Even though the raw beauty is certainly apparent along any route of Camino de Santiago, the real journey actually has little to do with the dazzling visuals you’ll meet on the way to Santiago de Compostela. Instead, the famous pilgrimage is first and foremost a state of mind, a journey of spirit and soul in which travelers get a chance to cast aside the apocryphal in favor of the purely authentic. Like many of the best adventures, Camino de Santiago is ultimately about whatever you bring with you along the way, opening the door for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can stir your inner most desire to experience the natural world in its purest and most elegant form.
Certainly nobody understood this better than naturalist Henry Benson, whose own experience along the Camino didn’t end when he made it back to his beloved Cape Cod in the early part of the 20th century. For Benson, the ancient journey of the pilgrims was an illuminating opportunity for self-discovery, a chance to dig past superficial symbols for a deeper connection with nature. When given a chance to purchase a cockle shell embedded with silver along the way, Benson spurned it in favor of a real shell from a local fisherman in Galicia. For Benson, Camino de Santiago was another way to cast aside the pretty trinkets of the modern world, exchanging fake symbolism for something simple and real. It would be a choice that would come to embody the rest of his life as he delved deeply into the oft-hidden world of pure nature, determined to stay in tune with the undetected life force that drives everything.
By the time Benson started writing his prominent work The Outermost House, the spiritual lessons he learned from Camino de Santiago were as crisp as the morning air along the rugged coast of Cape Cod. Despite being many miles from Galicia, his mind would return to Camino as he explored a different type of pilgrimage in coastal Maine, posturing that the spirituality of the journey could cross the Atlantic as easy as the waves that prod freighters towards the shore. In Benson’s mind, Camino was “just opposite the Cape,” a place that occupied a deep and immovable part of his consciousness that was as easy to conjure up as the shell he had souvenired. It also came to symbolize an unfinished journey into the unknown that would take him the rest of his life to complete.
Nearly a century after Benson’s musings, the same principles still apply as thousands of pilgrims every year come from around the world to experience the mystery and illumination of Camino de Santiago. Although the journey itself will only take a matter of weeks, the spiritual lessons gathered along the way can prove to be of the timeless variety, mostly due to the rare opportunity of extended self-reflection we so often go without in the hustle and bustle of the modern world. While a traveler slips along the road all the way to Santiago de Compostela, there are endless opportunities to search for authenticity and make the deep connections with nature typically left to the philosophers.
But you can also count on having a much different experience than Benson, even if you find yourself nearly in lockstep with his philosophical vantage point. That’s because there is one constant that has held true since the earliest days of the pilgrimage: each journey is entirely its own. Every person who makes their way on Camino will plunge into whichever mystery of the spirit that was brought along, issuing a deeply personal experience that will follow you back to wherever they came from. Like with Benson and the countless pilgrims who came before him, a modern-day pilgrim is likely to find that the famous route is more than a great opportunity to see stunning architecture and test your endurance along a sacred path that dates to the Middle Ages. Ultimately, Camino de Santiago is a way of life.
When you’re ready to begin your own search, contact the experts at Adventure Camino for more details and some help finding the perfect journey for you.