We read a lot of posts about the practical side of preparing for the camino. You've collected all your gear, broken in your boots, done your training, read everything you can lay your hands on. Are you mentally prepared? Many pilgrims, on finding that the reality is rocky trails, hard, dusty, long, hot, tedious and very testing days, bale out, give up, go home. Are you mentally prepared for a multi-day pilgrimage walk and all it entails? Can you ‘switch off’ from your regular life for 30+ days and forget about the responsibilities of work and home? Are you prepared to live out of your comfort zone? Can you leave your 'self' - and all the baggage that goes with the 'self' - behind? What are your hopes, fears or expectations? Just as with the physical preparation you will need to prepare mentally for walking day after day in all weathers, all terrains, in a foreign country even when you are feeling below par or when you start to question why you are doing this journey at all. Are you prepared to accept the hospitality of your host country without criticism or complaint? Some of your overnight accommodation might not fulfill your expectations. How will you react to cramped dormitories, lumpy beds, unhygienic ablutions and rowdy tourists? Restaurants, shops and other public facilities might not live up to your standards. There will be good and bad days, unplanned for difficulties, upsetting and distressful times – just as there are in ‘normal’ life. If your expectation is that the walk is going to be a constantly happy traipse through picturesque countryside, enchanting villages, quaint towns, ancient cities with exotic locals and charming little bistros and restaurants – you are quite right. But there will also be the busy, dirty highways, uncaring motorists and surly innkeepers, industrial approaches to cities, churlish waiters and poor food. Can you accept the good with the bad? Can you turn these negatives into positive lessons? They will give you an opportunity to consider the privileged life you have back home, how good your roads are, your standards of accommodation, your friendly waiters and shop assistants. Make a pledge to be a good pilgrim. Sign a contract with yourself before you go: I undertake to be a grateful visitor, a thankful pilgrim passing through foreign lands. I will be friendly and kind to all I meet and will be a good ambassador for my country. I cannot control the places, events, people or experiences I encounter but I can control the way I react and interact in these circumstances. I will not criticize or complain if things are not up to my expectations. I will endeavour to walk this ancient pilgrimage trail with appreciation and joy, always mindful of the millions who have walked before me and of the multitudes that are still to follow. I will walk this way with integrity and will keep an open mind to all the lessons it can teach me. Signed:……………………. From Saint Anthony's Messenger, Aug. 7, 2002 1. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you find that the camino opens your eyes to the unseen. 2. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if what concerns you most is not arriving, but arriving with the others 3. Blessed are you, pilgrim, when you contemplate the sights of the camino and find them full of names and of new dawns. 4. Blessed are you, pilgrim, because you have discovered that the true camino begins at its end. 5. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if your backpack empties of things as your heart doesn't know where to fit so many emotions. 6. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you discover that a step backwards to help another is more valuable than one hundred forward without awareness of those at your sides. 7. Blessed are you, pilgrim, when you have no words to give thanks for all the wonders in every nook of the camino. 8. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you search the truth and make of your camino a life, and of your life a camino, after Him who is the Way, the Life, and the Truth. 9. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if in the camino you meet yourself and make yourself a gift of time without hurry so that you may not neglect the image of your heart. 10. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you find that the camino is rich with silence, and the silence is rich with prayers, and the prayers are encounters with the Father that awaits you.