The Camino De Santiago – Bob’s Camino: Part 2

By Bob Morrell on October 2, 2023

Why would you do this walk?

Everyone I met on this walk had a reason for doing it, beyond the challenge. Some were on career breaks, some were looking for new purpose, some were doing it for reasons of grief, or to mark a change in their life, others were doing it in memory of someone, or to have a life experience they could document or record. Others were on bikes and had a different, quicker experience.

At the end of the pilgrimage in Santiago, you receive two certificates, one to say you’ve completed the walk and another to confirm the distance. The first renames you in Latin. So, on my certificate it reads Robertum Morrell which I think is very suitable. If you attend the pilgrims mass in the cathedral, then apparently you get absolved of all of your sins. I did attend, and as the incense burner hovered overhead, I realised that I was finally without sin…

But you don’t do this walk for the certificate or the absolution. You don’t even really do it for the physical achievement unless you are a hardened hiker.

In anyone’s life there are stresses and issues that we face. Many we deal with in the day to day and some, we push to the back of our minds and never really face for numerous reasons. We sometimes think, ‘I’ll deal with that when I am ready’, and we all know that in normal life we’re never ready. Then you go on a walk like this, where for many hours, and sometimes days, you are on your own with your thoughts. You may have a playlist to listen to which helps promote thought, and in the end, you draw on those issues. You feel more energised, more positive perhaps, and maybe better able, because of the time, to try and deal with these things.

As you cross the Meseta, 250km of flat farmland and fields, there is literally nothing else to do. So you take that issue, and you start to think about it. And because of the time, you really go in deep because you may as well. You approach it from different angles, and you approach it honestly, because there’s no point in lying to yourself. You spend time working on it. This may mean owning up to your own actions or words. This may mean understanding another’s point of view whereas before you maybe hadn’t. This means forgiving people. Sometimes it means trying to forgive yourself. Some people call this self-healing, self-care. It is rarely pleasant. It is important.

In the early stages of my pilgrimage, I was pretty emotional for many reasons. It was a big step for me to take this break and even get to the starting point. Then the effort (day 1 was a nightmare) and then the time, the loneliness, the time away from those I care about, and if I am honest, the dread of having to really think about things I had been avoiding. You then imagine your objective, the square in Santiago when you will appear after 500 miles, and that seems so far off that you imagine the emotional burden will break you. But that wasn’t my experience. I was emotional when I arrived, but not nearly as much as I had feared. Because I had left much of it on the road. Those flatlands in the Meseta, those hard mountains when I had puffed and blowed, those paths of moss-rich stone that I had marched along had taken it. With nothing but my thoughts, Bob’s Camino playlist (on Spotify) and my own changing sense of ‘self’, my brain had quietly and effectively gone to work and done its job.

You can’t help but learn something about yourself on this walk. I learned a number of things that I won’t forget. I hope they’ll make me a slightly better person.

The Camino is walked by teenagers looking for direction, all the way up to people in their eighties. I met a blind man from the UK doing the walk. I met people struggling with health conditions. I met people who were carrying huge weights of guilt and sadness. As I said, at a dinner on the final night, whatever your reason is for doing this, I hope that the experience has gone some way to helping you. My experience, weeks later, is still revealing the value it’s given me.