Post Camino #16 – I can HEAR!

I found while walking the Camino I became very sensitive to sound.

My hearing became finely tuned.

During my months of training, and in all the years I've been walking, I've always listened to audiobooks on an iPod.

I chose not to on the Camino.

I wanted to use the time to think, without interruption. Without distraction. I took my iPod, loaded to the 16GB max with books and music, but that 100gms of weight never came out of the pack. Not once. Not even on the plane home.

An unintended consequence of this is that I noticed my hearing improved. Or at least, it became more sensitive to sounds.

I heard birds. I heard streams and rivulets I couldn't see. I heard the wind.

I heard.

But I also heard things I didn't want to hear.

Cars coming up behind me sounded disproportionally loud. They would whoosh past me and they were violent. That's the word that kept coming to me as a car screamed past. Cars are violent.

My issue with the influx of pilgrims from Astorga on wasn't that they were short-cutting the Camino, or that there were so many of them, it was that they were loud.

Their laughter to me seemed like shrieking, and their footsteps sounded like soldiers with boots on the march.

That's what upset me the most, the noise they were making.

My hearing had become so sensitive, and attuned to the natural sounds of the Camino, that extraneous sounds were almost painful. And at times they were disturbing.

I'd become to regard the sounds of The Way as sacred. Church-like. You don't shriek in a church. You don't talk loudly. You don't clomp your feet. You respect where you are.

As a filmmaker, I understand sound. Not many people realise that when you're making a movie, you spend more time collating and editing sound than you do image. It's way more complex.

There is no such thing as silence. It exists in space, and in hermetically sealed environments, but nowhere else.

The Camino was never silent. There was always a cacophony of sound, if you cared to listen, even on the Meseta.

Especially on the Meseta.

I listened.

Now, many of my most wonderful memories are of things I heard. The cuckoo birds. The rush of water by the track outside of Samos. The wind on the high plains. The distant sound of cowbells in misty Galicia.

My camera enabled me to see, but in not using my iPod I was able to hear.


27 thoughts on “Post Camino #16 – I can HEAR!

  1. Can totally relate.

    Even now when walking the woodland trails in northern New Jersey for hours. I don’t listen to my Nano. I have it…just in case, but used it only on one occasion. The subtle sounds of the woods become so audible. Of all of my senses though it is my sight that is heightened. Everything looks crisper even hours after returning home.

    My husband and I were also rubbed by pilgrims beginning there journey further along the Camino. We came to understand that we had become immersed in a meditative lifestyle that was new and perhaps misunderstood by those just beginning. It was all part of the journey, ours and theirs.


    • Hi Jasmyne – yes, it really does become meditative, doesn’t it.

      And I know what you mean about increased acuity of vision. Everything seems clean, like a spring rain has just come through.



  2. Did the silence help you here your own thoughts? Did the silence speak to you? Our world makes it difficult t hear nature, and hear our own selves. It brings to mind of Ralph Waldo Emerson, although I have not read alot of him.


    • Your intuition can’t be heard over noise, and chatter.

      I wanted to walk The Way intuitively, so that I could hear my inner voice.

      And yes, it spoke to me constantly.


  3. You’ll like this one, Bill. It’s a compilation of moments on the Camino. The walker does not speak nor provide a musical background, yet the sounds are enthralling. It’s one of my favourites.


      • Laura –

        What’s fabulous about this video you’ve posted, (thank you again!), is the sound of the footsteps, and the distant wind.

        You can start to understand how hypnotic this walk can be. And how the sound of even your footsteps can seem into your soul.



    • WOW, that is just amazing!! I was concerned enough with carrying my sticks, no less holding up a camera or phone for seemingly hours on end. Very impressive dedication and so lovely to share with the rest of us in our travels on and off the Camino.


