A Taste of the Camino de Santiago: Finding my way
“Do you want to walk the Camino with me? My friend can’t go, you’ll just have to cover your airfare.” That’s what my friend texted me approximately 1 month ago. I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was reading the words on my iPhone correctly. A trip to Portugal and Spain to walk one of the most ancient and famous routes in Europe? How could I NOT go? Was this a sign from the universe to start following a different “path”?I landed in the beautiful port town of Porto, Portugal, gazing from my hotel patio to see the colorful boats gliding in the Douro River, also famous for its port wine. I must say it’s quite tasty but one needs to be careful - having a 29% - 32% alcohol content. From there, we shuttled to the first leg on the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago, setting out to ultimately reach the final destination- the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Within this church lay the tomb of St. James, one of Jesus’ first apostles, who was sent to the Iberian peninsula (modern-day Spain, Portugal and Andorra) to preach the gospel to the people of this region.
Over the years, the Camino de Santiago has become a renowned Catholic route for pilgrims to travel over 800 kilometers to pay respect to their patron saint. Their motivations and intentions varied - some driven by war, plague, famine, health concerns or for forgiveness of their sins.
As we walked the path of St. James, small yellow arrows and scallop shell symbols were painted on walls or engraved in the ground providing frequent directive cues to stay on track. I loved seeing these symbols! While I was there I received a decorative scallop shell commemorating my route, and I immediately hung it around my neck.We hiked up verdant mountain passes, through the trails leading to rock- made Celtics villages overlooking the border between Portugal and Spain. What an incredible site!
Imagine over 2000 years ago, various cultures had come upon this exact land to build, live and establish communities. Why was I here to experience this? What was the Camino telling me?
As I walked with my walking sticks along the village trails, I heard church bells ring in the far distance. Immediately my arms and hands were covered with goosebumps as memories of my mother’s last breaths resounded in my head. Those were the bells that we had listened to as she took her last breaths. I took a deep, long inhalation and sent her my love knowing she was at peace in her beloved mountains.
My feet began to establish a subtle mellow rhythm, with one in front of the other, my walking stick gliding in harmony. I relished the smooth dirt surface under my hiking boots, feeling the wind across my face and savoring the beauty and history of this ancient, historic Camino.Why was I led here? Why now? I pondered these, as well as many other questions.
I remembered the impact of my breast cancer diagnosis in 2018 as well as the relentless decline of my mother’s health due to dementia ending in 2021. I truly believe that having one’s health - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual - is the greatest gift we possess. For without it, we have nothing. I think about forging on my new path ahead - the field of telemedicine and all that it brings to my patients and community.
I hope that you’ve found some inspiration through this journey along the beloved Camino de Santiago and enjoy the pictures I captured along the way.
What will be your next “journey”? Where will your “path” take you?
Please share your thoughts/dreams in the comments below.
- In health and happiness
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