6 Reasons to Walk the Camino de Santiago
Camino. Camino. Show Me The Way
The Camino de Santiago is a network of hiking trails that cross the whole of Europe and end at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the alleged final resting place of St James.
Over a thousand years, millions of people have walked the Camino de Santiago. These people are called “Pilgrims,” and usually wear a scallop shell, the universal symbol of the Camino de Santiago.
For this reason, the Camino isn’t just a hike. The Camino de Santiago is a spiritual undertaking and an adventure of a lifetime. The Camino is a place where the weariest of souls can take time out from the humdrum of everyday life and meet people from around the world.
To walk the Camino de Santiago is to experience a different way of living. To find the magical in the mundane.
Having walked two Caminos solo, one of the questions I love to ask fellow Pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago is “Why are you walking if you don’t mind me asking?”
I learnt that no two answers are the same. Every person’s reasons for walking the Camino are a little different. I’ve managed to whittle down the replies to the following six reasons why most people decide to walk the Camino de Santiago:
As A Spiritual/Religious Experience
Obviously, most Pilgrims who walked the Camino de Santiago in medieval times did so for religious reasons. The walk was a form of penitence for previous sins committed. Today, many people still walk the Camino as a spiritual/religious pilgrimage to experience a time of inner reflection and religious devotion.
From a religious perspective, there is much to see and experience on the Camino de Santiago. There are many preserved religious buildings and most of the major stopping points hold a daily Pilgrim Mass for the many who walk the Camino for religious reasons.
Adventure, Challenge & Social Experience
On the other hand, you don’t need to be religious to experience the Camino. A growing number of people walk the Camino for the adventure and challenge of a long-distance walk.
Let’s face it—not many people walk hundreds of kilometres, day-after-day, through the countryside of a foreign country with random strangers. Many Pilgrims enjoy their Camino because they meet so many different people from around the world. These connections often last a lifetime.
Major Life Changes Are Underway
I have met so many Pilgrims who are either in the process of beginning, undergoing or have just gone through a major life change such as changing jobs, retiring, getting divorced or a loved one has passed away.
As a rite of passage, walking the Camino is the perfect way to let go of the past and energise for a new future. Many Pilgrims come onto the Camino with a question and make life-changing decisions on their Way.
For some, the Camino de Santiago is the perfect opportunity to improve their health—whether physically, mentally or emotionally. Nature heals, my friends. A dose of physical exercise and fresh air, every day, can only bring health benefits to a Pilgrim.
To Experience The Camino Culture
If you walk the Portuguese Camino de Santiago, you will experience two different cultures—Spanish and Portuguese. The Camino de Santiago is the perfect place to experience the people, the places, the food and everything else in between, all of which makes Spain and Portugal so special.
Time Away From Everyday Life
Most Pilgrims will say that they need time away from everyday life, just to de-stress, unplug and wind down. The Camino is the perfect place to take time for oneself.
Sometimes, a change is as good as a rest!