A big thank you to Elizabeth Rich this week for sharing with us her personal and unique experience of walking The Camino with her family last fall! The following are her reflections.
So last year my family hiked the first 120 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago and it was one of the most mentally challenging things I have ever done. Walking 15 miles every day, even when it felt like someone was hitting my feet with a mallet and it was 100 degrees outside, was pretty miserable yet for some reason I absolutely loved it.
My first 2 1/2 days were filled with unhappiness and anxiousness that I could not explain. I didn’t know why but I couldn’t stop being antsy and not only was I making the trip hard on myself but also on my family. Finally, my mom pulled me aside and we separated from the group to say a Rosary asking for peace of mind and a revelation as to why I was so anxious. The results were almost immediate.
The first thing I got from the rosary was the desperate need for confession. Back at school and camp I went once a week and this was officially the longest I’d gone in a while without going to confession… and I felt it on my soul. But, more than that, I felt God calling me to be present. I offered my Camino up for a couple of things, one being my vocation, and for some reason I got it in my head that if I didn’t meet my husband on the way then God was calling me to religious life (it sounds much sillier when I say it out loud but I promise in my head it was very real, haha).
I was so focused on getting to the next city, of talking to the next person, that I couldn’t live in the present moment, and it was affecting everyone else’s trip. I was so focused on the destination that I wasn’t actually experiencing the Camino.
I still struggled after that rosary to live in the present moment, just because that is how I have been my whole life, always looking forward, until I forgot my Camino passport and had to go backwards… and in going backwards I met Carlo, a 35 year old university art teacher from Florence, Italy. He had seen us in the church where I left my passport when he was saying a rosary and carried the passport for 5k until he saw us again running back towards the church. It sounds dramatic but that man saved my trip…
Carlo was the most amazing man and I’m pretty convinced God sent him into my life to wake me up a little bit. He was walking the whole Camino alone and while he left at 6 am like most people he was usually one of the last people to get to the next town. I saw him jumping off bridges into the water to take a 20 minute swim break and sit under a tree and sketch out a church while we kept miserably walking. He stopped in bakeries that I just longingly stared at but didn’t want to stop to go in. He went to Spain to hike the Camino and he hiked it well, and in the process changed my perspective.
I started enjoying the walk and meeting the most phenomenal people who I would never have met if I just plowed through the Camino. I stopped to put my feet in water and had a life-changing conversation with a young man who just experienced Jesus for the first time and my relationship with my family immediately became so much better as we started to laugh and really enjoy each other’s company… and it was all thanks to the amazing man Carlo who inspired me to not only live in the present moment, but to live in it well.
I don’t know about you guys but I’m done living in a future that doesn’t exist and being stressed about things I can’t control. I’m done with anxiety and feeling lonely and belittling men to just “are you my future husband?” I want to live life and I want to live it well. Even as I left the Camino I felt myself asking WWCD (what would Carlo do) and as I sat on a beach writing this post I felt ready to live freely, trusting that God has it all figured out. Will I still get anxious or plan too often? Most likely, but having that example of someone who is trusting in God’s plan so well was eye-opening to me and I will never be the same.
Here is a captured image of me as I see Carlo off in the distance and he yelled out to me, “My friend!”… one of the best moments of my trip to be honest.
Here is an image of the infamous Carlo standing in the water (photo may be a little creepy but completely necessary).
This post and all photos were originally published on Elizabeth’s personal blog. Elizabeth Rich is a Fashion Blogger dedicated to changing the narrative of our modesty to one of dignity, beauty, and self-love through the eyes of our Father.