In light of Saint James the Greater’s recent feast day, two university students shared their reflection on walking the Camino de Santiago this past summer. The Camino, also known as the Way of Saint James, is a pilgrimage that has been walked since the Middle Ages, the most popular route beginning at Saint Jean Pied de Port in France and ending in the town of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
By Mariah Graham and Maddy Otto
Walking through the towns, farms, and cities of the Camino de Santiago, you’re surrounded by more languages than you can identify and hundreds of people that seem impossibly different from you. The only thing you have in common with them is the reality that they are on the trail with you, with a similar desire to use their bodies as a vehicle. But even that differed with the additions of cyclists, those on horseback, and even the different fitness levels of each pilgrim.
But despite all the differences, in every trail passing, café stop for a meal, and mass celebration you would hear the sounds of “Buen Camino” echoing back and forth between pilgrims. These two words were the only Spanish some people knew, but it was something everyone understood, both the literal translation of “good walk” and also the intentions behind this seemingly simple phrase. In many cases, saying “buen Camino” to someone along the trail was a way to acknowledge the presence of the other person, encourage them on their journey, and thank them for participating in your journey all at the same time.
Everyone is doing some kind of walk, both those as extreme as journeys like the Camino and the normal pathways that we tread during our everyday lives. Even if you never actually walk the physical path in Northern Spain, it is important to recognize the fact that everyone is on their own journey. There are commonalities between every person that we encounter, and despite the differences that exist between us.
It is important to not only acknowledge the presence of those around us but also to wish them “buen Camino” and recognize that they are also walking through life alongside you. Next time you encounter someone on your trail, wherever it may be, make sure to wish your fellow pilgrims a “buen Camino” and take a moment to appreciate both the things that bind us all together as well as the qualities that make us all unique.
Mariah Graham and Maddy Otto are students at the University of Portland. Mariah is a Social Work major and Maddy is a Chemistry major. They walked on the Camino de Santiago for 9 days with 15 other students as part of a UP Campus Ministry pilgrimage in May 2018.