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My Camino de Santiago: Reflections and a Heart Opened

Time of past OR future Camino
September 2023
Seventeen days ago, after walking almost five-hundred miles over forty-four days, I accomplished my goal and spiritual pilgrimage, by arriving on the doorstep of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This magical building, filled with love since the year it was built, 1089, has been the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The long days of walking six to eight hours, were a mixed bag of experiences. Most were quite good, if not some of the best hours of my life. I miss the comradery of chatting with ‘my Camino Family’ during those days and evenings. There were so many special shared moments, it is difficult to capture in words the meaningful relationships and chats along our common paths.

As I walked alone, due to my own pace, for about eighty percent of the miles walked, there was ample time to reflect on my life. This allowed me to revisit many events in my seventy-two years. Some of the memories were sad, some simply wonderful, and some that I wish could revisited and changes to specific events in some small way. But life marches forward, not backward, and there are no ‘re-dos’.

Walking through beautiful forest for miles on sunny days, or fighting rain, strong winds, or both for hours to days, while alone; allows one to get into their head. Sometimes the simple beauty of the place, or the hardship of the moment climbing hills and mountains in the rain, while trying not to fall or twist an ankle, allows the mind to drift inward. I never saw this coming as part of the planning and preparation for my pilgrimage adventure. Others may, or probably have these moments, but for me they occurred often, and were so rewarding!

The net of these life’s reflections of my life was pretty much the same as thoughts going into the pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago. Life in general has been very kind to me. I have few regrets, little that could me considered as negatives, and so many opportunities placed in front of me.

Time has provided a few challenges, but from these, there were great growing experiences. As a boy of eleven, my mother passed after a long fight with leukemia. I was extremely fortunate my father later remarried to a lady who loved my brother and I like her own. Many others who loose parents are not as fortunate as I was.

The loss of my mom, at such a young age, in reflection now, caused insecurity, and probable other mental issues during middle and high school. Fortunately, there were a handful of teachers, neighbors, and relatives who recognized my struggles. In a time and place, before there were professionals widely available to help kids in need, these caring kind people saved me. God bless these folks, especially those five teachers in high school who helped me almost every day. Only love of their fellow humans can explain why they went way beyond what they were paid to do, to help a kid in need.

Struggling to see a path into adulthood, and after many visits, my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Fred Stokes, facilitated a meeting between the local U.S. Navy recruiter and my dad. This resulted with my joining the U.S. Navy on a delayed entry, resulting with me moving to active duty two days after I graduated from Calhoun High School.

Entering the Navy, I had some thought of becoming a jet mechanic, but as the armed forces is known for, the need was aviation electronics the day my testing was completed in boot camp. The skills I would learn over the next eight years, provided the foundation of a forty plus year successful career in Information Technology.

From the tenth to twelfth grades of high school I took speech and drama as electives. Our teacher, Ms. Pat Jurek, knew of my childhood challenges. Even though my skills at both speech and drama were marginal at best, she supported me. This would have a giant impact on my life only a few years later.

Three years into my U.S. Navy enlistment, a shipmate/friend, who knew I did speech and drama in high school, suggested we try out for parts in the local civic theater production of a play ‘The Front Page’. We did, with both of us earning small parts. The second rehearsal I heard noise to my left, turned to see the most beautiful young lady I had ever seen. After visiting with each other off an on over the next several rehearsals, we started dating, and six months later we were married.

On reflection, this moment of turning to see Debbie that first time, just over fifty-one years ago, was the best thing that ever happened in my life. We found through respect, compromise, and showing every day our love for each other, resulted with our marriage through the years being absolutely wonderful.

Twelve years from the month we were married the second-best thing occurred in my life; our son Sean Stevens, came into this world. Sean would be our only child, and now thirty-nine years of love later we still enjoy having him nearby.

As we age, our bodies tend to ‘wear out’, along with different maladies coming our way. In my case, I have been extremely fortunate. Treatable Type 2 diabetes, a melanoma on my face, fully recovered, a very minor heart blockage, healed by a tiny stint, and another more serious visit with ‘Mr. Cancer’. For my seventieth birthday, one of my ‘gifts’ from ‘Mr. C’ was prostate cancer. This little issue visits about seventy percent of we gentlemen in the last third of our lives. At time of my surgery. the resulting lab work, we found the cancer cells were present in about eighty percent of my prostate, and within four-microns (less than one fourth the size of a human hair) of escaping the prostate. The surgery with all the impact on one’s maleness, along with frustrating side effects, resulted with me continuing to be cancer free. I was truly blessed.

So, to close this, it would be reasonable to ask what does all this personal information have to do with the crazy idea of walking five-hundred miles across northern Spain at the age of seventy-two. The answer is complicated, yet simple. First, I love the adventure of international travel, with the ability to learn of other people and their cultures. Next, was the challenge of this sort of life-long fairly sedentary person to get off my duff and do something different. Finally, and more important than the others, is this was a spiritual mission.

From the advent of the first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in about the year 812, pilgrims across the last twelve hundred years, have been walking this Roman trail, for spiritual reasons. The goal has been to reach the crypt of Saint James the Apostle (Santiago in Spanish). There are many reasons for pilgrims to do this. Some walk for simple adventure, some want reflection of their lives, before moving forward, others want to honor someone in their lives, while others are hoping to leave something behind, so they and their souls can move forward.

When I flew out of the Austin, TX airport on Sunday, September 17, 2023, adventure was about eighty percent of my intent, with the spiritual aspects about twenty percent. That twenty percent was to give thanks for the blessings of my life.

As I walked, both alone and with many new friends I met along the way from at least sixteen nations around the world, then stopping in small village churches to large cathedrals in the cities, something happened along the way. Kindness of the Camino Family, smiles of the myriad of local folks and volunteers who ran the hostels, hotels, cafes, and providing fruit, snacks, juice, coffee, etc in little donation rest areas along the way; caused a giant transition.

Those moments walking alone, reflection on a truly blessed life given to me, being able to be in this special place at this stage of my life; resulted with something I have not felt in decades. This is of course a renewed relationship with my God.

All of the work and planning to get started, the trials and tribulation of weather and terrain, seemed to open my heart. Meeting many people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life, was truly magical. As the phrase, often used on this walk, ‘The Camino Provides’ becomes clear in many practical ways. When something is needed, be it a fix for a blister, sharing a bit of food or wine along the way, helping total strangers as other has helped you, brings to life, The Camino Provides. I would find it difficult for any person to experience all of this for day after day, and not feel closer to God.

Thanks for reading this, one of the many such things I hope to include in a book someday about my experiences on The Camino de Santiago. I expect nothing in return from the reader, nor accolades of any sorts. I simply hope by reading my work, that you too find much happiness in your individual lives, and are blessed as I have been in mine. Remember to give thanks for your own life.

Should you ever get a chance to visit and experience the magic of The Camino, don’t hesitate, just do it. Otherwise, through caring, kindness, and sharing love with those around you, be they family, friends, or total strangers, your own Camino through the rest of your life, wherever it takes you, will fill your heart and cause many smiles on your and others faces.

Buen Camino,

Ken Stevens

November 19, 2023
 
Hike 30 miles on California’s Santa Catalina Island as part of the Catalina Camino
Seventeen days ago, after walking almost five-hundred miles over forty-four days, I accomplished my goal and spiritual pilgrimage, by arriving on the doorstep of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This magical building, filled with love since the year it was built, 1089, has been the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The long days of walking six to eight hours, were a mixed bag of experiences. Most were quite good, if not some of the best hours of my life. I miss the comradery of chatting with ‘my Camino Family’ during those days and evenings. There were so many special shared moments, it is difficult to capture in words the meaningful relationships and chats along our common paths.

