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Thoughts on "The Camino provides" and similar sayings

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
I was listening to a Camino podcast recently and, as these podcasts are wont to do, common Camino expressions were brought up for discussion. You know the ones I mean. "The Camino provides." "The Camino doesn't give us what we want. It gives us what we need." And similar expressions. And I got to thinking about them.

There are those who think the Camino is a magical place, hallowed by the footsteps and mystical energy of millions of people over thousands of years. These have created somewhere distinctly different with its own powers. Powers that manifest in "providing" and "giving us what we need".

Myself, I don't think that. But I do find my experiences on the Camino different than my experiences elsewhere. I am of two minds. So, much as these expressions resonate with me, they also bug me. This post is me attempting to sort this out.

As anyone who has walked the Camino knows, there are plenty of memorials to people who have died on the Camino. Others have found their Caminos cut short by illness and accident. Did the Camino provide for these people? Did it give them what they need? Many of us tend to look upon the Camino as a metaphor for Life. But it is not just a metaphor. It is life. As we walk it, we live. And, like the rest of life, ultimately, I don't think we can say that it gives us what we want, or what we need. It gives us what it gives us. It is up to us what we do with that.

And that, I think, is where the Camino difference comes in. Not in what the Camino gives us but in what we do with it. When I wrote about people dying on the Camino or getting sick or injured and having to return home early, and was that what they needed, I bet some readers were thinking "Maybe it was." Maybe it was their time to die in the Divine Plan. Maybe there were lessons that they would only learn by cutting their Camino short. Maybe there were people to meet that they would not have met if they had completed their Camino. It is this attitude of taking what we are given and striving to find what we need in it that, I think, is responsible for the resonance many people find with the saying "The Camino may not give you what you want but it gives you what you need."

Similarly, many of us have stories of chance encounters with strangers who appeared just when needed with just what was needed, "Camino angels" if you will. These are often behind the expression "the Camino provides". But, without any disrespect to the fine people of Spain and my fine fellow pilgrims, I suspect that it is less that people are inherently better on the Camino and more that we are more open to the opportunities to receive help than we are back home.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that, if it is not the Camino that is different, but our attitudes and approach that are different while we are walking it, you would think that the same "Camino magic" is available anywhere - anywhere we choose to bring those attitudes and that approach. If we love the magic (and I, for one, do) why don't we experience it everywhere once we've learned how?

I suspect it isn't as easy as it seems. It requires energy and attention and intention. On the Camino we lead a simpler life which makes room for these. We are walking with people who practice them, too, and whose practice can reinforce ours. To use a Camino metaphor, the well-worn paths lead us there. At home, it is the opposite. We are distracted by many tasks and responsibilities and surrounded by people with a different attitude and approach. We have to bushwhack to follow this path, rather than taking the easy route on an established path.

I'm not sure where I'm really going with this post. I'm just thinking out loud at the keyboard. But I know I'll be looking for opportunities to practice these attitudes and approaches here at home. It is another way I will attempt to keep that "Camino magic" going.
 
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Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
On my last camino, the Invierno, a very kind local lady stopped her car and provided me with a bag of biscuits. I suggested that one biscuit would be enough, but she refused to take back the others. So I walked in the rain for the rest of the day with an opened packet of biscuits in a plastic bag thrown over one arm. The biscuits were not what I needed, but the approach and the generosity of this woman sure brightened up a gloomy day. Nothing similar to this has ever happened to me anywhere else. The kindness and the friendliness of the Spanish people are something special. I am happy to conclude that God put them there on His camino.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
Similarly, many of us have stories of chance encounters with strangers who appeared just when needed with just what was needed, "Camino angels" if you will. These are often behind the expression "the Camino provides". But, without any disrespect to the fine people of Spain and my fine fellow pilgrims, I suspect that it is less that people are inherently better on the Camino and more that we are more open to the opportunities to receive help than we are back home.

Well, I think the idea of the Camino Angel has become overly confused with that of the Trail Angel, from the US thru-hikes, which is a good person that you meet at a good time -- and of course you will encounter these sorts of people during the course of daily life, both on and off the Camino or a trail, if you stay open to it.

But I only really consider a Camino Angel to be the exact right person appearing at the exact right time with exactly the strange thing that you suddenly need, which isn't an ordinary experience of daily life.

