(Originally posted on 3 September 2016)
Carrión de los Condes/Sahagún
I watched the movie Into the Wild a couple of years ago, and it shocked me. On the one hand, I was attracted by the freedom. The main character simply cut all ties and relationships and affections, ignored any opportunity of developing a professional career, and left everything behind without looking back. On the other hand, I was stunned by the insensitivity of his decision. I thought about how scared his parents must have felt for him. I thought about how his friends must have tried to find out if he was still alive. Without him, the world he was leaving behind would not be the same.
On my first Camino, I told everyone who had asked about my vacation plans that I was about to do this path, but I decided not to share any details until I have completed it. I called home every 3 or 4 days to make sure that everything was fine and promised I would answer any question only after I reach Compostela (something I really did). But other than that, I did not have any contact with the world I knew for the entire trip. The reason was simple. Because I did not want to feel additional pressure or expectation on my shoulders. Neither did I want to scare anyone with the uncertainty of my safety and whereabouts, so I opted for a low-profile approach.
Even though I was not exactly “into the wild”, but when I completed the first Camino, I realized I could have approached it a little better. Because I began to understand that the Camino is more of a community experience than a personal one, and that I was not walking just for my own pleasure, but for improving the world around me.
So on my second Camino, I decided to adopt a different approach. I opted to share the details of my trip on social networks, to say goodnight to my girlfriend every evening, to call home every three or four days to update my parents how things are going and answer their questions. More than this, and maybe also to make peace with myself - I offered the opportunity to everyone interested in this adventure to read my blog. Yes, maybe my mother – who subscribes to my blog to receive daily newsletter – will be a little worried about my physical conditions, but it ain’t the worst possible problem. At the end of the day, the benefits arising from sharing this path are way more than the disadvantages.
To those looking for a simple escape - like the main character of Into the Wild -the Camino offers the perfect deal. You have a spiritual goal. You can immerse yourself in nature. You will always find someone appreciating your choice. More than this, you will even affirm to yourself that somehow you are superior to the mundane corporate world that chases profits and grinds souls.
However, the Camino is the means, not the goal.
For as long as you can’t distill the teaching from the Camino and apply them in real life scenarios, most of your efforts on this journey will be wasted. Because the contrast between the Camino and the real world you live in will frustrate you every single day. You will complain about the loss of freedom. You will focus on the things that differentiate yourself from the people around you instead of working on the communal elements. And you will make those around you suffer instead of improving their lives.
If that is the case - if escape is all you are after - maybe it is good to think twice before starting walking. Because at the end of the day, the Camino is a long path to detach yourself from your ego..