The Camino, Part Two: Our Camino

Written by Mikayla Journee
Photos by Ben & Mikayla Journee

 Somewhere near O Cebreiro

Somewhere near O Cebreiro


You are blessed pilgrim if you discover that
The Way opens your eyes to what cannot be seen

You are blessed pilgrim if what most occupies your mind
Is not simply getting there, but getting there alongside your companions

You are blessed pilgrim when you contemplate the Way
And you discover that it is overflowing with names and daybreaks

You are blessed pilgrim when words cannot express
Your gratitude at every surprise that springs from each twist and turn of the Way

You are blessed pilgrim because you have discovered that
The true Way begins when it ends

You are blessed pilgrim if your rucksack becomes emptier and emptier of clutter
While your heart struggles to find room to hang so many emotions

You are blessed pilgrim if you discover that one step backwards to come to someone’s aid
Is worth more than a hundred steps forward without a sideways glance

You are blessed pilgrim if you seek the truth and turn your Way into a life
And your life into a Way in your quest for who is the Way, the Truth, the Life

You are blessed pilgrim if while on the Way you find your true self and
Reward yourself with unhurried time, while not forsaking the image of the heart

You are blessed pilgrim if you find that the Way is paved with silence, the silence of prayer
And prayer for a meeting with the Father, who is with you, loves you and waits for you

Blessed you are pilgrim
— A poem from the Church of San Pedro de la Rua in Estella. It was our first day off, my Achilles were swollen and we were barely able to shuffle around town. I couldn’t keep the lump in my throat down as I read it…
 At a rest stop in Galicia

At a rest stop in Galicia

We finished walking the Camino de Santiago at around 3pm on Sunday 8 October. 37 days after we left Saint Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrennes. 799km, or so our certificates say. We were exhausted. That is an understatement. It had been a very hard day for me, and the final push into town was a long and hot one. We were done. And though the feeling of relief was real, as we came around the corner into Praza do Obradoiro, the sadness was real too. Could it really be over? Were we ready for it to be over? Had we learnt enough?

 In Santiago de Compostela, the day after we arrived

In Santiago de Compostela, the day after we arrived

Because for us it truly was an almost always slow and painful journey. Like really damn hard. Physically hard. Every day. I cannot overstate that enough. My feet still get a deep and sharp ache if I’m on them for a few hours. Ben’s hip gets sore and grindy every now and then. If I wear my backpack for too long the bump on my collarbone flares up. Let’s be honest, it’s a really nice thing not having to walk 25km each day.

 Day one

Day one

 Day... ???

Day... ???

 Day one

Day one

 Day... ???

Day... ???

 First day back on the road after time off for injury in Burgos

First day back on the road after time off for injury in Burgos

 Second to last day

Second to last day

I am also missing the walking.

Because regardless of the immense pain and injury, our Camino was punctuated by incredible people who we formed powerful bonds with in very short spaces of time. And we found these people when we needed them most. These people were our Camino miracles. We walked around feeling inspired and connected to the universe and connected to each other and connected to ourselves all the time. It was a time of self determination, self (re)discovery, and above all else, a time of love. I’m going to speak for Ben, as well as make a big conjecture, when I say it absolutely is going to be one of the most important experiences of our lives. Sure, we’d do things a little differently next time. But we absolutely wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m finding myself missing the Camino – whenever I crave some inner peace and quiet, whenever I crave clarity. I miss having one thing to do each day, and feeling proud at the end of each day for making it. What a glorious thing a really long walk is.

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 Feeling the love and the peace at La Casa de los Dioses, an amazing donation-based rest stop just before Astorga

Feeling the love and the peace at La Casa de los Dioses, an amazing donation-based rest stop just before Astorga

 Wildflowers somewhere near(ish) Belorado

Wildflowers somewhere near(ish) Belorado

 Quiet time in Lorca

Quiet time in Lorca

 Day one

Day one

Why did we do the Camino?

Because we (especially I) needed to fight for what we wanted and create some space in our lives. I wanted to be a bit selfish. In trying to live up to various expectations (mostly my own), I had been feeling a bit damaged. I also felt like I was too young to let life slip me by. I needed to pretend to be free – even though I knew that it would only be make believe for a while. I needed to be done with playing a role. I needed to get my balance back, and at the same time, we both wanted to give time and balance back to us. We’ve been together nearly 10 years, married for nearly 5, and we felt like life had been happening to us for at least 4. It was time to recalibrate. It was way past time to give attention to our bodies. It was way past time to give attention to our minds and souls.

 Saint Jean Pied de Port

Saint Jean Pied de Port

So, after what had been the hardest year of our lives so far, we decided that going and doing something really hard would be a good idea. So of course, we did no training whatsoever (big mistake by the way!). And we bought flights before I could change my mind. Then came the figuring out how to make it happen. It was the most selfish decision of my life.

