Monday, August 21, 2006

A pilgrim’s guide to the Camino

Here are 10 essential tips for the road:
  1. You will inevitably forget to pack something you need, but don’t fuss with packing lists. The thing you forget will be something you couldn’t have bought in any case. Something that you didn’t even know you needed and, for that very reason, it will find you when you need it.

  2. Say hello. Smile to everyone you meet on the way and wish them ¡buen camino! They may be your angel or your demon for the day, but regardless of their expression or demeanour, they are equally necessary for your growth on the journey.

  3. Do not for a second conceive of the journey as a way of escaping your troubles. Rest assured that in addition to the weight of your backpack, you will carry your problems with you as an invisible weight and the further you walk, the more evident the burden will become. The trick is to learn, as you proceed, how to distribute that weight evenly.

  4. Look after your belongings but be prepared to lose something along the way: something personal, tangible or intangible. It could be a fear or even a friend. Do not dwell too much on the loss as the thing you lose needed to be lost to ensure your journey forward and will be balanced by the thing you find.

  5. Take a friend or a group of friends, or go alone if you so wish. But in either case, be open to that new friend or friends you meet who are in tune with the rhythm of your Camino. Your chosen companions or you alone may not suffice for you to complete the journey.

  6. Be prepared for difficult terrain. Tall mountains to climb, a hot and dry meseta to cross and the ups and downs of your own personal geography. A good map will help, so will companions, best also to know your limits. Ultimately it all comes down to preparation. Prepare yourself for the journey - in body, spirit and mind.

  7. Bring a guide – not a guidebook: that guide will be your instincts. They will help you distinguish between angels and demons and to respect the needs of fellow pilgrims. But most of all, only your instincts can get you past the inevitable fork in the road. Choose the wrong path and you will have to redouble your efforts to get back on the Camino. Trust the instincts you have honed over a lifetime to guide you on your path.

  8. Be aware and read the signs of the road. Some signs are painted on rocks, others placed in trees. Others again will speak to you through the person you’ve just met, who may disappear as quickly as he came. Be alert, the signs are everywhere, if you know how to read them.

  9. Remember that what you don’t pack can mostly be bought on the way or may be found in a fellow pilgrim’s knapsack. Ask – he will be only too happy to give, for he shares the road and its struggles. At times, he too has lacked what he needed, only to chance on a helpful stranger. Each of us carries a little of the load, that’s what makes the journey bearable.

  10. The road is long, but do not despair. Despair springs from a fear of not arriving where we intended. Often our final destination is not where we planned - this is never a sign of failure. The Camino shapes itself - your real goal may be well before or after Santiago. And if on your travels you don’t find or lose what you needed to, you can always start the journey again…
Feel free to add your own helpful tips and advice for intending pilgrims.

What are your thoughts? Share your views & experiences below.


Anonymous said...

Buen camino John.. some good advice there!

John said...

Thanks Kay!

Pretty soon it'll be time to put it into practice.