Top Reasons People Walk the Camino

My husband and I walking over the Pyrenees in 2007

My husband and I walking over the Pyrenees in 2007

In the years of walking the Camino and encouraging others to walk, we have heard a variety of reasons that prompt people to set out on the Camino adventure, but they seem to fit into three categories: To have a spiritual experience, to embark on the physical challenge of the path, and to meet people.

Those hoping for a spiritual experience are rarely disappointed but need to know that they will also have a very physical experience. You will encounter physical challenges you may or may not have expected. The physical Camino is as important to consider as the spiritual insight you hope to gain. Though focused on the spiritual encounter, be aware of the physical aspects, and learn to take cues from your body about when to rest, eat, sleep.

Those seeking a physical challenge to master will have high mileage and the assortment of terrain and weather to conquer, but must be ready to wrestle in your mind and spirit as well. If you take seriously our suggestions about “unplugging” from your regular work and media, you will spend a lot more time in your head than you are used to doing. Allow yourself to welcome and address memories and feelings that bubble up; don’t hide behind the physical challenge or use fellow pilgrims to distract yourself from getting to know your inner person. Lean into this and pray for God to show you more.

Those looking to meet some amazing and profound people will no doubt meet some jerks as well. When you do come across someone who’s rude, or who snores or turns on the lights in the dormitory at 4:30 in the morning, don’t just write them off. Some folks you meet may be struggling with more in their lives than you can imagine. You don’t have to become best friends, but extend to them grace and understanding; you may have a crabby morning yourself now and then. Encountering people you don’t like is just as much a part of the Camino experience as interacting with those you do like. Embrace it. Learn from it.

Whatever your reasons for walking, our son Hunter Van Wagenen suggests aiming at these mindsets: Expect and hope without demanding, be willing to accept and embrace what comes, look for answers in your highs and lows on the Way.

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Wick and Helen Van Wagenen first walked the Camino in 2007, and God has used every part of their experience to shape their lives since then. They are grateful for the opportunities to make many more trips to research routes, test gear, and volunteer along The Way. The Van Wagenens and their family and teammates continue making new trips, and enjoy helping others make the trip of a lifetime. You can contact them at