In 2017 I decided to walk El Camino De Santiago solo, feeling inexplicably drawn to it. I looked forward to this super-grand adventure with time to ponder my life, after raising a family of three gorgeous boys with my husband, Kevin. I was travelling alone but I set the intention that I would like to make friends to share the magnitude of the journey. I did not want to be wandering for 800km alone and sad! So at the end of a long few days of travelling from Brisbane to Paris, I boarded a final train to St-Jean-Pied-De-Port, the starting point of the Camino Francés. The train was full of pilgrims, some chatting excitedly. I noticed Sylvie sitting on her own, and as we disembarked I approached her to introduce myself. Within minutes she decided to join me at my pre-booked Albergue and we were off to the Pilgrim office to obtain our credentials. We explored the charming town, buzzing with expectation and shopped for walking poles. I learnt that this animated French Canadian woman was also married and a Mom of three. That night we treated ourselves to dinner out and toasted the debut of our great adventure with a glass of sparkling wine.
I had a tight timeframe to finish my Camino, with an event to attend a month ahead in Portugal. In the first week I wondered each day if this would be the day I would walk on ahead alone. It became harder to consider going my own way as our friendship grew and we gathered more friends and fun. I walked for many hours in stillness but always relished finding sanctuary in my new friend and the deep, growing space of our shared experience. She drew people to us like bees to honey. I learnt the art of connection and challenged my introverted ways. The fun was magnetic. We laughed and we cried.
There is a well-worn saying in pilgrim circles that the Camino provides and that it gives you what you need, not necessarily what you expect. Somehow, as your feet kiss this stretch of earth, it delivers many surprises and a great whopping dose of love. Ask anyone. This is the enigma and the magic of the road. Once back home, we spend hours trying to pinpoint, define and replicate it.
My Camino not only provided Sylvie, it planted at least another five special souls from around the world into my experience on the Spanish soil. Each with stories or presence that buried into my heart. It gave me people that shed insight and poured balm on all my chinks of deficiency. The road was full of lessons, love and healing.
Once you’ve walked this way, you are altered. It’s like a heart-opening that can never be reversed. It keeps you coming back for nourishment.
And so I did. My next Camino was the Via Francigena last year through beautiful Italy, walking to Rome. Again Sylvie stepped in beside me. Our friendship of soul steps continued.
This year, we are finding our way back to the Camino de Santiago – this time intent on sharing the beauty, holiness and healing that makes up this journey, with 8 others.
We have two ladies ready to go and three others in the wings.
We hope you find your way to us.
Let’s walk a while in wonder.
Darene & Sylvie