Thinking of walking The Way? Perhaps you’ve been googling what to pack, essential items to bring, how to plan, impermeable map covers, plasters, impermeable covers for your plasters…
**Spoiler Alert this is not one of those long lists of indispensable objects to hulk on your journey like a tortured martyr saint.**
The caminho is about stripping back to the essentials. Bring as little as possible with you.
Having said that here is my list:
1.) Take a book but take a paperback copy you don’t mind swapping. Chances are you’ll finish it and others will be looking for a new read.
2.) Take whatever someone walking other other direction gives you. A man walking south to Fatima passed me on my way up north and offered me a sturdy eucalyptus stick- “for walking- and there are dogs”. Turns out the dogs were ok but, as a rule, accept advice from those that come from the other way.
3. Bring a pen and paper. You’ll want to jot notes, as sleeping thoughts will surface given all the space and thinking time.
4. Most importantly, pack your readiness to accept. Say yes.
They say once a pilgrim always a pilgrim and there is a hell of a lot of truth in this. Habits that you adopt while walking this way are hard to shake afterwards. I made a friend, Gino, who had reached Santiago and was still walking the way five years later. Whilst I am not still literally walking the way – and I hope he has since returned to the world he had abandoned, renewed- in another sense, I am still walking the way with him.
The caminho returns to catch you out, it springs up through the cracks in the pavement. When you least expect, a memory, a snatch of conversation or a face, will remind you of a moment shared, or an epiphany. You are vulnerable when making this journey, having stripped back to essentials, you are open to others and vica versa, connections you make leave a lasting impact.
In Lisbon now I spot yellow arrows, the pilgrim’s godsend, sprayed onto the back of roadsigns, graffitied onto the curb. Once you’ve trained your eye- trained through desperation as you’re without a map- you can’t miss them. They still grab me now.
You will pick up other habits without a map: as you reach for other people you’ll begin to depend on signs and advice. You’ll say yes, and have some of the most wonderful and unplanned shared moments and meetings. Believe me, this is hard to shake off when you return. Take little with you, you’ll receive the world.