Some Camino de Santiago Insights

The Camino taught me a lot. Some of it I knew before, but this experience reinforced them. Other insights were startlingly new. When I talk about "walking" here, I am referring not only to physical walking, but also to the walk we do through life. The Camino became a metaphor for everyday life and all its lessons about the physical walk are completely applicable to daily life. Read and take with you what ever you find of value.

  • Walk--To get anything done you have to move. So don't procrastinate, get moving.

  • Know and walk your own path--Know where you want to go and walk that path, not the path that someone else tells you is your path (unless, of course, you agree with them). Walking what is not your path can only result in pain, injury, lack of fulfillment, or worse. For example, if you want to walk a winding river bank and someone else wants you to walk a straight path, be true to your path along the river. If you want to travel and someone wants you to stay home, travel.

  • Respect the rights of others to walk their own path--Allow others to walk their path as they see it, not as you would like it. Or worse yet, do not try to force them to walk your path. You can tell them about yours, but do not badger them to change theirs to yours. There is no reason why you cannot join them on their path for a while (see below) or they join you, but remember to return to your respective paths when it is time.

  • Walk at your own pace--If you spend too much time walking at some else's pace, under someone else's direction, you will get blisters and/or muscle problems, at the least.

  • Respect the right and need of others to walk at their own pace--When someone is out of step with you, get in step with them (see below) or let them go. You'll surely rejoin somewhere later down the path if it's meant to be. If you try to slow down or speed up someone, you are only going to cause both of you grief.

  • At times adjust yourself to another's pace--Take some of your time to walk with others who are not walking at your pace. You will return to your pace refreshed.

  • Walk slowly enough so you can smell the flowers and hear the birds--Always be aware of everything around you. That's hard to do if you are spending all your effort on getting where you are going or going so fast that everything you are passing is a blur.

  • Stop now and then and smell the flowers--Take time to stop and enjoy the your surroundings as long as you are passing through them. You do not have to move all the time.

  • Rest often on the bank of a river or under a tree--As with the last reason, you don't have to move always. This one helps your walk if you stop long enough to regenerate. In fact, I found it almost a necessary requirement on days with long walks. A fifteen minute nap under a tree often gave me an extra two hours walking time.

  • Take time to get to know those around you--Everyone is unique. Take some time to get to know and enjoy them and to let them get to know and enjoy you. Who knows, you might make a friend.

  • Introduce yourself to a stranger now and then--You may be getting to know someone who shares some ideas with you. You may be bringing joy into another's boring day. You may never want to talk to them again. And yet, you may be beginning a lifelong friendship. You don't know until you first talk.

  • Tell others your intentions--Whether you have something you want someone to help you with or you just want to talk, do not manipulate them into it. Let them know your intentions so they do not have to guess at what you are up to. And if you do not know your intentions, you better get your homework done before you interrupt the other.

  • Carry only what you need--Extra baggage means extra wear on everything, your shoes, your feet, your legs, you breath, your heart, your self. If you do not need it, get rid of it.

  • Always be open to whatever happens--As you walk, as you sit, as you play, as you eat, as you sleep, always, listen to whatever the Universe (God) is telling you, no matter the source. Listen to everyone and everything and hear what is being given to you, what is being asked of you. And when you hear what is being said or asked, act on it. Act on it without question. It is a gift to be cherished. The Universe will pitch you some wild curve and fast balls sometimes. Expect them and be ready to swing. But watch for the slow ones that are easy to hit. There are actually more of them than we want to admit sometime.

  • Take rules with a grain of salt--Rules, like arrows and shells along the Camino, are guides to direct you down a specific path, to maintain order among the thousands who walk down the Camino each month. But they are only guides, if you know your path must contradict their norm in order to reach your goal, go your way with grace. Take the bus if you must. Skip the last towns of the Meseta or the 7 km of Burgos' industrial way.

  • On a hot day, wash your full head in every fountain you pass--Like lightening your load or resting under a tree, this can give you miles of additional walking distance. I, sadly, only learned this on the last day. But it sure was good when I did it. And I will remember it for the next time.

  • Be the romantic you suspect you are--There are surely playful and beautiful things in life, but life is in no way "silly," as some sometimes call romantics. Be your romantic self. Let your emotions out and let them show. If someone has a problem with them, it's their problem.

  • Once in a while go to your room, close the door, and listen to yourself and the God within you--Spend the time you need, but remember to come out and join the rest of us now and then.

  • The Universe, God, will provide everything you need--But she will provide it in her time, not yours.

  • Listen closely to others--Listen not only to those you count as friends, but to everyone. Every person knows something you do not know. So only from this greedy prospective, there is a wealth of information and wisdom out there just for the effort of listening. But more in line with the spirit of the Camino, we each share a piece of the Divine within us and are that Divine. So each one, even the ones you cannot stand, has something Divine to share with you. Try to listen.

  • Make mistakes--If you aren't making mistakes, you aren't trying hard enough. Chances are, you are doing far too little. Letting fear of making mistakes rule you can lead to doing nothing chronically, one of the biggest mistakes of all. Just do something.

  • When you say "no," someone may be hurt by it--But when you must say "no" in order to be true to your own direction, to your own path, trust the other and the Universe to resolve the other's problem with your "no."

  • Do things in a gentle, timely manner--On the Camino, there were always some accommodations at the end of a day and yet some walkers ruined day after day by rushing to get to the next stop to make sure they had a bed. And they would arrive at noon or one o'clock and just sit around in the refugio for the rest of the day. Relax and enjoy the flowers. And let the Universe provide. It will. You might even get a bed in the soft straw of some barn.

  • It's OK to go back--Whether walking, driving, or living out our lives, we often refuse to go back once we have passed something on the road. Go back. It doesn't hurt--it may lead to nothing, but it also may lead to some wonderful experience or exciting discovery.

  • Leave enough space between you and those walking near you--Give those ahead of you or beside you space. Do not crowd them. If you get too close, you may fail to see loose gravel or a hole before it is too late to avoid a fall. If you are more unlucky, you may take out someone next to you as you fall.

  • Always stop at the first open bar--There may not be another along your path for a long time. It is never fun when you cannot drink your morning coffee till 2 pm. When the opportunity presents itself and it is something you want, realize it and act on it. Do not procrastinate, waiting until it's too late--it may never be available again.

  • You can go anywhere one step at a time--Many times when I was very tired and hurting and thought I couldn't make the destination for the day, I remembered that I could take the next step and the one after. Soon they added up to the rest of the way, one step at a time. In the end, I had walked over 950 kilometers (580 miles) one step at a time--somewhere around 2,000,000 steps.

  • To repeat, Walk--You go nowhere until you start walking, so walk and enjoy and live and love.

[January 2007: My new book, Walking Life: Meditations on the Pilgrimage of Life grew out of the thoughts expressed on this page. It is now available. Click the title here and read more about it. If you like what you see here, you will like the book.]

[August, 2007: Mikael Hoffmann in Denmark has done a really nice video rendition of these words with his pictures and sounds on called 28 insights from The Camino in Spain. Check it out.]

Thanks to all you fellow travelers. Thanks for all you contributed to my growth during those forty days and forty nights on The Caminmpostela. I shall remember you all for a long time.

Buen camino! Live long and prosper!

Mike Metras

Portugal and Andalucia will follow sometime, but I cannot say when at this time.

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