Walking and Life
Having just returned from two weeks hiking the Camino de Santiago, I’ve concluded that multiple-day walking is one of my most satisfying activities. The Camino in northern Spain is a 750-kilometer ancient pilgrim’s route currently hiked by about 350,000 people a year from all over the world.
What is it that grips me about this type of trek? Many things. For one, I love the simplicity and freedom of life on the trail – getting up early in the morning and walking from A to B without all the distractions and the to-do list of everyday life. Being out in nature the whole day relaxes, focuses, and calms me. Though I haven’t done it as much as I might like, I believe that all these trails are designed to traverse through natural settings; the Camino and the Israel Trail, which I hiked seventeen years ago, certainly cross stunning landscapes. Furthermore, as a fitness fan, I appreciate the feeling of becoming stronger as I walk along.
Definitely one of the highlights of the Camino were the people we met. Simply by deciding to walk the Camino, we entered into a special group of people who, for a period of time, all had the same goal. We developed an instant camaraderie and even a surprising intimacy with some. We belonged to the same band or company, an innate need for every human being. And this happens to be the name of my new novel due to be published in July, “To Belong.” (You’ll be hearing more.)
We found ourselves walking alongside folks, sitting together for drinks or meals, and meeting in the evening at the hostels. Not all, but certainly many of the “pilgrims,” as the hikers on the Camino are called, are there to find answers to big questions or solutions to life’s problems. As we hiked along with our backpacks, we could easily share how Jesus came into our lives, lifted our burdens, and gave us purpose.
Camino means “way” in Spanish, and for me, a walk like this is a metaphor for traveling through life, each of us on our own path. Jesus said, “I am the way,” (John 14:6). As we trek, we develop rhythms and instinctively look for the smoothest and flattest paths, though climbing mountains gives us a better perspective on the entire landscape, what lies ahead and from where we’ve come.
If you don’t carefully follow the trail symbols, you can easily go astray. At one point, we found ourselves traipsing through a wheat field with no markers to be seen, but after we found our way back, we realized we gained something in our unexpected detour. Life is also like this. Having a good guide, a book or an app, was super important on the Camino in the same way that I need the Bible to direct my life. Whom we walk with is important on the trail. Good, compatible companionship makes all the difference, and I’m thankful every day that John and I are good hiking and life partners.
There’s obviously a reason that the Bible often uses the words, “walk” and “way” and their synonyms, especially in the book of Proverbs, wisdom literature. “I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble,” (Proverbs 3:11,12). And in Ephesians 5:8, Paul the apostle writes, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”