by Robert Mullen
“The Camino finds you out. The Camino will provide what you need. The Camino will heal you if you let it. And most intriguing of all, the true Camino begins only when you reach the end.” ~Robert Mullen, Pilgrim
‘What am I doing with my life?’ is a frequent thought many people have as they approach a milestone birthday and author and hiker, Robert Mullen, turned thought into action when he reached 60 and embarked on a life-changing trip to the Camino in Northern Spain. In Call of the Camino, Mullen explores the myths, legends and miracle stories attached to the Camino, as well as his own journey as a pilgrim.
Today’s pilgrims on the Camino are of all shapes and sizes, religions, economic status and education background. What began in the Middle Ages as a strictly Christian undertaking has now been reinvented to accommodate pilgrims from any background or belief and with greatly varying expectations. Yet the actual experience seems to be surprisingly similar for all pilgrims.
A group of individuals is brought together by chance from around the world and assigned to bunks in a dormitory. Their task for the days ahead is to walk in the direction of Santiago de Compostela where the bones of the Apostle Saint James are believed to be buried. They will continue to walk in all weather, with no more belongings than those that can fit in their own rucksack. Sooner or later on their journey the pilgrims find themselves becoming one pilgrim as they step aside from what they are and what they do in the “real world”, as everyone now has the same task and faces the same hardships.
In Call of the Camino, the author examines the origins of the Camino in the Middle Ages, the stories that have become associated with the city of Santiago and its saint over the centuries, and the experience of having undergone a healing or transformation that many pilgrims report afterwards. While the most popular stories of the Camino have always been related to the miracles which are said to have occurred along its length through the intercession of the saint, new stories are today being added in which miracles may be attributed to the Camino itself. “El Camino nos desnuda” – the Camino strips us bare. In walking the Camino, all become equal. And the real miracle now is how many of today’s post–modern pilgrims come to consider the pilgrimage as one of the defining experiences of their lives.
For many “El Camino es una droga, el Camino se engancha” – the Camino is a drug, the Camino hooks you. This has certainly proved the case for Mullen. It is now a major focal point in his life and since first walking it in 2005 he returns each year to work as a hospitalero, a warden in one of the pilgrim refuges, as he responds again to the call of the Camino.