Bringing Others Along

Hunter and Stephie received a blessing from their pastor Alan Hawkins at a Camino send-off last Sunday. 

Hunter and Stephie received a blessing from their pastor Alan Hawkins at a Camino send-off last Sunday. 

When we love something, whether it be a movie, book, place, or food, our natural impulse is to share it. It’s a risky thing, though, because there’s no guarantee that the person you’re sharing it with will appreciate it in the same way you do, or even like it at all – indeed, they might even hate it! So it is when you share the Camino with someone you love.

I’ve written before about the difficulty of explaining the Camino to someone who’s never been. Often the response is one of awe, but with a statement along the lines of, “I could never do something like that.” But in some cases you’ll find someone who not only wants to go, but is willing to make concrete plans to do so. This is part of the joy of returning to the Camino – going with first time pilgrims.

As I said, there is risk involved. When I went with a group of friends from my master’s program a couple years ago for my third trip and their first, I had an expectation of how the trip should go; but I found out pretty quickly that each of my friends had their own set of expectations. I had done little to share my vision for the trip with them, and I didn’t do very much listening to learn what they hoped to get out of it, which led to a lot of frustration and anxiety when we got to the Camino itself. Differing priorities meant that we disagreed on even simple decisions like where to spend each night, where to eat, or how to take care of necessities like laundry.

Despite the conflicts, which we resolved by the end, it was a grand experience to see the Camino through new eyes – to watch my friends see the sights and know the struggles of pilgrimage, to walk with them through the chapels and cathedrals, the mountains and valleys. It helped me get new perspective to see how five others took it all in.

This summer my wife of eight months and I are preparing to hike a portion of the Camino. She has known about my love for the Camino for years, and this will be her first time to see it for herself. I am anxious, but also excited that we will get to share it. (We arrive in Spain this morning, July 3). She will soon have opinions about the places, foods, and feelings of the Camino that are as informed as mine; she will have her own memories of sights, sounds, and smells on the Way, and of friends at dinner. We will, as my university friends and I did, get to process our experience together, and that is a great gift!

For those of you planning to go, who would you most like to come along with you? For those of you planning to go again, who would improve your experience the second time?

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.