The 4 things I learnt on the Camino de Santiago

by Matt Lim

For those who don’t know, the Camino de Santiago is a number of pilgrimage walks, which all lead to the cathedral in a Spanish town called Santiago de Compostella. The route that I took was the Camino Francés, which was a total of 779kms. As you can imagine, I had quite a lot of time for myself. Between the prayer, personal reflection and friendly chats with other perigrinos (pilgrims), I have come up with the top four things I learnt from my walk of a lifetime.

Take small steps to achieve your final goal

When I first started planning this trip, I created a map and placed pins at the towns I planned to stay at. My first impression when I zoomed out was “how am I going to finish this?” It seemed like an impossible task. This weighed on my mind until I eventually started walking. I quickly found out that on my big list of towns, the furthest I looked ahead was a maximum of 2 days. Before I knew it, I was a week out from Santiago and my goal was soon to be a reality.

Christ tells us, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

We are all called to be saints and be with Him in heaven. Just like the Camino, our final destination, heaven, seems far away. However, if we work at our short term goals, such as growing in a deeper relationship with Him and bringing others to Christ, we will eventually reach our final destination.

Worldly things never bring true happiness

Many people asked me why I went on the Camino. One reason was that I wanted to try to disconnect myself from my everyday life and develop a deeper relationship with Christ. However, ultimately the reason was as simple as hearing stories from other pilgrims and learning from them. Just to put the Camino into perspective, 186,199 pilgrims were said to have walked the French Way in 2018, so there were a plethora of people to talk to.

The common question that was thrown around was “Why are you on the Camino?” and there was a common answer. “I worked for X number of years, moved up the corporate ladder, have a lot of money, but there seemed to be no purpose in life or I needed some time away to reflect, because I didn’t find happiness in what I was doing with my life. I truly believe that if we strive for worldly things, we will ultimately never find true happiness. It is only through Christ that we can fully be satisfied with life.

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” – St Augustine

Less is more

At the start of the Camino I saw many people with huge bags with extra things hanging from it. A week into the walk they had either sent many things home or even left it behind. People quickly found out that the more you had in your backpack, the harder it was on your body. Luckily I didn’t have such a heavy backpack. I tried my best to take just the bare minimum. The desire for anything more slowly disappeared. It is hard to explain how this happened but I came to the realisation that there isn’t much we need to be happy and content.

I may have been alone, but I was never lonely, for God was always with me

One of my highlights of walking the Camino was actually meeting and walking with great people. The most difficult point, personally for me, was actually when I was walking by myself. I feel that life has made us lose our sense of being complacent with our own being. Surprising, the solitude was where I actually really started contemplating on what God was calling me to be. I started asking myself those difficult questions that the world asks you to hide away in the deepest and darkest corner of your conscience.

Through this difficult state, I know God was trying to transform me and to direct me on the right path. It seemed that after really digging deep, I always came out with a sense of peace. That’s when I knew that, we don’t have to be afraid of being alone. God will always be with us, to support us, to guide us, to comfort us. We just have to be open to receive his love.

Matt Lim works as a part-time youth ministry worker at CYM and is a professional photographer with Iceberg Media. Read more about his Camino trip on his Instagram.

Catholic Youth Ministry
Catholic Youth Ministry
Catholic Youth Ministry is the official agency supporting and promoting youth ministry in the Archdiocese of Perth. Our aim is to assist young adults to build a deep and lasting relationship with Jesus and to help them find their place in the Church and the world.