When I decided to walk the Camino it was simply a feeling, an instinctive knowing that this was my next step. I wasn’t really sure where to begin my research and googled to find some information online. Friends knew friends who had walked before and they passed on their suggestions.
The best advice I received was to take John Brierley’s Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino. I ordered it through Amazon and it’s brilliant! This is one of the best links I can give you, I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. Described as ‘a practical and mystical guide to the Camino’ it is filled with information to support your journey; where to stay, recommended stages each day, topography, history and more.
Rather than provide several links to websites and forums on the Camino, I’ll trust that you’ll google the info you need and find what you’re looking for. My intention for this website was always to provide a personal insight into the walk rather than the most comprehensive guide to everything you might possibly want to know about the Camino and the various routes.
In this way I’ve just focused on the questions in the faq’s that came up for me when I was beginning and hope you find them helpful. I’ll expand them as people send in questions and do my best to answer any questions personally.
So instead here I thought I’d focus on a few books and ideas that have contributed to my path…
Years ago I read Shirley MacLaine’s book The Camino. A Journey of the Spirit. I remember finding it a bit out there yet really enjoyed it. The month before I walked the Camino I found a copy in the local library completely by chance and read it again. I’m not sure I’d recommend reading it too soon before your planned journey! Yes it’s a great book, but it made me feel decidedly nervous, wondering to myself, “What on earth have I let myself in for, is this really a good idea?!” Rest assured the book was published a decade ago and the route is more comfortable now than perhaps it was then.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho remains one of my all time favourite books. It’s been translated into 67 languages and has sold more than 65 million copies, so you’re probably already familiar with it, yet I can’t resist mentioning it here. I love the simple beauty of the opening line, “The boy’s name was Santiago” and the symbolic journey to the treasures within. I mention the book here too because I didn’t realise until years later that Coelho’s first book was called The Pilgrimage, published in 1987, about his own journey to Santiago de Compostella. I struggled to finish it but you might enjoy it. Most of his books I really love.
I booked a few sessions with a physiotherapist for the first time in my life, a few weeks before I walked the Camino to help with a sacro-iliac issue. She happened to be reading The Year we Seized the Day by Elizabeth Best and Colin Bowles and leant the book to me for the weekend. This was long enough to skim read it and gain a sense of the physical challenges Best experienced along the way and the emotional struggles that Bowles experienced. It’s quite an easy read and descriptively raw. During my own walk I remember feeling grateful that I’d processed most of the emotional pain as I’d rather deal with physical issues if I had any choice in the matter!
It’s been many years now since I discovered Eckhart Tolle’s classic The Power of Now. The book had a profound impact on me and gradually seeped into my being. At first the full significance of the teachings were lost on me, now I realise how fundamental it is to stay present, over and over again, it feels a continual life practice to be conscious and aware to what is, right now, and to accept what is. The accumulative affect of his work contributed greatly to the flow of my pilgrimage. The walk was an opportunity to practice spiritual values in every moment and it felt so natural it was a blessing and a delight. Of course things still came up for, especially in the final week!
I met my friend Liz the year before I walked the Camino and she introduced me to Esalen Institute in California where she had taught the decade before. I had heard of Joseph Campbell yet hadn’t studied his work or made the connection with Esalen where he first lectured in 1965. His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces studies the myth of the hero and I developed a deep interest in The Hero’s Journey. It resonated with me deeply and helped make the correlation for me between my passion for travel and the yearning of the spiritual path. The book outlines the various stages that we go through on our individual journey in life and is considered a great influence on modern culture.
There are so many other books I could mention. I will just limit myself to the above as these were significant for me in the months preceding my pilgrimage.