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Is the Camino de Santiago just another long-distance walk?

Is there something special about walking the Camino de Santiago?

While just over 20% of people who reach Santiago view it as just another long-distance walk, many pilgrims find it a profoundly spiritual experience. About 36% walk for religious reasons. However, the other 43% have other spiritual reasons. These include:

  • Processing grief. You see a lot of Rest in Peace photos propped against crosses, and some people leave ashes along the route, as Martin Sheen did in the film 'The Way'.

  • Proving that they can take on a physical challenge, often after an illness or accident has left them feeling less confident in their abilities.

  • Finding their way. Many people walk the Camino when they are at a crossroads in their life and need to work out the way forward.

  • To reconnect with nature.

  • To rediscover the joys of human connection.

While you can experience these things on other long-distance walks, the Camino de Santiago offers a unique sense of community and support from locals and fellow pilgrims.

Everywhere you turn, there are reminders to reflect and contemplate, from graffiti to beautifully painted poems.

Cruz de Ferro - the Iron Cross with the sun behind it

And on the Camino Francés, there is the tradition of pilgrims leaving a stone representing a burden at the Cruz de Ferro.

All these things make the Camino feel different from other long-distance walks and encourage pilgrims to consider what's important in life. Walking the Camino de Santiago does not have to be anything more than a long-distance walk. Still, for me, all these elements made it something very different to other long-distance trails.

If you are thinking of walking the Camino de Santiago or have already done so, what are/were your reasons for choosing it over other routes?

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