There was the time I slipped and broke my wrist in the Burgo Ranero during my return hitch-hike on the 2014 ; I came across not just a good person with a medical pack -- but a former professional sportsman carrying a professional sports medical kit, who was the son of a doctor, and knew exactly how to bind my wrist in a strap (to the extent that it was basically in a temporary cast) so that I could continue on from there with my broken wrist strong enough for the hiking bits of the hitch-hike back home (I ended up with a wrist brace for a few months).

As to "the Camino provides", well really if you're not with many needs and you have enough for your food and lodging and &c, it won't need to provide that much -- it's those who are walking with too little who will really "get" the meaning of the expression.
 

Aidan21

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to SDC 2013/14
SJPP to SDC 2016
Porto to SDC 2017
VdlP Sevilla/Salamanca 2018
Hi David,

A thoughtful post. For sure the people who walk the Camino are ordinary people and very few of them have reached sainthood. But ordinary people can be amazing, flexible, resourceful, thoughtful and open to the possibilities inherent in life. Yes they can also be mean, frightened, thoughtless and closed to new and different ways. But the Camino I think appeals to our better natures. Maybe it is being in nature and surrounded by beauty without the normal daily grind to deal with. But one of the key ingredients I think is the critical mass of people, our fellow pilgrims, who are living and walking from the better side of our natures. And add to that the positive attitude of our hosts the Spanish people and that critical mass just got a lot bigger. So much more opportunity for good things to happen and to be witnessed when a large number of people with a good attitude are in close contact physically, mentally and emotionally. So it does not surprise me in the least that lots of good things happen on the Camino.

Perhaps a more pertinent question is what prompts, pushes, drives, cajoles, encourages, entices or lures hundreds of thousands of people from all over the earth to walk The Way every year. In my case, the first time I walked the Camino, I was literally forced to go by some inner need that just wouldn't go away. So what is it that brings all of those people to Spain to live for a few days or weeks in a way that demonstrates just what they can be. Maybe ,IMO, the Devine within us wishes to be expressed according to our better or perhaps true nature.

Aidan
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
I tend to think that the Camino does indeed provide what we need, when we need it.

But as a result of a major change in our mindset, initiated by walking a Camino.

We become far more aware, open, connected, and we 'see' things that we would normally not notice in our overly complicated and cluttered day to day lives.....

In effect, we become 'open' to receive...
 

Turga

Camino tortuga
Camino(s) past & future
CF (Aug/Sep 2017)
CF (Aug/Sep 2018)
I suspect that it is less that people are inherently better on the Camino and more that we are more open to the opportunities to receive help than we are back home.

I agree with that, but perhaps it also has to do with the fact, that we are recognized as pilgrims (in a Catholic country) if for nothing else then for our ‘uniform’ (walking clothes, backpack, staff and whatever) and for that reason we receive special consideration. I remember one day walking out of Ponferrada and I wanted to cross the busy main street. As I was waiting at the street side, the cars stopped(!) and the drivers waved to me to cross the street; I didn’t see them stopping for anybody else. On another hot day I was walking along a small country road (I don’t remember exactly where) and a car pulled over beside me and the driver handed me a bottle of cold water out of the window with a smile. I don’t think he was handing out water to just anybody but to one recognized as a peregrino. I could mention several other examples, all small things, but things that add to this special Camino/the Camino provide-feeling.

In the end, perhaps it doesn’t matter so much what the actual reasons are, what matters is that we do have this feeling of being in a special place and experiencing things that we perceive as being out of the ordinary?
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
The first day on the Invierno I received a gift of cherries from an elderly señora who had the biggest smile you can imagine. Only a few minutes before I had been thinking how nice it would be to have some of the cherries I was seeing on trees in people's orchards, but would never have considered taking them. It was an amazing coincidence, and a beautiful interaction. I thought at the time "Haha, the camino provides," but what it was giving me in the context of my walk was affirmation of intention, and fearlessness. So it was a double gift.

So does the camino provide? I think not always. That's too facile. But if we are deeply in sync with something deeper that the camino has, things like this do happen.
 

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GaTeach

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to SdC 2017,
Considering same route in 2021 after swearing NEVER AGAIN.
I'm not sure where I'm really going with this post. I'm just thinking out loud at the keyboard. But I know I'll be looking for opportunities to practice these attitudes and approaches here at home. It is another way I will attempt to keep that "Camino magic" going.

