First Steps on the Camino

June 3, 2008 - Tuesday, Day 1 Complete, 27 km

An old converted barn is my home tonight - bunk beds lined up next to one another. Dim lighting. The smell of sweat and rain. The rustling of backpacks and sleeping bags.

I did it. I am a pilgrim on the Way of Compostela. It was quite the scene to see all the pilgrims coming one by one to board the train taking us to our starting point of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France. I met another young woman from Switzerland and asked her why she was on the Camino. She said, “I go to walk.”

I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be. And how so much of where I’ve been and what I’ve done has prepared me for this journey. As I walked I gave thanks for the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had. From Ohio and walks with my mom to travels across the world in Lesotho, Guinea, and The Gambia. A French Canadian I met commented that she just keeps walking and still doesn’t quite no why. I keep asking myself: Why am I walking?

I believe the scenery I walked through across the Pyrenees is breathtaking - but I wouldn't know. The fog and clouds covered everything. I could hear the cow bells in the distance, or perhaps right next to me. I could only see by placing one foot in front of the other. The way is well-marked by yellow arrows and natural road markers such as rocks and sticks. The scallop shell also guides the way.

With each step, the Way is making me.

 June 3, 2018

Ten years ago I took my first steps along the Camino de Santiago.

Prior to my walk, I read and walked, and walked and read. I prepared as best I could. I read memoirs, history, and practical advice books. I bought hiking gear. I talked to anyone who had walked the Camino before. I walked my neighborhood. I walked with my backpack on. I broke in my new hiking boots.

And then I boarded a plane and landed in France.

I became a pilgrim.

Looking back I wonder when my Camino really began? The first time I read about this ancient pilgrimage route while living in The Gambia, West Africa. Meeting a fellow seminarian who had walked the Camino. Taking a class on Christian spirituality.

Or did it begin even earlier? With the first steps as a toddler. The walks with my parents. The trails and parks I discovered in college. The conversations and silence that filled the walks with friends and mentors.

Walking seems to be the one thing that connects all the places I’ve been. The walks exploring and learning about my new neighborhoods. The walks thinking through problems. The walks looking ahead. The walk fully present to taking one step at a time. The walks giving thanks for God’s amazing creation.

Ten years later I still walk. Yet, I seldom walk alone. I have a husband, dog, and two kids. We walk our neighborhoods and local parks. We walk to meet friends. We walk to get the baby to sleep. We walk to local restaurants and the library. We walk to church.

Ten years ago I took my first step along the Camino de Santiago. As I took that first step, unaware of what was to come and unaware of how the Way would shape me, I knew only one thing: that I would walk. That I was a walker. I was a pilgrim. And that I was on my way. One step at a time.

Open to possibility.
Open to learning.
Open to God’s voice.
Open to finding my voice.
Open to community.

And now, 10 years later, I’m still on the way and still taking one step at a time.

**This is the beginning of a series of blog posts reflecting on my time walking the Camino de Santiago in 2008. Throughout the next month (the 33 days it took me to walk 500 miles), I’ll share excerpts from my journal written during my walk as well as the lessons that continue to guide me. Thanks for joining me on this journey!