As I walked alone, due to my own pace, for about eighty percent of the miles walked, there was ample time to reflect on my life. This allowed me to revisit many events in my seventy-two years. Some of the memories were sad, some simply wonderful, and some that I wish could revisited and changes to specific events in some small way. But life marches forward, not backward, and there are no ‘re-dos’.

Walking through beautiful forest for miles on sunny days, or fighting rain, strong winds, or both for hours to days, while alone; allows one to get into their head. Sometimes the simple beauty of the place, or the hardship of the moment climbing hills and mountains in the rain, while trying not to fall or twist an ankle, allows the mind to drift inward. I never saw this coming as part of the planning and preparation for my pilgrimage adventure. Others may, or probably have these moments, but for me they occurred often, and were so rewarding!

The net of these life’s reflections of my life was pretty much the same as thoughts going into the pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago. Life in general has been very kind to me. I have few regrets, little that could me considered as negatives, and so many opportunities placed in front of me.

Time has provided a few challenges, but from these, there were great growing experiences. As a boy of eleven, my mother passed after a long fight with leukemia. I was extremely fortunate my father later remarried to a lady who loved my brother and I like her own. Many others who loose parents are not as fortunate as I was.

The loss of my mom, at such a young age, in reflection now, caused insecurity, and probable other mental issues during middle and high school. Fortunately, there were a handful of teachers, neighbors, and relatives who recognized my struggles. In a time and place, before there were professionals widely available to help kids in need, these caring kind people saved me. God bless these folks, especially those five teachers in high school who helped me almost every day. Only love of their fellow humans can explain why they went way beyond what they were paid to do, to help a kid in need.

Struggling to see a path into adulthood, and after many visits, my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Fred Stokes, facilitated a meeting between the local U.S. Navy recruiter and my dad. This resulted with my joining the U.S. Navy on a delayed entry, resulting with me moving to active duty two days after I graduated from Calhoun High School.

Entering the Navy, I had some thought of becoming a jet mechanic, but as the armed forces is known for, the need was aviation electronics the day my testing was completed in boot camp. The skills I would learn over the next eight years, provided the foundation of a forty plus year successful career in Information Technology.

From the tenth to twelfth grades of high school I took speech and drama as electives. Our teacher, Ms. Pat Jurek, knew of my childhood challenges. Even though my skills at both speech and drama were marginal at best, she supported me. This would have a giant impact on my life only a few years later.

Three years into my U.S. Navy enlistment, a shipmate/friend, who knew I did speech and drama in high school, suggested we try out for parts in the local civic theater production of a play ‘The Front Page’. We did, with both of us earning small parts. The second rehearsal I heard noise to my left, turned to see the most beautiful young lady I had ever seen. After visiting with each other off an on over the next several rehearsals, we started dating, and six months later we were married.

On reflection, this moment of turning to see Debbie that first time, just over fifty-one years ago, was the best thing that ever happened in my life. We found through respect, compromise, and showing every day our love for each other, resulted with our marriage through the years being absolutely wonderful.

Twelve years from the month we were married the second-best thing occurred in my life; our son Sean Stevens, came into this world. Sean would be our only child, and now thirty-nine years of love later we still enjoy having him nearby.

As we age, our bodies tend to ‘wear out’, along with different maladies coming our way. In my case, I have been extremely fortunate. Treatable Type 2 diabetes, a melanoma on my face, fully recovered, a very minor heart blockage, healed by a tiny stint, and another more serious visit with ‘Mr. Cancer’. For my seventieth birthday, one of my ‘gifts’ from ‘Mr. C’ was prostate cancer. This little issue visits about seventy percent of we gentlemen in the last third of our lives. At time of my surgery. the resulting lab work, we found the cancer cells were present in about eighty percent of my prostate, and within four-microns (less than one fourth the size of a human hair) of escaping the prostate. The surgery with all the impact on one’s maleness, along with frustrating side effects, resulted with me continuing to be cancer free. I was truly blessed.

So, to close this, it would be reasonable to ask what does all this personal information have to do with the crazy idea of walking five-hundred miles across northern Spain at the age of seventy-two. The answer is complicated, yet simple. First, I love the adventure of international travel, with the ability to learn of other people and their cultures. Next, was the challenge of this sort of life-long fairly sedentary person to get off my duff and do something different. Finally, and more important than the others, is this was a spiritual mission.

From the advent of the first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in about the year 812, pilgrims across the last twelve hundred years, have been walking this Roman trail, for spiritual reasons. The goal has been to reach the crypt of Saint James the Apostle (Santiago in Spanish). There are many reasons for pilgrims to do this. Some walk for simple adventure, some want reflection of their lives, before moving forward, others want to honor someone in their lives, while others are hoping to leave something behind, so they and their souls can move forward.

When I flew out of the Austin, TX airport on Sunday, September 17, 2023, adventure was about eighty percent of my intent, with the spiritual aspects about twenty percent. That twenty percent was to give thanks for the blessings of my life.

As I walked, both alone and with many new friends I met along the way from at least sixteen nations around the world, then stopping in small village churches to large cathedrals in the cities, something happened along the way. Kindness of the Camino Family, smiles of the myriad of local folks and volunteers who ran the hostels, hotels, cafes, and providing fruit, snacks, juice, coffee, etc in little donation rest areas along the way; caused a giant transition.

Those moments walking alone, reflection on a truly blessed life given to me, being able to be in this special place at this stage of my life; resulted with something I have not felt in decades. This is of course a renewed relationship with my God.

All of the work and planning to get started, the trials and tribulation of weather and terrain, seemed to open my heart. Meeting many people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life, was truly magical. As the phrase, often used on this walk, ‘The Camino Provides’ becomes clear in many practical ways. When something is needed, be it a fix for a blister, sharing a bit of food or wine along the way, helping total strangers as other has helped you, brings to life, The Camino Provides. I would find it difficult for any person to experience all of this for day after day, and not feel closer to God.

Thanks for reading this, one of the many such things I hope to include in a book someday about my experiences on The Camino de Santiago. I expect nothing in return from the reader, nor accolades of any sorts. I simply hope by reading my work, that you too find much happiness in your individual lives, and are blessed as I have been in mine. Remember to give thanks for your own life.

Should you ever get a chance to visit and experience the magic of The Camino, don’t hesitate, just do it. Otherwise, through caring, kindness, and sharing love with those around you, be they family, friends, or total strangers, your own Camino through the rest of your life, wherever it takes you, will fill your heart and cause many smiles on your and others faces.

Buen Camino,

Ken Stevens

November 19, 2023
Well Done Ken. go sandcrabs!! - my wife is from Victoria
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Seventeen days ago, after walking almost five-hundred miles over forty-four days, I accomplished my goal and spiritual pilgrimage, by arriving on the doorstep of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This magical building, filled with love since the year it was built, 1089, has been the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The long days of walking six to eight hours, were a mixed bag of experiences. Most were quite good, if not some of the best hours of my life. I miss the comradery of chatting with ‘my Camino Family’ during those days and evenings. There were so many special shared moments, it is difficult to capture in words the meaningful relationships and chats along our common paths.

As I walked alone, due to my own pace, for about eighty percent of the miles walked, there was ample time to reflect on my life. This allowed me to revisit many events in my seventy-two years. Some of the memories were sad, some simply wonderful, and some that I wish could revisited and changes to specific events in some small way. But life marches forward, not backward, and there are no ‘re-dos’.

