I met Laura and Carsten through the “Tasmanians on the Camino” group a few years ago. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know this incredible couple. Laura has even become one of my cherished “Lovelies” – one of my trusted beta readers – and her feedback to be incredibly insightful.
Every time I get together with Laura and Carsten, we talk about anything and everything but, of course, our common love is the Camino.
They’ve walked the Camino twice now and with their latest adventure, from Le Puy en Valey to Santiago de Compostela, I followed their journey closely on social media – and what an adventure they had!
I was excited when Laura agreed to an interview. I hope you enjoy!
- When did you walk the Camino and which route did you walk?
We have walked two Caminos. The Frances in 2017 and GR65 (Le Puy en Velay) and part of the Frances in 2023 – from Le Puy en Velay to SJPDP then from Leon to Finisterre and Muxia.
- Did you walk solo or with someone else? Were they a friend or a relation?
I walked with my husband, Carsten on both occasions.
- When you initially started, what did you imagine the walk to be like?
Good question! We had of course seen the movie ‘The Way’ and this created an interesting impression of the actual walk – not too difficult and a bit romantisiced. This quickly changed after the first, very tough, day to Orisson. The weather was hot and the climb, although not long, absolutely threw me into a tizz – and personally I wondered if the rest of the walk was going to be this hard, if I could actually make it! So my perception and the reality were worlds apart.
- Halfway through, what was your primary feeling about your walk?
Once the initial physical and mental shock was over – probably after the first 10 days, I actually was able to settle into a nice rhythm and enjoy the walking – lots of time to contemplate. We met our Camino Family in 2017 and made some solid friendships that continue to endure.
- If you came across another Pilgrim what were the first two questions, you would ask them?
Where are you from? Is this your first Camino? Quite often you would have long conversations with other walkers and then go your own way without even knowing their name!
- Did you do any training beforehand? If so, what did you do?
Yes we did a little because we had read quite a bit about the Camino at that stage – all about gear, footwear, socks, training etc. and thought we probably should do a bit. So we mostly walked as much as we could and trained a little with our packs on – a lot of time and effort went into really trying to pare down my weight. We found out after we started that it is really quite difficult to ‘train’ as walking day after day and doing distances of, in our case, about 25km a day, is very, very different to training walks. We sort of ‘walked’ into the Camino.
- What was the one thing you packed that you were glad to have with you?
A good first aid kit – in terms of good tapes to wrap our feet in for blister prevention. Having said that, we packed waaayyy to much first aid gear and when we did our second Camino, packed a lot less and stocked up as we went.
- What was the one thing you packed that you could have left behind?
In all honesty, nothing. Although on our second Camino I did buy a poncho about a quarter of the way through (as well as the raincoat I already had) and ended up sending it back home as I hated wearing it – felt like I was wearing a giant condom – and in the heat it made me sweaty and hot.
- Would you walk a Camino again? If yes which route, would you walk and why? If no, why not?
This is something we discuss ad nauseaum. I don’t consider us ‘Camino Tragics’ and don’t feel the need to re-walk again – but feeling this is usually when we have just finished a walk. After we have been home for a while, we yearn for the simplicity of a Camino again. So in short, yes. We would like to walk the Coastal route from Porto to Santiago but make it part of a bigger overseas trip. Our recent Camino we walked for nearly three months and were well and truly over it by then. We swore we would never do it again – but time softens our attitude and the lure of the adventure and challenge of it all beckons again.
- Which was your favourite albergue and why?
On our Camino Francés in 2017, we stayed at an albergue at the beginning of the Meseta – San Bol – just loved it. Very small in a peacefull green oasis with ‘healing springs’. It resonated with us and we met the most beautiful pilgrim, Sharlet, from Dallas there. Felt so right to make that connection.
11. If you’re open to sharing, what did you learn about yourself?
Tough question Tara! I’ve learnt that I like solitude and simplicity but also crave company and connection – if that even makes sense. I’ve learnt that you won’t like everyone that you meet and that is OK. I’ve learnt that you need very little to survive on a long walk – as people say – the fear of being without is strong but you soon learn that perhaps, this fear is akin to mental fear of not having. I’ve learnt that everyone has their own reasons for doing a Camino and you should never compare or feel less because you don’t have a higher reason for doing it – just enjoy the challenge and the walk. I also realised early on that some people will spill their guts with the most intimate thoughts, and it is a privilege to be in the position of just listening, without judgement – although the amount that people were willing to share – and I shared in return – was a bit of a surprise. Mostly I learnt that our life is pretty darned good here in Tassie and although travelling is wonderful, I have a strong sense of how lucky we are and a high appreciation of our wonderful family, friends and life here.
- When you began you walk, what was your motivation to walk the Camino? Physical, spiritual, religious, or other? (This is a question that is asked when getting your Compostela in Santiago.) What about at the end of your walk?
The physical challenge was my motivation both times. Having said that, I was processing grief from losing my dad the year before on our 2017 walk, and although raised Catholic, have never practised. I found myself going to several masses in Spain and seeking solitude and solace within churches on the Way – to contemplate in peace and silence. I did this also on our 2023 walk recently – in a strange way it brought me some peace. Two close family members were also very sick – one has very recently passed away – and I found myself praying for them. Totally contradictory – so go figure. So I guess at the end of both walks, I would say that I could honestly say that it was in some way a spiritual journey.
13. Did you continue walking to Finisterre or Muxia?
Not in 2017 but in 2023 we walked to both Finisterre and Muxia – my favourite part of the walk on the Camino Francés – so worth it and gave us a sense of completion.
- If you gave one piece of advice to someone thinking of walking the Camino, what would that be?
Try to go with an open mind and heart and your experience is your own – don’t compare to others. Walk your own walk.
- Do you feel the Camino changed you?
Maybe a little. But this is hard to verbalise. It has made me more appreciative of what we have – it has left me craving a more simple life in terms of ‘things’.
- How do you feel you brought the Camino home with you?
Only in attitude and memories, and living it vicariously through the tales of others now.
- Do you feel your Camino was a pilgrimage, or was it was more of a long-distance walk?
More of a long distance walk.
- Do you feel the Camino is for everyone? Why or why not?
I personally feel that physically, most people could actually manage a Camino. Mentally is a different thing – it is a challenge on many levels. You have to open yourself up to feeling out of your comfort zone and new experiences. I feel that anyone who reads or researches walking a Camino, and feels interested or a yearning to do it, is already most of the way there. Not for everyone – if you are not in any way curious about new experiences then probably not for you.
- What would you like to see more, or less (other than less toilet paper) of, on the Camino?
I would like to see more infrastructure in terms of public toilets on the Camino and water points. Both quite challenging. There is nothing I would like to see less of – other than walkers that are oblivious to others i.e. play loud music while walking/disrespectful in shared accommodation – something that probably can’t be fixed as they are completely unaware of their own behaviours.
- What was your favourite city on your Camino route, and why?
Loved Burgos and the history. Just a beautiful place.
- If someone didn’t know what the Camino was or about, what would you tell them (in three sentences or less)?
A Camino is a journey of simplicity. Walk, eat, sleep, rinse and repeat. There is a very special cadence and comfort in this simplicity. Being open to being outside of your normal comfort zone and maybe, just maybe, discovering something about yourself that you like and bringing something of that simplicity home with you.
Carsten and I often used to talk about this point – how do you describe a Camino to someone who has never been on one? How do you describe the compunction to do it all again, knowing that you’ll probably have some degree of physical and mental discomfort on the Way? We still have not worked out how to communicate this in a meaningful way. Probably just as well, otherwise everyone would want to do one!