Hiking the Camino de Santiago for the first time can raise doubts. ‘Can I walk 500 miles in a foreign country where I don’t know the language, the customs, or what to expect?’ For those setting out alone, fear of the unknown can lead to panic.
Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Women of the Way Embracing the Camino:
On one forum, I read that many people get the jitters about two months before leaving. One woman expresses her anxiety: “Exactly two months from now I will be standing in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port about to take my first steps towards Santiago. HOLY $#!&. I’ve been excited for months (in fact years), but now my heart is fluttering fast, my head is spinning, and my feet are cold. For the first time I’ve thought, ‘Can I really do this? Am I crazy? Can my body handle this? Do I have everything I need? Do I have too much? Have I been saving enough money? Will my company be okay without me? Will it be even better without me? Will I be different when I come back? Do I want to be different?’ I’m just a bit freaked out.” This anxiousness is normal; many people become nervous prior to commencing on a momentous journey or new adventure. So far, I have not had these fears. I think my preparations, my research, my having been to Spain previously, and the fact that I am not going solo, all help build my confidence. Perhaps these self-doubts will come as I get closer to the departure date, but now I simply want to be on my way. I feel like I am at the beginning of a race, waiting for the sound of the start gun, confident that I am trained and ready.
Don’t panic. Fear is a natural survival response that can be controlled. “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ~ NELSON MANDELA, Autobiography. Cast aside your fear of the unknown and trust in the Camino. People have been walking the Camino for a millennium; you are walking in the footsteps of others that have proceeded you. Just like on the Camino, take it one step at a time. Learn to control the panic and have a buen Camino.
How to overcome the pre-Camino panic
- Imagine yourself in Santiago with the Compostela, the certificate of completion in hand. Imagine how you will feel.
- Think about the positive sides of the Camino, what this effort means to your and what you will accomplish. Don’t dwell on your fears.
- Think of all the new experiences: the food, the wine, the country with all its beauty.
- Read books that discuss the wonders of the Camino, the joy experienced, the camaraderie.
- Join pilgrim forums, hiking clubs, etc and speak with other pilgrims.
Do you have pre-Camino jitters? If so, what are you doing to overcome them? Please comment.
Jane V. Blanchard