Camino taught me what is important and what to appreciate


RITE & REASON:TO ME, religion is the belief or worshipping of a particular god or way of life. It’s almost like a cultural system that has individual views on important matters of life, relating to humanity and our behaviour. Depending on how seriously you take your religion, it can determine your life dramatically.

Personally, I am not very religious. Throughout the whole year, I would only go to church once – on Christmas Day. I often find that I don’t really know what I believe in and what I don’t believe in.

Sometimes I think that a religion is what you make it and that there is no right or wrong religion; it just comes down to being a good person. I believe in heaven, but I don’t believe in hell, yet they say you cannot believe in one and not the other, so am I wrong? I find there are so many questions that come with religion, and very few satisfying answers.

Four years ago I walked a bit of the Camino de Santiago with my dad, and then we walked the whole 900km throughout July and August 2010.

Since being introduced to the Camino, my thoughts on religion and what I believe in have changed significantly.

The Camino offers you something unique, wonderful and difficult to buy or find in life. It is peace, time and simplicity – more than you could ever imagine. The time you spend walking, on your own, surrounded with some of the most beautiful scenery, brings you to think about things in such depth and honesty. Your thoughts wander into areas of your mind that you didn’t think you had.

I found that walking in the complete solitude and the detachment from my life at home, I began to think differently. I began to appreciate different things; things I had not thought important before doing the Camino.

I learnt to cherish simple things, such as the moments when the climb broke and we were walking on flat again; or the first cup of tea of the day; or a juicy orange in the blistering heat or an inspiring conversation with a stranger.

These things brought me great happiness. They replaced the urge to go on Facebook and see what was happening back home; or putting on make-up in the mornings or doing my hair fancy. Slowly, those things slipped from my mind. I had three pairs of shorts and two T-shirts and they were simply what I needed; everything else was a luxury, an unneeded and unwanted luxury. These new values and appreciation came to me from the spirituality of the Camino.

Spirituality enables a person to discover the significance and heart of their being, and ultimately reveal their deepest values and meanings in life. I believe this is what the Camino gave to me. It taught me what was important, what to value in life and what to appreciate.

I realised that a large part of what I valued was materialistic and vain. Of course I still love to shop and all the other things a teenage girl does, but I have things in my life now that come before all that, things that give me greater pleasure.

I have things that are of higher value to me. I want to do well in university. I want to travel the world. I want to see beautiful things and I want to have wonderful memories.

The Camino is a breath of fresh air. It opens your mind and cleans it of all the rubbish, confusion, stress and worries. In the most wonderful way I have been introduced to a new way of thinking about life. I would wish that experience for everyone.

Natasha Murtagh is studying English and philosophy at University College Dublin. She is co-author, with Peter Murtagh, of Buen Camino! – a father- daughter journey from Croagh Patrick to Santiago de Compostela (Gill and Macmillan)