Yes! One of the most important lessons learned. There were friends from home following my journey who sent me piles of money to shade my path and to help shade the paths of others. Every morning I woke to emails that money had been added to my paypal and I spent every day walking and looking for opportunities to shade paths whether it was paying for supper, ice cream, alburgues, groceries, etc.

I came home and went back to work. I had several cases of water in my office and I was absolutely furious that someone was taking bottles of water out of my office. Stealing from me! Lol. And slowly but surely, it dawned on me....Girl, you would gladly and happily give a stranger in Spain a hundred dollars so they could continue their journey. Someone you will never lay eyes on again. Ever. But you are all spun out over $3 worth of water? With someone you work with? That you spend every day with??

I keep my eyes open, looking for opportunities to extend kindness, to shade paths. Thanks for this reminder.

(Oh, and I don't think there's anything such as a "true" Camino Angel. Lol. Anytime someone extends kindness to another, they're being an angel, aren't they? It doesn't have to reach a certain level to count, does it?????)
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
I wonder if "closed off" people..not in any bad way mind you, tend to have more experiences...good experiences on the Camino because the environment is conducive to open up?

Not really intro or extrovert, more of cautious opening up to the possibilities that otherwise they would not experience because of pressures in the
home society.

Give and take,acceptance without strings or fears.

The real world vs the contrived existence lived to get buy, learning to accept,take or give generously and freely...what it means to be the real genuine possibility.

What are your takes?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2019)
I agree with that, but perhaps it also has to do with the fact, that we are recognized as pilgrims
Thanks for the thoughtful post David and thanks for the above comment on it.

My first experience of the "Camino providing" for me occurred in New Zealand before I left for Spain.

Like someone else said, the Camino called me and filled me with a deep need to go to Spain to walk. I had everything organised and then 10 days before my flight I woke up at 2am in the morning with excruciating, roll around on the floor, pain in my side.

I have had this before and so I knew that it was a kidney stone. My thrashing around on the floor woke my wife up and she drove me into the nearest hospital.

They gave me a "shot" soon after we arrived and then the pain eased so they decided to observe me for a while. The pain came and went in waves and at about 11am they decided the stone wasn't going to pass on its own and so they decided that I needed surgery. That hospital didn't do kidney stone surgery so they transferred me to another local hospital that did.

The bumpy ride between hospitals must have triggered the stone because I had a really bad episode on the ride over and needed further medication.

On arrival I realised that I was probably in for a long wait as that week the junior doctors were on strike. Sure enough, I waited until 4.30pm until I was seen by the (junior) doctor on duty. Fortunately though I didn't have another pain episode while I waited but I did have time to think.

With the backlog caused by the strike I was worried that they might send me home if I wasn't in immediate pain.

The doctor that attended me was a young guy who spoke excellent English but with an accent of some sort and from the look of his name badge he was perhaps from South America, Spain or Italy.

I explained to him that I was a pilgrim, going to Spain to walk the Camino and that I was worried that if they sent me home to wait for either the stone to pass on its own or until I was again in pain that this would effectively end my trip as the airline would not allow me to board with a partially descended kidney stone because it might try to pass during the (18 hour) flight. Also my travel insurance company would not cover me if I left NZ with a known imminent medical issue. In addition if this didn't get sorted soon then even if it passed later but before my flight was due then there wouldn't be enough time to recover.

He said that he would do his best but that he couldn't promise anything and it depended on how big the stone was and how busy they were tomorrow (as it was then too late to get surgery that day).

He sent me off for a scan that showed that the stone was just over the size where they consider it unlikely to pass on its own and then admitted me overnight.

(Un)fortunately I didn't have any more pain episodes overnight and I was dreading the session with the Specialist Doctor in the morning. I thought about lying to the doctor and pretending to be in pain but eventually decided that was not a reasonable way to act, especially for a medical matter.

Eventually the Specialist and his students came on their morning rounds and got to me. The Specialist was a Kiwi doctor. He read my chart and asked me if I was in pain.

I told him that I wasn't in pain at that moment but would he please recommend me for surgery as I was due to fly to Spain in 9 days as a pilgrim to walk the Camino.

He laughed at that and said that as I was not in pain and as they had a major backlog of other patients that he was not going to indulge me just so I could go on "holiday".

I pleaded with him and tried to explain that my pilgrimage was much more important to me than a holiday and that it represented a major life event for me.

He was unrepentant and walked out of the room. He and his students stopped just outside the room to discuss the case and I could hear them talking as I started to reluctantly get out of bed to get dressed and go home when I heard someone further down the corridor calling my name out loud.

