The magic of the Camino is not in the trail but the people you meet.
When I walked the Camino Francés (solo) in 2018, I was unaware of what I was missing from my life. It would take many steps, and many weeks, for me to understand what that was.
I was at a crossroads in my life, like so many others who decide to walk this trail. I wanted more from my life, but I didn’t know what that looked like. I was in my late forties, had left a soul-crushing corporate job years before to try and make it as a travel blogger. Sounds like the dream job, right? And it was in a way, but the business side took away the sheer joy of travelling. The Camino returned that joy to me.
But that wasn’t what I was looking for. I was looking for more. Something else.
I walked with a couple who remain as two of my closest friends. Sharon asked if I was happy (no, not really). She also asked if I was an introvert. That question threw me for a loop. I always considered myself to be social, more along the lines of extroversion. But I realised while I was walking how much I needed the quiet. I needed solitude to let my thoughts mull. Little did I know what that would lead to.
I returned home to find that no one understood what I was feeling, post Camino. My experience fell on deaf ears. The people I shared everything with, whom I thought I was most close to, couldn’t relate. They nodded along with my stories with vacant stares before quickly changing topics. This left me feeling incredibly isolated. I reached out to my Camino Family and found my solace with them. Only those who had walked before understood.
I walked the Camino again with my husband in 2019. He calls me a ‘Camino Tragic’. I wear that with pride. Even though he walked the same path as I did in 2018, he never felt the Camino Magic. To him, the experience was ‘a lovely long walk’. He didn’t connect with people as I had on my 2018 journey. We met some great people, of course, but the conversations weren’t as deep as I’d experienced before. It was heartbreaking. He still didn’t understand what I was feeling, post Camino. He resumed life quite easily. When I fumbled, dealing with reality, I fell into reading my Camino journals. The notebooks I’d poured my heart into while enjoying a cool beverage in the afternoons.
They say it’s not until you return home that the journey really impacts you. For some, the Camino will change their life. It did for me. I eventually looked inward, especially after that second Camino. It was then that I finally realised what I was looking for.
Personally, it was deep connections with people who believed in the same things I did. Deep, soul-searching conversations. Connecting with people who weren’t afraid to ask tough questions which made me question, well, everything. People who genuinely cared about me, rather than a relationship based on duty or obligation.
Professionally, I felt the need to pivot my focus and pursue the one thing I’d always wanted to do: become an author. I wanted to write about my Camino experience in some way, to convey how incredibly unique and life changing it can be. But I did not write a Camino memoir, like so many others before (and after) me. I’m a fiction writer. After a lot of consideration (and realising that most of us ‘Tragics’ have seen Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez in ‘The Way’, a work of fiction), I decided to focus on developing characters who encounter life-changing connections with others.
My first Camino novel, Camino Wandering, was published at the end of 2020. The story revolves around three middle aged women, walking the Camino Francés together, as they discover who they are and what they’re made of. I’ve received some incredibly beautiful reviews since the book was published. My favourite has to be the overall consensus that readers feel as if they are walking the Camino along with these characters. That’s an amazing compliment, knowing I’ve conveyed the magic, especially when that feedback comes from people who’ve never set a foot on the Camino.
By the end of 2022, I will have published four books, although not all are Camino focused.
Visit Tara on her website, The Crackpot Writer. You can find links to her novel, Camino Wandering, on her website. If you like relatable heroines, personal growth, and triumph over adversity, then I believe you will love Camino Wandering. Follow on Facebook or Instagram.
Check out my e-book, A Wild Woman’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago for practical advice on preparing to walk the Camino de Santiago including snippets from my journey and stories from Camino pilgrims. Click the link to download your copy.