Guest post by Kate Spencer-Millan an artist inspired by the Camino de Santiago…
I’ve walked El Camino de Santiago twice and continue to have a love for it. I remember the first time I told friends and family I was planning to walk it, they would always ask ‘why?’ My answer quite often was ‘I don’t know!’ lol. I was never much of a hiker, oh don’t get me wrong, I walked a lot as a kid when my mum would ‘drag’ my brothers and I for a day of walking. (Admittedly it was always a fun day, we were just lazy moany kids).
I believe the reason I wanted to walk it was because I was seeking a challenge. I didn’t know if I could do something so repetitive, walking every day for at least a month. I didn’t know if I could physically do it either. But! I decided I was going to try. I’d planned my first time in 2014, but I broke my leg badly a month before. I was devastated not to be able to go on a trip I’d be planning and training for, for a year. I’d trained all winter, and that was a tall feat in Calgary Canada, where I was living at the time, as sometimes it was -25 when I was walking. Breaking my leg sent me into a spiral of sadness initially, but as I started to heal, I saw hope and I started thinking about planning for the hike for the following year. There was a lot of physio and even more training, but I was determined…
Looking back, I think the Camino was teaching me lessons before I even got there. I was tested on my determination to do this, (or stubbornness maybe!) Either way I feel the Camino was teaching me to be persistent in my dreams and my goals.
Sometimes we must overcome hurdles in life to follow our dreams, it’s usually showing or teaching us something in the process.
I remember a day on the Camino I arrived in a small village with only two albergues to find every bed had been taken. I made a decision to keep going another 7kms rather than backwards to the albergue that I’d passed only 2km before. I believe I was meant to stay at that further albergue, I met some amazing people but most of all I believe I was being shown I’m capable of doing so much more than I think I am. That day it was walking. I hadn’t thought I could walk further than that village that day, but I WAS able, and it hadn’t even been that bad! The day still ended with a smile on my face and a glass of wine in my hand. It taught me its usually our fears that are our biggest challenge. I am learning to ignore my fears as they just hold me back.
After my first Camino I was hooked! It was hard when I returned to ‘normal’ life and so I started planning my next one. I did my first in 2015 in spring, and then my second in 2017 in the autumn. And both times were just as amazing. I’m planning my third but I haven’t quite decided when I’ll be doing it.
The Camino really has directed my life. I have always been a creative person, painting alongside working as a hairstylist.
But after the first Camino I decided I wanted to paint more, to follow the dream of being an artist. So, I decided to switch my efforts, to more art than hairdressing. Then after my second Camino I quit hairdressing altogether and now I paint full time.
I’ll be honest with you, its not an easy path to go down, but then anything worth having was never easy. Without the Camino, I don’t know if I’d have had the confidence to follow my dream to be an artist. There had always been self-doubt, but the Camino has taught me, I really can do anything I want if I put everything I have into it. It also taught me with the right perspective we can overcome anything, it has not only given me the confidence to follow this dream, but it also inspires me. The views I saw were breath-taking, and by painting it, it keeps the Camino alive.
I get to relive memories and the experience as I paint and stay connected to the lessons I learned. It has now become my focus, I am as much addicted to hiking the Camino as I am painting it. I now encourage other peregrinos to get in touch with me to get a custom piece painted for themselves, (I paint from their own personal photos), so they too can have their story hanging on their wall in a spot they get to see every day.
If I could give any advice for future pilgrims, it’s to take each day as it comes. Don’t try to plan the journey in advance, stay where you’re feet take you that day, that’s where you’re supposed to sleep that night. Meet people, connect with them and let the Camino just show you the way, while you walk it and after you arrive in Santiago.