Walking through beautiful forest for miles on sunny days, or fighting rain, strong winds, or both for hours to days, while alone; allows one to get into their head. Sometimes the simple beauty of the place, or the hardship of the moment climbing hills and mountains in the rain, while trying not to fall or twist an ankle, allows the mind to drift inward. I never saw this coming as part of the planning and preparation for my pilgrimage adventure. Others may, or probably have these moments, but for me they occurred often, and were so rewarding!

The net of these life’s reflections of my life was pretty much the same as thoughts going into the pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago. Life in general has been very kind to me. I have few regrets, little that could me considered as negatives, and so many opportunities placed in front of me.

Time has provided a few challenges, but from these, there were great growing experiences. As a boy of eleven, my mother passed after a long fight with leukemia. I was extremely fortunate my father later remarried to a lady who loved my brother and I like her own. Many others who loose parents are not as fortunate as I was.

The loss of my mom, at such a young age, in reflection now, caused insecurity, and probable other mental issues during middle and high school. Fortunately, there were a handful of teachers, neighbors, and relatives who recognized my struggles. In a time and place, before there were professionals widely available to help kids in need, these caring kind people saved me. God bless these folks, especially those five teachers in high school who helped me almost every day. Only love of their fellow humans can explain why they went way beyond what they were paid to do, to help a kid in need.

Struggling to see a path into adulthood, and after many visits, my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Fred Stokes, facilitated a meeting between the local U.S. Navy recruiter and my dad. This resulted with my joining the U.S. Navy on a delayed entry, resulting with me moving to active duty two days after I graduated from Calhoun High School.

Entering the Navy, I had some thought of becoming a jet mechanic, but as the armed forces is known for, the need was aviation electronics the day my testing was completed in boot camp. The skills I would learn over the next eight years, provided the foundation of a forty plus year successful career in Information Technology.

From the tenth to twelfth grades of high school I took speech and drama as electives. Our teacher, Ms. Pat Jurek, knew of my childhood challenges. Even though my skills at both speech and drama were marginal at best, she supported me. This would have a giant impact on my life only a few years later.

Three years into my U.S. Navy enlistment, a shipmate/friend, who knew I did speech and drama in high school, suggested we try out for parts in the local civic theater production of a play ‘The Front Page’. We did, with both of us earning small parts. The second rehearsal I heard noise to my left, turned to see the most beautiful young lady I had ever seen. After visiting with each other off an on over the next several rehearsals, we started dating, and six months later we were married.

On reflection, this moment of turning to see Debbie that first time, just over fifty-one years ago, was the best thing that ever happened in my life. We found through respect, compromise, and showing every day our love for each other, resulted with our marriage through the years being absolutely wonderful.

Twelve years from the month we were married the second-best thing occurred in my life; our son Sean Stevens, came into this world. Sean would be our only child, and now thirty-nine years of love later we still enjoy having him nearby.

As we age, our bodies tend to ‘wear out’, along with different maladies coming our way. In my case, I have been extremely fortunate. Treatable Type 2 diabetes, a melanoma on my face, fully recovered, a very minor heart blockage, healed by a tiny stint, and another more serious visit with ‘Mr. Cancer’. For my seventieth birthday, one of my ‘gifts’ from ‘Mr. C’ was prostate cancer. This little issue visits about seventy percent of we gentlemen in the last third of our lives. At time of my surgery. the resulting lab work, we found the cancer cells were present in about eighty percent of my prostate, and within four-microns (less than one fourth the size of a human hair) of escaping the prostate. The surgery with all the impact on one’s maleness, along with frustrating side effects, resulted with me continuing to be cancer free. I was truly blessed.

So, to close this, it would be reasonable to ask what does all this personal information have to do with the crazy idea of walking five-hundred miles across northern Spain at the age of seventy-two. The answer is complicated, yet simple. First, I love the adventure of international travel, with the ability to learn of other people and their cultures. Next, was the challenge of this sort of life-long fairly sedentary person to get off my duff and do something different. Finally, and more important than the others, is this was a spiritual mission.

From the advent of the first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in about the year 812, pilgrims across the last twelve hundred years, have been walking this Roman trail, for spiritual reasons. The goal has been to reach the crypt of Saint James the Apostle (Santiago in Spanish). There are many reasons for pilgrims to do this. Some walk for simple adventure, some want reflection of their lives, before moving forward, others want to honor someone in their lives, while others are hoping to leave something behind, so they and their souls can move forward.

When I flew out of the Austin, TX airport on Sunday, September 17, 2023, adventure was about eighty percent of my intent, with the spiritual aspects about twenty percent. That twenty percent was to give thanks for the blessings of my life.

As I walked, both alone and with many new friends I met along the way from at least sixteen nations around the world, then stopping in small village churches to large cathedrals in the cities, something happened along the way. Kindness of the Camino Family, smiles of the myriad of local folks and volunteers who ran the hostels, hotels, cafes, and providing fruit, snacks, juice, coffee, etc in little donation rest areas along the way; caused a giant transition.

Those moments walking alone, reflection on a truly blessed life given to me, being able to be in this special place at this stage of my life; resulted with something I have not felt in decades. This is of course a renewed relationship with my God.

All of the work and planning to get started, the trials and tribulation of weather and terrain, seemed to open my heart. Meeting many people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life, was truly magical. As the phrase, often used on this walk, ‘The Camino Provides’ becomes clear in many practical ways. When something is needed, be it a fix for a blister, sharing a bit of food or wine along the way, helping total strangers as other has helped you, brings to life, The Camino Provides. I would find it difficult for any person to experience all of this for day after day, and not feel closer to God.

Thanks for reading this, one of the many such things I hope to include in a book someday about my experiences on The Camino de Santiago. I expect nothing in return from the reader, nor accolades of any sorts. I simply hope by reading my work, that you too find much happiness in your individual lives, and are blessed as I have been in mine. Remember to give thanks for your own life.

Should you ever get a chance to visit and experience the magic of The Camino, don’t hesitate, just do it. Otherwise, through caring, kindness, and sharing love with those around you, be they family, friends, or total strangers, your own Camino through the rest of your life, wherever it takes you, will fill your heart and cause many smiles on your and others faces.

Buen Camino,

Ken Stevens

November 19, 2023
Just joined this blog minutes ago …
You note was the first I read aloud to my husband. Wonderful and inspiring. Thank you for your openness. We will do the same Camino May 2024. I am 62 and he 68. Can’t wait and already want to do more Camino’s …
All the best ☘️
 
Seventeen days ago, after walking almost five-hundred miles over forty-four days, I accomplished my goal and spiritual pilgrimage, by arriving on the doorstep of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This magical building, filled with love since the year it was built, 1089, has been the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The long days of walking six to eight hours, were a mixed bag of experiences. Most were quite good, if not some of the best hours of my life. I miss the comradery of chatting with ‘my Camino Family’ during those days and evenings. There were so many special shared moments, it is difficult to capture in words the meaningful relationships and chats along our common paths.

As I walked alone, due to my own pace, for about eighty percent of the miles walked, there was ample time to reflect on my life. This allowed me to revisit many events in my seventy-two years. Some of the memories were sad, some simply wonderful, and some that I wish could revisited and changes to specific events in some small way. But life marches forward, not backward, and there are no ‘re-dos’.

Walking through beautiful forest for miles on sunny days, or fighting rain, strong winds, or both for hours to days, while alone; allows one to get into their head. Sometimes the simple beauty of the place, or the hardship of the moment climbing hills and mountains in the rain, while trying not to fall or twist an ankle, allows the mind to drift inward. I never saw this coming as part of the planning and preparation for my pilgrimage adventure. Others may, or probably have these moments, but for me they occurred often, and were so rewarding!

The net of these life’s reflections of my life was pretty much the same as thoughts going into the pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago. Life in general has been very kind to me. I have few regrets, little that could me considered as negatives, and so many opportunities placed in front of me.

