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The Camino: A Journey Of Perseverance, Friendship, And Self-Discovery.

Published by St James Senior Boys' School on Tuesday 28th of March 2023

Although the Camino de Santiago – the Way of St. James – has been a pilgrimage route for over a thousand years, it was an intimidating unknown for many of our students and staff at the outset. What started as a long walk soon turned into a journey of perseverance, friendship, and self-discovery.

Many of us had been to Spain, but mainly to bigger cities, beaches, and waterparks. Many had walked long distances as part of the CCF or for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, but nothing approaching this scale. And many were worried by the fact that the variable weather reports necessitated the packing of warm waterproofs as well as shorts and T-shirts. In short, we didn’t know whether we would be frozen, soaked, or cooked.  

So, few of us knew what to expect as we arrived late at night into Sarria, after a lengthy coach trip from Porto airport and still over 100km from our goal. As it happened, we were funnelled straight into a restaurant for a midnight dinner rather than into bed, which felt very Spanish, and even more so when we saw what was waiting for us. For some, it was a rather rude awakening to Galician culture; two huge triangular wedges of potato tortilla, and tuna empanada awaited each pilgrim – some were happier than others. From here, we were rushed into the ancient monastery of Magdalena where groups of 32 shared cavernous dormitories, and the Camino pilgrimage felt as if it was truly underway.

We awoke bright and early, donned our backpacks and scallop shells, and started walking.

Over the course of the next six days, our Year 9 boys walked the last 120 kilometres of the French Way, an ancient pilgrimage route that leads to the final destination at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Even seasoned travellers were entranced by the beauty of the landscape, and the unfamiliar sights. The ‘Horreos’ for example – or traditional grain barns – seemed particularly unusual at first, as they resembled small shrines or mausoleums, but the boys quickly found their feet.

The true beauty of the journey was in the adventures we had, and the people we met along the way. We stayed in ‘Albergues’, or pilgrim hostels, where we shared rooms, meals, and stories with people from all over the world. We swam in crystal clear icy cold water, and visited beautiful monasteries and churches, where we learned about the history of the Camino and the spiritual significance of the journey. One of the most popular activities was finding the ‘Sellos’ along the route; most cafes, restaurants and shops had a unique stamp that served as evidence of our epic journey, and the boys collected these enthusiastically, competing to collect the most, and purchasing the occasional ice-cream at the same time.

But the real lessons learned on the Camino were about ourselves and each other. We learned that we are stronger than we think, that we can push ourselves beyond our limits, and that we are capable of great kindness and compassion. We learned that our friendships are invaluable, and that we need to take the time to nurture and appreciate them. As we walked, we shared our hopes, fears, and dreams with each other. We laughed, cried, and supported each other through the challenges of the journey. We learned that the Camino is not just a physical journey but also a spiritual one, where we confront our fears, find our inner strength, and discover our true selves.

In the end, as we arrived at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, we felt a sense of accomplishment, gratitude, and joy. We had completed the journey, but we had also gained so much more. We had forged friendships that will last a lifetime, learned invaluable lessons about ourselves and each other, and discovered the transformative power of perseverance.

The Camino was not just a school trip; it was a journey of a lifetime. It was an experience that our boys will remember for the rest of their lives. We are grateful to our teachers, our fellow pilgrims, and the Camino itself for teaching us these valuable lessons. May we carry them with us on all our future journeys, wherever they may lead.

Mr Richard Fraser & Mr Charles Gould

The Camino: A Journey Of Perseverance, Friendship, And Self-Discovery. - Photo 1
Grace Education