Why We Walk: The Freedom of Simplicity

Enjoy the sweet, simple pleasures along the Camino.

Enjoy the sweet, simple pleasures along the Camino.

Most of us who live in the West have very crowded lives. Our schedules are full of appointments and meetings as well as work, we have hundreds of options of what to watch on television or on our devices. Our pantries and refrigerators are filled with food that we rarely feel in the mood to eat, and our closets are full of shoes and clothes that we rarely feel in the mood to wear. Even when we declutter, the stuff often piles up again in a matter of months.

One of the great attractions of the Camino is the fact that the life of a pilgrim is starkly simple compared to daily life at home. It is freeing to lay aside the devices and the harried routine to exchange it for the unbusy life of the Camino: wake up, pack, walk, check in, shower, wash clothes, nap or socialize or explore, eat dinner, sleep, repeat. In the midst of it all there is no need to worry about missing an engagement – you’re allowed (or sometimes forced) to take time to sit, walk, and talk with your fellow pilgrims. You won’t be late for anything!

The nature of the pack, even if you use a transport service, also forces you to consider how little you truly need. When you’re carrying everything with you for five, ten, or twenty miles a day, every ounce counts and you’ll quickly realize that it’s quite possible to wear the same couple of outfits over and over again. It’s not a big deal to go without shampoo and conditioner sometimes. It’s easy enough to stick to the basics for snacks since you have to carry them with you, and as far as drinks go you’ll do well to be content with water between stops.

To some of you reading this, this kind of life might sound like a welcome break from a life too full. To others this might sound horrifying – after all, don’t we choose our routines and belongings because we like them and want them in our lives? Why, then, would we give that up for so many weeks?

My bias towards the simple is probably clear, but I will admit that on the Camino I have longed for some of the choices from home as much as anyone else I’ve met. Especially in the last stages of the trip, it is hard not to daydream about home and its comforts. It’s hard not to start mentally filling your calendar with the activities you’ve missed, or get into the process of making appointments you may not have missed. So for those of you who are reluctant to leave your variety and comforts, I do sympathize.

But let me challenge you to live simply, just for a season. On the Camino you will struggle, yes. It is hard to give up our habits and routines, entertainment and comforts, but doing without them will grant you two things: perspective and thankfulness. You will see that life can and does happen without variety, comfort, and a change of clothes. Outside the life you are used to having, you can observe it more critically, and with more appreciation. When you return home, you may find you don’t need as much as you think.


Hunter Van Wagenen’s Camino experiences began in 2007, and he enjoys sharing the humorous and the miraculous stories, in addition to practical advice he has lived and collected. His dream is to live in Spain helping pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. He currently lives in Greensboro, NC with his wife Stephie, who will walk her first Camino this summer with Hunter.  Hunter@CaminoProvisions.com