Greetings again from the darkness. There aren’t many traditions that span more than 1200 years, and only one of those involves walking 500 miles … the Camino de Santiago. Its origin is as a religious trek to Santiago de Compostela where tradition holds that the magnificent cathedral contains the remains of St. James the Apostle. These days, the Camino is no longer limited to those with Christian beliefs, and in fact many modern day pilgrims take it on as a personal quest rather than a spiritual journey.
Director Lydia B Smith and her camera allow us to travel along with a group of (six) pilgrims, each with their own story, background and motivation. The journey involves both physical and emotional challenges, and results in varying degrees of self-awareness. One obvious difference in today’s pilgrims versus those of medieval times is the experience is much more communal these days. Not only do the walkers eat and sleep in the same hostels along the route, they also freely share their emotions and thoughts with each other (and the camera). This contrasts greatly with the tradition of solitude and quiet introspection. Call it a lesson in generational differences.
The elements rotate between favorable and challenging. The pilgrims must face cold, hot, rain, and wind. These obstacles of nature are magnified with foot blisters, sore knees and other bodily ailments. However, for most of these people, the mental challenge is every bit as steep. For 6 plus hours each day over approximately 35 days, they focus on the incredible scenery as well as their own thoughts. It’s impossible to hide from one’s self, even though friendship … and even relationships … form along the path.
Each of those who complete the journey realizes it’s not about the destination, but rather the inspiration and spiritual enlightenment – even if it wasn’t their original goal. There is talk about the “internal Camino” and how you walk with your heart. Reflection on this spectacular path leads to harmony with nature and self. A lovely Spanish guitar accompanies our viewing pleasure, and it’s impossible not to imagine ourselves on this journey. If inspiration strikes, just be aware that spending that much time with one’s self is an activity far removed from our generation’s typical day.