It all begins with a movie. Or perhaps with the pilgrims. It matters little either way. What I do know is that, in the winter of 2012, basking in the bitter sunny cold that had descended over England, I rented a recently released movie, by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, called The Way. I did not rent it for the plot line, but rather for the actors. But I fell in love with it for the plot.
If you have not yet seen the film, I humbly suggest it. It is a well written, well acted, and well shot story of a father and son who never saw eye-to-eye and of one man’s journey to complete his tragically deceased son’s walk along the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela. Along the way he meets an interesting cast of characters, discovers a great deal about himself and his life, and a great deal more about his departed son. It is a beautifully moving story that would strike at the heart of anyone who sees it. For me, it appealed on an even greater level.
I went to bed that night with a thought it my head and woke in the morning to one of the clearest moments of understanding I have ever had. I would walk the Camino Frances, the 800km route from St Jean Pied Port in southern France to Santiago de Compostela in western Spain and I would do it in honour of my thirtieth birthday, more than a year away. I felt this gave me time to prepare physically, but mentally as well, but that morning I was completely ready to start walking.
30 Days. The month of May, 2013. For my 30th birthday. It made more sense to me in that moment that anything had for years. A dream that I could actually fulfil. I knew it was slightly mad and entirely amazing (as were the reactions of most people I soon told), but I could not, for the life of me, think of any better way to start a new decade of my life. What I hoped would be the best decade yet.
The story of the Camino has many paths. There are many routes (the Frances is only one, though the most popular) and many crossroads. There are many reasons to walk it, and not all of them are religious. Whatever reasons you have are your own. Whatever you learn along the way is for you to know and understand. But there is one guarantee to all who walk the Camino: you will learn something about yourself, about others and about the world that you never knew before. And you will be a better person for it.
I walk for myself. I walk for the family who gave me a beautiful life. For the parents that have supported all my crazy dreams. To see a country I have never seen. To meet people from around the world. To share an experience. To prove that I can do it. To meet a challenge. To overcome a struggle.
But, mostly, I walk for myself. My way. My Camino.
[This was written 12 months ago to the day. It is still, every word, valid.]