Jennifer, from Richmond, VA, is walking the Virtual Camino in honor of her daughter, a 2020 high school graduate
Jennifer’s daughter (pictured) spotted a deer while hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah last summer.
I have wanted to walk the Camino since scouting around Spain for ideas for a senior graduation trip for our daughter. She had studied Spanish since middle school and I wanted to plan a good trip for her, as two years earlier we had spent 2 weeks in France to celebrate her older sister’s graduation. After 30 years as a homemaker/mom I was reawakening my love for travel and the backpacking/hosteling I had done at their ages. It was exciting to think about this hike, which obviously didn’t happen as our daughter was a 2020 graduate. Virtually, I am walking it in honor of my daughter, who like so many lost her senior year yet has become more resilient, compassionate, giving and living than a more “traditional” or expected path might have led to.
When did you start using the Camino for Good app?
March 1, 2021. I bought into all the advertising hype and double entendre of the “March to Santiago”. That’s really the first I heard about it. For me, as a Christian, this month is also Lent, so a spiritual journey and a daily discipline appealed to me. I have walked 3+ miles/day every day through the pandemic and it seemed like such a convergence of my need to be mobile in a time when travel is out of the question, to be on a spiritual journey and to also help the albergues along the way. The virtual aspect and the cost, two turn-offs for me, quickly gave way to this “world” of the Camino I had never known and I am all in.
How does the weather impact your walking? What are some other challenges you faced?
The first day it was pouring rain – very inauspicious. We went anyway. I got some friends to join as well and though we don’t walk in person more than once a week, we walked that day in the rain. I will continue, undaunted. I’ve walked every day for a year as a pandemic discipline. The blisters I got from trudging my route in snow boots after an ice storm are just about healed. Soon it will get blasting hot where I live, so I will get up and walk very early, which is a special kind of walk for me.
What has walking done for you spiritually? Mentally? Physically?
I love walking, I always have. Spiritually it can be a very grounding act, in that I am aware of my surroundings and the beauty, even if it is just my own residential neighborhood. It’s been especially important to me during quarantine and lock-down, to just be outside soaking up sunshine, seeing the blue sky, enjoying the stillness of the woods. Mentally of course it’s a real clarifier, giving my time to sort through thoughts, problems, plans, ideas. My mind is usually at a much higher rpm (which is why I have difficulty using this time as a prayer time) and I relish the time given to walking as some of my most sustained thought of the day.
Physically I like the feeling that I am free and still able, and that I can walk for health and fitness. As my body ages and changes it strikes me that walking has been a constant; that the musculature and strength and posture I enjoy come from those days over 30 years ago living abroad, where walking is a mode or transportation, backpacking and touring Europe on foot. In some ways I’ve made all kinds of hikes “virtually” long before the pandemic–or Camino for Good–just because my walking connects me to this ancient and beloved past.
What was most enjoyable about the Camino for Good experience?
So far I am really enjoying the sense of purpose and daily discipline. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Like many, I was experiencing pandemic fatigue and the very beginnings of fear and trepidation of emerging after a long year of hibernation-like quarantine–trying to get back to normal activities and routines–and finding it all changed. I’ve put on some pounds after all the indoor living and holidays and baking, so lacing on the sneakers and taking my 4-mile walk at a clip each day feels great on so many levels. I can see that the Camino is going to carry me into “civilization” and “normal life” months from now, and I couldn’t have chosen a better vehicle. It think it no co-incidence that Spring, and Lent, and the lessening grip of the pandemic are all concurring with the Camino–they go together and I am already enjoying what you have promised at the end: healing and hope.
Check out Jennifer's blog to enjoy more of her beautiful writing!
I have a blog about this walk and about the experience. I attached a link to the first two posts here: