The Power of ‘the camino’

Galicia, the northwestern corner of Spain, is magical to walk through

It’s a walk, it’s a pilgrimage. It’s called “the camino” and it has the power to make people feel called to do it, the power to make people talk about it, the power to draw people back to do it again.

The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage trail across Spain – with links to walking routes throughout Europe – that dates back to the 800s. Santiago (Saint James) is the patron saint of Spain, and hundreds of years after his death his influence was credited with helping Spanish forces to drive the Moors out of their country. A great cathedral was built in the saint’s honor in the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela and, in no time it became the third most significant Christian pilgrimage destination, after Jerusalem and Rome.

Scallop shell designs mark the way on the camino

Today, that history lives on along the trail, co-existing quite peacefully with modern additions and adaptations. Older church-run refuges have been joined by municipal and private albergues (hostels) as options for simple, dormitory-style places to stay. Restaurants and cafes abound, many offering a traditional “peregrino menu” or pilgrim meal. Churches along the way hold pilgrim masses, but you can also find yoga and meditation spaces.

To me the most powerful thing about walking the camino is how it flushes your brain. There you are – walking, eating, sleeping. All the rest of it – your worries, your job, your hobbies, your ways of defining who you are – doesn’t matter.

Really. It’s very freeing. Even when you are dealing with sore feet or sore ankles or sore knees, issues that at home might make you grumpy, you feel expansive and inspired and blessed. Besides meeting interesting people from all over the world along the camino, you also meet your own best self.

Although the history is steeped in Catholicism, modern day pilgrims come from many different religious and spiritual backgrounds and from an amazing number of countries – from Canada to Brazil, from Korea to South Africa, from Ireland to Latvia to Israel.

There are at least 50 Yukoners who have walked the Camino de Santiago – and quite a few of us more than once.

In 2015, I was approached by numerous eager-eyed friends and strangers, asking if I could join them for coffee and share information about the camino, which I had walked three times at that point. I figured it would be more efficient to get everyone together at once, and so the seeds of a Whitehorse camino association were planted.

I did a two-hour presentation in a school library that March and had a standing-room-only crowd.

In 2016, I retired from the work force and started talking to other local camino veterans as well as the national office of The Canadian Company of Pilgrims about forming an official Whitehorse chapter. My book, Walk Your On Camino, was ready to be launched in January 2017, and we kicked off our new pilgrims’ association at the same time. Again, it was standing-room-only. I’m telling you, the camino has super-powers!

Since that auspicious beginning, we’ve planned three events per year: a camino information session in March, a St. James Day walk in July and our end-of-season social coming up soon on Sunday, November 26.

Some Yukoners who have recently completed a trek will be sharing their travels with others and show select photos.We also plan to offer other training and preparation classes next spring for those interested in doing the pilgrimage themselves.

To keep up with on-going camino events or get more information on our event this month, send us an email at [email protected] so we can put you on our email list. You can also find us on Facebook at Whitehorse Chapter Canadian Company of Pilgrims.

Buen Camino!!

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