“Everybody does the Camino for a personal reason,” Juanjo said, the clicks of his trekking poles accentuating his words. “Everybody.”
I watched as he stared straight ahead as we walked, his jaw clenching slightly in rhythm with his steps. I’d heard this refrain before — Juanjo was fond of sharing his bits of wisdom, even if it meant repeating himself.
But for all of his strong talk, I knew he’d yet to share his true reason. For while we all may walk our 1000km for a particular reason, many of us also have the reason we tell the world, one that often becomes the very same reason we tell ourselves in the end, a reason we can come to believe, and feel comfortable sharing: a whitewashed, more palatable version of the truth.
“I’m so busy, I just wanted to get away and disconnect for a while.”
“I’m unemployed, so it seemed like a good time to go.”
“I love to walk, and I’m a spiritual person.”
“You know, I heard about the Camino somewhere. I can still walk, so… Why not?“
It’s rare that we can know someone’s whole truth behind the words and the smiles. But every so often we can spy a glimmer of it, hiding in the eyes, the jaw, the clacking of the poles. There lie the words people rarely say, despite the Camino´s promises of easy confidences. Listen between the steps, open-hearted, and breathe in rhythm and in silence with the paces of your pilgrim brethren, and learn what lies beneath.
“I’ve done something terrible, and I cannot forgive myself.”
“I´m fulfilling a promise I once made to God.“
“They say my case is hopeless; I am walking for a miracle.”
“My heart is broken, and I don’t know what else to do.”
And so when a stranger asks us, as they always do, why we are walking, we just smile knowingly, and say,
“You know… Why not?”
ETA: I heard all of these reasons for walking from pilgrims on the Camino, in 2009 and 2012.