Lessons from the Camino for the Coronavirus crisis

The Camino isn’t just a walk in nature, it’s a spiritual adventure. A place where you can live the simple life of a pilgrim and experience the Camino spirit for a short period of time.

As the world has shut down and travel halted to cope with the ongoing crisis; the Camino is not an option at the moment. Yet there are life lessons from the Camino that can be very helpful during times of crisis.

1. A Retreat is good for us

Many pilgrims walk the Camino de Santiago as a ‘timeout’ from life to unplug, recharge or reflect. We all need time for this yet so few of us find the time.

The same could be said for self-isolation and social distancing. Let’s be honest, the world we live in today is busy. The opportunity to retreat from the humdrum routine of life and take time for ourselves is greatly needed by us all.

2. The Physical Journey

Walking the Camino hurts. There are days when you feet will ache and you will feel exhausted. However even on these days, pilgrims still find their way through. It’s the small things like when you stop, take a deep breath, remove your shoes and have a cafe con leche that make all the difference.

The world is hurting at the moment. We face an unprecedented crisis. Over 3.5million people are sick with this disease and over 250,000 have died and the ramifications of this pandemic are still unknown. It’s going to hurt us on every level but we will get through it. 

3. The Mental Journey

The idea of walking the Camino seems impossible to many of us, especially the French Way at 800kms. Even when you are on the Camino, there will be times you will doubt if you have the mental strength to finish the walking day, never mind the entire journey.

If you are anxious and struggling during this crisis – missing your family and friends, worried about money and your/the worlds future – just remember, where you are now is not your final destination. This will not last forever. Just keep going, one day at a time, one foot in front of another – like on the Camino.

4. Travel Light

Many pilgrims carry a backpack on the Camino. Those who choose to travel as light as possible experience an easier and freer journey. Those who pack extra clothing “just in case I might need it”, usually do so out of fear and end up carrying a much heavier load or burden, negatively impacting their journey.

The same could be said for the coronavirus crisis. Those who panic-bought groceries before the lockdown may likely suffer more as this hoarding behaviour is not caused by food shortages per se, but by fear in an attempt to control a situation which is beyond our control.

5. The Camino Spirit

If you met anyone who has walked the Camino, you will notice their eyes light up when they talk about their experience. Many will tell you that it changed their life because of the Camino spirit of kindness, support, generosity and acceptance among pilgrims along the Way. There is a real sense that pilgrims are in the Camino journey together and that you are not alone.

This same spirit is present and vital during this crisis. We have seen many examples of individuals in communities come together to help each other during this extraordinary situation. Social media is inundated with videos of outdoor exercise and dance classes in gardens and estates, challenges and marathons being completed in driveways, small public spaces and up and down stairs in houses to raise vital funds for local charities and Saturday night zoom quizzes is now the new social outlet. This sense of togetherness, support and camaraderie is so important in helping us keep going to get through this crisis.

6. The Camino Provides

“The Camino Provides” and the “Camino gives back what you give to it” are common sayings on the Camino. Many pilgrims have experienced coincidences and little miracles of hope along the way, as well as random acts of kindness. Pilgrims talk about how the Camino gives you what you need, even before you know you need it.

Today, we face extremely uncertain times ahead. What will life after the virus be like?  How will this affect our jobs and financial security? Nobody knows but we must trust that life will provide for us, like on the Camino. This trust will help us fear less and free us of trying to control this uncontrollable situation.

So, let’s remember this. No matter what the future brings, life will provide for us all. We have to remember that we are all in this together. Walking ourselves and each other home.