 Day one - still in France

Day one - still in France

I gave a bit of money to a man playing music today. After asking where I’m from and some small talk, (where I said I was a Camino pilgrim) he said kindly, I hope you find what you are looking for. I thanked him and then thought, what was I looking for? Why are we here?
Peace
Acceptance
Two words came to mind. I have a good life, I know who I am, I know who I want to continue to be. I know about love - and I have been feeling and projecting so much love during this 560 odd km journey so far. But there’s more to grasp on this journey yet. More potential to tap. More of my potential to untap. More patience to practice. More acceptance. More peace. And what is it that I want to bring home with us? What is it we want to share? How can we use this experience for the better? Ultimately, what can we share with others... what can we offer... and how do we offer it? How can we practice, and give action, to our gratitude?
— Written in Ponferrada, while having a wine and eating cheese and cuts of cured meats.
 A very satisfying lunch stop in Zariquiegui

A very satisfying lunch stop in Zariquiegui

One day, during our last week, feeling very close to the end, and determined to make sense of the experience, we walked up behind three people.  They were all walking separately, but we realized that we’d met them all before. One of them, we’d been running into regularly but hadn’t seen for a couple of weeks. Another, we hadn’t seen since Pampalona, our third day, which was 30 or so days ago. Another, we hadn’t seen since Saint Jean Pied de Port. She left the day before us and we had breakfast with her before she set off. It was truly bizarre. We were all within a few metres from each other, 700 odd kilometres later. It was one of the most powerful experiences of our Camino. We had all been thinking about each other, and we were all sure that each other would have been in Santiago by then – each of us always feeling like the slowest. But we’d been walking along at the same pace the whole way, only a handful of kilometres ahead or behind. We were never ever alone.

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Is there a Great Unknown? Is there a point to all this?

There is, because there has to be. There has to be an unknown. There has to be something to find.... something more to find. Otherwise there is no point.

Because the point is in the journey. In the looking. In the seeking.

You’re not looking for the point to all of this. The point of all this is in the looking.
There is no end to the journey. The journey is the point.

You create your own purpose and there is never an end goal. You never stop half way through your life and think that’s it. There’s always a next. And you create what’s next. You don’t find the reason, you create the reason.

If you already knew the answers and didn’t need any faith, then nothing wouldn’t mean anything. Faith is the thing, the super human thing. The ability to have faith in something, in anything, is the thing that makes us human.
— Obviously a bit inspired by this exchange with our friends, Ben and I wrote this together just a couple of hours later – whilst walking of course! We were trying to answer one of the questions that our best friends had given us to think about the morning we left Saint Jean
 Saint Jean Pied de Port

Saint Jean Pied de Port

 Day one - nearly there

Day one - nearly there

 Somewhere in Rioja

Somewhere in Rioja

 Somewhere between Pampalona and Zariquiegui

Somewhere between Pampalona and Zariquiegui

 Fonfria 

Fonfria 

 Somewhere in Spain

Somewhere in Spain

 Somwehere between Los Arcos and Viana

Somwehere between Los Arcos and Viana

Should you walk the Camino? 
Walk it if you need to find yourself, remind yourself, create yourself.
But if you only want a physical challenge and accomplishment, then that might be all you receive 

If you’re open to the Camino then the Camino will be open to you
If you listen, you will also hear and be heard 
The Camino will put you in the right place at the right time if you allow it to 
And it will provide you with people to inspire you and help you find your way 
People are the only way 
You already have everything you need but the Camino can absolutely and will absolutely provide you the time and the space for it to flow out of you 
Out of the discomfort comes strength and power 
And out of the confusion comes clarity and acceptance and peace
But if you bring nothing and are open to nothing and carry your fears every day more than you 
carry your courage, then you will put up walls that will only keep yourself from being set free
You already know your answers 
You already know yourself 
You already know your truth 
— I wrote this on one of our final days of the Camino. It had been the hardest day of the whole journey for me. I was literally wincing and grimacing as I typed this awkwardly on my phone as I maintained a fast pace. (It was one of those days where I knew that if I stopped, as my body was crying out for me to do, I literally wouldn’t be able to start again). I cried as I read it aloud to Ben when I had finished. Then I put my phone away, looked up, and kept walking.
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I believe that the Camino will happen to you, in your own way, and in the way that’s right for you. You can and you will experience the Camino that you’re supposed to experience. Your Camino is inside you. The walking just brings it out. Unlocks your truth and sets it free.

You will find your people, and every person will reflect back to you more you need to understand about yourself - Your fears, your truth, your curiosities, your self 

 Just finishing our lunch in Leon

Just finishing our lunch in Leon

We learnt so much from our Camino people. We think about you all a lot. We are always sending our love to you from afar. We have faith that we will meet many of you again. You gave us so much, and our biggest fear now is that we never gave enough back to all of you, and that we didn’t give enough back to the Camino.

