Trekking the El Camino de Santiago has gained in popularity over the past few years. People set out upon the 800-kilometre trek for various reasons. Some seek a religious or spiritual experience, others a social experience, and still others love hiking and the adventure involved in this form of tourism.
Launching out from St. Jean Pied de Port, France on April 19th, I think Dorian (my 22-year-old son) and I had romanticized what the Trek would be like. We were curious and we were excited!!!
Climbing the French Pyrenees… nothing to it; but descending… YIKES! By Day 3, I was chanting VT, the Camino and me! VT I had discovered is what some people use to reference “Vitamin Tylenol”. 500 mg on Day 3, 1000 on day 4 (before lunch) along with a new brace for my left knee and I broke the cycle of pain and was good to go. (I’m not a pill taker but I’m not stupid either).
Onto the next challenge… I perceived looming boredom for Dorian. Mile after mile, day in and day out with far fewer social connections than either of us had expected… not what we had romanticized. Solution… change our mode of transportation – we rented bikes for three days to travel from Burgos to León, Spain, the territory known to be the most monotonous. It worked… we broke the cycle of boredom before it took hold.
From there, we simply developed new challenges to engage our interest and have fun. I no longer walked but danced down hills (a lot easier on the knees); we set targets for our daily destinations; we listened to podcasts, both of us learning more about business; and we probably enjoyed more than our fair share of sangrias from time to time.
At the end of the day, we finished our trek in 22 days and went straight to a Spa Hotel in Santiago de Compostela, followed by several days in Porto Spain where we enjoyed a few days of surfing, onto the Canary Islands for a week of more typical tourism type activities and then a couple of unexpected days in London due to the British Air fiasco.
So given the Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage – a journey or search that is meant to hold significance, what meaning and value do I draw from the experience?
My unequivocal answer is plain and simple. My relationship with my son has gone from really good to really great. My utter appreciation for who my son is has skyrocketed. The leadership qualities he exhibited and the level of emotional intelligence he has mastered was demonstrated to me day after day. I now have 22 days of evidence to support any bragging I might do now or well into the future. Along with a new-found depth in my relationship with my adult son, this was my gift from the Camino for which I believe both Dorian and I will be forever grateful.