Buen Camino! We must be walking along the Camino de Santiago in Spain! Literally, this greeting means good road, physically and spiritually. Increasingly, people from around the globe are making this journey, walking in the same footsteps as travelers during the Middle Ages.
More and more we are not only getting out of our comfort zone, we are intentionally leaving it behind. We are spending less money on things and more on experiences.
Even when it comes to travel, same-same, ticking off a bucket list trip is no longer good enough.
Enter the trending era of Transformational Travel. Travelers who want to answer the call to adventure, setting out to return home changed in some profound way that helps them live life more reverentially, more joyfully.
If this is you, you are likely to experience this as a pilgrim following the Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James, in Galicia, northwestern Spain, one of most sacred Christian pilgrimages. Legend has it that the remains of St. James’ were carried by boat from Jerusalem and enshrined in the cathedral of Santiago. Though this is not a travelogue. Instead, the focus is how walking the last 100 kilometers of the Camino gave me a different insight into Happiness, mostly because of its unique macro-communal experience.
Throughout the journey along “The Way” as it is called, I felt I could walk up to anyone and join their conversation. Other pilgrims were welcoming, inclusive and happy to exchanges stories.
I was continually touched by the generosity of the villagers I met each day. So many of them opened their home to anyone passing by, spreading out gorgeous tables covered with local cheeses, traditional meats, loaves of bread. You could eat as much as you wanted and no one expected money. It was just a heartfelt offering to travelers.
There were sweet places like the one where you could stop in for a hug and the handwritten road signs with the word “heaven” pointing you in the right direction.
Everyone, really everyone, seemed so cheerful. The camaraderie of a shared experience gave you a sense of company, of community. You never felt alone. The common greeting of “Buen Camino” is genuinely meant when said, even coming from the locals.
I feel the Camino is an extraordinary example of the way life should be lived, welcoming and happy.
By the end of the journey, I realized that the Camino is a great equalizer. You see every age, size and shape of person walking. Now back into my urban world, do I feel profoundly transformed by the journey? Yes, I do. I feel the Camino is an extraordinary example of the way life should be lived, welcoming and happy.
Best times for this pilgrimage are April, May, June and September. Many think there is an official starting point. However, there is not. Of the many ways to Santiago, most popular is the French Way, 780 kilometers, starting in St. Jean-Pied-du-Port, France. I began in Sarria, Spain. Wherever you start, go with an open mind and heart.