Soulful, spiritual, invigorating, accepting, and so damn pretty, Walking the Camino feels like a warm hug on a sunny day.
Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
“I don’t want to sit in my depressed little life, popping pills in the same pattern.”
It’s the type of thought that’s likely crossed all of our minds, though few of us ever bother to do anything–at least anything radical–to shake ourselves from the wrest of the daily grind. The six primary subjects in Walking the Camino, the moving new documentary by Lydia Smith, chose to strip themselves of the burden of daily routines and go on a month-long, metaphysical pilgrimage across Spain, on foot–just a starting point (St. Jean Pied de Port, France), a destination (Santiago, Spain), and 500 miles in between. With minimal supplies and no concrete plans of where to stay each night, The Camino is a tremendous trek, an ancient one that millions of soul-seekers have been embarking on for over 1200 years. All six travelers walk the same path, but each discover something very different about themselves.
Each of the characters have different reasons for enduring the country-long hike. Wayne, a Canadian, is walking as a tribute to his wife, who passed four years prior. Annie, an American, finds a bit of competitive pleasure in the journey, which she struggles with. “I know consciously [that] it’s not about that,” she explains. “But boy, it was kickin’ my butt today.” Though they all come from different backgrounds and walks of life, it’s fascinating to see the picturesque Spanish countryside shape them all spiritually. With everything stripped away, they discover themselves in the truest form. “The mask disappears, and you transform into yourself,” one man says.
Most of the travelers bring or acquire a companion on the walk, and watching how the dynamics between them change over the course of the journey is riveting. Tatiana, a religious French woman, has chosen to make the journey with her young son, Cyrian, a playful, platinum-haired boy. “I hope that for Cyrian…he will learn many things that he couldn’t at home.” Joining them is Tatiana’s brother, Alexis, who she has a history of butting heads with. As they say, history repeats itself. Misa, a woman from Denmark in search of inner-peace, has a random encounter with a handsome young man named William, and the two hit it off immediately. As the film goes on, we see them grow ever closer, friendship blossoming into romance. “It’s working out very, very good,” Misa says of her ever evolving relationship with William. “I’m just trying not to figure out why. I’m just supposed to enjoy it.”
Despite the beauty of the landscape that surrounds the subjects on the long trail and the wonderful bonds they form, The Camino is far from a cakewalk. Sometimes enduring freezing temperatures or dangerously high winds, the pilgrims are battered both mentally and physically. Tomás, from Portugal, recalls suffering a painful knee injury late in his adventure, as the rain poured down on his head. “I had 15km to go, with nowhere to stop.” Terrible foot blisters come with the territory, and one can’t help but cringe at the sight of the trekkers keeping them at bay (needles!).
Smith, a veteran of the Camino herself, does a wonderful job of encapsulating the spiritual poignancy of the trail. Beautifully composed shots of the fields, mountains, and quaint villages the travelers pass through really take your breath away, making it easy to understand why the subjects feel so touched. Soulful, spiritual, invigorating, accepting, and so damn pretty, Walking the Camino feels like a warm hug on a sunny day.