Time has provided a few challenges, but from these, there were great growing experiences. As a boy of eleven, my mother passed after a long fight with leukemia. I was extremely fortunate my father later remarried to a lady who loved my brother and I like her own. Many others who loose parents are not as fortunate as I was.

The loss of my mom, at such a young age, in reflection now, caused insecurity, and probable other mental issues during middle and high school. Fortunately, there were a handful of teachers, neighbors, and relatives who recognized my struggles. In a time and place, before there were professionals widely available to help kids in need, these caring kind people saved me. God bless these folks, especially those five teachers in high school who helped me almost every day. Only love of their fellow humans can explain why they went way beyond what they were paid to do, to help a kid in need.

Struggling to see a path into adulthood, and after many visits, my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Fred Stokes, facilitated a meeting between the local U.S. Navy recruiter and my dad. This resulted with my joining the U.S. Navy on a delayed entry, resulting with me moving to active duty two days after I graduated from Calhoun High School.

Entering the Navy, I had some thought of becoming a jet mechanic, but as the armed forces is known for, the need was aviation electronics the day my testing was completed in boot camp. The skills I would learn over the next eight years, provided the foundation of a forty plus year successful career in Information Technology.

From the tenth to twelfth grades of high school I took speech and drama as electives. Our teacher, Ms. Pat Jurek, knew of my childhood challenges. Even though my skills at both speech and drama were marginal at best, she supported me. This would have a giant impact on my life only a few years later.

Three years into my U.S. Navy enlistment, a shipmate/friend, who knew I did speech and drama in high school, suggested we try out for parts in the local civic theater production of a play ‘The Front Page’. We did, with both of us earning small parts. The second rehearsal I heard noise to my left, turned to see the most beautiful young lady I had ever seen. After visiting with each other off an on over the next several rehearsals, we started dating, and six months later we were married.

On reflection, this moment of turning to see Debbie that first time, just over fifty-one years ago, was the best thing that ever happened in my life. We found through respect, compromise, and showing every day our love for each other, resulted with our marriage through the years being absolutely wonderful.

Twelve years from the month we were married the second-best thing occurred in my life; our son Sean Stevens, came into this world. Sean would be our only child, and now thirty-nine years of love later we still enjoy having him nearby.

As we age, our bodies tend to ‘wear out’, along with different maladies coming our way. In my case, I have been extremely fortunate. Treatable Type 2 diabetes, a melanoma on my face, fully recovered, a very minor heart blockage, healed by a tiny stint, and another more serious visit with ‘Mr. Cancer’. For my seventieth birthday, one of my ‘gifts’ from ‘Mr. C’ was prostate cancer. This little issue visits about seventy percent of we gentlemen in the last third of our lives. At time of my surgery. the resulting lab work, we found the cancer cells were present in about eighty percent of my prostate, and within four-microns (less than one fourth the size of a human hair) of escaping the prostate. The surgery with all the impact on one’s maleness, along with frustrating side effects, resulted with me continuing to be cancer free. I was truly blessed.

So, to close this, it would be reasonable to ask what does all this personal information have to do with the crazy idea of walking five-hundred miles across northern Spain at the age of seventy-two. The answer is complicated, yet simple. First, I love the adventure of international travel, with the ability to learn of other people and their cultures. Next, was the challenge of this sort of life-long fairly sedentary person to get off my duff and do something different. Finally, and more important than the others, is this was a spiritual mission.

From the advent of the first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in about the year 812, pilgrims across the last twelve hundred years, have been walking this Roman trail, for spiritual reasons. The goal has been to reach the crypt of Saint James the Apostle (Santiago in Spanish). There are many reasons for pilgrims to do this. Some walk for simple adventure, some want reflection of their lives, before moving forward, others want to honor someone in their lives, while others are hoping to leave something behind, so they and their souls can move forward.

When I flew out of the Austin, TX airport on Sunday, September 17, 2023, adventure was about eighty percent of my intent, with the spiritual aspects about twenty percent. That twenty percent was to give thanks for the blessings of my life.

As I walked, both alone and with many new friends I met along the way from at least sixteen nations around the world, then stopping in small village churches to large cathedrals in the cities, something happened along the way. Kindness of the Camino Family, smiles of the myriad of local folks and volunteers who ran the hostels, hotels, cafes, and providing fruit, snacks, juice, coffee, etc in little donation rest areas along the way; caused a giant transition.

Those moments walking alone, reflection on a truly blessed life given to me, being able to be in this special place at this stage of my life; resulted with something I have not felt in decades. This is of course a renewed relationship with my God.

All of the work and planning to get started, the trials and tribulation of weather and terrain, seemed to open my heart. Meeting many people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life, was truly magical. As the phrase, often used on this walk, ‘The Camino Provides’ becomes clear in many practical ways. When something is needed, be it a fix for a blister, sharing a bit of food or wine along the way, helping total strangers as other has helped you, brings to life, The Camino Provides. I would find it difficult for any person to experience all of this for day after day, and not feel closer to God.

Thanks for reading this, one of the many such things I hope to include in a book someday about my experiences on The Camino de Santiago. I expect nothing in return from the reader, nor accolades of any sorts. I simply hope by reading my work, that you too find much happiness in your individual lives, and are blessed as I have been in mine. Remember to give thanks for your own life.

Should you ever get a chance to visit and experience the magic of The Camino, don’t hesitate, just do it. Otherwise, through caring, kindness, and sharing love with those around you, be they family, friends, or total strangers, your own Camino through the rest of your life, wherever it takes you, will fill your heart and cause many smiles on your and others faces.

Buen Camino,

Ken Stevens

November 19, 2023
Thanks for sharing your experience which in many respects was like our own. We walked in 2017 and 2019 while in our 60s and it changed our lives in wonderful unexpected ways. Hoping to walk again in 2024.
 
Tears from this crusty, fellow septuagenarian.

Ken, you nailed everything about the Camino that many seek to internalize and then to relate. And, you did it in a concise manner, that was easy to follow. Thank you very much for sharing!

I have been walking Camino or volunteering at the Pilgrim Office since 2013. Your experience, sans the personal illnesses, mirrors mine. I had other, albeit not as serious, medical or family issues along the way.

Your description of your reasons for walking the Camino, experiences along the way, rebirth of religiosity in your soul, and appreciation for the gifts the Camino bestowed on you - overtly or covertly - was very succinct. I experienced everything you did. It may have taken several Caminos for me to get it all, or to finally appreciate it all. But, in the end, I GOT it. It benefits my psyche, my soul, and my daily life, even though I had to skip 2023 activities due to a family medical emergency.

Now, I seek to return as soon as my personal situation improves, to re-establish my connections to the Camino.

Thank you again for an excellent telling of your story.

Tom
 
Ken, thank you for your wonderful commentary on your camino experience. When walking the caminoes, it has also given me the opportunity to get closer to God...all those hours walking give me plenty of opportunity for reflection, pray, and healing. I am so glad you found the camino a blessing!
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
Seventeen days ago, after walking almost five-hundred miles over forty-four days, I accomplished my goal and spiritual pilgrimage, by arriving on the doorstep of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This magical building, filled with love since the year it was built, 1089, has been the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The long days of walking six to eight hours, were a mixed bag of experiences. Most were quite good, if not some of the best hours of my life. I miss the comradery of chatting with ‘my Camino Family’ during those days and evenings. There were so many special shared moments, it is difficult to capture in words the meaningful relationships and chats along our common paths.

