Interview with a Pilgrim: Margaret Caffyn

I have yet to meet Maggie in person, but I feel as if we’re friends. We met online, as members of the Australian Camino community and not surprisingly, have a number of pilgrim friends in common (including Sue Swain, Lindsay Teychenne and Dan Mullins, amongst many others). But I’ll finally meet Maggie at the 2023 Blue Mountains Camino Celebracion and Fair. (More information on that on my Facebook events page.)

I have admired Maggie from afar. She’s done a lot to forge the path for Camigas, especially those who write books. Maggie’s book, Walking Back Home was an inspirational read, prior to walking my own Camino wander.

I asked Maggie to describe herself with three words. This is what she said: “Funnily enough, I often ask people this question and there are two words they use for me ALL THE TIME…inspirational and brave. I don’t feel either of these. I think both these words mean that they can’t imaging doing the things I am doing because it is their fear. One word I would use to describe myself would be adventurous.  My mother taught me never to say no to an opportunity.”                              

That describes the Maggie I know – so far. I hope you enjoy!
  1. When did you first walk the Camino and which route did you walk?

I walked the Camino Frances in 2015.

  1. Did you walk solo or with someone else? Were they a friend or a relation?

I walked solo but, of course, I wasn’t alone for long.

  1. When you initially started, what did you imagine the walk to be like?

I had no expectations, so it was all very exciting.

  1. Halfway through, what was your primary feeling about your walk?

I was constantly wondering why I was doing it. I had been called but didn’t know why.

  1. If you came across another Pilgrim what were the first two questions, you would ask them?

 Why are you walking the Camino? And, where are you from?

  1. Did you do any training beforehand? If so, what did you do?

Virtually none, due to long working hours, long commute and general exhaustion.

  1. What was the one thing you packed that you were glad to have with you?

My Aarn backpack (light and waterproof) and my Pacer Poles.

  1. What was the one thing you packed that you could have left behind?

Nothing really. Perhaps my self-doubt.

  1. Would you walk a Camino again? If yes which route, would you walk and why? If no, why not?

I’ve walked many Caminos since, but never the same one twice. I couldn’t see the point. I wanted to experience something new each time.

With Sue Swain at Casa Susi, Trabadelo, Spain

  1. Which was your favourite albergue and why?

I don’t have a favourite. They were all great.

If I was to walk the Frances again, it would be Casa Susi in Trabadelo (communal meal, river to soak feet, beds not bunks, and of course, the wonderful Susi and Fermin, who own it).

On the Portuguese Coastal, it would be La Cala, a Pilgrims Inn (such luxury and Tanya, the owner, is so loving and wonderful.)

11.  If you’re open to sharing, what did you learn about yourself?

I learned to listen more. I learned that I can do anything I want. I learned that I had become my job and that had to change. I quit when I got home.

  1. 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?

I was definitely “called”, but I also had lost myself being someone’s mother friend, sister, daughter….everyones someone, and I had lost myself. It was a spiritual awakening for me.

13. Did you continue walking to Finisterre or Muxia?

Not in 2015, but I have done since. 

  1. If you gave one piece of advice to someone thinking of walking the Camino, what would that be?

Do some homework and get good gear, but also go with no expectations. Everyone’s Camino is different.

  1. Do you feel the Camino changed you?

Definitely. I am much more at peace now.

  1. How do you feel you brought the Camino home with you?

I don’t like this question. I didn’t. I just changed. For the better, I hope.

  1. Do you feel your Camino was a pilgrimage, or was it was more of a long-distance walk?

It was definitely a pilgrimage.

  1. Do you feel the Camino is for everyone? Why or why not?

No. I hate the way people put it on a “bucket list” as if it is something they feel they  should do. I feel you should be “called”.  It is tough, and not something to just tick off so you can say you did it. For me anyway, it is a very spiritual, emotional and personal thing.

  1. What would you like to see more, or less (other than less toilet paper) of, on the Camino?

I’ve been told by Spanish people that it is not necessarily the visitors doing it.  There are no public toilet blocks there and this is the way Spanish people deal with the situation. I think most of us (pilgrims) respect the beautiful environment that is the Camino.

  1. What was your favourite city on your Camino route, and why?

Too hard to answer that. My favourite cities have been the major ones on the Via de la Plata…..Caceres, Italica, Merida, Zamora.  But of course, Santiago de Compostela has to be at the top of that list.

  1. If someone didn’t know what the Camino was or about, what would you tell them (in three sentences or less)?

It is an ancient pilgrimage route, that for most people, changes their lives. It has a very spiritual feeling and it feels like it is in a different dimension.            

Go with an open mind, leaving all judgement, fear and ego behind.