  4. I know just what you mean. Its the richness of sounds where I live that draws me to the woods and marshes-the night birds, leaves rustling in the wind, geese overhead spring and fall. I never used to know how much bird migration takes place in the dark of night.The ways the sounds change is a better indication of changing seasons than any calendar. The crickets just began to sing again three weeks ago. They are so loud ( and wonderful) that at the beginning it’s impossible to.sleep for their singing. It takes a few days before you become re-accustomed to it, and are able to sleep with the windows open again! And I love every minute of the ripening, then sleeping, year.


    • Dear Sister, that’s so very beautiful, what you’ve written.

      And so ver true, too.

      The changing of the seasons is as profoundly manifested through sounds, as any other of our senses.


    • Sister, You have such a way with words. I can almost hear the sounds you are describing. Unfortunately, my hearing has been off from about 19 years old, and prevents me from hearing many of,the sounds you describe, but fortunately not all. I have hearing aids but rarely used them as I enjoyed being alone with my thoughts. I can hear the sounds but not always decipher them. Sounds of nature are the very best. Man can not top that. Steve


  5. Bill, no surprise there, just as your vision is better… I believe it to be a very healing walk, for you, for your body, mind and soul. The challenge I am having in writing my own “camino memoirs”, is the difficulty of listening to myself speak. I used a voice recorder to record my thoughts, impressions, emotions both pain and joyful. There is a stretch walking up to Orisson, I even hear my heartbeat. Aside from wanting to see the stars as I walked, by leaving very early in the morning when it was still dark, was the magic of the dawn breaking, the sounds, as the world awakened. As much as I enjoyed the company of my fellow pilgrims, I preferred to walk “sola”, by myself. I then not only heard with my ears and saw with my eyes, I heard and saw with my heart and so, I truly never walked alone.



    • Yes Ingrid, that’s the funny thing. When I tell people I walked alone, they ask: Didn’t you get bored?

      Not one minute was I bored, because of this constant conversation with yourself, as you say.

      So you’re into your writing? Fabulous! Can’t wait to read it!



      • that’s the funny thing. When I tell people I walked alone, they ask: Didn’t you get bored?

        Not one minute was I bored, because of this constant conversation with yourself, as you say.

        hmmmm, the quality of the loneliness is not the same on the Spanish Camino Francès as it is when you’re walking ALONE, hundreds of KM away from the Pyrenees ….

        When I walked from Paris in 1994, I didn’t meet a SINGLE other pilgrim for over four weeks ; and whilst a combination of the constant conversation with myself and my blister and pain problems kept me well preoccupied for two weeks, the third week was absolutely hellish in the sense of facing that utter LONELINESS of the solitary pilgrim, of knowing that NOBODY that I met on the way would be someone that I would EVER be seeing again.

        This was certainly a transformative experience, but it most certainly was NOT a pain-free one.

        Though the worst loneliness I’ve actually felt, which was surprising BTW because after the above I had been thinking I could handle it perfectly, was in 2005 — because after about the first three weeks alone, I ended up on the Arles route where there were other pilgrims including some that I met more than once, and shared albergues with more than once — but then I split off from there on a solitary route towards Lourdes and SJPP, and found myself alone AGAIN for nearly two weeks, and this time it REALLY hit me, because I had become in a way “unprepared” for it again, and the cumulative loneliness of the first three weeks also hit me with a vengeance.

        I have heard from more than one person that walking back from Compostela is even worse, because although you face a constant stream of dozens or hundreds of pilgrims every single day, and although you’re sleeping in albergues filled with Santiago pilgrims, you’re not “with” them, you’re walking the other way, and you’re facing the even worse kind of loneliness which is to be alone in the middle of a crowd of your fellow pilgrims, NONE of which you are likely to EVER see again — I have experienced this partially, hitching lifts back home, but the difference between walking and hitching is significant in this respect, because you’re at least sharing your journey with your drivers.

        A story : in 1994 I hitch-hiked back along the Camino, from Santiago to a little further than SJPP — and one of the very FEW pilgrims walking back was one that I talked with, because he was French, and because I was in dire need of some French conversation, and pop! — there he was.

