Photo: Ackab Photography/Shutterstock

Some Unavoidable Life Lessons You'll Get on the Camino de Santiago

Spain Hiking
by Jessica Sjouerman Dec 29, 2016

Respect that every person’s journey is unique.

From the athletes who march 40 kilometers a day kitted out in expensive gear, to the 70-year-old grandfather on his sixth Camino, something happened in the lives of each of these people that led them to the pilgrimage. So don’t compare yourself to others — you have no idea what got them there and where they are going.

You need to be kind to yourself.

It’s not worth it to push through the prickly burn of a new blister or to force the extra ten kilometers to keep up with everyone else when your body moans. My injured knee was a reminder for the 600-hundred-and-something kilometers to always listen to my body.

Share, and you’ll never be without.

You somehow always have all you need when you share. Stine, a 27-year-old Danish girl I had just met in my dorm room inspired me to share everything when she handed me three boxes of blister-relief plasters and said, “Take as many as you want.”

It’s okay to be vulnerable.

You will not be the first or the last to be in a situation of exhaustion, misery and/or frustration. I cried unashamedly in the middle of a crowded restaurant in Navarette after a fuming restaurateur took great offense to my criticism of his dish of cold-oil-on-cheese and no one batted an eye.

You don’t need much to survive.

You might think you can’t live without it, but you’ll change your mind when your back creaks and your knees groan under an overweight backpack. I began my Camino with more than 12 kilograms on my back and finished with 6, which made me realize that much of what I thought I needed was merely an attachment to comfort.

Tomorrow is another day.

The thought to give up might cross your mind from time to time. The thought, “Let’s see what tomorrow brings,” made it possible to break the seemingly enormous mountain before me up into short, doable pieces.

You need to let go of your expectations.

Accept that everything is as it should be and you will open yourself up to disguised opportunities. I made lifelong friends volunteering in an albergue that I never wanted to leave. It would never have happened if I had continued to agonize over my injured knee that caused me to rest for a weekend.

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