John Meyer, the author of Shadows, Shells & Spain, recounts his time walking the Camino de Santiago and how, despite some of the challenges he faced, his pilgrimage changed his life for the better.
There is no doubt that walking the Camino de Santiago was one of the greatest adventures of my life. And I’m not alone. Numerous books about the Camino, dozens of websites devoted to the pilgrimage, and various Facebook Camino groups dedicated to providing answers to inquiring minds all universally agree: walking the Camino will potentially test your body, open your mind, and stir your spirit.
However, it would be naive to think that the Camino is not without its obstacles and annoyances. Yes, injuries are bound to happen to many pilgrims. I mean, how many times do you walk 800 kilometers inside a month (and probably without much training)? But they don’t have to ruin your trip. (I injured my ankle on Day 8; got some drugs & medical cream from the doctor, took a day off from walking, took a bus for a couple of days, and then started walking again.)
And yes, there will be snorers sleeping beside you if you choose to stay at albergues. And they will probably wake you up. And they will probably incite angry thoughts. But don’t give up. Try ear-plugs. Try some extra wine at dinner. Even try sleeping in hotels. But don’t let the snorers ruin your trip.
This journey is meant to challenge you and force you out of your comfort zone. It will also heal you. When I walked the Camino, each and every person I met had their own personal reason for leaving their friends and family behind to trek across northern Spain in order to visit Santiago de Compostela. Some had just quit their jobs. Some had just quit their marriages. Some just needed to unplug from their stressful lives back home. Whatever their reason they were all united in their belief that walking across Spain would help them heal from their hurts or stimulate their minds to live their lives better when they returned home.
It seemed to work. You could see it in their exhausted faces outside the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago. Emerging from the administrative center, with their compostela diplomas rolled up inside their hands, many pilgrims shrieked. Some wept. Some looked around for somebody to embrace: a relative, a friend, a stranger—it didn’t matter. Some just stared wild-eyed in joyous relief.
Having completed the arduous journey, I can affirm that marching along these (sometimes) lonely roads really does inspire you and gives you plenty of time to contemplate your life while you meet many other friendly, like-minded souls marching across Spain— just like you!
And sure, you can easily contemplate your life while sitting on your couch at home as well, but only by leaving all the distractions in your life… can you really experience some form of proper introspection which can lead to some form of very positive growth.
It certainly affected me back home as well. After my own 22 day walk across Spain, I wasn’t ready to give up the nomadic life so quickly! Before my trip, I had moved out of my downtown condo, sold much of my furniture, and had placed all my remaining possessions into a large storage unit. I just assumed I would look for a new place to live immediately upon my return.
But that didn’t happen…
After living for a month with everything I needed on my back, the last thing I wanted to do was buy new furniture again and set up shop. So I continued my nomadic life inside Toronto… for 2.5 more years! I just signed up for Airbnb rentals: a month here, a week there, a long weekend over here… Over the course of two years, I stayed in over 30 houses, apartments, condos, and basement suites (and even saved money)! I guess the nomadic life was truly inspiring to me and I didn’t want to give it up…
So I hope you seriously contemplate your own Camino journey. You will be richer for the experience. It will change your life… for the better.
Shadows, Shells and Spain By John Meyer
Lost and listless on the island of Mallorca, Jamie Draper searches for his estranged wife, Pam, who has left him without any explanation or warning. Exploring her last known location, Jamie stumbles upon an urgent letter from his missing wife promising full disclosure as to her sudden departure and her current whereabouts.
There’s just one catch: her mysterious adventure is disclosed in a series of letters she’s left hidden along the ancient Camino trail across northern Spain. Now armed with a list of clues to track the letters down, Jamie retraces Pam’s footsteps, while being both entertained and challenged by the many colorful Camino characters he meets along the way—including the enchanting Brie, who harbors her own secrets that just might compromise Jamie’s intended reunion with his wife.