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Magnus - you opened our minds and inspired some of the most connected conversations we’ve ever had

Kia – you humbled us and brought us back down to earth and reminded us to not be too proud

You both impacted our lives in such a huge way. We will never ever ever forget our time spent with you and all the things we explored during that time. You made us feel inspired and brough about clarity, and helped us find courage within ourselves for our lives to come. 

Stephen – I wish we had a way to contact you. Your love defines the Camino and I miss your smile. Your presence helped save us on our worst day.

Rachel - you were the first person to help us fight the urge to judge ourselves when we thought we weren't good enough. 

Ernst – for making us really clear on what pilgrimage is for us

Roland, Dongyun, Haru – a beautiful reminder of how far we had all come, and to be proud of what we had achieved, and to be proud of walking a humble Camino, and allowing us to smile and laugh through the pain

Nadine – strength and acceptance and hope

Joseph – I wish we had met your earlier on the Camino. You seemed to be a quiet listener and a deep thinker and you had a sparkle in your eyes when you were excited by an idea. You seemed to live with clarity and travel with confidence. You reminded me to try and be all of these things more too.

Ian – you ooze love, and you’re the kindest of souls. May love always be with you

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For us the Camino was an entirely spiritual experience. There was an undeniable energy on the trail – one that bound you to it, bound you to your self, bound you to others, and for us, bound us intensely together. We had a lot of fun being together every day, and had real joy enjoying the small pleasures. Tortilla for second breakfast and the little booty boost it gave us, and rest stops with offerings of coffee and fruit and music that sweet angels set up for pilgrims to enjoy by donation only.

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 Still in Roncevalles at the (sore) start of day 2

Still in Roncevalles at the (sore) start of day 2

 Estella

Estella

 Lunch on day 3

Lunch on day 3

 Lunch on day 4

Lunch on day 4

 Approximately 616km away from Santiago (no one ever really knows how far away you are haha)

Approximately 616km away from Santiago (no one ever really knows how far away you are haha)

 Breakfast on the road as we leave Viana

Breakfast on the road as we leave Viana

 A really special rest stop the day before reaching Sarria

A really special rest stop the day before reaching Sarria

 Land of light 

Land of light 

 Lorca - day 5

Lorca - day 5

Here are some lessons, things to think about, advice we tried to give ourselves and usually ignored… (P.S. these don’t really apply if you’re just walking the 100km from Sarria, sorry not sorry)

  • If it hurts, do something about it. The Camino is too long to play a martyr for too long and risk losing it all. We did this and we shouldn’t have.
     
  • On the other hand, if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not getting stronger. It’s meant to hurt. I just hope it doesn’t hurt you as much as it hurt us. We hurt too much.
     
  • This is a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages should be long.
     
  • This is a pilgrimage. Why are you here?
     
  • You are privileged to be doing this. And others will reflect this back to you all the time. Practice gratitude.
     
  • The Camino is a gift. What are you gifting it?
     
  • Your Camino people are a gift. What are you gifting them?
     
  •  If you’ve got a big pack, why do you have a big pack? Your pack is your fears. What are they, it’s time to face them, it’s time to get honest.
     
  • Ice, Ibuprofen, Eye masks, Earplugs – use them all. They don’t fix your problems, but they do help, and you’re allowed to show yourself some love.
     
  • The Camino will always provide you with good drinking water, and a clear yellow arrow, right in the moment when you’re worried it won’t.
     
  • The Camino will not always provide you with a toilet. Never pass one up. If there’s a spot that looks good for a wee, you will not have been the first pilgrim to use it. Watch your step. 
     
  • Rest more.
     
  • Don’t worry, about a thing, cos every little thing, is gonna be alright.
     
  • As soon as you start walking someone else’s Camino, it’s gonna get real shit for you. Don’t do it. Be true to yo’ damn self.
 Ben wrapping his toes in the morning before leaving Navarrete - day 10

Ben wrapping his toes in the morning before leaving Navarrete - day 10

 Soaking our sore and swollen ankles in the freezing river in Zubiri - day 2

Soaking our sore and swollen ankles in the freezing river in Zubiri - day 2

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 Coming into Castrojeriz with the guiding symbol of the scallop shell always present

Coming into Castrojeriz with the guiding symbol of the scallop shell always present

 One of our many mid-morning stops for coffee and tortilla de patatas

One of our many mid-morning stops for coffee and tortilla de patatas

 Resting after our biggest day (36km) in Trabadelo

Resting after our biggest day (36km) in Trabadelo

 Delightful tapas in Burgos

Delightful tapas in Burgos

 Beautiful sunrise the morning we left Hospital de Orbigo

Beautiful sunrise the morning we left Hospital de Orbigo

 Our first rest day in Estella

Our first rest day in Estella

 Can't remember for sure where this was

Can't remember for sure where this was

 Looking through our credential on our last night in an albergue.

Looking through our credential on our last night in an albergue.

May you have strength in the facing of your fears. Go with the love of the world. We wish you well on your Way.

P.S. if you’re interested in walking the Camino and have specific questions, hit us up! We made it and we are more than happy to share more of our learnings.

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