Short stories, Travel and Health Information
The Camino, I have come to realise, becomes and remains a source of joy to those who have undertaken this journey.
‘Joy’ says Dr C.T Shen in his book The Mayflower, ‘is best defined as the opposite of Suffering’.
But the Joy of the Camino is something more than just the absence of suffering – it is a very positive feeling, the diametric opposite of suffering.
And this Joy of the Camino can be appreciated at many levels.
For some, there is the Joy of fulfilling a religious obligation – of having made this journey in a spirit of penance for expiation of one’s errors or in a spirit of gratitude for blessings received. Some walk the Camino in memory of a loved one, dedicating their effort to him or her who has gone before, who in many ways is accompanying them on this journey – just as Martin Sheen’s character so movingly did in the movie The Way.
There is the Joy for some of renouncing the mundane world – at least for a while – while they make this journey by the simple act of placing one foot after the other – over and over, one step at a time – until they reach their destination. Stepping away from cares, worries and the ubiquitous trials and tribulations of the ordinary world allows them to experience the peace, after a hard day’ walking, of falling asleep quickly and soundly without medication despite having suffered from insomnia for many years. Those symptoms of disturbed and broken sleep (despite whatever sounds emanate from those around!), of being unable to fall asleep or being woken up by troubled dreams in the early hours of the morning, become a thing of the past. Walking five to eight hours a day allows you to experience the joy of being able to rest after a long walk, with the body physically exhausted but the spirit mentally at ease -unlike when one comes home exhausted after a demanding day at the office or the workplace.
On the Camino you can also experience the joy of a good meal with perhaps a great bottle of wine at the end of the day. Walking the Camino allows you to appreciate the culinary specialties of northern Spain. Moreover, with over a million hectares of vineyards under cultivation in this country, there are many fruits of these vines waiting to be sampled and enjoyed!
In my view, meals on the Camino become so much better when enjoyed in congenial company. Meeting folk from various parts of the world – all of whom are embarked on this same quest – is a wonderful experience, affording the pilgrim the joy of sharing stories and experiences with those who we might not otherwise have met.
And there is always the Joy of Discovery. As you walk along this ancient pilgrim trail which has felt the footsteps of countless other pilgrims over the years, you discover new places and new sensations.
As you gaze at the snowcapped mountains in the distance, walk beneath towering leafy trees or past a tranquil lake, the world and its troubles seem a thousand miles away. You feel very small. At the same time as you feel alone you also feel part of a greater whole. You stop in places that seem special because you sense there the presence of those who had gone before – places where there is silence and yet you feel, for some inexplicable reason, that you could hear the whispering of the universe.
Perhaps the Joy of this pilgrimage can be explained by the fact that Journeying on the Camino is like becoming one with the Universe.
Sanjiva Wijesinha is a family physician and university professor in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Strangers on the Camino (https://www.amazon.com/Strangers-Camino-Father-Holy-Trail-ebook/dp/B00JO1ZC40)