camino de santiago, jan richardson, Walking

Go Your Own Way

We were told early on that the best way to prevent blisters is to keep the feet dry and not to walk too fast. So far, keeping our feet dry has been fairly easy. Of course, if you have sweaty feet that could be a problem, but we haven’t had any rain yet, which has kept our feet dry.

Going at your own pace, however, can be more challenging. Although I’m here with my mom, we haven’t walked together because my pace is faster than hers. If she tried to keep up with me she’d be worn out too early in the day. If I tried to walk with her, I’d get frustrated. I could do it, but it wouldn’t be ideal for either of us.

With 15 people in our group, we’ve got pilgrims spread out across the path at varying speeds. There’s not a right or wrong way — there’s just a way, each perfect for the person walking it.

At one of our stops today, I pulled out a blessing from Jan Richardson. As I’ve been thinking about this post related to going your own way, these lines stood out to me:

I can tell you
this journey is not
about miles,
it is not about how far
you can walk
or how fast.

It is about what you will do
with this moment…

There’s no “right” way to walk the Camino. There are many paths:
Some people walk with a day pack and send their large packs forward to the next albergue.
Some people start in St. John’s and walk 500 miles to Santiago. Some start in Ponferrada and others start in Sarria.
Some bring suitcases and tour buses carry them to the next town.
Some walk as far as they can then get a taxi for the rest of the way to the next town.
Some walk and carry their packs. Some go 10 miles a day and others go 45 miles (?!) a day.
Some take the traditional route and others take the “complentario” off shoots.

So, you see, there are many ways to walk the Camino and each and every one of them is perfect. Just perfect.

The thing is, if you try to walk someone else’s Camino, it can horribly wrong. You really have to go your own way — not the way that you think is “right.” If you push too hard or wear your pack everyday or walk too long because you want to keep up or think you’ll look better, well, then there’s a chance you won’t make it to Santiago. But, if you pay attention to your body and your needs and your feet, then you’ll know when to slow down or take it easy. You’ll know when it’s a good day to take the harder route or stick to the main one. You’ll know when to take extra breaks at the cafes or ask your friends to wait while you check your feet (again).

There is no prize for completing the Camino in a particular way. In fact, there’s no prize for completing the Camino at all.

The three of us who have been walking together have a tendency to walk a bit faster. Today, though, we all started to slow down a little bit. We all took turns (inadvertently) taking the lead, and we all had moments further toward the back. We stopped more. We looked at our feet more — today was the first time I checked my feet while out on the path. We’re beginning to feel the toil on our bodies more.

Tomorrow is our longest day — around 17 miles. It’s hard to believe that on Sunday we’ll arrive in Santiago. We’ll be more ragged and worn than when we started, but so much stronger. And, each one of us — all 15 — will have gone our own way. And whatever way we arrive will be perfect.


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