one yogis journey on the Camino de Santiago

We are always students on this journey through life. As such, we are not experts on every topic, and are always looking to learn more, experience more, and do more. Because of this, Ash and I decided to start a Q&A segment on the blog. A way to find out more about the extraordinary things this world has to offer from those who have experienced something we have yet to see or do. Hopefully this Q&A post is the first of many to come. I know I got a lot out of reading these answers, and hopefully some of you will too. 

My yoga teacher, Judy Refuerzo, recently completed El Camino de Santiago (also known as The Way of St. James) in Spain. I wanted to find out more about her journey and thought this would be a good opportunity to share what I learn. The 4-8 week trek has been on my bucket list for years and I plan to complete it sometime in the near future. For those of you who do not know of the pilgrimage or haven't seen the movie, The Way, it is a spiritual journey for all faiths that has been traversed for thousands of years by people of all ages and backgrounds. Most walk, while others bike or ride horseback. I could write a whole post just explaining the pilgrimage in detail. To learn more, this is a great site here. For me, just the concept of being out in a beautiful place for over a month, disconnected, with nothing to do but walk to your next destination is enticing to say the least. The things you can discover about yourself and the world around you when in a setting like that while pushing yourself to the limits sounds incredible. Here is what I learned from Judy:

  • What made you decide to walk the Camino?  I wanted to do something memorable for my 60th birthday.  Usually for a big birthday I get a nice piece of jewelry but I’m tired of things and would rather have memories and experiences.  I wanted to prove to myself that I can do anything.  
  • Any tips to prepare for the walk? I don’t think you can prepare.  Of course you can get in your best physical shape but I saw people younger and supposedly fitter people than myself not make it, quit, or bus many of the sections. It’s all in your mind: either you think you can or you think you can’t, either way you’re right.  
  • Items that you have to have? I needed my poles (not good on the down hills).  But really I didn’t meet a single person who didn’t over pack.  Everyone brought too much.  Some people shipped their stuff to the end, some threw or gave it away and some wouldn’t let go and burdened themselves.  Pack light, you’re going to be carrying this stuff for long hours and many days.  If you forgot something or didn’t bring it, you will be able to find it when you need it (even poles).  Honestly the Universe will provide, you will be fine.
  • What motivated you to keep going? I’m not a quitter, I’m stubborn.  Some days it was hard, but you just get up and do it.  And once you get going, the day will surprise you.  You will see beauty, meet interesting people, or have a shitty day, but at the end of each day you will feel a sense of accomplishment and gratitude.
  • Did you learn anything about yourself? That I’m not very good at self care.  I pushed myself at times when I shouldn’t have.  I was afraid of disappointing people and chose them over me.  I need to stop and take care of me.
  • What was a memorable moment?  Cruz de Ferro - the iron cross.  You’re suppose to bring a rock with you on the trip that represents all that you would like to leave behind, as you have a rebirth on the last half of the Camino.  It was a very emotional day for me, leaving my rock and letting go. 
  • Did anything happen that you weren’t prepared for? It was all very emotional for me, even though I didn’t let it show most of the time and held back a lot of tears (that I shouldn’t have). I wanted to cry at the simplest things, like for the slugs or snails getting crushed on the paths.  I had a real feeling of oneness with everything, a deep connection.
  • Did you meet anyone interesting? So many interesting people.  A 75 year old woman whose job (after she retired ) was to be Minnie Mouse for corporate Disney, so they flew her all over to big Disney events.  I think she may have cancer (she was bald and always wore a cap) but didn’t talk about it.  I also met a woman who was in a terrible accident and all through rehab and learning to walk again she knew she would do the Camino.  Young and old, people from all different countries, everyone had an interesting story.
  • What were you looking forward to once you got home? Well, my husband joined me in Spain at the end of the trip, I couldn’t wait to see him.  But I wanted to come home to my dogs, my bed and a veggie burrito with hot sauce and chips.
  • Would you have done anything differently? I would have taken more time, I think 2 months would be perfect.  It would have been nice to slow down, enjoy more, spend a couple nights in one place some times, do some touristy stuff.
  • Would you do it again? YES!!  Maybe a different route and definitely want to walk to the end of the world next time - Finisterre.