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Camino Reflections – The Benefits of Experience


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The picture just shows a stretch of road with some of the marking arrows but its significance is that this is the point at which I got lost last year! I’m sure it was as clearly marked then as it is now but then, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

I wrote about that episode in my reflections on last year’s trip. This year, it was a major feature in my mental landscape as I prepared to travel the route again; when Rick asked which of the evening discussions I wanted to lead, I had no hesitation in picking the same one as last year, “Pilgrims use maps”, knowing that it would come on the same day that I would have a chance to read the map of my own experience.

There were no problems this time in keeping on the right path; my reward was a short stretch of the journey that I hadn’t walked before. The challenges of that day were different from last year (and I’ll write about them in tomorrow’s entry) but I was bolstered by having demonstrated that I’d learnt at least one lesson.

Having the experience of walking the Camino before didn’t detract from returning to that path. I would argue that re-walking the route enriched and deepened the experience. As well as avoiding past mistakes, I was also able to see other areas in a fresh light. For example, last year my impression of Triacastela was clouded by a combination of the overcast weather (contrasted with the glorious introduction we’d had to the Camino at O’Cebreiro) and tiredness from a solid day of walking without the confidence that it was something I had done before and could do again. This year, I remember it with sun shining and the field scented with wild mint as we moved in and out of our tents.

Experience is good and helpful and it can be gained in part from listening to other people’s stories. However, I could have read every guidebook and pilgrim reflection on the route but that would have been no substitute for having been there myself; experience won through trading time and effort is the most precious. I want to be diligent about gaining it and using it in all aspects of my life.

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