There is this assumption that everyone has to walk the Camino de Santiago alone. But what if you decide to go hiking the Camino de Santiago as a couple? In this post, we investigate the special challenges and advantages of making a pilgrimage for two.
Hiking the Camino de Santiago alone & as a couple
The challenges of hiking for two are basically the same challenges that couples encounter in everyday life. How do you reconcile the needs of two people?
The common representations of the Camino de Santiago mostly revolve around the journey of a person who, for various reasons, is at an existential fork in the road. In the Camino books from Kevin Codd to Shirley Maclaine, the Camino becomes the setting where the main character deliberately takes a distance from everyday life and all relationships. This seems necessary in order to reflect on one’s own life and to get to the bottom of big questions.
If you walk the Camino de Santiago with your partner, you can expect a very special experience that is much less talked about and written about. Of course, every pilgrim and every couple have their own experiences. But from the reports of various couples on the Way of St. James, the following observations emerge that make a pilgrimage for two.
Get to know yourself and your partner anew
Far from everyday life, in the rhythm of their own steps and reduced to the essentials, pilgrims get to know themselves and their partner in a completely different way. New sides are revealed in a person you think you know well. This can help immensely to rethink old patterns and ideas about one another. And who knows, maybe falling in love all over again.
Dealing with differences
Hiking (and living) as a couple is almost always about finding a healthy balance between the needs and demands of two individuals. The list of potential differences is long. It ranges from calories and comfort to sociability and attitudes towards spirituality.
The most important thing is to meet differences with respect and a basic feeling of equality. Again and again, couples have to balance how much space the individual needs in the we-structure. Honest and loving communication is the be-all and end-all.
Two kinds of tempos
It is rare for two people to hike at the same pace. As nice as it is to hike together, it is just as exhausting not to run at your own pace. Cathy and David report on their blog how they were afraid that their different fitness levels and experience horizons could be a problem. But the insight that there is a climate of equality on the Camino, no matter how old, fast or fit the pilgrims are, helped them to deal with this difference in a relaxed manner.
What matters is that everyone is on their way.
As a couple among others
The dynamic in dealing with others changes when you are already on the road as a team. For many people, meeting other hikers is one of the most beautiful experiences on the Camino. But partners don’t always have the same level of sociability. Try not to withdraw too much into a couple’s bubble, but also try to take enough time for each other.
Attitude to spirituality
Not all couples share the same beliefs about spirituality and religion. Even if the Way of St. James as a pilgrimage has a clearly spiritual component, people today walk it for very different reasons.
Precisely because this aspect of the Camino de Santiago is so personal and emotional, it is important as a couple to show each other a lot of respect when it comes to different expectations of the Camino as a spiritual path. That means neither to impose one’s own views on the other, nor to talk them out of it.
Those who walk the Camino de Santiago as a couple enjoy the great advantage of having a trusted person by their side and being able to support each other both practically and emotionally. Because in one way or another, a long-distance hike takes you to your own limits and beyond. Whether it’s looking for trail markers, filling water bladders or carrying provisions, the experience of caring for one another together strengthens trust in one another and shows what you can do together.
The goal and the way
While pursuing a common goal is a fantastic thing, it is important to keep in mind that the path is always more important. The Camino is not just about arriving in Santiago, it is more about what you experienced along the way. Mutual consideration, rest periods and possible adjustments to the daily stages or other expectations and wishes strengthen the relationship more than achieving goals at any price.
Cathy shares how she feared an injury could stop her and her partner. But being able to show weakness from time to time and to be able to accept help is part of a stable and positive relationship. Fortunately, a hiking trip offers enough reason to do so.
In her book, What if I come with you?, German author Eva Prawitt tells about the pilgrimage that she and her husband took on the Camino de Santiago. Originally she wanted to go alone and so the whole thing is a compromise from the start. And, as already indicated, this is what matters all the time in relationships. In her travel diary, Eva Prawitt honestly reports on the lessons, miracles and complications she experiences with her husband.
A touchingly written metaphor for life in relationships with others and a must for anyone planning to walk the Camino for two.
Share the essentials
One reason hiking and pilgrimage are becoming increasingly popular is certainly because it acts as an antidote to the complications of modern life. Dates, obligations, stress, overstimulation and the pressure of important decisions are a burden for singles and couples. Realizing that everything we need is amazingly simple at times can be an immensely liberating experience. Experiencing how lucky a warm meal, sunrise and a bed can be after a day of hiking puts the problems of everyday life in a whole new light.
Having someone by your side to share this with is enough cause for hope and gratitude.