The Editor: My husband and I recently returned from Northern Spain where we walked the Camino de Santiago. Gerald Schmitz has provided quite a detailed accounting of his journey on the Camino last fall and while I have enjoyed reading his entries I do take exception to several of his rather disparaging comments about other pilgrims. He refers to some of the people on the Camino as “pilgrim junkies” and others as “pilgrims-lite” and questions whether they can even be considered pilgrims at all.
For me one of the lessons of the Camino is not to be judgmental about the others’ journey. Everyone I met had a purpose for being there and had determined a way of being on the pilgrimage that I believe was legitimate. I walked a distance with a young, rather healthy-looking woman from Iceland who was carrying only her water bottle and an extra pair of socks. The rest of her luggage was being transported to her pre-arranged accommodation. I learned that she has very significant respiratory problems. On humid days she ended up taking a taxi to her destination. Another pilgrim we met was recovering from cancer treatments and also had to be cautious of the stress he put on his body.
A second Camino lesson for me was the importance of listening to your own body. Well into the journey I developed back spasms. The responsible thing for me was to heed this; I had my backpack transported for the next number of days and thus avoided ending up in the health care system. We know of a number of people who pushed themselves beyond their limits and ended up in hospital emergency departments along the way or had to abandon their pilgrimage. There is not only one way of being on this pilgrimage. As in life, everyone’s journey is unique and deserves respect. — Martha Wiebe, Ottawa.