by Maria Koropecky, Ammolite Wellness Coach
Have you ever come up with an off-the-wall, harebrained goal for yourself, a dream that was so out there, so against-the-odds of seeing the light of day, that most people would never even think of it, much less attempt it, yet for some reason you were compelled to see it through?
Perhaps it was something like Alex and Andrew’s idea to clean up plastic from our oceans which lead to 4ocean, a global movement!
Or perhaps it was something like Lorna Byrne who never finished primary school because of her dyslexia, and now she writes best-selling books about angels.
I recently attended an inspiring talk given by a woman named Casey who, while riding her bike in 2009, was struck by a car, which left one side of her body non-functioning. She has been relying on a wheelchair for mobility ever since.
Well, Casey came up with one such inspired goal and this past May, she managed to complete an ambitious, amazing, and extraordinary achievement in her wheelchair!
Casey and her husband, Jason, went on an adventure of a lifetime and together for five days, they crossed the Camino de Santiago to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela!
History of the El Camino
The Camino de Santiago (Pilgrimage of Compostela), known in English as “the Way of Saint James,” is an interlacing network of trails for pilgrims which eventually leads to the Shrine of the Apostle Saint James the Great, in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain.
By the way, Saint James was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus and he is also the patron saint of pilgrims. Saint James’ feast day is observed on July 25th – which is coming up soon – and I’m planning to go on a walk and BBQ with the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, Victoria chapter, to celebrate.
People have been walking the El Camino trails since the 9th Century, often for spiritual or religious reasons, but not necessarily, especially these days.
The El Camino network of trails, which travels through Spain, France, and Portugal and further into Europe, is also popular among hikers, cycling enthusiasts, horseback riders, solo travellers, and tour groups.
People come from all over the world to have a pilgrim’s experience on the El Camino. There’s something mystical and sacred about travelling day after day after day, rain or shine, along a well-worn route, in the footsteps of millions of others who came before you, with just the clothes on your back and stopping for meals and rest, until you ultimately reach your destination.
Going on a pilgrimage should be available to anyone who wants to go, but unfortunately, the trails are not designed for wheelchairs.
During her talk, Casey described some of the challenges she faced. Just getting to Europe from Victoria, Canada, by airplane would have been difficult enough.
She planned this trip for a year and she and her husband trained to prepare themselves as best they could for the obstacle course ahead of them.
While on the trail, Casey and her loving husband, Jason, (who didn’t come for his own reasons and only came to help her), encountered rocks the size of watermelons on the road, passages too narrow for her chair to go through, streams blocking the way, mud, stairs, uphills, downhills, tight washrooms, hot sun, rain, and once she even fell, but somehow they managed to get through it all and lived to tell the tale!
For the most part, Casey’s husband pushed her chair along the dusty, gravelly roads but they also relied on pulleys, friends, pilgrims, and strangers to help them along the way.
They ended up becoming trail celebrities with every new photo that was taken.
In a way, they enhanced other people’s pilgrimages too by giving them the opportunity to give back and be of service to someone who they met on their path, who was in need.
I’m sure it was a very spiritual experience in its own way and miracles did happen! Casey and Jason made many new friends, one of whom they found by chance who is also from the Victoria, BC area! Small world!
Going on a Pilgrimage isn’t for Lightweights
As Casey said to me, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
Casey’s experience just goes to show, that even when there are rocks and hills and mud in the way and even if you cry and you argue out of sheer frustration, there’s a way to get through it. Don’t give up! You can do this!
There are plenty of challenges that come up, that are hard for anyone to get their head around. I can think of a thousand excuses not to embark on such a journey but now that I’ve met Casey and her husband, those excuses don’t hold any water.
If they can do it, I can do it!
My Own Pilgrimage
So, I’m excited to say that thanks to a gift for my 50th birthday from my generous family, I’ve got my tickets and I’m heading to Madrid, Spain, on September 17, 2019!
I’ll be gone for two weeks, starting my walk from Ponferrada and then I’m going to walk with my backpack for about 275 kilometres (20-30 kilometres a day) through Spain, to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela!
It’s going to be amazing! I’m looking to have a spiritual experience however it shows up for me and I can’t wait to meet the people who will be walking along side me on the road.
“Hola, buenos días.”
And I’m planning to blog about my experience here in my Ammolite Goddess blog so you can follow my adventure.
If walking the El Camino sounds like something you’d like to do, I recommend watching the movie, “The Way,” a 2010 film directed, produced, and written by Emilio Estevez, starring his father Martin Sheen, among others.
If you’re feeling called to do this, find a way!
To make things easier, I’m inviting you to join me in September. There’s still time to train and buy your gear and plan your trip!
As an added bonus, if you walk with me, I’ll be happy to give you your choice of foot and/or neck and shoulder massages every night! Just my way of giving back.
Also, as my friends had done for me, it will be my honour to take your prayers with me so if you’d like for me to pray for you or your loved ones, just contact me and I’ll add you to the list. There’s no charge for this and I’m happy to take your petitions the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and lift them in mediation and prayer.
I’ve been walking nearly every day to get in shape for my journey and I’m so grateful to my brother and nephew and my friend Jenny from California who have already gone on 3-5K nature hikes with me this summer. I consider them as part of my pilgrimage!
I’m open to walking with anyone else who is interested, either to help me prepare for my trip or to actually go with me to Spain! Let me know if you want to talk more about this.
Consider this an invitation. If you’re reading this post, it may be a sign that you’re meant to do this, too.
Don’t let excuses stop you from challenging yourself and experiencing something amazing and wonderful! If Casey can do it in a wheelchair, then we can finish the El Camino too!
Contact me if you’re interested!
Buen Camino, Maria