What is the Camino?
The Camino de Santiago is the oldest pilgrimage in Europe. Dating back to the early 9th century, The Camino consists of multiple routes that originate in various cities and converge in the city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. According to history, Santiago de Compostela is the final resting place of the apostle James, the brother of Jesus.
The Camino is not one singular path or road to Santiago de Compostela. There are multiple paths that begin in different parts of Spain and Europe and come together in the City of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, Galicia. There is the Portuguese Route beginning in Portugal, the Way of Silver originating in Sevilla, the French Camino, which is the traditional route beginning in France, just to name a few. Each "Camino", which means way or path can have several parallel routes that can be chosen depending on the type of experience and terrain a pilgrim wishes to experience. Some are closer to the ocean, others bypass population centers. The multiple routes are reflected in the symbol of the camino, a shell with multiple grooves converging into a singular point.
In recent years more than 250,000 pilgrims travel the various routes of The Camino annually. The reasons people walk the Camino are as diverse as the paths to Santiago. Some seek a temporary escape from their busy lives to find quiet spaces to think and walk in. Many pilgrims embark on the journey seeking new experiences. They may be in transition or crisis. Perhaps leaving a long term relationship or job, they are seeking clarity and perspective in their lives. Most pilgrims experience an inner journey as well as an outer one. Finding themselves free of everyday distractions, pilgrims often begin to ponder the big existential questions of Life. What is my purpose? What is most important to me? What is my relationship to God? To others? Am I loved? Our journey on the Camino becomes a metaphor for life as a whole.
Pilgrims grow to cherish the friendships that are forged in the adversity of the Camino. Sharing a common experience physically, emotionally, and spiritually makes room for bonds to be formed and wisdom to be shared in this ever changing, continuous community. Nearly all pilgrims who have traveled the Camino believe their lives have been changed for the better for having taken the journey.