Busted Halo

Rebecca Gallo is walking the 480-mile pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago despite, or maybe because of, the doubts she has about faith. Journey with her along this ancient path.

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May 17th, 2012

Everyone Walks Their Own Camino


Rémy and I placed our orders for paella at a cafe on the square in Pamplona. It had been a long day walking the Camino and we still had a few more kilometers to go. Our packs sat on the ground next to our table. As we sat sipping our beer, I saw Antoine walking across the square. I had met Antoine a few days earlier — he’s a 27-year-old Frenchman on his second Camino in less than one year. He had his 40-pound pack on his back, walking sticks in one hand, and a guitar case in the other. I called him over to our table.

“You really bought it!” I said.

Rémy couldn’t believe his eyes. “You just bought a guitar?” he asked. Antoine had told me earlier he was going to buy one when he got to Pamplona. It was not something I would choose to carry for 480 miles, but I’d learned long ago to let go of my idea of “the right way” to walk The Camino.

Six months earlier, my image of a pilgrim was much different. I envisioned walking every mile, a 10-pound pack on my back, staying each night at simple hostels along the way with questionable water pressure. I kept that image until I talked to Jenna (not her real name). She had just returned from spending one week walking the last 100 km of the Camino. She not only stayed in hotels every night of her Camino, but didn’t even carry her own pack. She informed me there are people who will drive your pack to your next destination for you. Somehow, that just didn’t seem “right” to me. Wasn’t a pilgrimage partly about the struggle?

The physical struggle of walking day after day, wondering, “What was I thinking?” when you decided to do this. The spiritual struggle raging inside your head making you wonder why it is a woman who hasn’t gone to church in years would embark on a religious pilgrimage? Where was the struggle of walking sans pack and staying in a nice hotel each night?

Though I tried to hide it, Jenna heard my surprise at the way she did her Camino. She was not offended. She simply said, “People do the Camino many ways. One of the things to remember is that everyone is walking their own Camino.” This was a revelation to me: to realize that though someone may not be carrying a pack and spending their nights in a room with 10 people on bunk beds doesn’t make their experience any less a “Camino” than mine.

After having walked 13 miles on Monday, I found myself in Cizur Menor in the garden of the hostel where I’d stay for the night. I looked at the four people sitting around the table with me. Antoine was playing the guitar he bought a few miles earlier in Pamplona. Justin was carving a hole in the scallop shell he’d gotten at dinner two nights earlier. (The scallop shell is a symbol of the Camino and nearly every pilgrim wears one on their pack.) Diane was writing in Justin’s journal. (Justin has everyone he meets write something in it.) Rémy — my lunch companion earlier that day — sat listening with us. I was surrounded by people doing the Camino their own way:

• Antione was doing it with a guitar strapped to his back.
• Justin was biking the whole way. He said he would prefer to walk it, but only has two weeks vacation and two young children at home in Utah.
• Diane had just finished walking the last 100 km of the Camino with her two college-age children. She then came back to walk the beginning of the trail on her own.
• Rémy does three weeks of the Camino each year — his wife doesn’t want him away longer than that. A few years ago this native Frenchman started his Camino in Le Puy, France. This year he will walk to Burgos. Perhaps next year he will come back to walk to the end: Santiago de Compostela.

I looked around that table and marveled at all the ways there are to walk the Camino. And I remembered Jenna’s words: everyone walks The Way in their own way.

Is there someone you’ve been judging too harshly for walking their own way? Have you ever found yourself being judged for walking a way different to that of your peers? Take some time to listen to the way your heart wants you to go.

The Author : Rebecca Gallo
Since 2012, Rebecca Gallo has walked the Camino de Santiago three times -- twice on a strict budget, and a third time traveling a little more luxuriously (private rooms with sheets instead of hostels with a sleeping bag). She enjoyed sharing her first journey and subsequent reflections with Busted Halo readers. Other tales of her adventures can be found at RenaissanceRebecca.com.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Amy Wakefield Vogel

    One of our fellow expats here in Fano, Italy, has a sister walking the Camino right now. Your blogs have helped me, a life-long Protestant, understand what’s happening and embrace that everyone has their own pilgrimage to walk. Thank you!!

  • Pat Filley

    Rebecca, may be second part of my comment as I lost first beginning.

    I stated you carry ‘Church’ in you. In Cursillo we say church is the people of God. Undeniable is God’s presence in and with you. You are also making God present for each of us in the virtual cloud. Love your posts, what an awesome memoir for you and your family. Love your trust in God’s leading. Your faith journey continues and is expanding you, praise God.

  • Barb in Iowa

    Carry on……thanks for your wise insights!

  • Cecile

    That’s great to think about . . . Everyone walks their own path; who am I to judge.

  • RenegadePilgrim

    There are a lot of people on the Camino who will judge “how” you are walking. Walk your own walk and don’t worry about it! I was criticized for taking busses and a train when I walked two years ago. Without those breaks, my feet would not have let me continue due to extreme tendonitis and blisters in both feet. And remember, the Camino provides too…whatever you need, you will get it, or find it. Buen Camino! (p.s. I am heading back to walk from Porto to SdC in the fall…the Camino is addictive!)

  • Rebecca Gallo

    Thanks to all for your comments. One of the many joys of my Camino is reading the comments to my posts when I find wi-fi.

    Bert- I too hope you can walk the Camino someday. I well take that hope with me.

    Joanne- I’d never before realized the opportunity to take people “virtually” on the journey. I am thrilled to be doing that for you.

    Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and insights. The Camino does indeed choose us Helena:)

  • Helena

    I walked the Camino del Norte four years ago, following the death of my husband from leukaemia. One of the great insights I gained was exactly your point – it gave me a new understanding too of the parable of the Workers in Vineyard. For so long, i had been one of the workers who started early in the morning and grumbled at the late starters – I siddenly appreciated what waiting around all day might have represented, and what the call of the master to each individual might represent. We do not choose the Camino, the Camino chooses us – each in our own broken way.

  • Tara C

    Beautiful words, and so true to all aspects of life… we each travel in our own way. :) Enjoy every minute!

  • Joanne F.

    Here I sit, a perfect stranger, traveling the Camino with you. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us who may never be able to take this journey. Blessings to you and all who you are taking with you via the internet!

  • Bert

    this is awesome!! if you don’t mind, i place my hope of someday walking the camino on your heart shaped rock. i will be praying for you as you make this pilgrimage. God bless and buen camino!

  • Elizabeth Anne DiPippo

    Thank you for writing and sharing. It is absolutely wonderful to be “with” you along the road, to hear about the people. Your blog today makes me think you are “falling upward”…pretty young to be entering the second half of life! Well, it’s definitely not a chronological thing!! CIAO, Rebecca!

  • Garnette Arledge

    Elizabeth Ann and I cheering you on, praying you on, your own Camino, as we had soup in the New Paltz Teahouse. Your columns make it so real for me. Keep writing!

  • Deacon Bob Davis

    What a wonderful description of the pilgrims! I’m so thankful that you’re sharing your insights with us!

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