As I walked alone, due to my own pace, for about eighty percent of the miles walked, there was ample time to reflect on my life. This allowed me to revisit many events in my seventy-two years. Some of the memories were sad, some simply wonderful, and some that I wish could revisited and changes to specific events in some small way. But life marches forward, not backward, and there are no ‘re-dos’.

Walking through beautiful forest for miles on sunny days, or fighting rain, strong winds, or both for hours to days, while alone; allows one to get into their head. Sometimes the simple beauty of the place, or the hardship of the moment climbing hills and mountains in the rain, while trying not to fall or twist an ankle, allows the mind to drift inward. I never saw this coming as part of the planning and preparation for my pilgrimage adventure. Others may, or probably have these moments, but for me they occurred often, and were so rewarding!

The net of these life’s reflections of my life was pretty much the same as thoughts going into the pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago. Life in general has been very kind to me. I have few regrets, little that could me considered as negatives, and so many opportunities placed in front of me.

Time has provided a few challenges, but from these, there were great growing experiences. As a boy of eleven, my mother passed after a long fight with leukemia. I was extremely fortunate my father later remarried to a lady who loved my brother and I like her own. Many others who loose parents are not as fortunate as I was.

The loss of my mom, at such a young age, in reflection now, caused insecurity, and probable other mental issues during middle and high school. Fortunately, there were a handful of teachers, neighbors, and relatives who recognized my struggles. In a time and place, before there were professionals widely available to help kids in need, these caring kind people saved me. God bless these folks, especially those five teachers in high school who helped me almost every day. Only love of their fellow humans can explain why they went way beyond what they were paid to do, to help a kid in need.

Struggling to see a path into adulthood, and after many visits, my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Fred Stokes, facilitated a meeting between the local U.S. Navy recruiter and my dad. This resulted with my joining the U.S. Navy on a delayed entry, resulting with me moving to active duty two days after I graduated from Calhoun High School.

Entering the Navy, I had some thought of becoming a jet mechanic, but as the armed forces is known for, the need was aviation electronics the day my testing was completed in boot camp. The skills I would learn over the next eight years, provided the foundation of a forty plus year successful career in Information Technology.

From the tenth to twelfth grades of high school I took speech and drama as electives. Our teacher, Ms. Pat Jurek, knew of my childhood challenges. Even though my skills at both speech and drama were marginal at best, she supported me. This would have a giant impact on my life only a few years later.

Three years into my U.S. Navy enlistment, a shipmate/friend, who knew I did speech and drama in high school, suggested we try out for parts in the local civic theater production of a play ‘The Front Page’. We did, with both of us earning small parts. The second rehearsal I heard noise to my left, turned to see the most beautiful young lady I had ever seen. After visiting with each other off an on over the next several rehearsals, we started dating, and six months later we were married.

On reflection, this moment of turning to see Debbie that first time, just over fifty-one years ago, was the best thing that ever happened in my life. We found through respect, compromise, and showing every day our love for each other, resulted with our marriage through the years being absolutely wonderful.

Twelve years from the month we were married the second-best thing occurred in my life; our son Sean Stevens, came into this world. Sean would be our only child, and now thirty-nine years of love later we still enjoy having him nearby.

As we age, our bodies tend to ‘wear out’, along with different maladies coming our way. In my case, I have been extremely fortunate. Treatable Type 2 diabetes, a melanoma on my face, fully recovered, a very minor heart blockage, healed by a tiny stint, and another more serious visit with ‘Mr. Cancer’. For my seventieth birthday, one of my ‘gifts’ from ‘Mr. C’ was prostate cancer. This little issue visits about seventy percent of we gentlemen in the last third of our lives. At time of my surgery. the resulting lab work, we found the cancer cells were present in about eighty percent of my prostate, and within four-microns (less than one fourth the size of a human hair) of escaping the prostate. The surgery with all the impact on one’s maleness, along with frustrating side effects, resulted with me continuing to be cancer free. I was truly blessed.

So, to close this, it would be reasonable to ask what does all this personal information have to do with the crazy idea of walking five-hundred miles across northern Spain at the age of seventy-two. The answer is complicated, yet simple. First, I love the adventure of international travel, with the ability to learn of other people and their cultures. Next, was the challenge of this sort of life-long fairly sedentary person to get off my duff and do something different. Finally, and more important than the others, is this was a spiritual mission.

From the advent of the first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in about the year 812, pilgrims across the last twelve hundred years, have been walking this Roman trail, for spiritual reasons. The goal has been to reach the crypt of Saint James the Apostle (Santiago in Spanish). There are many reasons for pilgrims to do this. Some walk for simple adventure, some want reflection of their lives, before moving forward, others want to honor someone in their lives, while others are hoping to leave something behind, so they and their souls can move forward.

When I flew out of the Austin, TX airport on Sunday, September 17, 2023, adventure was about eighty percent of my intent, with the spiritual aspects about twenty percent. That twenty percent was to give thanks for the blessings of my life.

As I walked, both alone and with many new friends I met along the way from at least sixteen nations around the world, then stopping in small village churches to large cathedrals in the cities, something happened along the way. Kindness of the Camino Family, smiles of the myriad of local folks and volunteers who ran the hostels, hotels, cafes, and providing fruit, snacks, juice, coffee, etc in little donation rest areas along the way; caused a giant transition.

Those moments walking alone, reflection on a truly blessed life given to me, being able to be in this special place at this stage of my life; resulted with something I have not felt in decades. This is of course a renewed relationship with my God.

All of the work and planning to get started, the trials and tribulation of weather and terrain, seemed to open my heart. Meeting many people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life, was truly magical. As the phrase, often used on this walk, ‘The Camino Provides’ becomes clear in many practical ways. When something is needed, be it a fix for a blister, sharing a bit of food or wine along the way, helping total strangers as other has helped you, brings to life, The Camino Provides. I would find it difficult for any person to experience all of this for day after day, and not feel closer to God.

Thanks for reading this, one of the many such things I hope to include in a book someday about my experiences on The Camino de Santiago. I expect nothing in return from the reader, nor accolades of any sorts. I simply hope by reading my work, that you too find much happiness in your individual lives, and are blessed as I have been in mine. Remember to give thanks for your own life.

Should you ever get a chance to visit and experience the magic of The Camino, don’t hesitate, just do it. Otherwise, through caring, kindness, and sharing love with those around you, be they family, friends, or total strangers, your own Camino through the rest of your life, wherever it takes you, will fill your heart and cause many smiles on your and others faces.

Buen Camino,

Ken Stevens

November 19, 2023
Thank you for sharing your story, your Camino experience and the impact it has had on you. I’m so glad you ‘got off your duff’ so you could tell us about your life! ♥️
 
Lovely !!
When I flew out of the Austin, TX airport on Sunday, September 17, 2023, adventure was about eighty percent of my intent, with the spiritual aspects about twenty percent. That twenty percent was to give thanks for the blessings of my life.
In my experience, after a good pilgrimage, those % numbers regarding intent often flip the other way 'round.

What a lovely write-up, thank you !!
 
Thanks so much Ken. I really enjoyed reading your post. Helps me remember that so much of life depends on your attitude...which I guess is one of the few things you have control over.
 
Seventeen days ago, after walking almost five-hundred miles over forty-four days, I accomplished my goal and spiritual pilgrimage, by arriving on the doorstep of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This magical building, filled with love since the year it was built, 1089, has been the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The long days of walking six to eight hours, were a mixed bag of experiences. Most were quite good, if not some of the best hours of my life. I miss the comradery of chatting with ‘my Camino Family’ during those days and evenings. There were so many special shared moments, it is difficult to capture in words the meaningful relationships and chats along our common paths.

