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.
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?