PC#30 – You’re never too old…

You’re never too old to walk the Camino.

I wrote about this during my walk – The Camino is full of OLD PEOPLE!


There was a lovely comment/post the other day from a fellow who was 68 who spent 49 days walking the Camino with his wife – and they had a tremendous time. And it occurred to me that it would be great to look at this again –

What astonishes me is that people in their 60s and 70s leave the comfort of their homes and battle the elements, and any health or past injury issues they might have, and hike up and down mountains, staying in basic dorm style accommodation, carrying heavy back packs, as they walk this ancient pilgrimage route.

Walking the Camino is not easy. It’s not easy for a young person. It’s not easy for someone fit and strong. Much less someone in their 60s and 70s.

And yet I hear stories, and I’ve personally witnessed, pilgrims in their 70s leaving the young kids behind – walking longer, walking stronger, and with more determination.

On my Camino, when I think back on those that took buses, trains, and taxis, invariably it was the young ‘uns. A lovely fellow called Bob, himself in his late 60s, said the older folk have determination and grit. That’s what keeps them going.

It it a generational thing? Do the Gen Y kids lack determination and focus?

Mind you, I met a fellow in his thirties – he’d walked from Le Puy – and he was nailing it. Walking 35-40km each day effortlessly. So it’s not fair to make generalisations about generations!

I heard amazing stories of handicapped people doing the Camino, of people in their 80s, and also of those who’d suffered some dreadful personal tragedy which in its own way would be crippling.

What enables these people to do this most arduous of walks?

It’s the spirit of the Camino that I believe infuses them with something quite magical. It restores their strength. It gives them courage each day. It makes them younger.

It makes them capable of things they would never think possible.

You’re never too old to walk the Camino, and I would add to that – you’re never too infirm, either.

(below is a photo I took at Lourdes – an ancient source of restorative water…)

Lourdes water tap

29 thoughts on “PC#30 – You’re never too old…

  1. Of course you’re never too old for just about anything!! It’s – as you so patently proved with your hard physical ailments, Bill – all about mind over matter and the Camino is as much about your spiritual journay as the physical one. I used to swim long distances as part of a masters club, and often my body would complain, but I never let it get dictated to by anything other than my mind, which was always up for the load I’d pile on. On the Camino my arthritis was complaining all the time, but again, I was happy to ignore all that internal body natter – and as I’ve said before, if nothing else could restore me, the vino tinto at the end of the day, would always do the job!! As for the Gen Y being wimps, there certainly seems to be some of that going around, and I guess it’s up to them to wo/man up or miss out!


  2. Hi Bill and everyone –
    This fabulous post is another confirmation about WHATEVER age you are just being a number. It’s ALL about the person you are – a positive attitude, a sense of humour, and gratefulness, keeps you smiling – smiles are much less ageing than frowns! One of my favourite quotes is from Denis Waterman in his ‘New Tricks’ role … he loved to say “Turn those frowns upside down!” … look what happens when you do … the years just disappear! BTW – Go Bhasma! First cab off the rank today! Cheers everyone – Jenny


  3. Bill, you know how I feel about those numbers. Just between the ears. Now, I’ll agree time passes and how fast, you measure by your kids. My son turns 30 years old today and my daughter 33 in about a week…. That’s all I’m giving your here. 😉


  4. Bill, While I agree wholeheartedly with your general sentiment, I have to respectfully disagree with regards to the particulars. You CAN be too infirm to walk. I know a young man who is unable to walk even a kilometre at a stretch. Of course someone could push him in a wheelchair (what a feat that would be as he is a big bloke), but he could not walk the Way. People have overcome great trials to walk, but it is unlikely someone will get up off their deathbed and make it. I’m just glad I got to walk with my 81-year-old father-in-law last year! Especially as the sudden onset of aches and pains that he never had before in just the past few months mean it is looking unlikely he will walk long distance again (short of a miracle cure).
    Rach~the~Realist 😉 (who is actually usually Rach~the~Romantic~Dreamer)


    • Hey Rachel,

      I’ll address this email then to Rach-the-Romantic-Dreamer!


      Yes, you are right.

      But one of the reasons I said that is yesterday, I heard of a doctor, an eye specialist, who had terminal cancer – he’d had a lung removed and was very sick – and he decided to do the Camino, but on a horse.

      You don’t necessarily have to walk it.



      • As it happens, a camino friend is currently in France voluneering with a french organization that faciltates pilgrims in wheelchairs to complete the Camino. This is a huge undertaking and it takes tbe group 5 or 6 years to complete the distance from Paris to Santiago. This year it is Bordeaux to SJPDP. They sleep in giant tents and “walk” each day and get bused back to the campsite. Its like a caravan. In a few days they move the tents. What a labour of love to be able to do all this.


  5. Glad to have the encouragement as far as age (just turned 54 yesterday) and infirmity. Love the idea of facilitation and tents for people who use wheelchairs. I believe that this is part of the charm of the Camino….I hear this and want to be a part of it…..

    PS: My kids are about the same age as yours, Ingrid and Bill, 31, 28, 26.


