Camino for Good hiker Phyllis Hegger lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA

What motivated you to walk the Virtual Camino?  What have you enjoyed?  Did the COVID outbreak have an impact on your commitment?

I was motivated to walk the Virtual Camino from the time I watched “The Way” with Martin Sheen, several years ago.   It was so moving that I knew I would do it, or something like it, ‘one day’.   I have enjoyed being part of the ‘Camino for Good’ Facebook group and meeting many of the organizers, participants and Albergue owners through the live calls. It is such a great mission and I plan on being part of this “Camino walking world” for the rest of my life.

I have been a walker all my life and though I consider it great for the soul I usually have a mission in mind.  My siblings and I would ask neighbors to donate and we would walk for Muscular Dystrophy when we were young.   I remember walking around our neighborhood with my Mother when she was on a serious health program.  I have also walked and ran many 5K’s and a couple ½ marathons for many wonderful organizations over the years.   So, when I was researching about the Camino and found that I could do it from St. Louis, it was an absolute ‘yes’.  And, then when I realized that it would help the Albergues and walkers from all over the world – I was totally in.

As far as COVID, it did have an impact on my family – with many of us getting it – but we all recovered in our own homes and had no serious issues.  None of us lost our jobs or really suffered like so many others did.   But, the impact the virus had on the entire Camino world was so heartbreaking, especially with this being a Holy Year.  I can’t really imagine all of it but I knew I definitely wanted to help.

How many miles do you average in a day?  How do you fit this into your busy life?

I started the Virtual Camino on Jan 1, 2021 and expected it to take me several months (took 120 days).   I averaged 4 miles a day but some days I wasn’t able to do any and others I walked 12 miles.   My husband is a late sleeper so I would get up early on the weekends to walk at the park and would be done by the time he was having his late morning/midday coffee.   This was the same park that we were married in 31 years ago and we brought our kids to when they were young so it was the perfect place for me to walk my Camino.  During the week, I would go to the park right after work or when the daylight hours were short I’d go to the local YMCA outdoor track where there was light.  I would bundle up like it was 10 degrees but it seldom got below 30.

How does the weather impact your walking?

Funny, I don’t usually like to go outside in the very cold weather.   Matter of fact, the hotter the better as far as I am concerned.   I trained for the ½ marathon in 2012 when it was 100 degrees many days that summer.  I love the warmer months but I have been forever changed.  The winter walking was very calming, quite beautiful and I felt like I was actually somewhere else, rather than the town park 1.5 miles from my home.   I spotted eagles, hawks and other winter birds and actually spoke to a few other winter walkers – which I typically refrain from – and have become quite friendly with a woman who is practically my clone.  We have so much in common and would have never met had I not been winter walking.  She introduced me to an older retired woman who, interestingly enough, said she was going to walk the Camino too  someday, who knew?   And,  I have to mention the awesome smell of the pile of real pine Christmas Trees, that local residence brought to the park to put in the lake, lasted for months as I rounded one of the daily big hills.

What has walking done for you spiritually?  Mentally? Physically?

The Virtual Camino has done so much for me spiritually, mentally and physically.  I prayed for everyone and thanked God for everything.   I made it a daily mission to remember some of the special people in my life who have passed – father, niece, friends and a few others.  I would speak with them and truly connect – some I forgave, some I asked for forgiveness and others just spoke with.   I sobbed for hours one day when my Mother broke her hip and had to have surgery and the ball replaced.  She is a tough 94-year old woman and recovered like a 60-year old so it was all good.  At times, I would text people out of the blue and set lunch dates and video calls.   I wrote stories and poems and letters in my head.  I practiced speeches and figured out problems and thought of so many new ideas.   I would listen to music, audio books, foreign languages, educational webinars, live Zoom calls and travel recordings and so many interesting things.  And, sometimes I just walked.   I forgot about the cold, the snow, the rain and the mud and just walked.   I can’t say I felt super challenged, physically, but it was still a daily commitment and I needed some extra stretching and magnesium for muscle cramping on several occasions.  I brought water, snacks, paper towels & my phone and tried to make it as real (as it would have been in Spain) as possible.

What was most enjoyable about the Camino for Good experience?

The most enjoyable thing about the Camino for Good experience was that so many people were helping each other – in it together.   I think the story/movie “I’ll Push You”, was where we were all coming from.   Making our own commitment real but also helping/serving others.  Sign me up for the next one.

By the way, the Camino for Good app was extremely helpful and easy to use.  I loved the pics and stories from others along the way.   And the interview with the creator was excellent.   Thanks so much for that.

Thank you to Phyllis Hegger for sharing her story with the CFG community! Buen Camino