S+L's Kris Dmytrenko has been walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Read his previous blog entries about the pilgrimage here
"All I have to do is walk". This is what I told myself in the weeks leading up to my pilgrimage, as I imagined how simple life was about to become. The Camino de Santiago seemed like a total escape from day-to-day life. At home, I often wonder how I’m going to accomplish all that is required of me. But on the Camino de Santiago? You just walk and pray. I can handle that.
In reality, the Camino still requires some decision-making. Pilgrims ask themselves: should I walk alone today, or join someone else? For dinner, do I indulge in a "pilgrim menu" at a restaurant, or survive another day on sandwiches? Should I search for a wifi signal to check my email, or totally disconnect? Lastly, there is the daily question: when do I stop walking and rest for the night?
These questions cause little stress, naturally, since the choices are limited. But they can be made more difficult by the strange dynamics of the pilgrim community.
Though I traveled here alone – as did most of the pilgrims I've met – I didn't stay that way for long. Like a nomadic convoy, a group has formed among the pilgrims who walk around the same pace and distance every day. While the scenery has been constantly changing over several hundred kilometres, amazingly, the people have remained largely the same.
Like any community, there are people in need. Someone needs a band-aid for his blistered foot. Someone lost her camera and needs help retracing her steps. Someone doesn't want to eat alone and needs a friend.
There may exist pilgrims who are meant to walk the Camino in prayerful isolation. But for most of us, the pilgrimage has become a school of love of neighbor – in this sense, not far removed from our lives at home. Whether we are walking along an ancient trail, or working late in the office, or caring for a child with the flu, the obligation is the same: loving God and neighbour is all we need to do.