A major ending is now the best beginning. I’ve hiked more than 500 miles during my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across Spain. The path led me across mountain ranges, rocky patches and rough terrains. A year ago the idea of walking across Spain was on hold after open heart surgery. What was once an idea, a passion and an incredible possibility against obstacles is now a personal victory. The Camino is life changing.
I was in pain and my body was hurting every moment. The mountains I was crossing were steep and very high. I could not give up. I could not allow myself to quit. I could not give up because of the important reason I was doing the Camino.
You never know what you are capable of if you never push yourself all the way. You may feel like giving up, but if you don’t keep going, you will never know what is just around the next corner. You never know what you are capable of until you try.
Many people that I met called me “Missouri John.” I loved the comradeship and the feeling of meeting hundreds of people over the journey that are instantly best friends and will do anything to help and support one another.
Dinners at the Albergue are some of the best memories as the other pilgrims would tell their stories and we would have a great time. I have gained new friends from all around the world.
We are the same — just loving and caring people on a life journey.
Finisterre, which is on the Atlantic Ocean coast, was an incredible ending point to my Camino. Evidence has shown people on the move are happier and more peaceful — Solvitur ambulando which means “walking solves all.”
I think I have another Camino in me, even though I am still asking myself, “Did you just complete the Camino?” Then I dig into my pack and pull out my Pilgrims passport and look at the stamps from the Albergues I stayed at and the many churches I visited.
On the days of more than 20 miles of walking, the last few miles are the hardest. It was during these times I would see another steep hill or small mountain ahead and say, “Oh, come on.” Some of these long days were 7 to 9 hours. I would arrive at the Albergue and all my “new” friends and people who saw me from the hike would all yell, “John!”
I would raise my hiking stick in the air as a cheer or sign of a victorious day.
I can tell you that in the 38 days I walked the Camino, I experienced profound spiritual moments each day. I often thought of mom and dad and when I needed help, seriously needed help to continue, I would ask for it. I feel so fortunate to have met so many great and wonderful people on “the way.”
When I talked to other pilgrims about my Camino and the story of my parents, everyone could relate. They were always inspired by mom and dad’s lives. They were inspired because their lives represent the story of America: basic everyday folks — smart, heroes, and hard workers that many people loved and admired. Their life was and is about the American Dream.
Many people would often tear up when I told my stories about my parents and reasons for doing the Camino.
I have more than 2,000 pictures of the friends, the great times and the incredible sites along the passage. I have precious memories and photos of the commemorative moment in Santiago. At the symbolic lighthouse, I placed photos of my mom and dad and left chips of stone from the grave headstone at their resting place in Camden Point, Mo.
I’m thinking about my time on the Camino where I have made life long friends. Is the journey over or just beginning?
This reminds me of the Lord of the rings by J.R.R. Tolkein, which says, “The road goes ever on and on. Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone and I must follow, if I can. Pursuing it with wary feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And wither then? I cannot say.”
For me there has been an inner transformation and lessons learned along the way. I feel satisfied that I fulfilled my goals and purpose of my pilgrimage. I think most of us are on a journey of rediscovery.
Be proud of your life, and if you are not, have the strength to change it. Nobody ever changes anyone else. You can only change yourself and encourage and support those around you as they live their life. There is something internal that for whatever reason ignites. It’s part of who you are or are meant to be and possibly fate that helps make you ready for change in your life.
I’ve been to see the apostle and walked more than 500 miles. I won’t forget the laughter and I won’t forget the smiles. I will never forget Cirauqui and its Roman roads or my time in Leon.
There is much more meaning for me here.
As difficult as this was and how bad I felt at times, I still could not quit. I had the reasons I started my pilgrimage to push me forward. For me, there was never a choice of doing this half way or allowing myself the option of finishing the journey another time. Many people choose this option as the fatigue and mental stress takes over.
Once you consider the next step is always the best one, take your time and enjoy the journey.
I realized that philosophically, the meaning of life holds truth. Everyone is always on a journey or path that takes them far and wide against the grain. The Camino helped me to see the truth as my body felt every step and allowed me to look at what is available and what is limiting me now.
I allowed myself to exist in peace and live amongst the ruins of a tortured journey that has been passed by millions of viewers and forefathers. Each learned as I have, that everyday is a new day and sometimes wonders ... how much longer? We often must change and end the way of life that is before us now.
This journey and those to come help find the true self and the right of passage.
John Larimer, a 56-year-old resident of Camden Point, Mo., recently completed a 500-mile walk across Spain known as the Camino de Santiago. John began traveling abroad at the age of 16 and developed a passion and love for exploring history and other countries.