In October and November of 2015, I walked the Camino Francés, one of the traditional pilgrimage routes to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It was a deeply emotional journey, with far-reaching implications for my life, and I’m slowly but surely capturing the memories and musings here on my blog. Read the entire series at Anna’s Camino.
There are many controversial subjects among pilgrims and prospective pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago: raincoat or poncho, backpack weight, shoe type, best bedbug prevention, pants or skirt, and the list goes on. If you’ve ever asked yourself “is XYZ a good idea?” chances are that there are a few forum threads on XYZ, and equal numbers of people saying “Of course!” and “Hell no!” We humans are a difficult bunch.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from walking the Camino started to get drilled in before I’d even boarded the plane to Paris, through reading tons of Camino journals, blog posts, and forum comments. Pretty early on, it became obvious to me that this journey was mine to make, and mine alone. It’s one thing to pay attention to advice, but it’s up to the individual to decide what’s useful and proper in their situation, and what is merely interference (no matter how well-meant). Just because someone else insists that their way is the only right way – especially when they’re knit-picking you about things that aren’t life or death – doesn’t mean they’re right. In fact, it seems to me that when people try to bully you into accepting their inconsequential choices as your own habits, it’s usually out of fear, and the subconscious belief that having others conform to their whims will somehow validate their life path. In other words, don’t believe everything you read. Make your own decisions. Walk your own damn road!
When you know yourself and your proclivities, sometimes there are choices to be made to ensure comfort and happiness that will go against the grain. Have the courage to do things your way (but don’t be too proud to admit when your way kind of sucks in the end). Deciding to do things my way meant that I wore sneakers instead of boots, despite some strong advice against it. I went with my gut, knowing how miserable I get when my feet are hot. It worked out splendidly, and I’ll do it again. I also wore thin, dual-layered socks, rather than two pairs of thick socks – another fantastic choice that I have continued on later hiking trips. I wore leggings instead of pants. I used a poncho and a raincoat, and threw them both away (insert mad laughter here)! Another thing that I knew I’d be doing from the outset, despite the naysayers, is listening to music. I just don’t operate without it.
On the various Camino forums I frequented prior to leaving on my walk, there were some hot debates about music or no music. Some people argued that it was unsafe to walk around with headphones in, blocking out the noise of oncoming traffic. That’s valid enough, and you should always be aware of your surroundings when listening to headphones, no matter where you are. But I found that a stronger contingent of the “no music” crowd argued against it for spiritual reasons, with the idea that doing anything besides walking and listening to the sounds of nature around you would interfere with the pilgrimage. At first glance, this seems like an OK point. However, for some reason, this thought was seldom shared as a kind suggestion, but rather as a bold insistence that if you weren’t walking in silence, you were doing it wrong. Needless to say, that’s one concept that got pitched out of my window early on. While I often did walk with nature as my only soundtrack, and I also spent a lot of time getting to know my Camino friends as we walked, I also had times when my music was the only thing that pulled me through. Singing is one of my preferred forms of healing and meditation, and I had some beautiful moments out there, singing along to Petula Clark and Neko Case, barely managing to put one foot in front of the other. Some days I knew that the notes had helped pull me along to my destination.
I have a Camino playlist on my Spotify account, and it’s been growing since 2015. Before it gets too big for me to remember what the list originally contained, I wanted to write it down here. Aside from this playlist, I also listened some albums that were already on my iPhone, including a Petula Clark greatest hits album, a Spotify playlist that my boyfriend made me when we first started dating (including several songs by my all-time favorite band, Dry the River, who as it turns out, broke up around the same time I walked into Santiago de Compostela *argh*), a couple of albums by Miranda Lambert, a few songs by Fela Kuti, “Aguas de Marco” as performed by Elis Regina, Ween’s White Pepper album, and Chicago II. The following list was my official Camino playlist, though. Most of the songs therein were chosen for their messages, and all were chosen for the fact that I like to sing along. This will give you a little taste of how eclectic my tastes run (though this isn’t the half of it – I also love nerdcore rap, speed metal, Brazilian pop, Afrobeat, 40’s jazz, 60’s pop, 80’s English ska, and bluegrass).
- Price Tag – Jessie J, B.o.B.
- America – Simon & Garfunkel
- Scenic World – Beirut
- Graduate – Third Eye Blind
- Free Ride – The Edgar Winter Group
- Spice Up Your Life – Spice Girls
- Saint Simon – The Shins
- Voce Abusou – Maria Cruza
- Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) – Shakira, Freshlyground
- Show Your Colors – Genevieve
- Go Places – The New Pornographers
- We Owned the Night – Lady Antebellum
- Some Days I’m Golden All Night – Josh Rouse
- I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
- Millennium – Robbie Williams
- Flowing – 311
- Dancing Song – Little Comets
- Cool Change – Little River Band
- Brave – Sara Bareilles
- Show Me Love – Robyn
- Takin’ It to the Streets – The Doobie Brothers
- Front the Least – MC Frontalot
- Gypsy – Shakira
The list has since grown to include a number of other just right (to me, at least) songs that say “this is the way” to me. Thus far, these include:
- God Gave Rock and Roll to You – Argent
- Try Everything – Shakira
- Wise Up – Aimee Mann
- Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
- Je Joue De La Guitare – Jean Leloup
- Kyrie – Mr. Mister
- Give A Little Bit – Supertramp
- Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In – The 5th Dimension
- The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot
- Dreams – The Cranberries
- Ramble On – Led Zeppelin
- Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
- I Go to Extremes – Billy Joel
- Serenity – Godsmack
- All This Time – Jonathan Coulton