The person soon reached the door to my room and asked for me. I heard the Specialist ask why they were looking for me and heard the reply "He is first on the list for surgery this morning and the whole list is being held up because he is not there. What is the holdup?"

The Specialist then stepped back into my room and with a scowl on his face said "it looks like you have got your wish" and turned and stalked off.

When they wheeled me into the theatre, there was the junior doctor with a big smile on his face and gave me the thumbs up as I went under the anesthetic.

The surgery was successful and I had a stent placed in my urethra that was only removed the day before I flew out to Spain.

I did not get a chance to thank the junior doctor but I am convinced that he understood the significance of the pilgrimage to me and that is why he went out of his way to help me. 😍
 

GaTeach

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to SdC 2017,
Considering same route in 2021 after swearing NEVER AGAIN.
I tend to think that the Camino does indeed provide what we need, when we need it.

But as a result of a major change in our mindset, initiated by walking a Camino.

We become far more aware, open, connected, and we 'see' things that we would normally not notice in our overly complicated and cluttered day to day lives.....

In effect, we become 'open' to receive...

I agree with every word of this. Shortly after I got back home, I was walking around my town, lost in my thoughts. It dawned on me that had I been in Spain, I would've been marveling at the colors of the flowers, smiling at the beautiful architecture, taking pictures of the odd sculptures next to the art center... And I saw my sweet little town through new eyes.
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Frances (2016)
Camino Frances (2018}
I believe that most people are inherently good and kind. What happens on the Camino comes from deep within ourselves, not from a random trail through Spain. I find walking at home that, on the trail, people will greet each other and smile. Strangers will stop to talk. Yet out on the road greetings are less obvious and people try to avoid eye contact. It is in there, we just need to bring it out with no inhibitions and that is what happens on the camino. Inhibitions stop at the airport and we walk in friendship with the earth, the people around us and God. Every now and then however, there is someone who does not get it. Like the young man who could not relax with others unless he had a drink in his hand and ended of drinking too much on his journey and spent his couple of days in Santiago drunk. Then there was the guy who wanted to fight with everyone he met including two middle aged ladies. The trail is just a trail, a magnificent one, a truly beautiful image from the hand of God but still, just a trail.We the pilgrims are the Camino. It is ourselves who provide to others. Twice, people have told me to my face that I was a big help, a camino angel. But thats not right, I recieve help, surely it is everone else who are the angels. All I did was stop to help a cyclist with blister problems and put a plaster on his foot and gave him my supply to keep him going. Thats just normal human kindness. A soldier suffering from PTSD started walking with me and had to slow down, (bit of a snail am I). On an afternoon in Monte do Gozo, his wife spoke to me on his phone and thanked me for helping him. All I did was walk and talk. A real angel is a young American girl who jumped into a river to hold my head above water when I fell in and passed out from the cold. But these things have nothing to do with a trail through Spain. They come from within, from the goodness that is in us all.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2011), Camino Frances (2015), Camino Ingles (2017), Camino Muxia (2017), LePuy(2019)
I have the same ambiguity expressed by the OP regarding "the Camino provides." One point that bothers me is the anthropomorphism. The Camino is essentially -at its basic definition- a pilgrimage route, a thing not a person or living being. And although I am not deeply religious, I do wonder if the human attributes and actions given to the camino should really be given to the Christian God and/or saint who originated the camino. I have experienced "camino magic," "camino angels," and instances of "the camino provides." I just wonder if the word "camino" is being substituted for another, and, if so, that leads to a different question - why?
 

LesR

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2017, 2018; Camino Portuguese 2019
I was listening to a Camino podcast recently and, as these podcasts are wont to do, common Camino expressions were brought up for discussion. You know the ones I mean. "The Camino provides." "The Camino doesn't give us what we want. It gives us what we need." And similar expressions. And I got to thinking about them.

There are those who think the Camino is a magical place, hallowed by the footsteps and mystical energy of millions of people over thousands of years. These have created somewhere distinctly different with its own powers. Powers that manifest in "providing" and "giving us what we need".

Myself, I don't think that. But I do find my experiences on the Camino different than my experiences elsewhere. I am of two minds. So, much as these expressions resonate with me, they also bug me. This post is me attempting to sort this out.

