I have seen pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela walking right in front of my parents’ doorway since I was a kid. In fact, the short walk from my parents’ home to my high-school is on the Camino to Santiago. I have shared my daily morning walks to school with pilgrims all my life.
I never thought about who those strange people with backpacks were, and as you can imagine, it didn’t cross my mind why on earth they came from all over the world to walk on this particular road. To tell you the truth, I didn’t care, I only knew that I had to be nice to pilgrims, because as I was taught by my mom’s aunt “If there is a pilgrim on the road, there is a reason”
The day I became a Pilgrim
My perspective on the Camino changed in the summer of 1986; the year I walked the first 15 days on the Camino with my school. The first two days in the Camino were all about laughing and goofing around. During the day Father Andoni tried to be strict with us, but once the sun set, he became the best fire camper in the world. He made us sing, tell jokes; I remember one night he told us about a mysterious toothless pilgrim who would haunt us if we didn’t brush our teeth, LOL. Father Andoni was awesome!
By the fourth or fifth day, the sound of the group was much quieter and there were only jokes at night around the campfire. I personally started to enjoy walking by myself in silence. I started to appreciate the sound of the warm summer wind, I never realized that the wind sounds different in the cold of winter. The tweeting of the birds would guide me on each step. I loved how nature was whispering into my ears.
The eighth day of the pilgrimage was different. I was the first one to wake up; I was feeling anxious, my heart was beating faster and louder than normal. I was not scared, but it was weird, there was something different in the air, I could feel it. I told Father Andoni about it, he checked my temperature and everything was normal. So, he said “let’s start our walk and see what today brings to you…”
As I was walking on my own I couldn’t hear either the wind nor the tweeting. I could only hear my heart beating. It was so loud that I thought people could hear it as I walked by them. Suddenly the beating stopped, and I thought “Oh my God I am dead”. But I was not, I was still walking. I could see the group walking in the distance. I took a deep breath and as I was exhaling I saw on the Camino my mom’s Aunt. I ran towards her and we hugged. She kissed me on the head and said “my sweet boy, I have come to say goodbye. My road here has finished, I must take a different road. Don´t worry, the road I am taking is as beautiful as the one you are on”
When she walked away the sound of the wind and the tweeting of the birds came back.
That night I told Father Andoni about what happened. He smiled at me and said “if there is a pilgrim on the road, there is a reason. You have just become a pilgrim” Father Andoni helped me construct a small mountain of stones, to conmemorate that special moment I had with my aunt, he said “it is a tradition on the Camino, once you remember someone or something in a special way, you have to celebrate it, pay tribute and let the next pilgrim enjoy your treasured moment”
Now I know that each pilgrim comes to walk on the Camino for a reason. It could be because they have made a promise, or they might need to rethink their professional career. Some people walk it on behalf of a loved one and others to reconnect with nature. It is funny when people say that they are walking the Camino with no reason. Just wait, you might not yet know the reason why you are here, but the Camino knows why and, for sure, you will become a Pilgrim.
Have you ever thought about experiencing the Camino but you are afraid of walking 600 miles? Join me in my Camino tour for 2022, you will be able to enjoy the route from the comfort of a bus starting in Saint Jean de Pied de Port and finishing in Santiago de Compostela. As well you will have the chance to walk some selected parts of the pilgrimage.
Click here to learn about our CAMINO TOUR
Here is somebody’s treasured memory.