When did you walk the Camino and which route did you walk?
The Camino Francés, starting at St Jean Pied de Port, France. We have walked three times.
Did you walk solo or with someone else? Were they a friend or a relation?
I walked with my best friend and partner in life, Jerry.
When you initially started, what did you imagine the walk to be like?
I thought it would be hard and was worried that I would not be able to do it as we had had a sedentary working life, and we were both 60. I was curious as to what it would be like, but I had some very real concerns. On our first Camino, two months previously, I had pneumonia. I also caught a flu on the flight from Australia to France and was not in the best shape to start.
Halfway through, what was your primary feeling about your walk?
On the first Camino I was in pain (knees and hip) so was still worried about how I might finish it. On the second Camino I did not have the same issues so was confident I could do it. As a result, I was happy – simply happy walking, eating, sleeping.
If you came across another Pilgrim what were the first two questions you’d ask them?
I usually started with some casual chit chat such as where they were from and their name. If they looked willing to talk and if I felt it was an okay question to ask, I asked why they were doing the Camino. That usually opened the conversation up, allowing it to head into a more meaningful direction.
Did you do any training beforehand? If so, what did you do?
Yes, we walked daily. We covered a distance between five and ten kilometres. This training period lasted for about six months. Then, eight weeks before we left, we walked daily with fully loaded packs. For the first Camino because I got sick, it did not necessarily work. On the second Camino it did, and I had a better Camino for it.
What was the one thing you packed that you were glad to have with you?
Pants! No seriously, on the second Camino I took moisturiser.
What was the one thing you packed that you could have left behind?
First Camino we took too many clothes, and the wet weather gear that was too heavy. By the second Camino, we had lighter wet weather gear and by shopping at sales etc we had acquired lighter clothes. By the third Camino, we had more of the expensive light weight trekking gear, so it was even better. Gradually over time we have looked at everything we take and found lighter sometimes smaller versions. Also, on the first Camino I had a pack which was heavy (2 kg) even empty! So, I gritted my teeth and paid for a lighter weight Osprey which I really don’t regret.
Would you walk a Camino again? If yes, which route would you walk and why? If no, why not?
I love the Frances so I am sure we will walk it again. That said, we might walk either the Portuguese or the Le Puy next as it will be interesting to see another Camino route. But then when push comes to shove, I might just opt for the Frances again. The Camino is not about the destination or route it is about the process you undergo as you walk so it probably does not matter. We hope to walk next year (2024). If not then, it will have to be 2025.
Which was your favourite albergue and why?
Casa Susi because Fermin and Susi are such good hosts. The beds are singles (no bunks), food is great, shower area is big enough to turn around and lift your arms without hitting the side of a shower cubicle. It’s a lovely place to stay.
If you’re open to sharing, what did you learn about yourself?
When I started out, I thought the Camino would not change me, as I felt happy with who I was and was happy in my skin. But I discovered that even though I am well into my 60s I can still take on something new, challenge myself… an adventure, if you like. That was very liberating. I found I could still grow as person and did not have to sit down, age and be a little old lady. The Camino taught me that I could live an active life, be challenged, and enjoy it. The Camino is also a chance to re-discover some core values.
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?
On our first Camino, we walked to mark Jerry’s retirement. We felt it was important to mark the change in our life. After a lifetime in the workforce Jerry was also very jaded. During the walk I saw the man I married return. It was fantastic. By the end of the walk, I realised we learnt so much about ourselves that the Camino was more than we had understood it to be.
When we returned home, we thought and talked about the Camino daily. We returned to Spain and walked it again to make sense of the experience. I am not sure we did!
We returned a third time to touch base with set of values and ideas that the community constantly re-enforces. We still have not nailed what the Camino is for us, but I think it’s the wrong question and not very important after all. Each Camino has been very different, even though it’s the same route. The meaning behind the Camino seems to grow each time we walk it. It does call us back which means we are bound to walk again.
Did you continue walking to Finisterre or Muxia?
No because I had sore knees. Once we arrived in Santiago it was time to celebrate. I feel we are bound to do it some time.
If you gave one piece of advice to someone thinking of walking the Camino, what would that be?
Just do it but do it your way. Set your own pace and don’t let the guidebook stages influence you too much. After buying good shoes, get properly fitted for a pack. Wear your shoes in before you start. Budget some nights in a private room so you get some nights where you sleep properly. Dorm sleeping is a great way to get to know other pilgrims, but if you are exhausted because of lack of sleep, you will not enjoy the company of those pilgrims!
Do you feel the Camino changed you?
Yes. I am I think much more patient. Lots of little things simply don’t bother me anymore. I and more aware of how materially comfortable I am, and I am grateful for that every day. I am even more aware that friends and family are the most important aspect of my life.
How do you feel you brought the Camino home with you?
I think about the Camino daily and try to be kinder to people I encounter. It’s not complicated I just try to be a better me.
Do you feel your Camino was a pilgrimage, or was it was more of a long-distance walk?
A pilgrimage because after three Caminos, it has influenced how I think about the world and my place in in the world.
Do you feel the Camino is for everyone? Why or why not?
It’s not for everyone because I think some people are not receptive to what the Camino has to offer. The world would be a better place if more people found a block of time to retreat from their daily life and think, but not everyone would prioritise that.
What would you like to see more, or less (other than less toilet paper) of, on the Camino? More public toilets could be built. They could separate the cyclists from the walkers. Last time we walked (2022) the cyclists had increased since the pre-Covid days. I think some people cycled thinking they would not have to be with strangers so much. Cyclists on the trail had increased about ten-fold and it was dangerous in quite a few places.
What was your favourite city on your Camino route, and why?
Burgos. The cathedral is exceptional, and I like the feel of the place. We have always had good accommodation and food there. Also, the Museum of Human Evolution houses human and hominid artefacts and remains, which makes you realise just how long people have lived on this area of earth.
If someone didn’t know what the Camino was or about, what would you tell them (in three sentences or less)?
It’s an eight-hundred-kilometre, world-heritage-listed walk across Spain, where you meet people of all nationalities. It’s a great leveller, as everybody walks or cycles and is going through the same thing. Since all you can do is walk, eat, or sleep, you have time to think and allow the Camino to change your life.
You can find Sharon and her incredible creativeness here: http://pintangle.com
Photo Credit/Copyright/Sharon Boggon photos: Jerry Everard/The Fogwatch