Every time that I begin walking one of the Caminos, I ask myself why I am doing this. These pilgrimages are hard on the body and difficult to do, especially walking 20 miles a day while carrying a heavy backpack under the hot Portuguese or Spanish sun. At times, it’s grueling and I feel more like a slug or a sherpa than a spirit-filled pilgrim.

But there are many consolations. You truly get away from everything when you make a lengthy pilgrimage. You focus on nature and discover God within it. There’s so much time for silence and solitude, which prepare the soul for spiritual encounters and to receive and sense God’s many graces.

As you walk, you reflect and truly inhabit your body. At some point, you get into a rhythm and like a rower you experience flow as your body seemingly moves without your doing anything.

Then there are the people who you meet along the way who are like angels, which God puts in your path. I met only two pilgrims today. Cees is 77 and is retired after having worked in HR for 35 years. He is Dutch and is walking his fifth Camino. He walks in part because he loves walking, but also because his parents were Roman Catholic, and this helps him to feel connected with them. It also allows him to strive to be a better listener and to reflect upon God and his life.

Bretil, 22, started walking 90 minutes after i started, and he caught up with me. While I walked 20 miles, he was walking 25. He is talking a gap year and has just finished walking the Camino Frances, which he says was unbelievably crowded, especially the last 100 kilometers.