In 2014 I walked the French Way version of the Camino de Santiago with my bride Catherine. 500 miles of agony & ecstasy; beauty & brutality; peace & unrest. We earned every one of our blisters, calluses, prayers and experiences. Looking back, we wouldn’t trade it for anything. So why am I going back?
That is the question I’ve wrestled with since returning in 2014. I had a vision of how my Camino, or pilgrimage, would go…primarily based on watching the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen. I thought this would be a Father-Son walk, but when my son learned he would need to take 7 weeks off from work, well, that dream went pop. Then it became a “guys trip” with other men from my church…until they fell by the wayside 1 by 1. Then it almost got hijacked into a “couples trip” until I put the kibosh on that.
Finally, I was down to 2 options…go solo or get Catherine to join me. Bless her heart, she reluctantly agreed. She sensed this may not be wise; walking 500+ miles over varied terrain, carrying a backpack, staying in small Spanish inns and eating suspect food. All of those concerns turned out to be manageable. Walking with an impatient and sometimes brooding husband was not. Sorry honey…we walked a long way to find out this wasn’t our best setting. Still, we continue to draw lifelong memories from the experience.
When I told Catherine I wanted to go back, she looked at me like I was nuts. “Never again!” she repeated every time I broached the topic. Yet I could not get the idea out of my mind…or heart. This time, I tell my inner self, this time things will be different. I will think more, pray more, love more. The daily grind will unfold at a gentler pace, taking time for more than a passing smile and glance at other pilgrims. This time I will engage in a chat should they invite me, knowing that I will reach my daily destination later versus sooner. At least that’s my plan. At least that’s my prayer.
After some deliberation over which route might serve me best, I decided on the Portuguese Coastal Way. It starts in Porto, Portugal and hugs the coast, crossing into southern Spain, and working a bit inland to Santiago and the Cathedral for the Pilgrim Mass. From there I’ll continue to the coastal town Finisterre, once thought to be the ‘end of the world’. It’s roughly half the distance of our French Way Camino and with much less varied terrain. For both I am happy. I hope to complete the walk in 3 weeks, averaging 18 miles per day. I’m both nervous and excited, but certainly committed as I leave the Friday after Easter. Ready or not St. James…I’m coming to see you again!