The Camino is very well-marked. Much of it, in fact, is an exclusive use path through the countryside, and all along the entirety of Camino, yellow arrows and the familiar blue and yellow shell signs point Pilgrims ever forward towards Santiago.
But sometimes the Way plays Peekaboo with its Peregrinos.
Descending through the forest to Roncevalles early on, the path dwindles into a muddy clearing. Passing through the city of Logrono, the Camino appears to stop at a busy roundabout. Sometimes even out in the open countryside when the Camino is an actual path, a fork appears that looks just like the path you’re on.
“Where is the Camino? Or better, in Spanish:
“Donde esta el Camino?”
That question made me stop, and look with fresh eyes at the scene around me, and comb the environment for clues. Invariably, something would pop out of the landscape, like seeing Waldo in a “Where’s Waldo?” picture book.
There! I see a yellow arrow on a tree, or on a curb a block ahead. There! I see a bronze shell imbedded in the pavement. There! I see a blue and yellow Camino symbol up on the side of a building.
For a few days I took photos of yellow arrows, shells, and signage in general, which changed with each town and region. Some villages even painted a yellow stripe on the pavement through town to make it abundantly clear where the Camino was.
The Camino made me understand that I like knowing where I’m going. I already knew this, but the Camino made me understand it in a kinesthetic way. (I also learned, late in life, that I’m more of a kinesthetic learner than I realized.)
The Camino also taught me some valuable skills about finding my way forward when life brings you to a crossroads, or when the path you’re on forks, becomes muddled, muddy, or leads you to what seems like a never-ending roundabout you can’t seem to exit.
Here’s what I learned:
Stop. Take a sip of water. Pray. Consult the literature. Talk to your fellow pilgrims. Look up. Scan the landscape for markers, arrows, street signs, graffiti or kairns of stones left by others. If necessary, remove your boots and socks, and sit down. Push away the desire to know right away. Pray. Have a snack. Ask the locals. Pray some more. Then look again. The Camino is there. Walk.