Why I’m Walking Camino de Santiago


Seven weeks from last night, I board a plane to Paris and will arrive at St. Jean Pied de Port the next day to start my six-week hike along the Way of St. James, or the sacred pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago. Along with my 15-pound backpack of essentials, I bring along some of the anxiety and grief I’ve experienced this year. I suspect it will accompany me for part of the trip, but I’m hoping to unload it at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of St. James the Apostle are buried.

The anxiety is a result of waking up from my slumber, which happened at some point in 2017. I never intended this to happen. I was perfectly fine remaining in my goody-two-shoes box, a constricted space of no alcohol, caffeine, or gluten — a way of existing, not living, where I silenced my voice to avoid any confrontation and steered the ship far away from the job of getting to know myself, hearing my own voice, and using it.

I wasn’t ready to own my story. Who wants to wake up and feel the hurt you’ve accumulated over the years? I wasn’t ready to recognize the abuse of power in certain situations that forced me to alter my life in ways I didn’t want to. I was afraid to get mad, as I said in the last post.

It was easier to keep on sleeping – even if my mood was fragile. But I definitely woke up. And my life hasn’t been the same since. It’s tempting to assign the feeling of aliveness to the various circumstances in which I first felt it, but my higher conscious knows that I can pursue a sense of wholeness in myself and with my higher power, independent of anything else.

That’s why I’m walking Camino – to discover the fire of life within me and to gain a closer view of God’s grace in my life. Why else would a shopaholic who sleeps with three pillows at night trek 500 miles across Spain with only one change of clothes? I’m certain I will discover pieces of aliveness within me as I walk the trail in solitude and in communion with other pilgrims, as well as be able to process the grief associated with some of my losses.

“We could never learn how to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world,” wrote Helen Keller. My anxiety and tears led me to Camino. It is there I hope to piece together the debris of trauma from my life, assemble it into one stunning work of art, set it aside, and say, “Yes, that’s real. It happened, but it doesn’t define me.” I hope to be able to feel God’s redemptive power in my life, the ability to make myself new in faith.

I want to fully heal, as I never have in all my years of therapy, and allow myself to feel the anger that has been stored in my cells for 40 years. I want to scream as I walk the sacred path, and stop at certain points on the trail to cry on my knees. I want to bond with fellow pilgrims who are walking similar journeys of pain. And I want to arrive at Santiago and feel peace for the first time in my life.

Rainer Marie Rilke once said, “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

I have so many questions for which I desire answers. I know that Camino won’t answer all of them. At the very least, I hope to find hints of aliveness within myself and to know God a little better, so that I can let go of the addictions I’ve formed to fill in the cavities of my soul. I hope to grieve the false sources of aliveness and heal myself and let God heal me, arriving at some kind of wholeness, maybe even to return home a little lighter.


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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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17 Responses
  1. Mary

    Oh, Therese, you are doing a dream of mine! You are taking the steps alone? If so, it’s easy to understand why. Because only alone with God can we hear Him speak and truly listen to what He is telling us. The pain we all feel may be from different sources, but it’s an internal pain that we carry hour after hour, day after day. Your walk is a way to let that pain go and allow God’s grace to feel the void it leaves behind. The one void we all want. I am thrilled for you and pray that your journey and trust in God will inspire me and others to free ourselves from the pain that we ironically hold on to, without really knowing that we do. Wishing you all the best and hoping you will share your remarkable journey with us.

  2. Melanie Considine

    I think it sounds wonderful and you are brave to go on this hike. Best wishes to you for a safe and successful journey!

  3. claire

    I’m so happy to read that you will walk the Camino.I will definitely follow your progress and pray with you as you walk.

    My husband and I have walked it several times. We would love to do it again, but I’m not sure our bodies now could handle it. The Camino is a journey on so many levels and the people you will meet on it will remain forever part of that journey as well.

    Prepare well. Travel light. Have good shoes, sun screen, and blister protection 🙂

    Buen Camino, ultreya et susceia!

  4. Mary

    I am so happy to hear that you are doing this for yourself Therese. This sounds like an amazing pilgrimage that you are sure to reap benefits from. God bless you and yes, please let us know how it goes. Good luck !!!

  5. Lizzie

    I wish you peace Therese and hope you find it on your walk. I want to ask who betrayed you.?
    I wish I was walking with you. My thoughts are with you. You really are a brave and courageous soul. Lizzie x

  6. Mary Noel

    Thank you!!! Your self realization and your commitment to seek the path, in your own way, of really living “You”. The ‘You” that God created!!! God’s richest blessing to you and thank you for such an inspirational and very personal ‘share’!!
    I hear you—you are ready!!
    Prayers for all of us who can totally understand what you have written and may we all find the courage to unravel our states of false living.

  7. Kate

    Thank you Therese for sharing this trip with us. Our prayers follow you to the Camino and I hope it is healing for you. I’m sure you’ll learn much while you are on the path. What a courageous and beautiful adventure. God bless and keep you.

  8. Heidi Smith

    Dear Therese, How wonderful! What a brave soul you are. Go for it, enjoy, and
    know that God is walking with you. The idea to “dispose” of those demons that have
    plagued our souls and to impose upon ourselves those truths that we need to hold dear
    is the true walk of saints.
    I have dreamed of walking the Camino and probably will not do it, so I push you with
    love to walk tearfully and joyfully. Thank you for sharing! God’s sweet grace and mercy
    goes with you.

  9. Lois Tegethoff

    I found you on your website many years because I’d discovered that we both attended St Mary’s. I wonder if someday I shall embark on the Camino. I may just go for part of it. Not sure I’m physically strong enough to the whole way. Blessings on your journey. You will be forever changed.

  10. Susie

    I start from St Jean on May 2nd, Maybe I’ll see you on the way! I am a lady of more senior years looking to rebalance a life that has been busy beyond belief. Won’t be doing it with out a little drop of vino tinto though! Good luck. Xxx

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