On the Camino it's not about WHAT you are, it's about WHO you are.
Why is it that we always tend to compare ourselves to others? That we can involuntarily
worry about all kinds of questions that we actually know don't matter. Who is the most
important, who is the most handsome, who has the most influence, the best job and the most
money. Who has the largest network, the most followers. Bigger is better, richer is better,
stronger is better. Because who would like to be small, weak or vulnerable, to be overlooked,
hardly count, to be almost invisible?
How often have you been immediately asked about your work during a first encounter or
meeting? Depending on the job and position, we consciously or unconsciously give it a
status. The job title may say something about the level of salary the person earns or their
position in a company or organisation, but it says so very little about who that person
behind this profession is. Apparently we value what someone is and have lost a genuine
interest in who they really are.
On the Camino, the classic question, ‘So what do you do?’, doesn’t seem very relevant. You
can't do anything with it and it says so little. Whether you are a dentist, baker or window
cleaner, you and the other pilgrims are at the mercy of the Gods for about seven weeks and
together you have one common goal, ending in Santiago. You walk together, eat together,
sleep together and share joys and sorrows with each other.
In 2018 I walked my first Camino. During the first conversations I had with fellow pilgrims, I
also tended to ask about someone's work right away. It soon felt awkward. Due to the
open and vulnerable attitude of most pilgrims, the impulse to know what they did for work
increasingly faded into the background. The question did not fit and it was much more
interesting to know who someone was rather than what someone was.
The conversations I had with pilgrims on the Camino were pure, profound and without
judgement. Sometimes the conversations were about pain and sorrow, but also about joy,
freedom, choices, life questions and special events. The openness and vulnerability that I
experienced with other pilgrims is something I have not often encountered after the Camino.
Perhaps the open and vulnerable attitude on the Camino has to do with the simplicity of the
trip in combination with the common goal. In any case, there is no room on the Camino for
competition, wanting to be bigger, better, stronger or richer. Fellow pilgrims make way for
togetherness and dare to be vulnerable and selfless. The Camino invites you to be human.
You do not have to be afraid of the judgement of others during the trip. On the Camino it's
about who you are, not what you are.
What would it mean for you to be who you are?