As anyone who has walked the Camino knows, there are plenty of memorials to people who have died on the Camino. Others have found their Caminos cut short by illness and accident. Did the Camino provide for these people? Did it give them what they need? Many of us tend to look upon the Camino as a metaphor for Life. But it is not just a metaphor. It is life. As we walk it, we live. And, like the rest of life, ultimately, I don't think we can say that it gives us what we want, or what we need. It gives us what it gives us. It is up to us what we do with that.

And that, I think, is where the Camino difference comes in. Not in what the Camino gives us but in what we do with it. When I wrote about people dying on the Camino or getting sick or injured and having to return home early, and was that what they needed, I bet some readers were thinking "Maybe it was." Maybe it was their time to die in the Divine Plan. Maybe there were lessons that they would only learn by cutting their Camino short. Maybe there were people to meet that they would not have met if they had completed their Camino. It is this attitude of taking what we are given and striving to find what we need in it that, I think, is responsible for the resonance many people find with the saying "The Camino may not give you what you want but it gives you what you need."

Similarly, many of us have stories of chance encounters with strangers who appeared just when needed with just what was needed, "Camino angels" if you will. These are often behind the expression "the Camino provides". But, without any disrespect to the fine people of Spain and my fine fellow pilgrims, I suspect that it is less that people are inherently better on the Camino and more that we are more open to the opportunities to receive help than we are back home.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that, if it is not the Camino that is different, but our attitudes and approach that are different while we are walking it, you would think that the same "Camino magic" is available anywhere - anywhere we choose to bring those attitudes and that approach. If we love the magic (and I, for one, do) why don't we experience it everywhere once we've learned how?

I suspect it isn't as easy as it seems. It requires energy and attention and intention. On the Camino we lead a simpler life which makes room for these. We are walking with people who practice them, too, and whose practice can reinforce ours. To use a Camino metaphor, the well-worn paths lead us there. At home, it is the opposite. We are distracted by many tasks and responsibilities and surrounded by people with a different attitude and approach. We have to bushwhack to follow this path, rather than taking the easy route on an established path.

I'm not sure where I'm really going with this post. I'm just thinking out loud at the keyboard. But I know I'll be looking for opportunities to practice these attitudes and approaches here at home. It is another way I will attempt to keep that "Camino magic" going.

My humble view is that the saying "the Camino will provide" is valid only as a broad generalisation, and does not necessarily hold at the micro level...

A literal interpretation provides cover for 'pilgrims' who do not do the necessary preparation on the assumption that they can head off into the sunset on the Camino, and someone else will be responsible for fixing the difficulties that they may encounter...

I prefer to interpret it as meaning that there are many resources than can be accessed on the Camino - after-all , who has a novel problem these days?, and where there is a repeated need, a supplier will over time emerge... It may not be free, and it may not be where and when it is required...

The assumption that 'the Camino' will 'provide' in all circumstances is arrogant and irresponsible.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
I think of the saying "the camino provides" in terms of what is necessary, rather than what I want. It has taught me that less is more, and that there is a huge freedom in not having choices.

Some of these sayings are like parables - to be used as aids to learning. Not to be taken literally.

One of my favourites is the greeting: "Ultreya!" or "go beyond!" (there are other translations, but that is the one I like). So many ways to interpret that.
 

David Harbert

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2016)
While walking the full Camino Frances with my wife, she encountered severe back spasms. She was in great shape having taught aerobics 3 days/week for 25 years. It was early May and we were probably 2/3 of the way through the Camino. We were walking through one of those tiny villages that showed no signs of life - no parked cars, no people, no stores, no noises of any kind - it looked like a ghost town.

She said she didn’t think she could finish the day and wasn’t sure how many more steps she could take (and she had a high tolerance for pain - not a complainer at all) when out of nowhere a taxi appeared 50 feet ahead of us and dropped off a couple of hikers! It was 10 Km to the next town and he charged us 10 Euros. We would have paid 100! Call it a Camino angel, call it the Camino providing. We saw it as a gift from heaven. She rarely cries but when she got in the cab she broke down in tears of gratitude!
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
I think of the saying "the camino provides" in terms of what is necessary, rather than what I want. It has taught me that less is more, and that there is a huge freedom in not having choices.

Some of these sayings are like parables - to be used as aids to learning. Not to be taken literally.

One of my favourites is the greeting: "Ultreya!" or "go beyond!" (there are other translations, but that is the one I like). So many ways to interpret that.
I'm also fond of Ultreia! (as I tend to spell it). It's what I put on my personal sello that I've started to bring with me on Camino.
 

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