        Well, after I reached santiago, and then started hitching back home, I first started hearing about him again about halfway from Santiago to Burgos, a dutch couple in one of the big tent albergues that they had there at the time telling me how the loneliness was hitting him hard, and that he was even thinking of giving up the Camino — this was one of those strange Camino Surprises, because yeah, I had left some stuff in the albergue in Burgos that I needed to pick up — so then, naturally, I get to Burgos, and there the guy is. So he got to see a pilgrim he’d met before — and even next morning, we left together, to walk the 5-10 KM out of Burgos towards France together, he on the Camino, I on my way to a good hitch-hiking spot. This was significant for both of us, though we didn’t much discuss it — there was simply no need to.

        Then in Paris, several weeks later, I heard from a chance encounter with another pilgrim, just back from Santiago, that he’d met my French pilgrim in the albergue at Roncesvalles on the eve of his last leg over the Pyrenees back into France !!! The Camino really DOES provide !!

        So — IMO this is the even deeper truth about the loneliness of the Camino ; no matter HOW lonely you get or you think you are, you can NEVER be so alone on the Camino that it will abandon you, and the Spirit of God is always there, taking care of us, and to make sure that we won’t get lost along the way.

        And that’s why it’s NEVER boring ; because not only do you have yourself to converse with, but you also have an extraordinary dialogue with the fullness of the Camino itself to engage in — if you can only open your ears, and listen to it.


      • That’s a wonderful story Julian.

        I thought about the few pilgrims I met walking back, against the tide. And how they’d spend the night at an albergue, them going one way, everyone else of course following the yellow arrows.

        What that must feel like.

        You’d need to be emotionally strong.

        I was never really alone, because I could always speak to my wife on my cellphone. Doing it the way you described would have been tough. And, as you say, transformative.



  6. That clip of Laura’s is one of my favs as well.

    Bill, I love how some of the photos that perhaps weren’t selected as an original favourite…..are coming in now to help explain your thoughts. The one today is perfect….


    • Oi Wayne! You caught me out, talking about sound!!

      (WAYNE PASHLEY is one of the world’s top film sound designers folks – there are very few better!)

      Wayne, you and Libby have got to do this walk, seriously!


      • Bill, I have been avidly following your blog (even reading it to my Mum) and have found all your revelations very inspiring – so much so that I haven’t wanted to intrude on your “spiritual mindset”.
        Reading about your journey of self discovery has really affected me very much, and I can’t wait to catch up with you in person and discuss the walk in detail.
        I would love to think I could aspire to walk The Way one day. I’m not sure I’d ever be brave enough to let go of my fear the way you have.


      • Dear Libby – what are you talking about?! You are one of the most fearless people I know!! You and Wayne make Jen and me look like pussies!!

        But – in all seriousness, thank you for saying those lovely things.

        I just had a long chat to Wayne (he’s a funny bugger – he makes me laugh) and I hear you might be coming up our way soon, so please get in touch because it would be great to catch up – and have one of our famed dinners together.

        I can then bring out my private collection of blister photographs to show you!


        love and big hugs


  7. Bill, Love your take on things, but equally I love the way you bring out such loveliness from all of your followers. ,I enjoy reading the comments as much as the blog, and that speaks to the sensitivity of the blog. My experiences this last week of walking from Sarria have been different than yours. I will see a group of 30 or so, but once beyond them it honestly does not feel any different than before Sarria. I still have a lot of,solitude alone with my thoughts. 19 kilometers to go in the morning and then I will be in Santiago.m a big day. You have so very much enhanced my experience. Steve


  8. Hi Steve – thank you! It pleases me enormously that there are a few regular contributors to this blog that bring wisdom and insight not only to my posts, but to the comments of others as well.

    I love it when the blog becomes a vehicle for a couple of posters, and sometimes more, to engage in their own private conversations. Fantastic. I learn from all these writings and interactions.

