I was recently interviewed on the radio about Hike the Way. The interviewer was great and asked a lot of interesting logistical questions about the Camino. At the end of the interview he asked me why do people walk the Camino? And that’s such a great question! So here are the top reasons people say they walk the Camino de Santiago.
1. Spiritual Reasons
The Camino was initially a religious pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James, and today many people (about 25%) still walk for a religious or spiritual reason. While not necessarily Catholic, many pilgrims walk to connect and discover a deeper meaning in life, to spiritually connect with nature or themselves, or to walk to find answers to deep questions.
2. Exercise and well-being
Another popular reason to walk the Camino is for the exercise. If you’re an avid walker or hiker, it’s nice to have a planned route for you to take. Many people train and become healthier preparing for the trip. Even if you’re not fit before the Camino, you’re quickly amazed at how your body is able to walk long distances and it’s motivating to have other people around that have different fitness levels.
So many people walk the Camino as a way to force themselves to disconnect from the world for a while. No Wi-Fi out on the path, no big hotels or fast food, just a simple path in the forest with small cafes. Sounds ideal, and it is. Even though the Camino isn’t luxurious by any means, the stress and worry fade away as you walk. No need for 5-star hotels or fancy restaurants, the Camino’s lure is in the fact that you can’t have what you had back home. You can’t check your phone 10 times an hour or immediately solve a work problem that comes up. This disconnection is so powerful that after walking the Camino many people are moved to change their lives, so they have more of this feeling. I had one gentleman approach my information booth at a fair and say he’s walked the Camino twice, but his wife won’t let him walk it anymore because he comes back “different”. When I asked what he meant he said he doesn’t watch the news anymore or read the paper, he forgets to carry his phone with him and he’s stopped buying “all kinds of crap” (his words).
When I asked my mom why she wanted to walk the Camino, she said a friend had told her about it and said it was the greatest thing ever. Haha. Not because I’ve dedicated my life to the Camino or that I’ve walked it and told her how awesome it was. No, she wanted to walk it because a tennis friend said it was great. When I was complaining about this over dinner one day, my daughter said, “Grandma has fomo” or Fear of Missing Out. And its true. I can’t tell you how many people walk the Camino simply because they’ve heard it’s awesome. And then once they’ve walked it they become Camino groupies and love the Camino just as much as the rest of us.
A lot of people see the pictures online of the Camino, the cathedral in Santiago or photos of Finesterre and they’re hooked. It seems like such a remote and beautiful place and they want to explore what Galicia has to offer. And unlike other Instagram worthy pictures, the photos of the Camino are exactly how the Camino is- remote, beautiful, full of wonder and friendships. No matter which Camino you take or how you arrive in Santiago you will have a story of your journey, memorable people you meet along The Way, and you’ll have your very own adventure. Even if you’re not the adventurous type, the story of your Camino will be memorable.
Buen camino, friends.