From Clifford T. Lomboy, M.D., Regional Gi
 
Earlier this summer, I, along with my wife Marygrace, Dr. Christopher Addis, his wife Lisa, and 18 other family members and friends went on a walk. This was not an ordinary walk but one which thousands of people have taken before us for over 2,000 years.
 

Our group of 22 pilgrim family and friends

Camino trail marker with the yellow arrow and Camino scallop shell

It is a walk on the Camino de Santiago, which in English translates to “the way of St. James.” This network of trails throughout Europe ends in Santiago de Compostela, in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain. The remains of St. James lie in the cathedral in Santiago. Those who travel the Camino de Santiago (Camino), referred to as “pilgrims,” embark on the journey as a pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons, tourism or to be in the presence of nature as a temporary escape from life’s daily routine.
 
Our journey was inspired by a 2011 film, “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, who also wrote, directed and produced the movie. It is a fictional story that takes place on the Camino de Santiago. In the movie, the paths of four individuals intertwine on the Camino, each with a sole purpose for the journey. The four would share valuable companionship and memories, whether or not they achieved their purpose.
 
We arrived in Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon. Our group journeyed on the Portuguese Camino, which started in Valença, at the northern border of Portugal. Our seven-day, 80-mile trail headed north, crossing the international bridge between Portugal and Spain, through Spain’s towns and cities of Tui, O’Porriño, Redondela, Pontevedra, Caldas de Reis, Padron, Rua de Francos and ending in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The trails are marked by the telltale yellow arrow and Camino scallop shell that point in the trail’s direction. We identified fellow pilgrims by the scallop shell we each carried. The ridges of the scallop shell converge at its base, symbolizing the trails leading to Santiago de Compostela. We greeted fellow pilgrims with expressions of “bom camino” in Portugal and “buen Camino” in Spain.
 
The days began with a group breakfast before each of us embarked on the trail at our own pace. Daily walks ranged from seven to 14 miles. Each day ended in a small town or city, where we shared a group dinner and stories experienced that day on the Camino. We surrendered to the outdoors, mindful of nature, the local culture, the people we met and each other. We occupied the miles by casual or thought-provoking conversations, or quiet contemplation, with only the sights and sounds of nature and the rhythmic, meditative cadence of our hiking sticks. We savored the flavors of the local cuisines, and to our surprise, many of us gained weight.
 

Drs. Addis and Lomboy on the Verdugo River in Soutomaior, Spain

Now what?

The cathedral at Santiago de Compostela

 

The pilgrim’s scallop shell, Compostela certificate and stamped Camino passport

Our final destination on Day 7 at Santiago de Compostela greeted us with a festive atmosphere and hundreds of other pilgrims. We each received a certificate, our compostela, attesting to completion of our journey. As proof of our walk, we had to present our Camino passports that contained unique stamps we acquired from vendors or points of interest along the trail. Two stamps were required for each day traveled before we could receive our compostela.

Although the walk was physically demanding, its simplicity and the absence of our lives’ usual daily routines and distractions afforded us the ability to truly be in the moment with each passing mile. Our Camino experience is a poignant reminder of a journey’s importance over the destination. Many times I find myself taking pause and reflecting on lessons learned and emotions I felt on the Camino to help guide me through life’s journey.

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