As I walked alone, due to my own pace, for about eighty percent of the miles walked, there was ample time to reflect on my life. This allowed me to revisit many events in my seventy-two years. Some of the memories were sad, some simply wonderful, and some that I wish could revisited and changes to specific events in some small way. But life marches forward, not backward, and there are no ‘re-dos’.

Walking through beautiful forest for miles on sunny days, or fighting rain, strong winds, or both for hours to days, while alone; allows one to get into their head. Sometimes the simple beauty of the place, or the hardship of the moment climbing hills and mountains in the rain, while trying not to fall or twist an ankle, allows the mind to drift inward. I never saw this coming as part of the planning and preparation for my pilgrimage adventure. Others may, or probably have these moments, but for me they occurred often, and were so rewarding!

The net of these life’s reflections of my life was pretty much the same as thoughts going into the pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago. Life in general has been very kind to me. I have few regrets, little that could me considered as negatives, and so many opportunities placed in front of me.

Time has provided a few challenges, but from these, there were great growing experiences. As a boy of eleven, my mother passed after a long fight with leukemia. I was extremely fortunate my father later remarried to a lady who loved my brother and I like her own. Many others who loose parents are not as fortunate as I was.

The loss of my mom, at such a young age, in reflection now, caused insecurity, and probable other mental issues during middle and high school. Fortunately, there were a handful of teachers, neighbors, and relatives who recognized my struggles. In a time and place, before there were professionals widely available to help kids in need, these caring kind people saved me. God bless these folks, especially those five teachers in high school who helped me almost every day. Only love of their fellow humans can explain why they went way beyond what they were paid to do, to help a kid in need.

Struggling to see a path into adulthood, and after many visits, my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Fred Stokes, facilitated a meeting between the local U.S. Navy recruiter and my dad. This resulted with my joining the U.S. Navy on a delayed entry, resulting with me moving to active duty two days after I graduated from Calhoun High School.

Entering the Navy, I had some thought of becoming a jet mechanic, but as the armed forces is known for, the need was aviation electronics the day my testing was completed in boot camp. The skills I would learn over the next eight years, provided the foundation of a forty plus year successful career in Information Technology.

From the tenth to twelfth grades of high school I took speech and drama as electives. Our teacher, Ms. Pat Jurek, knew of my childhood challenges. Even though my skills at both speech and drama were marginal at best, she supported me. This would have a giant impact on my life only a few years later.

Three years into my U.S. Navy enlistment, a shipmate/friend, who knew I did speech and drama in high school, suggested we try out for parts in the local civic theater production of a play ‘The Front Page’. We did, with both of us earning small parts. The second rehearsal I heard noise to my left, turned to see the most beautiful young lady I had ever seen. After visiting with each other off an on over the next several rehearsals, we started dating, and six months later we were married.

On reflection, this moment of turning to see Debbie that first time, just over fifty-one years ago, was the best thing that ever happened in my life. We found through respect, compromise, and showing every day our love for each other, resulted with our marriage through the years being absolutely wonderful.

Twelve years from the month we were married the second-best thing occurred in my life; our son Sean Stevens, came into this world. Sean would be our only child, and now thirty-nine years of love later we still enjoy having him nearby.

As we age, our bodies tend to ‘wear out’, along with different maladies coming our way. In my case, I have been extremely fortunate. Treatable Type 2 diabetes, a melanoma on my face, fully recovered, a very minor heart blockage, healed by a tiny stint, and another more serious visit with ‘Mr. Cancer’. For my seventieth birthday, one of my ‘gifts’ from ‘Mr. C’ was prostate cancer. This little issue visits about seventy percent of we gentlemen in the last third of our lives. At time of my surgery. the resulting lab work, we found the cancer cells were present in about eighty percent of my prostate, and within four-microns (less than one fourth the size of a human hair) of escaping the prostate. The surgery with all the impact on one’s maleness, along with frustrating side effects, resulted with me continuing to be cancer free. I was truly blessed.

So, to close this, it would be reasonable to ask what does all this personal information have to do with the crazy idea of walking five-hundred miles across northern Spain at the age of seventy-two. The answer is complicated, yet simple. First, I love the adventure of international travel, with the ability to learn of other people and their cultures. Next, was the challenge of this sort of life-long fairly sedentary person to get off my duff and do something different. Finally, and more important than the others, is this was a spiritual mission.

From the advent of the first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in about the year 812, pilgrims across the last twelve hundred years, have been walking this Roman trail, for spiritual reasons. The goal has been to reach the crypt of Saint James the Apostle (Santiago in Spanish). There are many reasons for pilgrims to do this. Some walk for simple adventure, some want reflection of their lives, before moving forward, others want to honor someone in their lives, while others are hoping to leave something behind, so they and their souls can move forward.

When I flew out of the Austin, TX airport on Sunday, September 17, 2023, adventure was about eighty percent of my intent, with the spiritual aspects about twenty percent. That twenty percent was to give thanks for the blessings of my life.

As I walked, both alone and with many new friends I met along the way from at least sixteen nations around the world, then stopping in small village churches to large cathedrals in the cities, something happened along the way. Kindness of the Camino Family, smiles of the myriad of local folks and volunteers who ran the hostels, hotels, cafes, and providing fruit, snacks, juice, coffee, etc in little donation rest areas along the way; caused a giant transition.

Those moments walking alone, reflection on a truly blessed life given to me, being able to be in this special place at this stage of my life; resulted with something I have not felt in decades. This is of course a renewed relationship with my God.

All of the work and planning to get started, the trials and tribulation of weather and terrain, seemed to open my heart. Meeting many people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life, was truly magical. As the phrase, often used on this walk, ‘The Camino Provides’ becomes clear in many practical ways. When something is needed, be it a fix for a blister, sharing a bit of food or wine along the way, helping total strangers as other has helped you, brings to life, The Camino Provides. I would find it difficult for any person to experience all of this for day after day, and not feel closer to God.

Thanks for reading this, one of the many such things I hope to include in a book someday about my experiences on The Camino de Santiago. I expect nothing in return from the reader, nor accolades of any sorts. I simply hope by reading my work, that you too find much happiness in your individual lives, and are blessed as I have been in mine. Remember to give thanks for your own life.

Should you ever get a chance to visit and experience the magic of The Camino, don’t hesitate, just do it. Otherwise, through caring, kindness, and sharing love with those around you, be they family, friends, or total strangers, your own Camino through the rest of your life, wherever it takes you, will fill your heart and cause many smiles on your and others faces.

Buen Camino,

Ken Stevens

November 19, 2023
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I walked the Frances this fall, ending on 7 October. I experienced much of your feelings during my Camino. The time alone to reflect, the satisfaction of enduring physical challenges and the sheer joy of being there, step by step.
I too had time to reflect on life, regrets, blessings and being present. Arriving in Santiago was exhilarating but almost anticlimactic. Getting there, step by step, town to town was my reward.
While patting myself on the back for my grand accomplishment in Santiago I received a text from my youngest daughter. She was in Tel Aviv, running to shelters during rocket attacks. She had just left the Negev desert after visiting friends. Some of them were killed.
That moment brought me back into the reality of this world and far away from the love and comraderie of the Camino.
I will always cherish the peace I found on the Camino, while I mourn the lack of peace in our world.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
Thank you Ken, your beautiful and heartfelt post was the first thing I read sitting down at the computer this morning. May your life and the life of those you love continue to be blessed in the days, months and years ahead.
 
Seventeen days ago, after walking almost five-hundred miles over forty-four days, I accomplished my goal and spiritual pilgrimage, by arriving on the doorstep of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This magical building, filled with love since the year it was built, 1089, has been the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The long days of walking six to eight hours, were a mixed bag of experiences. Most were quite good, if not some of the best hours of my life. I miss the comradery of chatting with ‘my Camino Family’ during those days and evenings. There were so many special shared moments, it is difficult to capture in words the meaningful relationships and chats along our common paths.