  6. Bill, I remember reading your posting in which you described those over 60 as being old. I fit that category but don’t feel old. ( Oh, goodness, did I just admit that? ) I am not physically fit but I live a hectic lifestyle and spend every day with young people in my work. I manage to keep up with them, challenge them and have daily spirited discussions on a broad range of topics. There are many young people who give much of their time to assist others. One of our students ( age 18) volunteers her weekends and spare time to assist people with disabilities. Another young girl I know (23) has a job as a live in carer for young people with intellectual disabilities. She loves her work and is very committed to it.
    Whilst many of our young people may lack determination and focus, there are many who are inspirational in their achievements.
    A young local lad (19) set off last week to fly solo around the world in a single engine plane.
    I hope that some of these kids one day will be volunteering on the Camino, in Cambodia, PNG, Africa and locally as they demonstrate their commitment to making our world a better place.
    I believe it all comes down to spirit, determination, authenticity, preparedness, having a supportive network and being true to one’s core values.


    • Hi Anne,

      I hope you gathered from my previous post that in saying people over the age of 60 were old, I was being both provocative and (trying to be) funny.

      And yes, there are some remarkable young people doing wonderful things, and wonderful humanitarian things too, as you outline.

      I hope I made it clear in my post that in saying some “young ‘uns” might have lacked determination at times, I wasn’t making a broad sweeping statement to that effect. Because like you, I know that not to be true.

      I am often amazed at the maturity and compassion of these “young ‘uns,” as I call them. And at their determination and follow through.

      It augurs well for the future of mankind…




  7. I went to Lourdes in 1991 and brought home a gallon of water from the fountain. I still have some. Cool and crystal clear. Never stops to amazed me.


      • Hi Julian,

        That’s right, you walked from Lourdes, didn’t you.

        That must have been an extraordinary journey.

        Have you thought about writing a book too?



  8. Great post, Bill! You have pleasantly reminded me of my late mother’s admonition that age is just a number. She encouraged me to always live life to the fullest. At 83, she still dressed as a witch on Halloween to distribute candy to the neighborhood children. No, she could not have walked the Camino because she was infirm and used a wheelchair. But if she was still alive she would have considered the facilitated walk of which Ingrid writes. She had a spirit that was much younger than her chronolgical years. A spirit that I gratefully learned I have inherited while on my Camino. Although I didn’t complete my Camino this go around, it was my mother’s spirit that spurred me on after breaking my leg near Lepoeder. At my next effort, I will be dangerously close to the chronological 60 you deemed “old” in an earlier post. Big smile. But my Camino spirit will be half that chronological age, and hopefully the damn leg will be healed and cooperative.


  9. My husband accompanied a small group of “disabled” people in May, walking from Sarria to Santiago at approx 7/8 Kms a day. He accompanied a gentleman of 89 yrs, who just needed a sure companion, because he actually managed much better than the rest of the group!
    We, as a couple, have walked the Camino 5 times, starting in our mid sixties. Part of the bonus for retired people is that we have more time to prepare ourselves for the Camino and, often more time available once walking this incredible Pilgrimage!


  10. My mom is 96 and uses a walker, and she no doubt could not walk the Camino, so instead, she walked it with me vicariously, and even used her computer to respond to my blog from time to time. This is a gal who was valedictorian in high school, and her college year book said “She’s so sharp she eats razor soup for breakfast”. Taking computer classes and has not lost a bit of her brain power, just a little harder to recall everything except all the trivia from her life that I love to hear about. She can remember the most minute details. Point is, I guess, she found her way to walk the Camino, albeit vacariously. BTW, she is also a Methodist preachers wife. He died three years back at 94 and they were married 72 years. She still wears makeup and jewelry every day. And while we are thinking about “old”, just a bit of trivia, but my mother’s mother, my grandmother, was born just outside Paris, France, in 1874. Custer was still fighting indians in the west at that time. And for those who don’t know, I celebrated my 71st birthday two days after returning to the US so I am deep into the category that Bill calls old 🙂 and I walked the Camino with just two blisters and sore feet most days, but nothing debilitating. Of course I whined a little from time to time. Steve


  11. No, I don’t think it’s a generational thing. Mine are 30, 29 and 27. My youngest completed a trek in Nepal at 21 that still leaves me breathless. My 30 year old is training for something that makes walking the Camino look like a walk in the park. Don’t believe me? Google “SAS Search for Warriors”. Makes a 58 year old dad terrified, but so proud! Peter. (8 weeks until we start our Camino)


    • Peter, you must be incredibly proud of your children. They sound amazing.

      I’m a bit the same. My daughter, at the age of 26 and with no interest in exercise AT ALL, went off and ran the Bombay marathon. It took her quite a few hours, but she did it.

      A year later she cycled the Camino. Again, with no training, never having spent more than a few hours on a bike in her entire life.

      I was astonished.

      So I agree with you, it’s not generational.



  12. I was just out this morning with my 21 year-old daughter, the youngest of five. We stopped the car to let a few people cross in front of us, the last one a lady with white hair. My daughter said “wow there sure are a lot of old people around”. I said, “sorry, what did you say?” She said, “oh never mind”




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