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Pilgrims of Leon: John (UK) is doing his second Camino Frances!

His first Camino was last year in September (2017). When we asked him why he is doing the Camino it soon became clear he is a little bit addicted to the Camino.


- 10 years ago, I lost 70 kilograms. I had to lose weight because of health reasons. It is not healthy to carry around the weight of an entire person. And so, my food addiction transformed into a fitness addiction. I have run 7 marathons already. And after these 7 marathons, I needed a new challenge. That’s when I thought about the Camino.

The first time I heard about the Camino was when I watched the movie ‘The Way’. This was when I still wasn’t fit, and I thought: ‘I would love to do that but I can’t physically do that.’ While right now, walking the Camino isn’t even a physical challenge anymore. Because 22 km, I could easily run that right now.

I am actually planning to take a bus to Lisboa after arriving in Santiago and starting the Camino Portugués after finishing this Camino. And maybe I even keep going and walk the Camino Via de la Plata as well. As I said, I got addicted!

So how is the Camino a challenge for you?

Well, the Camino isn’t a wilderness walk, you are never far away from food or your next coffee. But it is a mental challenge. It is pushing me out of my comfort zone. First of all, it is the idea of walking further than I ever walked before. But also, when you are just walking, your brain doesn’t stop thinking. At home, I might sometimes think about something but after 30 minutes I go do something else, maybe I go to the kitchen to eat something. But then at home these small things can upset you a little, like ‘oh, someone has eaten all the bread’. But here on the Camino, while walking, there is nothing to be angry or stressed about.

My focus is entirely on the here and now. When you start walking in Saint-Jean-Pied-de Port, the first two weeks your body is getting used to the walking, then the following 2 weeks your mind is getting used to walking the Camino. And by the time I am in Sarria, I can’t be bothered by anything anymore. It is what some people call the spiritual experience, but I don’t know if I want to call it spiritual.

Are you walking for religious reasons?

I am a Catholic. But that isn’t the reason why I am walking the Camino. The fact that I am catholic and the walking the Camino are two totally different things for me.

In general, people walk the Camino for different reasons. Everyone walks his or her own Camino. That’s what makes it so interesting, everyone is here for a reason, everyone has a story. And you have some kind of conversations that you only have while walking. The conversations are more meaningful. Even if I talk to the same person while having a coffee, it is not the same as while walking.

A reason to walk the Camino can be as simple as gastronomy. I discovered so many great dishes in Spain on the Camino!

Do you take resting days along your Camino?

Yes, today is my resting day here in León. I like León a lot, it is a beautiful walk to enter the city of León, how the streets suddenly become smaller, you see the remains of the Roman wall, then you see the astonishing cathedral.

John is walking the Camino in Northern Spain

It is not that I physically needed a resting day, it is just that I wanted to do some sightseeing here in León. I also like to have my privacy every once in a while. I mostly stay in ‘albergues’, but I am staying in a hotel right now and it is so good to have my own private bathroom! The view of my hotel is horrible, but doesn’t matter, I have a bath!

Some people really have the Camino planned out with all the hotels booked and the return flights, but I don’t like to travel that way, I am probably going to do another Camino after this so I have time, I am retired. But I understand that a lot of people have a lot of concerns. I have heard people ask me questions like: how do you change in an ‘albergue’ with all those people around? Or an American person asked me: isn’t it difficult to cross the border from Portugal to Spain? So, for a lot of people it is easier to have everything planned out beforehand with an agency that can help them when needed. Everyone is different and everyone walks his or her own Camino.

You have done the Camino twice. What differences do you notice between the first time and the last time?

First of all, the weather is totally different now. Last year in September there was a lot of sun. Now, I walk through villages and I know where I am but still it looks totally different. The Mesata for example was very green now in Spring.

Another difference I notice is that there is a big difference in age as well. I feel like there are more young people now is Spring, trying to figure out their life and their future. And the great thing on the Camino is, there are no age groups. There is only the Camino family. It is like a village that keeps moving. And in bigger places like León, the village breaks up. Because I took a resting day here, my family is now a day ahead of me. And tomorrow I will be part of a new family.

On the Camino you meet people that you would never meet in day to day life, not even if you would be neighbours back home. Here on the Camino you meet and interact with people from different social circles. The best example of this is; I know a rocket scientist. I was walking with him in the dark and suddenly he pointed to the stars and said: “Do you see that satellite there? I put it there.”

Thank you for this nice conversation John! Buen Camino!