Guest Blog – Arlene – Lessons learned…

Arlene has already walked the Camino.

She’s about to do it again.

Here’s her guest blog, about the power of the Camino to change you, from the perspective of an experienced Camino pilgrim –

How the Camino has Changed Me
And Why I Feel Compelled to Return

On September 1, 2012 I boarded the plane to take me to Biarritz, France.  I had been training for almost a year and felt strong and thoroughly capable of walking the Camino.  The hideous climb up to Col de Lepoeder did not look so daunting in the guidebook.

After all, I live in the foothills of two mountain ranges in Tucson, Arizona.  I trained on top of Mt. Lemmon at 9,100 feet. I trained in temperatures over 105 degrees Fahrenheit every day.  I was ready, willing and able.  The Camino was going to be a walk in the park for me.

I was Desert Hiking Chick – hear me roar!  I was arrogant in my self confidence.

First Camino Lesson – I was humbled. No, I was not Desert Hiking Chick!  I was an out-of-breath, out-of-shape old lady who had to stop every 10 feet to catch her breath with a 22 pound pack on her back climbing the Pyrenees Mountains.

The Camino removed the arrogance and superiority I exhumed so confidently.  I no longer feel the need to be smug; in fact I now believe such behavior on my part or in others is offensive.

Second Camino Lesson – The Camino showed me how being around negative people is conducive to being negative myself.  I ran into an extremely negative, opinionated woman who didn’t have a pleasant thing to say about anything or anybody.  After a day or two, I began to feel negative about the Camino experience myself.

The Camino taught me to avoid negativity.  But at the same time, it taught me tolerance of others.

Third Camino Lesson – It became very obvious that all I needed while on Camino was a clean change of clothing, a place to rest my head at night and food to sustain me.  When I returned home, I began, and still continue, to get rid of unnecessary stuff.  I’ve donated many items to those in need.

The Camino taught me I live in my own world of excess.  I may have the desire for certain material things but no true need for them.  It has caused me to contemplate seriously the need of the item before I make the purchase.

Fourth Camino Lesson – The Camino showed me on a daily basis the kindness of others.  There was always somebody willing to share or offer a helping hand.

While I was trekking up to Alto de Perdon, my trekking pole kept collapsing.  The adjusting clamp needed to be tightened.  I stopped to search for my Swiss Army Knife to tighten the clamp and two fellows from Minnesota stopped to help.

They gave me a 2 euro coin and told me not to use a screw driver it would strip the screw but to use the coin instead.  We laughed at the idea of them giving me their 2 cents.

The Camino has taught me to be kinder and more generous.  It has opened my heart to being more charitable.

Fifth Camino Lesson – Most importantly, the Camino reinforced the presence of God in my life.  God walked with me every day while I was on the Camino.  And, I am aware of his presence every day since.

I am returning to the Camino on September 15th, just a few short days from now and then again on the PGS Camino Tour in April, 2014.

I feel compelled to return to the Camino.   I figure I have the Camino Virus or as I like to put it….Once Bitten!

But when I put all kidding aside I simply feel the Way of St. James is not finished with me. I have not yet completed the Camino curriculum.

38 thoughts on “Guest Blog – Arlene – Lessons learned…

  1. Hi Bill ~ quick question… Does Arlene have a blog site? Or is she blogging through your site? She and I had back and forth on my blog in June when I was on my Camino (she helped me mentally get through a tough time with my blisters) and I would love to follow her.

    Hope all is well!! I continue to follow you and catch up on your post Camino reflections and pending book.



      • Thanks Bill!!!

        As I was catching up I saw you are hosting a Camino walk in April 2014. Looks interesting and may have to consider…planning a family trip to Italy so not sure it will work out but I do know I will return to the Camino I one day!!!


        • Nicole –

          It would be great to have you along.

          But I know that personal circumstances sometimes intervene.

          It’s going to be a fantastic tour…



    • Hi Nicole,

      How are you doing? I tried to contact you after you returned but I suppose that reply on your blog didn’t get posted.

      I would be pleased to have you follow my blog. As you know I am leaving for the Camino on the 15th of September. The blog address is

      How are your feet?



      • Hi!! Feet have healed but the two toe nails I lost are slow to return… I was so excited to see you we’re returning to the Camino! Checked out you pack list and you are coming in at 13-14 lbs 🙂 which is what I will aim for when I return someday.

