My Camino Family

Before we left to walk the Camino de Santiago the first time in 2015, I read everything I could, including plenty of Camino memoirs. I was desperate for practical information and advice. How would I know where to sleep? Where would I find food? What if I needed a bathroom in the middle of the day?

But I noticed that every story focused mostly on the people the authors met along the way.

An afternoon on "The Farm."
My Camino family on the Chemin du Puy: We saw each other every day for weeks. The people here come from 5 countries and our ages range from early 20s to mid 70s. No one in this picture knew each other before the Camino began. There were tears when we said goodbye in St Jean Pied-de-Port.

Wait, I wanted to say to the writers. You’re walking through this magnificent country, and all you can talk about is the Austrian guy you met at dinner? Where are your priorities?

And then I went to France, started walking, and met the people. And they became the center of my story, too.

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My Camino del Norte “boys” made even pavement walking fun

Today’s #CaminoTuesday prompt is companionship, because the true story of a pilgrimage isn’t just about the history or the trail or the architecture.

New friends and vending machine beers

Nic
My Meseta friends on the Camino Francés

It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re from, whether you’re traveling alone or with a group, or whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert. If you walk the Way of Saint James, the people around you will make or break your experience.

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Alto del Perdon with Laurel in 2016. In just 9 days walking together, we met college students and retirees and professionals from around the world.

The Camino is as much about the hours of conversation in the evenings, with people you’d never meet otherwise, as it is about the physical challenge of the mornings. Whether you have a good day or a bad day on the trail depends as much on the person walking beside you, sharing their story, as it does the mud or blisters or steepness of the hill.

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My Camino del Norte family: French, German, Spanish, Australian, and American. We didn’t have a common language, but we looked for each other, looked out for each other, laughed a LOT together, and made it work.

My pilgrimage was a social experience in ways I never expected, and the people I met are bound to my memories. This is also true for both times I’ve gone back for shorter walks, in 2016 and 2018. I came home with new friends—some I’d known in person for only a day or two.

There’s a reason, I realized, that most people who have walked come home talking about their Camino Family, not their Camino friends.

obligatory pilgrim shadow shot
 Walking together near the Burgos airport on the Camino Frances

 

 

 

 

 


2 thoughts on “My Camino Family

  1. Even for me, a solitary walker, your post rings true. The Camino was a long walking meditation along the Del Norte and the Primitivo, with many days where I never saw another pilgrim for hours on end. Yet the memories I have are linked to people I met at the albergues, or bars during lunch breaks, or of the hours it took to catch up to Luigi on the long straight road out of Friol, while avoiding the throngs on the Frances. Of course, also all the locals that helped me along the way frequently come up in my thoughts, and the hospitaleros that provided comfort and sustenance at the end of the day.

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