Three Stages Of Personal Growth When Walking the Camino

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Several years ago I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis and I was advised to get more active to promote good bone health.

After starting slow I found I loved walking in the countryside and being at one with nature. I completed Wainwrights Coast to Coast, the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and then hiked Snowdon, Scafell, and Ben Nevis before looking for something else.

I had a friend who had walked the Camino Frances in Spain and she recommended that to me. After looking into it carefully I made the commitment to undertake a 5 week 500 mike hike across Spain last year.

Like most people who do this hike, my journey started in France in St Jean Pied de Port and took me over the Pyrenees into Spain where I enjoyed some stunning views.

The hike is very well signposted with yellow arrows and many people walk it without a map but I did take one (just in case). I walked about 12 – 15 miles a day and also took two planned rest days in the larger cities of Leon and Burgos.

I met some wonderful people and enjoyed delicious food. One most sections of the walk there are small villages and towns where it is possible to stop and have a coffee and a snack. That really helps manage the weight in the backpack. The weather was excellent – I walked during September and only had two days of rain.

There are three aspects to the walk that are worth sharing a little more about. First of all the physical aspect. The terrain is mostly easier to walk and navigate than the Coast to Coast, it’s the stamina and strength that you need to keep going day after day and despite training well and good foot care,

I still suffered from a couple of blisters and towards the end of the walk got shin splints. I knew the medical advice would be to rest but I only had 3 days and 50 miles to go when the shin splints started. The goal was so close though I decided to put on the physio tape, take pain meds and persevere and I am glad I did.

The second stage is the emotional challenge which for me was the issue of the many thoughts that go round my head but having the gift of time to let them work themselves out. There is a section called the meseta that is fairly flat that goes on and on and on and you are alone with your thoughts and feelings. I was carrying a lot of grief that I was able to reflect on and work through during the walk.

The last aspect is the spiritual – that’s not necessarily religious although many people do the walk as a pilgrimage. Its more about the sense of peace and wellbeing that occurs during the walk as it is possible to walk with others or walk by yourself and I did a bit of both. I particularly appreciated the very close human connections and relationships that I experienced on the Camino and I made some wonderful friends who I remain in contact with and may well do another walk with.

People ask me why did I do it, and there were a variety of reasons, the challenge, the health benefits and the wellbeing / mental health benefits. Perhaps I was trying to prove something to myself I don’t’ know. There wasn’t really a Eureka moment when I got to Santiago de Compostella where I finished the walk but I did have a feeling of achievement, some wonderful photos and some very precious memories.

Debbie A from Lincolnshire

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