Camino Fears

Last week Laurel and I sat down to do some Camino planning. Mostly, we talked about the logistics: our packing lists, how we’re going to get to Pamplona, how far we wanted to walk on the first day, stuff like that.

But we also ended up talking a lot about our Camino fears. We’re a month away from leaving now, which is prime season for the “what if’s.”

This is something I remember going through before my first Camino, too. Once most of the major decisions about dates and travel were made, but long before it was time to start packing and doing the last-minute things, there was this stretch of time where there was little to do except let all of the worries creep in. (Well, that and obsessively shop online for the perfect backpacking socks, but that’s another post for another time.)

My journal for the month before my first Camino is full of “ohmygoshwhathaveIdone” attacks of nerves.

These were a few of my biggest pre-Camino fears:

  • being around so many people. I’m an introvert who needs alone time to recharge. I was worried that sharing rooms with strangers every night would make me emotionally melt.
  • the possibility of physical failure. What if I didn’t finish? What if I got hurt, or if (and there was a decent chance of this) I just wasn’t strong enough to walk a thousand miles? How would I explain to all the people at home that I’d failed at this thing I’d talked about for YEARS?
  • being away for so long. Okay, some people worry about their jobs or their families. I was mostly worried about leaving my cat. What if something happened? What if she forgot me?

Of course, all of that worked out. I got lots of solo time while walking, and hostel living wasn’t as intrusive as I thought it might be. Everyone pretty much respects one another’s space. And when the crowds of people became too much, Eric and I checked into a private room for a night.

While the Camino was physically challenging, and possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I did make it all the way to Finisterre, the End of the World. When challenges came up, we dealt with them. When we got sick, we went to the pharmacy, got some medicine, and waited it out. When my feet had problems, I got new shoes.

And yes, the cat was fine. She’s a cat, which means she possibly didn’t even notice we were gone.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.Eleanor Roosevelt

The Camino taught me to adjust and adapt, and to roll with what happens (Eric would call it “practicing acceptance”) as it comes, good or bad.

Well, sort of. Because I’m a month out from Camino 1.3, and I’ve got some Camino fears again.

What scares me this time? The things I can’t control.

  • the heat. There’s no way around this one. Late August is going to be HOT. Like, in the 90s and 100s HOT. (Seattle, by comparison, has hit 90 degrees only once all summer, and most days it hasn’t even hit 80.)
  • the crowds. No way around this one in August, either. There are going to be a lot of people in Spain. I’m actually hoping that we’ll be behind the biggest wave of Europeans on August holiday, but there’s no way to know until we get there.

I’ve done what I can to accommodate my fears. I’ve spent a bunch of money on clothes that will help me in the heat (just wait ’til you see a picture of me wearing my ridiculous-but-practical sun hat), while also minimizing my backpack weight. I’m walking in the hottest parts of Seattle days, knowing that mirrors at least the early morning hours in Spain.

As for the crowds, we’ve made albergue reservations for the first two nights of the trip, so that we have guaranteed beds while we acclimate. By Day 3, we’ll have a realistic sense of whether there’s a “race for beds,” and we can adapt and adjust as needed.

Adapt and adjust…I guess I’m not surprised to see them make a reappearance for Camino 1.3.

How about you? What were your pre-Camino fears? How did they reflect your actual trip?


Published by beth jusino

Editor. Writer. Teacher. Pilgrim. At home in the Pacific Northwest.

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