As I said in my “About” page, many people asked in advance whether I would blog my Camino experience live from Spain. Others suggested I should do it and told me they’d happily follow my reports. I was flattered by their interest but ultimately, I had no interest in blogging as I walked.
I didn’t want the pressure of finding decent wi-fi and providing daily updates. I carried a smart phone with me but couldn’t be bothered squinting into its small screen and trying to write anything coherent. Writing a blog from a desk, where I have access to internet, a monitor, and a proper keyboard, is relatively easy. Anything other than that felt like a lot of work, especially while also trying to walk 800km and carry all my belongings on my back. Having walked it, I can say that trying to find decent wi-fi and provide daily updates would have driven me to drink. And you’d have had nothing to read in the meantime!
I met people en route who did blog as they walked. I can only applaud them from afar – they must have been more organised than I. 🙂
In Viana, I met a woman in our albergue who spent an hour sitting on the floor in the reception area, inches from the Internet router. She carried a full-size iPad to take photos and later upload them to her Facebook page. I’d seen her days earlier taking quick snaps at the top of Alto del Perdón. She walked with 3 friends but didn’t stop long enough to take in the view with her own eyes. Instead, she unleashed the iPad to take a panoramic video of the windmills and iron sculptures, and was gone. Back then, I looked at that block of technology and wondered how she carried the weight of the thing – those babies ain’t light!
But in the albergue I noticed something else: in the hour that she sat on the tiled floor, that machine took all of her attention. The device allowed her to send photos and messages to people back home. It enabled connection with them, thousands of miles away. But she was oblivious to the people standing next to her, just inches away. Watching pilgrims do their laundry or smoke a cigarette are hardly the height of entertainment, I admit.
But the point remains: that machine discouraged connection with the people standing right next to her.
She reminded me of myself, and of an imbalance in my own life.
There’s something unnatural about that, don’t you think? That we could all stand so close to each other and not make eye contact, not say hello, not connect in some basic, human way.
And I’m upset that it has become an accepted norm.
In terms of walking the Camino for weeks at a time, I understand that email updates provide reassurance to loved ones at home, who may be worrying. Writing blogs and sharing photos are a good way of including loved ones in the excitement.
I get it.
But every hour spent uploading photos to Facebook is one less hour ‘in the present’. You do that every few days over an 800km journey and you’re bound to miss out on some real-life people. You do that over a lifetime, you find yourself documenting life instead of being moved by it.
Before I departed for Spain, I couldn’t articulate my disinterest in blogging but these were some of my reasons:
I didn’t want to ignore real people in favour of virtual ones.
I didn’t want to treat Camino, or life, as one big broadcasting opportunity.
I wanted to be moved by the experience of being there in real-time. I wanted to feel the rawness of that exposure. Sure, it meant that some days I was a ball of tears, and others I felt frustrated by my fellow humans. More often, I felt gratitude. I felt an ever-growing contentment. I felt a freedom in my own skin that I hadn’t known in years and with it, a deep-rooted sense of being truly alive.
I wanted to walk for myself – not for other people. Being asked (or told) to blog my experience was flattering in some ways, but largely misguided.
I wasn’t walking for the entertainment or excitement.
I didn’t really think of Camino as an adventure holiday or long-distance hike.
I don’t consider myself religious in any organised way but I inherently understood that my reasons for being there were bigger than needing writing material, or a public audience.
I went on retreat.
Mine was a retreat from scheduling, planning, and trying to control my everyday fate. I retreated from the voices that told me what I ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’:
I went on a retreat from spending my days looking at a computer screen, conversing with people around the world and ignoring the ones sitting next to me. I took a retreat from worrying and instead, learned how to trust myself and my gut instinct even more. I retreated from technology and found a deep-rooted delight in looking at the open sky every day. Selfishly, I did it for myself and I didn’t want an audience interfering with, what was, a profound and personal experience.
Over a year later, I wish I could remember more of the plant life and sunlight so I could write evocative and picturesque blog posts. I’m sure you would love to know more about the terrain and the countryside. I may get to that – I haven’t really decided yet. By all means, tell me what you’d like to hear more of – this whole endeavour is a work in progress and I’m open to suggestions!
I wish I could give more accounts about the architecture and history, or even share wild stories from nights’ spent drinking the plentiful bottles of wine. I have some stories but they don’t dominate my journey (thankfully, as I’d never have managed to walk if I were hung over every day! :-))
Blogging my journey now, over a year later, has its limitations.
That said, it’s easier for me to write about my experience now. I’m following a gut instinct on this – it’s a leap of faith. Despite the personal stretch, and the fact that I’ve forgotten some things, I’m finding it easier to blog now than I would have, live from the trail.
And you know what?
I’m delighted with my decision.
Walking the Camino is one of the best things I have ever done for myself in life. Walking it without a live, virtual audience was a liberation. Would I choose the same decision again?