It's Rachel here. I thought I would take the time to tell you 7 reasons why I love the Camino de Santiago and why I think that it is a very helpful experience for me as I am only 16 years old. I have walked the Camino three times now. One when I was only 13, one when I was 14, and one when I was 15. Each time I went was always a different experience for me. However, there were always key elements, about each trip, that I enjoyed.
#1 – The views were just incredible.
Every day we had a new view to photograph. Being able to have the opportunity to see some of the most breathtaking views at such a young age, in my opinion, is such an amazing opportunity. Walking through the dense forests into the bare space revelling the clear sky and tiny villages scattered around in the hilly mountains is definitely one of my top reasons why I fell in love with the Camino. It helps me to take time out to think about how there's always light at the end of the tunnel. This also leads on to the next reason I love the Camino…
#2 – Time to think.
For me, this is the reason I walk the Camino. To be able to have time to myself and think. When I last walked the Camino, I had just completed my GCSEs and hadn't yet got the results. It was beginning to get stressful but when I had the time to think and clear my head I felt much more relaxed about it. This means I got to enjoy the summer more than I would have or if I had been stuck at home in a panic. I also like to think about my past, present and future. How all the mistakes I've made have made me has created me into the person I am now and it helps me to accept those mistakes. It also makes sure I have time to reflect how grateful I am for how much I have in my life. I believe that walking and having no specific place to go is one of the most freeing feelings because you have no time limit, no pressure, no rushing. You get to use this time to take a breather and completely be there in the moment, your head is in one place. You aren't thinking about what you're going to do in an hour or what you just did, you get to just be there and enjoy listening to the birds and the gentle breeze.
#3 – You get to meet the most incredible people.
Time to yourself is great, but on the other hand, you get to meet the most incredible people. Learn their stories. Get to know some of the most interesting people. As you genuinely tend to walk with people who go a similar walking speed as you, you tend to form what we like to call a “Camino family”. These are the most important people who make your Camino feel more special and memorable. These people are all walking for their own personal reasons and most of them like to open up and let you know some of their darkest secrets or saddest moments and you get to share some of the happiest moments with them.
Some people are ill, they just want to make the most out of life and they can teach you some incredible lessons that school could never teach you. They can show you that life is short and to live it to the fullest and to never waste a second of it. You also get people who do the walk looking for a miracle. a special personal wish that only matters to them. You can get people who don't know why they are walking, they just want to experience the magic of the Camino.
Personally, I have met some people who helped me believe that there is someone who's making these miracles come true and listening to our thoughts and trying to help us. I'm so grateful to be able to say that I have three Camino families. All of them contain people that I only met for a short time but they are people I will never forget and I will always miss. I still keep in contact with as many of them as I can because I like to see them grow into better people, maybe that means spending more time with their children or travelling more to build their happiness and confidence. Either way, I love to watch these people turn into beautiful, happy souls. however, some people aren't so friendly and they like to keep themselves to themselves and you have to learn to respect that.
I love that you have so many people you meet and how you have the chance to work them out and learn about why people do the things they do. This is defiantly another one of the reasons I love the Camino.
#4 – To learn new skills
I really love to learn new skills. the Camino is one place where you learn a lot of different skills. The ones I've already mentioned like people skills and learning to give my mind time to relax are just a few of the many skills. You have to learn to be very organised as you are living out of a backpack, so you have to make sure that you know where everything is and in what order you are going to use them in. Because you are carrying everything you have to make sure that you only have the essentials, which is difficult because I have learnt to live with everything I need at my fingertips.
When I first walked the Camino this was really hard for me because I didn't know what things were essential and what wasn't. I'm much better at being organised now and trying not to be too cluttered. this is definitely a skill I will use in the future. I have also learnt to be more independent as when I was walking, sometimes, I was alone and I had to figure out the way by myself. I also had a confidence problem with paying for items, so on the Camino, I challenged myself to try to pay for things, for example buying my mum a coffee. I love that the Camino helps me to build my confidence and be a better person for it.
#5 – The bond I had with my mum
Another reason I love the Camino is that it helped me and my mum become closer. We now have so many memories to bond over. We got to know more about each other. our strengths, and weaknesses. We shared some of the best times of my life, so far. I'm also so grateful that me and my mum are close enough that we are more like best friends than mother and daughter. I love that the Camino brought us closer together. I also became closer to my mums best friend, Julie. I didn't know a lot about how much fun she can be. The Camino has definitely brought us closer too as she is more of a second mum to me now. These two people are two of the most important people in my life because I know that when I need them they will be there for me, no matter what, and I will always return the favour.
#6 – I now know more about Spain
One of the final reasons for I why I love the Camino is that I got to learn about Spain. I know about the culture and the language. I got to understand the places that weren't very popular but are so beautiful, hidden gems. I learned to understand that they do things differently, like having to ask for milk in your tea or coffee. things I never knew. I also learned about other cultures because of the people I had met from all around the world who would tell me about how different things are where they are from. It's interesting to talk to them about their opinions on subjects that most people in one place have the same opinion. Spain is such a beautiful place and all of the residents there are very friendly and are willing to lend a hand.
#7 – People see me as a Pilgrim, not a 15-year-old
The last reason I love the Camino is that people don't see me for my age, they see me as a person who is worth just as much as someone who's slightly older. They wouldn't mind having conversations with me about real things. Things that people normally don't talk about with a 13-16-year-old. But these people saw me as a mature woman who was there to do what everyone else is doing.. to walk.