It’s now been around 12 days that I’ve walked the Camino, and have finally found a moment to jot down a few words and impressions of the experience so far. I’m totally going to elaborate on this once I have time (and a computer as opposed to a mobile phone on which to type) so bear with me.

I’m currently at a little village called Beduer, not far from Figeac, having walked around 264km so far. That means I’ve got around 1,300km left to go until my arrival at Santiago – not that I want the journey to end!

I’ve stayed in a variety of places: from family homes, private youth hostels, converted schools and even a caravan park. Just as my lodgings have changed, so has the landscape: from rolling hills, to medieval towns, to rugged moorland – all in the space of a few days.

What has surprised me the most, however, is what I’ve learnt so far about the Camino and the people with whom I am walking.

So here are my ‘Top 10’ camino lessons from the first stage:

1. The ‘camino spirit’ cannot be understood until you arrive at your starting point and begin the journey. I, personally, didn’t expect to feel such a distance between life back home and camino life. It’s a new type of existence – a part of a flow of people, a community that is constantly in flux. You can’t make plans and stick to them – heck, you don’t want to- and that’s what makes it so special. You never know what lies around the next corner.

2. Humility is key, and if you aren’t already humble, the camino will pick you up and shake you until you are! I, and a couple of the ‘younger’ pilgrims experienced this first hand over the first few days of walking. We arrived fresh-faced, feeling fit and raring to go. We did over 60km walking in the first two days alone – with rucksacks not yet honed to a lighter weight. You know the story of the hare and the tortoise? Go figure. Here we are with varying degrees of tendinitis, taking it slow and steady. A good lesson to learn nontheless.

3. It’s all about enjoying the journey. We walk for the sake of walking – it’s not necessarily the end goal that counts here. Taking time to rest, look around and just ‘be’ is so alien to our goal-oriented personal and professional lives. It feels good to shift to this new way of living.

4. The camino will put you back in touch with your body. Whether it be new aches and pains, hunger or lack of sleep, you are urged to listen and respect your physical self. In a world in which intelligence and the mind take precedence in much of our professional lives, this is a whole new way of being that we must re-learn as pilgrims.

5. I, personally, don’t need much to be happy. I have 2 changes of clothes and a rucksack on my back. I spend the day walking and thinking. Life is simple. I’ve never felt better. The question is how do I take this feeling and knowledge, and apply it to my post-camino life? What will it mean for my life choices?

6. Being open to new experiences and people is key. So far it is very much the people that I’ve met and the conversations we’ve had that have made the journey what it is. There is a strange sense of coincidence when meeting people with whom you have a surprising amount of things in common – it’s nice.

7. On the camino, age and social status don’t matter. I cannot express how liberating it is to speak to people of all ages and backgrounds as equals – without worrying about how I come across, what the relationship will mean and the thousand other pressures that often go hand in hand with some personal and professional relationships.

8. We are each on our own, individual journey and it can be easy to lose sight of that: whether it be by walking faster to keep pace with someone else, or changing plans to coincide with those of others. It’s okay to walk alone if you want to, or to walk slower if you prefer. It makes you realise how difficult it is in everyday life to listen to yourself and make choices that come from the heart, and not as a result of pressures from others around us – whether intentional or not.

9. You get to know people well within a short space of time: after 6 hours of walking beside someone and a night in a dormitory together, you’ll feel like you’ve known each other for a lifetime already. You’ll probably even share thoughts and stories that you’ve never shared with anyone else before. Why? Because it’s the camino, and because you can.

10. Santiago is still so far away, but you’ll want to savour every moment until you get there. It’s a long distance, but time sure does fly.

What did you learn from your camino? Let me know ๐Ÿ™‚