How I Prepared for the Camino de Santiago
How do you prepare for something you have never even considered doing? Especially for something as daunting as the Camino de Santiago (the Camino) could be.
If you land here first, you can catch up by reading part one.
Read on for part two of “How I Prepared for the Camino de Santiago.”
The Camino Vocabulary
Learning the Camino vocabulary was akin to learning a new language. Of course I’m joking, but there really were a lot of things to learn. For instance:
Credencial – Somewhat like a passport, the credencial is verification that you have walked the Camino. Along the way you have your credencial stamped to demonstrate that you have walked (or biked or ridden a horse) the entire way or at least the last 100 km. You can get the stamp at many places along the way. Albergues, hotels, restaurants, and cathedrals offer the stamps.
Sello – Sello is the Spanish word for “stamp” or “seal.” These stamps are collected as you walk and are especially important for those pilgrims on the last 100 km. In those cases, and ours, pilgrims must get two stamps/sello each day.
Compostela – A Compostela is the certificate that you receive for completing the Camino. In other words, your credencial verifies that you are eligible for a compostela. This is not important to everyone but it was important to us. It would be a physical manifestation of what we had accomplished.
Certificate of Distance – This is exactly what it sounds like and is another document available to pilgrims. It certifies the distance that you traveled on your Camino.
Buon Camino – A greeting pilgrims exchange along the way.
Albergue – Similar to a hostel and open to pilgrims with shared sleeping, dining, bathroom, and common spaces. Sometimes these are located in someones home and are referred to as residential albergues.
Scallop Shell – The shells are meaningful on the Camino. Used as markings to define the way and noticed hanging from backpacks, the scallop shell represents the many paths that pilgrims used to make their way to the cathedral. Early pilgrims attached the shells, which are plentiful along to coast, to their coats or hats.
Pilgrim – An individual making their way to Santiago de Compostela.
Botafumeiro – Meaning to “let out smoke”, the botafumeiro is essentially large incense burner. Historically, it symbolized spiritual purification. It is one of the largest in the world.
What does Success Look Like?
As I write this I am three weeks out from four separate surgical procedures on my back. In fact, I jokingly call these last few months the Summer of Surgery.
I have a long history of issues with my lower back and it affects my mobility daily in one way or another. I can usually tell when things are getting worse but sometimes I don’t recognize it in time.
When that happened earlier this year I spent a few days bemoaning the fact that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time. We have a no whining rule at our house and I was definitely whining, at least in my mind.
I over-googled and doubled down on how I could get around this problem. I even considered putting off surgical relief until I returned from Europe. It’s laughable now because many days it was a challenge to navigate from the bedroom to the couch. In other words, I was brandishing my will like a battering ram.
Miraculously, the Camino was already providing spiritual healing in terms of acceptance. The solution was to walk (pun intended) through whatever was in store for me. Whatever that looked like. That acceptance washed over me as soon as I stopped pushing for solutions that made room for what I wanted instead of what I needed.
So when success, which is subjective by the way, crosses my mind I brush it away. My Camino is not about success, it’s about embracing a spiritual journey.
It’s about being open and available to the life lessons that have already come my way by virtue of being willing and able to walk ….. or not.
It’s about opening my heart to what I will find in the people, the forests, the cathedrals, the hills, the valleys, and the centuries-old and well-worn paths of the Camino.
It’s about being present for the simple moments that I wouldn’t otherwise witness.
And I’m grateful that it is enough.
In closing, if you are planning your own Camino, in the middle of a Camino or have finished your Camino, I welcome your thoughts, impressions, and experiences in the comments.
I’m writing this post ten days before I leave and hope to be updating from the road. I can’t wait to get started on what I am confident will be an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my days.
Until then, Buon Camino!