How the Camino Helped Me Heal Emotionally by Debra Aston
To walk is to see and hear what is not possible in a car. To hear the quiet, to feel the rough pilgrim walked ground under your boots, to taste the sweat on your lips.
At times it was amazing, painful and overwhelming. But I am grateful and thankful I was able to do it in order to help me heal emotionally.
I had sad, happy and many, many proud moments. There were times when I just stood in awe at the beauty around me. Then there were times I thought “What on earth are you doing?” but you just push on. As us women do in most parts of our lives, especially during the toughest moments. There’s a saying that goes ‘women are like tea bags, you don’t know how strong they are until you put them in hot water.’ I firmly believe that so I set out on my Camino Portuguese Coastal journey to prove it, to myself above all others.
Why the Camino?
Nineteen months ago my husband left me. There were times I thought this is the end I can’t live without him. I was so sad and so broken I really didn’t see light at the end of the tunnel. My friends were offering me all sorts of advice but nothing seemed to be working. I had spent such a massive part of my life being half of something that I didn’t know who I was or how to be the full unit, alone.
Then I heard about the walk the Camino de Santiago and how it can help you heal emotionally and you supposedly you come back a changed person. The idea completely appealed to me, even though I was so scared of undertaking such an epic challenge. I thought it would get my ex out of my head and heart once and for all. I booked my flights and accommodation and waited 6 months. I used this time to do a lot of research and reading about personal experiences on the Camino de Santiago. It was then I realised this journey was about ME and only me, not him. I had to prove to myself that I didn’t need him or his approval. It was time to see what I could do on my own. It was time to dig deep, push my boundaries and really see what I’m made of.
The Camino Experience
I loved the little old villages made of so much brick and stone, but it was the quietness that I found unusual where was everyone? To hear the occasional dog bark a cat meow, a lawn mower or a rooster crowing was nice to hear in the crisp morning air. We take for granted what we have, we are all too busy to look up at the sky at the shape of the clouds. To stop and feel the wind on your face or the warmth of the sun on your skin. To walk in the forest alone, to hear the birds and the water trickling in the steam and to feel a bit cooler in the shade of the trees. Walking alone you notice these things as you are one with yourself you are being mindful no distractions. All you need to do is put one foot in front of the other and look at the beauty around you.
A list of the reasons I am proud of myself
1. Travelling 36 hrs and changing 4 planes on my own.
2. Changing seats on the plane so a mother could sit with her daughters.
3. Not getting lost just missing the turns.
4. Gave a homeless man some coins and touched his face.
5. Played ball with a dog and had a horse bow for me.
6. Losing my phone charger and not having a panic attack.
7. I was blessed by a priest and through tears watched the Botafumerio.
All the pilgrims I met on the way were amazing as we all have something in common it makes it easier to make conversation. I heard about a woman who had both breasts removed she was getting on with her life she was 90 years old and a father and son walking together the father was blind. What I learnt was everyone has their troubles and a story to tell that will make your own problems seem minimal, don’t judge lend a helping hand or just listen. All parts of the world have the same people rich or poor healthy or sick, if all you can do is smile that is all some people need. You could just offer them something as simple as a smile in the very moment they may need it most. You may never even know how much that smile meant to them in that very moment in time.
My personal Growth
Looking back, I probably should have trained harder for the walk. Nothing prepared me for the hills, but I got up them and when I was at the top gasping for air I was proud of myself for doing it on my own, it was me pushing myself. Me all alone, pushing my boundaries and making myself grow and become a better, stronger person.
Yes the Camino gives in mysterious ways. Is it a coincidence? Maybe but, I don’t think so. To me it is a magical path that sincerely helped me heal emotionally when I needed it most in my life.
Would I recommend the Camino de Compostella to anyone?
This trip really took me out of my comfort zone and in spite of the physical challenges I had a fabulous time. Would I have tried writing anything like this before? Certainly not, but now I am a proud, strong independent woman and I feel I owe some of this new found feeling of pride to my Camino journey.
I booked my trip through Follow The Camino, and would like to thank Jose Chivite for all his hard work to make this happen for me. Nothing was too much trouble. Great job thank you.
Your fellow pilgrim, Debra.
Follow the Camino organises walking and cycling holidays in Europe for adventure seekers from all over the world. Since 2006, we’ve offered a great range of manageable walks and cycles for all age groups, in particular on the famous Camino de Santiago. We were the first ever tour operator to operate the Camino de Santiago by creating manageable sections along the main routes to Santiago de Compostela. We are often copied but never equalled!
To find out which route might be best for you, contact our Camino Planners through the form on the top-right-hand side of the page to get your free customised Camino itinerary.