As I walked alone, due to my own pace, for about eighty percent of the miles walked, there was ample time to reflect on my life. This allowed me to revisit many events in my seventy-two years. Some of the memories were sad, some simply wonderful, and some that I wish could revisited and changes to specific events in some small way. But life marches forward, not backward, and there are no ‘re-dos’.

Walking through beautiful forest for miles on sunny days, or fighting rain, strong winds, or both for hours to days, while alone; allows one to get into their head. Sometimes the simple beauty of the place, or the hardship of the moment climbing hills and mountains in the rain, while trying not to fall or twist an ankle, allows the mind to drift inward. I never saw this coming as part of the planning and preparation for my pilgrimage adventure. Others may, or probably have these moments, but for me they occurred often, and were so rewarding!

The net of these life’s reflections of my life was pretty much the same as thoughts going into the pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago. Life in general has been very kind to me. I have few regrets, little that could me considered as negatives, and so many opportunities placed in front of me.

Time has provided a few challenges, but from these, there were great growing experiences. As a boy of eleven, my mother passed after a long fight with leukemia. I was extremely fortunate my father later remarried to a lady who loved my brother and I like her own. Many others who loose parents are not as fortunate as I was.

The loss of my mom, at such a young age, in reflection now, caused insecurity, and probable other mental issues during middle and high school. Fortunately, there were a handful of teachers, neighbors, and relatives who recognized my struggles. In a time and place, before there were professionals widely available to help kids in need, these caring kind people saved me. God bless these folks, especially those five teachers in high school who helped me almost every day. Only love of their fellow humans can explain why they went way beyond what they were paid to do, to help a kid in need.

Struggling to see a path into adulthood, and after many visits, my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Fred Stokes, facilitated a meeting between the local U.S. Navy recruiter and my dad. This resulted with my joining the U.S. Navy on a delayed entry, resulting with me moving to active duty two days after I graduated from Calhoun High School.

Entering the Navy, I had some thought of becoming a jet mechanic, but as the armed forces is known for, the need was aviation electronics the day my testing was completed in boot camp. The skills I would learn over the next eight years, provided the foundation of a forty plus year successful career in Information Technology.

From the tenth to twelfth grades of high school I took speech and drama as electives. Our teacher, Ms. Pat Jurek, knew of my childhood challenges. Even though my skills at both speech and drama were marginal at best, she supported me. This would have a giant impact on my life only a few years later.

Three years into my U.S. Navy enlistment, a shipmate/friend, who knew I did speech and drama in high school, suggested we try out for parts in the local civic theater production of a play ‘The Front Page’. We did, with both of us earning small parts. The second rehearsal I heard noise to my left, turned to see the most beautiful young lady I had ever seen. After visiting with each other off an on over the next several rehearsals, we started dating, and six months later we were married.

On reflection, this moment of turning to see Debbie that first time, just over fifty-one years ago, was the best thing that ever happened in my life. We found through respect, compromise, and showing every day our love for each other, resulted with our marriage through the years being absolutely wonderful.

Twelve years from the month we were married the second-best thing occurred in my life; our son Sean Stevens, came into this world. Sean would be our only child, and now thirty-nine years of love later we still enjoy having him nearby.

As we age, our bodies tend to ‘wear out’, along with different maladies coming our way. In my case, I have been extremely fortunate. Treatable Type 2 diabetes, a melanoma on my face, fully recovered, a very minor heart blockage, healed by a tiny stint, and another more serious visit with ‘Mr. Cancer’. For my seventieth birthday, one of my ‘gifts’ from ‘Mr. C’ was prostate cancer. This little issue visits about seventy percent of we gentlemen in the last third of our lives. At time of my surgery. the resulting lab work, we found the cancer cells were present in about eighty percent of my prostate, and within four-microns (less than one fourth the size of a human hair) of escaping the prostate. The surgery with all the impact on one’s maleness, along with frustrating side effects, resulted with me continuing to be cancer free. I was truly blessed.

So, to close this, it would be reasonable to ask what does all this personal information have to do with the crazy idea of walking five-hundred miles across northern Spain at the age of seventy-two. The answer is complicated, yet simple. First, I love the adventure of international travel, with the ability to learn of other people and their cultures. Next, was the challenge of this sort of life-long fairly sedentary person to get off my duff and do something different. Finally, and more important than the others, is this was a spiritual mission.

From the advent of the first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in about the year 812, pilgrims across the last twelve hundred years, have been walking this Roman trail, for spiritual reasons. The goal has been to reach the crypt of Saint James the Apostle (Santiago in Spanish). There are many reasons for pilgrims to do this. Some walk for simple adventure, some want reflection of their lives, before moving forward, others want to honor someone in their lives, while others are hoping to leave something behind, so they and their souls can move forward.

When I flew out of the Austin, TX airport on Sunday, September 17, 2023, adventure was about eighty percent of my intent, with the spiritual aspects about twenty percent. That twenty percent was to give thanks for the blessings of my life.

As I walked, both alone and with many new friends I met along the way from at least sixteen nations around the world, then stopping in small village churches to large cathedrals in the cities, something happened along the way. Kindness of the Camino Family, smiles of the myriad of local folks and volunteers who ran the hostels, hotels, cafes, and providing fruit, snacks, juice, coffee, etc in little donation rest areas along the way; caused a giant transition.

Those moments walking alone, reflection on a truly blessed life given to me, being able to be in this special place at this stage of my life; resulted with something I have not felt in decades. This is of course a renewed relationship with my God.

All of the work and planning to get started, the trials and tribulation of weather and terrain, seemed to open my heart. Meeting many people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life, was truly magical. As the phrase, often used on this walk, ‘The Camino Provides’ becomes clear in many practical ways. When something is needed, be it a fix for a blister, sharing a bit of food or wine along the way, helping total strangers as other has helped you, brings to life, The Camino Provides. I would find it difficult for any person to experience all of this for day after day, and not feel closer to God.

Thanks for reading this, one of the many such things I hope to include in a book someday about my experiences on The Camino de Santiago. I expect nothing in return from the reader, nor accolades of any sorts. I simply hope by reading my work, that you too find much happiness in your individual lives, and are blessed as I have been in mine. Remember to give thanks for your own life.

Should you ever get a chance to visit and experience the magic of The Camino, don’t hesitate, just do it. Otherwise, through caring, kindness, and sharing love with those around you, be they family, friends, or total strangers, your own Camino through the rest of your life, wherever it takes you, will fill your heart and cause many smiles on your and others faces.

Buen Camino,

Ken Stevens

November 19, 2023
It's amazing that a whole new world can come to light in front of you at 70+ years, and how that light also shines back over the 70 years you "just' lived through.
 
Seventeen days ago, after walking almost five-hundred miles over forty-four days, I accomplished my goal and spiritual pilgrimage, by arriving on the doorstep of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This magical building, filled with love since the year it was built, 1089, has been the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The long days of walking six to eight hours, were a mixed bag of experiences. Most were quite good, if not some of the best hours of my life. I miss the comradery of chatting with ‘my Camino Family’ during those days and evenings. There were so many special shared moments, it is difficult to capture in words the meaningful relationships and chats along our common paths.

As I walked alone, due to my own pace, for about eighty percent of the miles walked, there was ample time to reflect on my life. This allowed me to revisit many events in my seventy-two years. Some of the memories were sad, some simply wonderful, and some that I wish could revisited and changes to specific events in some small way. But life marches forward, not backward, and there are no ‘re-dos’.

