I’ve heard—and read—the advice: don’t expect your second pilgrimage, whether it’s on the same route or a different one, to be like your first.
I may be getting ahead of myself here, since I haven’t actually set out on my second pilgrimage yet, but it seems to me what no one mentions is that there’s at least one way the second can be even better than the first.
The first time around, everything is new and many parts are wonderful. The second journey, even if it’s on a different route, might never feel completely new. But, in addition to having its own amazing moments (as I’m sure mine will), it brings back memories of that past pilgrimage.
For me, anyway, there can be something almost magical about connecting with the past, whether it’s my own history or much older worlds. And just preparing for my upcoming Vía de la Plata journey brings back so many memories of my walk along the Chemin du Puy and the Camino Francés.
These aren’t the one-off I’ll-never-forgets that I wrote about the other week.
They’re little things that happened over and over; feelings and experiences I didn’t appreciate at the time. I’d forgotten all about them, in fact, until I started going through the motions—and they really are motions—of pilgrimage all over again.
There are the calluses that developed on my fingers from pulling my bootlaces tight—and are starting to reappear.
There’s the huge difference a small adjustment makes to the feel of my pack on my back.
There’s going to the store and holding one object in each hand, closing my eyes sometimes as I attempt to detect a minuscule difference in weight.
Trying out my backpack with all my gear the other day brought back every morning on the Camino at once—putting the light objects at the bottom and the heavy ones against my back. And then deciding what should go on top: a sweater on a cold day; sunscreen on a hot one; rain gear if it’s pouring or the clouds look particularly grey.
I haven’t walked more than an hour and a half with my pack this time round, so I haven’t yet experienced total exhaustion. But I like to think that even in that I’ll find a bit of magic. It’ll bring back those afternoons on the Chemin du Puy when my feet ached and my backpack felt like I’d loaded it with rocks and I was sure I’d spend the rest of my life in France because I certainly was never going to move again.
And I’ll think: Oh yeah, I remember now, this is how it feels.
And I’ll know that I kept going once and can do it once again.