Pain and How We Deal With It On The Camino

    On the 4th day of Camino via de la Plata(VDLP) and walking through the Parque Sierra in the early morning enjoying the sunrise and the mist in the trees amidst the rolling green hills. For some reason the topic of pain keeps coming to mind. Perhaps it’s because my feet feel like the bones in them are badly bruised. Each of my endless steps today are arduous. But it’s pain that comes every day so I think it must be something else. 
     I just finished reading two books about The Camino. The first was recommended by an Australian friend who is very interested in The Camino but has not walked it yet and reading some of the books like this first one makes one a bit fearful. I did not like it as I found the author whiny and totally self absorbed with her own pain and difficulties. Preparing to start VDLP I was going to stop reading books but noticed one on my Kindle that I had not read, and scanning the first few pages saw that the author had Sjogren’s Syndrome, an uncommon anti autoimmune disease that affects mostly women. My late mother had it and had to deal with a great deal of pain during the latter years of her life.”Steps In Time” by Katharine Soper was very different than the previous book. She seemed kind, compassionate and walked humbly as a peregrino should. While she mentioned the pain, she seemed to just accept it and carry on. Anyway, upon returning home she found out that she had a stress fracture in the foot. I thought of others I’ve met on The Camino; 80+ year olds, a Belgian woman who had recently had two knee replacements, Dani, the tiny 77 year old from France, people with cancer or other illnesses, bad tendinitis, etc..

       Why do some people quit and some finish The Camino despite their pain?
       Over today’s 34K, the final 20k I walked alone so had plenty of time to ponder this. There was a German woman, Ulrike, last year on Camino Frances who suffered with MS. For her walking 1K a day was difficult but she loped to do 10K per day. I asked her “What did your doctor think about you walking the Camino.” She replied, “He told me I was insane, but I don’t care. I just take one step at a time.” I also kept thinking of Anna Marie, a young Macedonian girl who walked Camino Frances the same time I did in 2015. I first saw her about 10 days into that Camino and she was limping in a way that made me wince. The most painful looking walker I have ever seen on The Camino. I felt sorry for her but then when I passed her and looked back she had on perhaps the brightest smile I have ever seen on any Camino. For at least another 10 days or so I would see her limping strongly but always smiling. I asked her how she could smile like that when she was in such obvious pain. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I am just so happy to be here on The Camino”.

     So at the end of the day as I relaxed with my feet up and enjoyed a vino tinto, I thought everyone is different. Some people choose to dwell on their pain and suffer while others accept it and just carry on. On The Camino there is pain, but at the end of a day’s walk there is a hot shower, good food and wine, camaraderie and the conversation that goes with it, and laughter. Soon your pain drifts away and after a good night’s sleep you awake before dawn and you walk enjoying the cool, crisp air and then the sunrise warming you. At some point in the day the pain comes but I think of all those people that have much more pain than I do and or serious debilitating illnesses and diseases and the pain drifts away somewhere to the back of my mind.
I suspect pain and how we deal with it is a touchy subject for many. I am not a medical expert and am just making some observations from my own narrow point of view. Am not making judgements on people that are forced by pain or illness to prematurely end their Camino’s.

Pictured Below:

1. Two 85+ French guys who walked the entire Camino Frances’ 790K:
2. Me picking up little 77 year old Dani from France:

3. Last, Anna Marie, from Macedonia with her rough tough older brother:

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