Walking through beautiful forest for miles on sunny days, or fighting rain, strong winds, or both for hours to days, while alone; allows one to get into their head. Sometimes the simple beauty of the place, or the hardship of the moment climbing hills and mountains in the rain, while trying not to fall or twist an ankle, allows the mind to drift inward. I never saw this coming as part of the planning and preparation for my pilgrimage adventure. Others may, or probably have these moments, but for me they occurred often, and were so rewarding!

The net of these life’s reflections of my life was pretty much the same as thoughts going into the pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago. Life in general has been very kind to me. I have few regrets, little that could me considered as negatives, and so many opportunities placed in front of me.

Time has provided a few challenges, but from these, there were great growing experiences. As a boy of eleven, my mother passed after a long fight with leukemia. I was extremely fortunate my father later remarried to a lady who loved my brother and I like her own. Many others who loose parents are not as fortunate as I was.

The loss of my mom, at such a young age, in reflection now, caused insecurity, and probable other mental issues during middle and high school. Fortunately, there were a handful of teachers, neighbors, and relatives who recognized my struggles. In a time and place, before there were professionals widely available to help kids in need, these caring kind people saved me. God bless these folks, especially those five teachers in high school who helped me almost every day. Only love of their fellow humans can explain why they went way beyond what they were paid to do, to help a kid in need.

Struggling to see a path into adulthood, and after many visits, my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Fred Stokes, facilitated a meeting between the local U.S. Navy recruiter and my dad. This resulted with my joining the U.S. Navy on a delayed entry, resulting with me moving to active duty two days after I graduated from Calhoun High School.

Entering the Navy, I had some thought of becoming a jet mechanic, but as the armed forces is known for, the need was aviation electronics the day my testing was completed in boot camp. The skills I would learn over the next eight years, provided the foundation of a forty plus year successful career in Information Technology.

From the tenth to twelfth grades of high school I took speech and drama as electives. Our teacher, Ms. Pat Jurek, knew of my childhood challenges. Even though my skills at both speech and drama were marginal at best, she supported me. This would have a giant impact on my life only a few years later.

Three years into my U.S. Navy enlistment, a shipmate/friend, who knew I did speech and drama in high school, suggested we try out for parts in the local civic theater production of a play ‘The Front Page’. We did, with both of us earning small parts. The second rehearsal I heard noise to my left, turned to see the most beautiful young lady I had ever seen. After visiting with each other off an on over the next several rehearsals, we started dating, and six months later we were married.

On reflection, this moment of turning to see Debbie that first time, just over fifty-one years ago, was the best thing that ever happened in my life. We found through respect, compromise, and showing every day our love for each other, resulted with our marriage through the years being absolutely wonderful.

Twelve years from the month we were married the second-best thing occurred in my life; our son Sean Stevens, came into this world. Sean would be our only child, and now thirty-nine years of love later we still enjoy having him nearby.

As we age, our bodies tend to ‘wear out’, along with different maladies coming our way. In my case, I have been extremely fortunate. Treatable Type 2 diabetes, a melanoma on my face, fully recovered, a very minor heart blockage, healed by a tiny stint, and another more serious visit with ‘Mr. Cancer’. For my seventieth birthday, one of my ‘gifts’ from ‘Mr. C’ was prostate cancer. This little issue visits about seventy percent of we gentlemen in the last third of our lives. At time of my surgery. the resulting lab work, we found the cancer cells were present in about eighty percent of my prostate, and within four-microns (less than one fourth the size of a human hair) of escaping the prostate. The surgery with all the impact on one’s maleness, along with frustrating side effects, resulted with me continuing to be cancer free. I was truly blessed.

So, to close this, it would be reasonable to ask what does all this personal information have to do with the crazy idea of walking five-hundred miles across northern Spain at the age of seventy-two. The answer is complicated, yet simple. First, I love the adventure of international travel, with the ability to learn of other people and their cultures. Next, was the challenge of this sort of life-long fairly sedentary person to get off my duff and do something different. Finally, and more important than the others, is this was a spiritual mission.

From the advent of the first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in about the year 812, pilgrims across the last twelve hundred years, have been walking this Roman trail, for spiritual reasons. The goal has been to reach the crypt of Saint James the Apostle (Santiago in Spanish). There are many reasons for pilgrims to do this. Some walk for simple adventure, some want reflection of their lives, before moving forward, others want to honor someone in their lives, while others are hoping to leave something behind, so they and their souls can move forward.

When I flew out of the Austin, TX airport on Sunday, September 17, 2023, adventure was about eighty percent of my intent, with the spiritual aspects about twenty percent. That twenty percent was to give thanks for the blessings of my life.

As I walked, both alone and with many new friends I met along the way from at least sixteen nations around the world, then stopping in small village churches to large cathedrals in the cities, something happened along the way. Kindness of the Camino Family, smiles of the myriad of local folks and volunteers who ran the hostels, hotels, cafes, and providing fruit, snacks, juice, coffee, etc in little donation rest areas along the way; caused a giant transition.

Those moments walking alone, reflection on a truly blessed life given to me, being able to be in this special place at this stage of my life; resulted with something I have not felt in decades. This is of course a renewed relationship with my God.

All of the work and planning to get started, the trials and tribulation of weather and terrain, seemed to open my heart. Meeting many people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life, was truly magical. As the phrase, often used on this walk, ‘The Camino Provides’ becomes clear in many practical ways. When something is needed, be it a fix for a blister, sharing a bit of food or wine along the way, helping total strangers as other has helped you, brings to life, The Camino Provides. I would find it difficult for any person to experience all of this for day after day, and not feel closer to God.

Thanks for reading this, one of the many such things I hope to include in a book someday about my experiences on The Camino de Santiago. I expect nothing in return from the reader, nor accolades of any sorts. I simply hope by reading my work, that you too find much happiness in your individual lives, and are blessed as I have been in mine. Remember to give thanks for your own life.

Should you ever get a chance to visit and experience the magic of The Camino, don’t hesitate, just do it. Otherwise, through caring, kindness, and sharing love with those around you, be they family, friends, or total strangers, your own Camino through the rest of your life, wherever it takes you, will fill your heart and cause many smiles on your and others faces.

Buen Camino,

Ken Stevens

November 19, 2023
Well said, Ken Stevens!
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I totally enjoyed your story. I also am in my 70s. 4 yrs ago I walked the complete Camino Frances, mostly alone. And quite a journey it was.
I have returned 2 more times since then, doing partial caminos. And april of 2024 will be going for another complete camino frances. I'm an Oregonian used to rain, so I'm totally equipped for it. Just can't wait to be there again.
My favorite place to go when done is the Oceanus hostel in Fisterra/Finnesterre on the coast. That is my "recovery-home" before heading to my real home in Oregon usa.
Thx again for your story.
 
Thank you Ken for sharing with us your amazing experiences on your recent Camino and some of your personal reflections. This has then turned into a very good thread of posts.
We were fortunate to start walking Caminos in 2014 and can relate to many of your feelings that you experienced.
We are very hopeful to be walking again from next April, aged 69 and 70!
Buen Camino.
 
I totally enjoyed your story. I also am in my 70s. 4 yrs ago I walked the complete Camino Frances, mostly alone. And quite a journey it was.
I have returned 2 more times since then, doing partial caminos. And april of 2024 will be going for another complete camino frances. I'm an Oregonian used to rain, so I'm totally equipped for it. Just can't wait to be there again.
My favorite place to go when done is the Oceanus hostel in Fisterra/Finnesterre on the coast. That is my "recovery-home" before heading to my real home in Oregon usa.
Thx again for your story.
Curious. what is special about the Oceanus Hostel? I have not yet been to Finnesterre.....
 

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