You would think finding time to yourself on the Camino would be easy, but it takes work with a child. The first 10 days passed with a few journal entries completed, but it wasn’t until our stay in Burgos that I really had the time to put down what I’m learning and how it all measures up to what I expected.
Hudson is a Camino celebrity.
I always saw the 500-mile pilgrimage as an inward journey of growing in my faith and learning more about myself, including who I am as a wife, mother, woman, American, etc. This is true, but this Camino has been greater in many ways because it’s about our 1-year old son, Hudson.
Before we left, I had read young kids on the Camino are like celebrities – they receive affection, adoration and gifts. Now I know this to be 100% true. Complete strangers will come up for a cuddle. People know about Hudson before they meet him. It’s amazing to see.
He is a constant source of joy and our favorite part of this journey, by far: watching him experience many firsts, how he lights up a room, and the way he overflows with squeals and delight when we discover parks.
How the simplicity of routine is freeing.
There are so many things that occupy my mind and time at home. Being here, having a simple routine of getting up, packing our things, stopping for breakfast, and so on, is very freeing.
The best word to describe this aspect of the Camino is that it opens you up. Your mind opens, your heart opens to new and different people you meet, your day is open for you to choose what you will in the moment.
We are finding we don’t need a lot, and even what we do need can easily be replaced. There are shops along the way, grocery stores, other travelers willing and ready to step in with a hand. This minimalist living reminds us how much stuff we have and how little we need.
There are hard things, but the positives far outweigh the challenges.
We planned to hike the Camino just over a month before we left. I’ve wanted to go on the 500-mile journey for many years, and the right window opened up for our family this September. I wasn’t able to set aside much time to craft expectations, but I didn’t have any doubts that we could do it, or at least flex when things came up.
And things have come up.
We’ve lost 1/5 of Hudson’s wardrobe. I still don’t know how, but we’ve lost socks, his stuffed animal “hedgy”, a onesie, his teether, a book. We’re down to one toy, a plastic cell phone, which is sacred to us because it entertains him when nothing else will.
Then, there’s the daily grind. The Camino Frances is broken into 33 stages, some say these represent Christ’s 33 years of life. Each stage is approx. 12-15 miles (20-25km) and walking this pushing a stroller and carrying a small pack takes 6-7 hours, on average. Add in frequent breaks for Hudson to play when we see a park, or to pick up milk, water or snacks, and we’re on the trail for 8+ hours a day.
The lack of sleep. We are used to Hudson sleeping in a separate room. Now, we’re all sleeping in the same room and suspect to his wiggles and rolls. He doesn’t wake up when he moves, but he wakes us up.
The elements. It’s been sunny and hot. We wear SPF 50 and reapply it 2-3 times a day. Still, we are browning and burning. Thankfully, Hudson has only had one minor sunburn on his cheeks, but it takes work to keep him fully covered on a hot day.
The dirt. We do laundry every 3-4 days, but still, clothes become unwearable very easily. Hudson will pee through an outfit. Two times, we experienced projectile milk vomit when he overdid his leche intake. We will sit down by the side of the trail and be covered in dust. It feels like we’re camping, only we’re walking all day.
Rob and I have had lots of great discussions about ourselves, our family, our future and we’re looking forward to seeing what other discoveries and realizations we’ll have in the coming weeks. For now, it’s been the most bonding experience as a family, and we’re trying to soak it all in.