    As for you, mate – wow – did you think a month ago you’d ever be 19kms from walking into Santiago? Remember those times you wanted to give up? Remember how you kept saying you had no commitment to the Camino?

    What a switcharoonie you’ve done!

    It has been the most wonderful experience for Jennifer and me to watch your progress, and to see your very real transformation. This might have been the most important six weeks of your life. Only you will know that. But certainly in watching from afar, as Jen and I have, we have been witness to a stunning shift in your writing, your photography, your thinking, and the expression of your feelings.

    I suspect though that all this has been within you all your (nearly) 71 years, but perhaps it’s been the Camino that’s brought it to the surface, buffed it up, and allowed it to shine for all the world to see.

    Perhaps as well it’s the Camino that’s made you feel safe enough to express it.

    It’s been a privilege to share your trip with you, even in the small way that I have, and I wish I could be in front of the Cathedral to greet you when you walk in.

    It would be a pleasure to shake your hand.



    • Bill, Would have been a pleasure to shake your hand and an honor. You, like Jill, were with me in my mind and spirit. I guess I have changed more than I realized and I will do a blog this afternoon or tomorrow with my thoughts. I think they will clarify as I attempt to qualify them. You have been and remain instrumental in my journey. Thank you, Steve


  9. Bill, your thoughts and reflections just keep coming. Your depth, insight and honesty are creating a transformational wave across the globe, as people (many unknown to you) follow your blog, connect with their thoughts, engage in self-reflection and share their innermost fears, challenges, hopes and dreams. This is becoming a very special supportive community of kindred spirits. I cannot thank you enough as it has certainly helped my emotional and spiritual preparation ( 91 days to go). The physical is still a huge challenge.
    Having read the change in your sight and hearing, I am most interested to know of the effects on your sense of smell. Has this changed also? As one who has an extremely sensitive nose which often brings fear, I would be interested to know more. Perhaps you have already planned another post Camino blog on this subject.


    • Dear Anne – it’s amazing to think that my ramblings might have an impact on others, and I thank you both for following the blog, but also for saying what you said about the blog becoming a special place for kindred spirits. I sincerely hope so.

      A blog is a safe place really – my work colleagues (other than Wayne and Libby, damn you both!!) – don’t really see this side of me, and they don’t even know this blog exists (ooops, Andrea and Michelle!!) – but it allows me to discuss stuff that wouldn’t interest a lot of my work related friends – and probably some of them would violently disagree with the sentiments I express here, or they’d think I’ve turned whacky. (Which perhaps I have!)

      It’s also a safe place for others to express thoughts and sentiments they wouldn’t normally share wider – and I think that’s one of the reasons the blog is becoming a hub for some really interesting discussions on a wide variety of subjects, some of them Camino based, some of them “off topic,” as the blog/forum speak puts it.

      I do have some very smart and wise people following the blog, and that means I have to lift my game each time I post! I can’t just rabbit on about anything – I really have to give each post full consideration.

      What’s interesting is that according to the blog stats, I have about 500 people viewing my blog each day, even this long after having done the walk. During the walk, I had about 2000 people following me. But even now, with these “audits” and “post Camino” thoughts, I have people from all over the world checking in – the majority of them interestingly from America. I find that amazing – that there’s still interest.

      As to my other senses: I am blessed with a very poor sense of smell. I say blessed because it was very handy on the Camino, not being able to smell. And whilst I’d like to say that my sense of smell miraculously improved during the walk, it didn’t. Which is probably a good thing, because every time I took my boots off, the room would clear.

      I “let go” my deodorant early on, because it weighed 75 gms. When My wife met me in Santiago, that’s the first thing she demanded I buy from the mercado. I was a bit wiffy, and of course I had no idea…


      So no, my sense of smell hasn’t improved – so I’ll take that as a positive when I begin my next Camino, from the southern tip of Portugal!

      Thank you again for posting your comment. Knowing that you and others are getting something from my posts means an enormous amount to me.



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