The Camino de Santiago is an intense physical challenge, but also a difficult mental challenge in which you learn about yourself.
Our guest author, Becca Brown, joins us to share what you might learn when you undertake to walk the Camino de Santiago.
This post contains affiliate links and/or references to our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on or make a purchase using these links.
Before I walked the Camino de Santiago, I read a lot about it. Not only articles filled with useful info and tips, but also stories about how this adventure changed people, and what they learned about themselves. I even read Paulo Coelho’s “Pilgrim”.
I couldn’t understand the big fuss around it, especially since I am far from being a religious person, and I don’t consider myself a too spiritual one either.
Walking nearly 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago was what I needed to grasp the feeling every pilgrim talked about. I make a living while sitting in front of my laptop, so the Camino was an extremely intense physical challenge that came with muscle cramps and blood blisters. But to be honest, I found the experience much harder mentally.
I wanted to give up so many times, but somehow I continued each time, and finished the journey that taught me a lot of valuable lessons and got me closer to myself. Here is what I learned!
The Joy of Waking Up Early and Completing Something by Lunch
I am a freelancer and not a morning person. I always preferred working in the afternoon or during the night.
While walking the Camino, I’d wake up before 6 a.m., and start walking around 6:30. It was always still dark when I began my daily routine, and I usually stopped for lunch later, and spent the rest of the day doing whatever I pleased.
But spending lazy afternoons with locals and other pilgrims or exploring the areas weren’t the only things that made me feel so good about myself. I loved the feeling of accomplishing something by noon.
So, when I returned from my pilgrimage, I set my alarm for 6:30 every day. It’s easier to change your ways when you are in an unfamiliar environment, and waking up so early at home was difficult at the beginning. However, putting my phone far from my bed to avoid hitting snooze helped. Now I finish much of my daily work by noon, and it feels amazing!
You Can Do More Than You Think
As mentioned before, I wanted to give up, hop on the first train or bus to Santiago, take a photo with the Cathedral and go back home, so many times. I woke up a few times convinced that the pain I felt in my feet, the fact that I had to wash my clothes by hand and the idea of having to carry my backpack for another day made me feel too weak to continue. But I wasn’t weak, and I did continue (I also learned how to pack lighter).
I always thought that life is too short to do hard things, but walking the Camino showed me that not only you can do a lot more than you think, but also that not giving up and surpassing yourself can fill you with so much with joy, confidence, and positivity.
The great part is that the Camino was so hard and the joy I felt during, but especially when I completed the pilgrimage was so big, that it made it impossible to forget the experience. So, every time I think something is too difficult and I can’t do it, I can kill these negative ideas with a simple thought about El Camino.
You Can Decide to Feel Happy
I was always waiting for the right moment to relax and enjoy life. And the right moment was always far away since work had to be done, the family had to be satisfied, more work had to be done, the house needed cleaning, and something always came up.
But while walking, I realized that I could decide to feel happy at any moment. I could choose to ignore my muscle pain, think happy thoughts, admire the beauty of nature, and enjoy the company of the friendly pilgrims I met on the way.
I realized that at home I had all the comfort I needed to feel happy even while I did all the things that needed to be done. And guess what? The world doesn’t end if I sometimes postpone a thing or two.
So, after getting back home, I changed my way of living a bit. For instance, now I take salsa classes on Saturdays and go to a Spanish restaurant afterwards, instead of cleaning the whole house. I do that only when necessary and during the week. Weekends are for fun and relaxation!
These are some of the things I learned about myself while walking the Camino. I am still the same person, of course. But I believe I am an improved version, one that wakes up early, doesn’t procrastinate, and that has enough confidence to overcome the obstacles life might bring. I am also able to feel happy because I am not waiting for the right moment; now I create my moments along the way, and I never miss a chance to stop and smell the roses.
Rebecca is a translator, an interpreter and a digital nomad, living her best life while traveling the world and breaking out of her shell. Her ultimate dream is to visit every country in the world, and she has so far been to 53. When not writing or trying to find the perfect cappuccino, she tries to blog at RoughDraft.