"Hiking is good for health, heart, and soul," sent to us by our friend Toplama from Nepal
I feel privileged to have recently walked with John for our second time on the Camino de Santiago, 260 kilometers in two weeks from Portugal to Spain. We found that not only does long-distance hiking suit us, but the Camino specifically due to its relative proximity to Israel and the availability of hostels, restaurants, cafes, and water fountains.
We also discovered we’re not alone in repeating the experience and already dream about our next Camino venture. One man we met said he’d hiked it fifty times, though he’s from Portugal so perhaps went out for short stints. The possibilities are nearly endless because the Camino de Santiago isn’t one trail but rather an extensive network of paths extending across Europe and ending in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.
As a reader and writer, I’ve been looking into books and blogs about the Camino and found more than one author who described themself as a “Camino addict.” I prefer to say, as a fellow pilgrim (the name for hikers on the Camino) remarked, that we’d caught the “Camino bug,” since I usually think of a bug as a virus or bacteria you can catch, and the Camino has definitely caught my attention. Bug also can mean enthusiasm, and I’m afraid I’m already boring friends and family with my stories and my urgings to try it themselves. Furthermore, how can the Camino be an addiction when it yields inner peace, friendship among hikers, and improved physical and mental health?
Another pilgrim, a dentist who had hiked ten times, said he made it his habit and preferred the Camino to going to a psychiatrist. “Life,” he said, “is the sum total of our habits.”
As in life, our habits while on the Camino, “the way” in Spanish, determine our overall satisfaction along the journey. Most people do research before they begin the trek: which season, what to take, how many kilometers a day, etc. And while on the journey, we fall into a routine of rising early in the morning, packing our bag, eating a banana and apple before we begin, resting periodically, taking care of our feet, and more.
Even people who may not be as organized as I am by nature fall into trail routines causing me to reflect on the habits I have in my daily life. Are they good, bad, or neutral? Do I take time for the people I meet along the way? What thought habits do I have? Thankfulness and joy, or complaining, judgmental, and feeling sorry for myself? “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” (Galatians 5:22). These are among the habits I would like to cultivate in my life.
But how can I replace negative with positive habits? On the Camino I regularly refer to my guidebook and app to know the distances, the terrain, and where’s the next coffee shop, and in life the Bible is my guide. I surround myself with those who are good examples. When I go off the path, I try to get back on as soon as possible. I focus on my goal, and no matter how slowly, keep walking toward it.
So while I look forward to our next Camino, I hope to practice what I learned on my trek through life.