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My Holiday

Friends for life

Fecha: 2019-01-22

"I have friends for life.

Getting support in good and bad times.

What a friend can give me.

I can´t buy with money".

These are words from a song by Jan Smit, a famous singer from the Netherlands. Maybe a weird way to start a blog about the Camino Francés, but for me this text is a symbol of the feeling I experienced during my camino.

Back were it started. The Camino Francés, also known as the St. Jacobs Route or Jacobsweg, runs from the French Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In total the route is a little 800 kilometers long. From Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port you cross the breath-taking Pyrenees to Spain via a heavy climb. You pass beautiful cities like Pamplona, Burgos, Leon and Ponferrada and finally you arrive in Santiago de Compostela.

As you might know, Santiago is named after St. James, one of the apostles of Jesus. The reason for this is that in Santiago de Compostela the relics of St. Jacob would lie in a tomb in the cathedral. 

On a physical level the Camino Francés was fine for me. I was prepared for a tough journey. Soon I was used to the distances, the weather and to climbing and descending. My lungs and muscles were fine. And I felt stronger, every day. The vitamin D of the sun certainly contributed to that.

The camino is for everyone

During my camino I met very special people. Big people, small people. Young people, old people. Couples, singles, job seekers, successful entrepreneurs and everything in between. But they had one thing in common: they all have the same goal. To reach Santiago de Compostela.

Every year the number of people who run the Camino Frances increases. The figures from the pilgrim's office in Santiago de Compostela also show this. In 2017, 301,036 pilgrims arrived in Santiago de Compostela. Of these pilgrims 147.867 are women and 153.169 are men. On foot, 278,490 arrived on bicycles, 21,933, on horseback 417 and 43 on a wheelchair. Pilgrims of all ages (under 30 years old are 84,064 pilgrims, between 30 and 60 are 164,625 and more than 60 are 52,347 pilgrims and they come from all over the world, more than 132,000 came from Spain, the rest mainly from Italy, Germany, United States, Portugal and France (source Pilgrim Office, Santiago de Compostela, ).

How strangers soon became a camino family

I started my pilgrimage in France. This is in no way comparable to the pilgrimage in Spain. France is deserted, quiet and lonely. Ideal for reflection and peace. But instead of loneliness, I met across the Camino Francés pilgrims from all over the world. An teacher from Italy, a teacher from Hamburg, an entrepreneur from Brazil, from New York an owner of a wine shop and an unemployed man from Barcelona. Together we started our adventure. My camino family, that's how we called each other soon, and I became good friends. That's how it felt. As a family. We were there for each other.

If a family member had a hard time, one or two would always stay with him or her. We did not leave anyone alone and cared for each other.

Everyone had a role. One took care of the humor, the other for the sleeping place and yet another for treating the blisters.

We shared everything, our morning mood, the laundry, the wine, the stories, the tears and the laughter.

We knew everything about each other. About home, about life, about dreams, fears, sadness and hope.

We had endless patience with each other. Wait until someone had packed his backpack or had his or her food. No problem!

If we all had a different idea about, for example, where to eat, we were looking for a solution together. And sometimes it meant that we all looked for another place to eat. After all, a family does not always eat together, right?

We made an app group, called Camino Family 4-ever, where we informed each other on the way, post pictures of beautiful views, asked each other how the blisters were, or let each other know where there was a nice place to rest.

Unbelievable how a group of total strangers became a family from one day to the next. And still is. How is possible?

Your mind is like a parachute when it is open

The first question on the camino is often: 'what brings you here'. This question makes conversations completely different than in everyday life. The time factor certainly plays a role here. Think about it yourself. When did you last spend a whole day with one of your best friends? Have you really taken the time to listen? To ask questions? To enjoy in silence, together with each other? Curious about your answer.

You have time on the camino. No watch. You eat when your stomach indicates that you are hungry, sleep when you are tired and stay comfortable if you are in good company or in a nice place. Time also gives space in your head. No rushing. No stress. And that space in your head makes you open up to others. Curious. Makes you want to know more about yourself, but especially about others. Want to learn. Want to grow.

I have learned a lot from my camino family. I did not expect that in advance. Will I ever see them again? I do not know. I hope so. But anyway, they are and remain friends for life! Buen Camino ...

Ps. The Camino Frances is by far the most popular route, but the Camino consists of several routes. Think of the Camino Primitivo (oldest route), Camino del Norte (along the coastline in the north) or the Camino Portugués (along the Portuguese coast). Choose the pilgrimage that suits you via this link

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