My experience on the Way of Saint James

17 of July 2019, around 7:30am, I walked my first step on the Camino Francès, leaving Saint Jean Pied de Port, in France, to reach Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. 779 kilometers.

27 days later, the 12 of august 2019, around 8:30am, I arrived in Santiago de Compostela. And I decided to keep going. I officially ended this adventure the 15 of august, in Finisterre, next to the sign showing the kilometer 0.

So, what did I learn during this month walking ?

The first step is the hardest.

I left Paris the 16 of July. I had booked a room in a small hostel and my plan was to talk the day after.

You have to know that I have no experience when it’s about trekking, I had trusted the guy at the shop for my shoes and I had a small backpack. Everybody around me looked like having a way better equipment than me, and I have to be honest, I felt this whole thing wasn’t for me.

For me, the first step is the scariest. That day, I woke up at 5 am and I only left at 7:30 because … I was scared. Do you know what gave me the strength? The guy working at the hostel who told me, looking at my equipment, “you are used to walk, right?”

I smiled, and I shut down the small voice in my head saying that I wasn’t able to do it and I left for the first steps of the 779 kilometers I planned to walk.

No, the Way won’t give you all your answers

I think that there is a really romantic vision of the Way. I need to be honest : I thought I would walk and find all the answers. That they will, magically, fall down from the skies and be in front of me like “hey we are your answers !”

Well… No, it doesn’t work that way. Frankly, walking i a mindfulness experience. If you didn’t train your brain to think about stuff, the only thing you’ll have in mind is songs for kids. Spring is here, spring is here, how do you think I know ?

Your first concerns are your physicall sensations : hunger, thirst, tiredness and/or pain. The rest, finally, you have to confront it. For example, I wanted to think about the way I see relationships. With others, my friends or my family. To be alone in a place where I have nothing to think about, helped me to empty my brain and focus on important topics.

Far from the daily life, so without any excuse to not slow down everything and deeply think, The Way of Saint James gave the chance to underline a lot of things and … take the time to understand all of it.

Get rid of everything to find yourself

In French, a pilgrim (= pèlerin) is someone who is losing his skins. You’ll often meet people who sent back home few stuff because it was too heavy to carry.

When you walk 30 days holding all your life on your back, it helps you getting rid of a lot of material things. Two t-shirt, one short and one legging are enough. It helps you prioritize your life. My almost five month trip in Southern Asia gave me the opportunity to open up to the minimalism way of life. When I left Paris to walk, my backpack was as light as I could. Whoever, I realized, after tend days, I could have let a few things in Paris.

But the most impressive is how you get rid of the mental charge. The mental charge is all this things you have to do “later” and take a space in your brain. Well, no mental charge on the Camino!

No need to think about “later” because you really live now. Every step is in the present. The only things you have in mind are your physical sensations: thirst, hunger, tiredness, and pain. Tell me, is there a better situation to think about yourself?

Walking, sometimes alone, sometimes with people, I could focus on me, on my wills and where I was in life.

No man is an island.

I discovered this proverb thanks to The English Language Specialist a few days ago and it made me laugh because it’s basically my biggest discovery on the Way.

At the beginning, I wanted to walk this Camino alone, from the beginning to the end. Finally, I ended up not walking alone so much. I was, most of the time, with someone else. I spent a lot of time with two danish boys and I often met people on the Way. I still always found a way to walk alone at the beginning of the day or at the end.

But to confront oneself is a bit narcissic. The best and the most interesting is to confront others, to think about other ways to see the world. I arrived in Santiago with Jean Vincent, a French I met during the Way and I was so glad to be with him.

If you follow me on Instagram or if you read this blog since the beginning, you know that I am a loner. But walking this whole month made me realize that, like everybody, I am a social animal. Just a little bit less than everybody else…

I had beautiful and amazing conversations with a lot of people… Because, when we decided to get rid of every material things we have, we are just all the same. Tired, we have no time for the small daily lies. So, on the Way, I only met a bunch of real peoples. And it’s pretty magical, to be honest.

The biggest lesson of humility

At some point, the arrival at Santiago is in the middle of every conversations. I don’t know what I was imagining… I ran few races – including a half-marathon – and, without thinking I’ll reach Santiago with 100 peps applauding, I didn’t imagine this.

The 100 last kilometers go really fast. Days are shorter, time pass faster, our body is now capable to walk 35 kilometers and more, and you become more and more impatient. You start asking everybody how they imagine the day when they will finally be in front of the Cathedral.

And I arrived and “ah.” Nothing else ! Just “ah.” ! I arrived in front of the Cathedral and it was the end.

Small slap in the face and big lesson of humility. I am not someone who likes to brag but I like to be congratulated when I do something. And this day, I arrive in Santiago, after 779 kilometers of walking, after 27 days waking up to walk and… nothing.

Far from the euphoria of my half-marathon, but what is 21km compared to 779? But here it is. Nobody is here to welcome me, no medal, no finisher t-shirt. I walked a Way that thousands of pilgrim walked for so many years.

And that’s it.

I am really proud that I succeeded. I shared a few pictures and a lot of my thoughts on my Instagram account. I only have one advice for people who wants to go… Just do it.

Something to say ? :)