I started. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I did know that when I ran into friends who had walked the Camino Frances, they were radiant.
By the end of 2017, my 55-year-old body said: ‘And now it is over and done with.’ My job with many responsibilities and a position as treasurer with a theatre company demanded a lot of energy and commitment. It appealed to all my capabilities, and I enjoyed it, but it also caused immense stress. In contrast, in my relationship of now 33 years, there was a considerable lack of emotional-sexual tension. In my perception, my longings for appreciation and desire were not met. When my father died, I was confronted with the finite nature of life. I realized I had to do things differently. ‘I said to myself: if you go on like this until you die, you are missing too much.’
After each Camino, I felt more refreshed and invigorated. The deep emotional tracks I was stuck in became apparent, and I could gently come out of them. On this sixth Camino, I left mentally unburdened. The main question was what I would dare and be able to do with that gained space.
During my sixth Camino, I realized that I had come a long way. Along the way, I left a lot of old burdens behind and learned new things. With the first Camino, I learned to trust myself again. I was allowed to be myself. Masks became softer. With later Caminos, I left behind the need to judge and condemn everything and everyone, including myself. I learned to look at myself and others with more kindness and self-compassion. Another critical step was to accept the past, mentally and emotionally.
They say that you are never too old to learn. I now know from experience that this is true. Life has its course, so eventually, you get stuck by rigidly holding on to old beliefs and patterns. The camino was, for me, the right way to identify old beliefs and patterns and examine whether they still served me. It is essential to stay flexible en keep adapting to whatever life throws at you.
I walked certain parts of the Camino with my wife but most of it alone. The advantage of walking alone is that, in many cases, you can only rely on yourself. It is then your choice and responsibility how you deal with discomfort and uncertainty. And there always are uncertainties, also on the camino.
As I said, this time, I started out with the question of what I would dare and be able to do with the gained mental space. That was more than I hoped for! I found a new job with fewer responsibilities and less pressure. At the same time, I have many opportunities to use my skills to connect all kinds of educational organizations by doing justice to many interests. I have also found a new position as a treasurer where I can use my experience in a relaxed way to support artists in my region.
I have also seen my sons leave the nest. This means that my wife and I are alone in the house again. Therefore, an essential outcome of my Camino’s is that I have strengthened and reaffirmed the relationship with my great amazing love at its core. Instead of dwelling on what you miss in the other, we are whole and good again as we are. We reassessed our relationship in areas where it was needed. We made a new commitment, with our own moral and emotional boundaries providing direction rather than imposed conventions. The differences in emotional-sexual needs caused discomfort for years. Now they have become apparent and addressable. I am now allowed to seek my own path more, regardless of social norms.
The Caminos have taught me to live again and flourish. I am very happy.’
Carla (36, The Netherlands): Recovering from burnout while walking the camino
Sofia’s (54, Brazil) camino story: ‘At Cruz de Ferro came the sadness’
Nagela Alexa’s Camino Story: ‘The Camino changes your life if you allow it.’
Fabrice (38, France): ‘I realized that walking the camino itself was self-imposed pressure’
Andre’s story (58, Belgium): ‘On the camino, I had to face the hard fact of how horribly I treat myself.’
Emma’s story: ‘I learned to say goodbye on the camino (and in life)’
Maarten’s story: The power of vulnerability
Agne-Henrik’s story: ‘The camino changed my life’