        I have two Camino friends I met while training here in Atlanta – they start in Burgos around Sept 26/27 I believe…Laura and Robert…I am going to forward them your blog so they can follow you…you never know, you might run into them 🙂

        Looking forward to hearing of your Camino tales in the coming weeks.


        • Nicole,

          I’ve eliminate some more things from my backpack.

          It is now coming in at 12.16 pounds. I’m blissed! And from experience, I believe I will be just fine with the things I have in the pack. If you would like help before your next Camino, email me and I’ll be more than happy to suggest.

          Those lost toenails sure do seem to take a long time to grow back, don’t they?

          I’m glad we reconnected.



  2. Good morning Arlene and PGS family. Celebrating Labour Day in Canada and the word “labour” conjurs up all kinds of memories.

    Arlene, are you sure you weren’t piggy packing in my body or visa versa because you walked a few days ahead of me? I had this big grin on my face reading your guest blog.

    Ah that mountain – what a lesson of humility – I thought I was dying. It totally surprised me, because like yourself, after all I was born in the mountains… just forgot that 40 years had past since I last climbed one. 😉

    Negativity – yup… sounds similar to one of my fellow pilgrims… as much as she was fun at times, just had to walk away from her after Alto de Perdon.

    Still sorting and tossing and almost a year later now…not done… how is that for holding on to “things”

    Totally survived on the kindness of people post injury.. angels all of them.

    Still working on #5, but it is a labour of love now.

    When I came back from the Camino last year, I promised my husband that I would not travel abroad in 2013, however all bets are off for 2014. He, like many of my friends ask me why I feel the need to go back and my answer always is: “the Camino and I are not done with each other”.

    Arlene, I envy you just a tinsy bit… oh how I wish to hitch a ride with you again. Buen Camino Peregrina, y por favor, abrazo a Santos. Ingrid


    • Ingrid,

      It is unbelievable we had such similar experiences.

      As far as “sorting and tossing”, I am also continually coming upon another item that needs to go.

      My gosh, can you imagine if we had all the money spent on “stuff” squirreled away instead of squandered unnecessarily how many Caminos we would be able to walk?

      Thanks for cheering me on, you will be with me through my blog and with me in my thoughts – as will the rest of my PGS family.

      And, certainly Ingrid, I will hug St. James and bring a prayer to him for you.

      If anyone else would like to be remembered by a hug of St. James, a thought or prayer, let me know. I will be more than happy to carry your intents with me.



  3. Dear Arlene, your 2nd lesson particularly resonated with me. When I split up with my husband about 10 years ago, and was clawing my way back to the ‘me’ I knew was in there somewhere, one of the things that turned things around for me was recognising that I could refuse negativity. I even had to ‘toss’ a couple of people out of my life, who I’d thought of as friends – it was a really good lesson to learn and one I’ve tried to live by since, much as some people find my decisions both hard and harsh 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful 2nd Camino 🙂


    • Britta,

      Another similarity discovered for me! Gosh, we are all unique but so many of us share experiences.

      I have purged several friends since my return from Camino last year. My eyes were opened and I can no longer tolerate continuous negativity. Sure everyone is entitled to a bad day, a day when they need to grump and be disappointed and maybe even judgmental.

      But there are those who live their lives in that grumpy, disappointed, judgmental way. Those are the people who have been eliminated from my life post-Camino.



      • One of my favorite quotes was, “surround yourself with people that celebrate you, not just tolerate you”… so for some time I purged some people from my life. It was necessary to be able to breath. 😉

        Not too long ago, I spoke about my Camino experience to a group, were I talked about the box I had created around my heart, not letting anything or anyone break through those walls – I had had enough.

        As I walked, step by step, those walls started to crumble and I stepped out of that box. No more boxes, no more walls, the door is wide open to all. Whoever steps over that threshold is welcome, warts and all. I have come to the understanding, that I might not need them, but they might need me. I can say yes to the no, give light to the dark, hug when pushed away… I am happy with who I am, now that I have found myself again and not let the negativity of others touch me.

        One of the many gifts of the Camino to me. So when I say I walked in magic, it is just that.



        • Hmmm. Lucky you. Walked in magic? I walked in rain and snow. 😦 I know the magic was there, but it stayed inside most days. But, great reflections and memories. 🙂 Steve


        • Ingrid, Arlene and all -I am so enjoying reading about how the Camino has been such a blessed agent for change in your lives, and how it continues to be. That’s the kind of nourishment and impetus I get from God, so I can understand how transformative it is. I can’t wait to explore my own changes when I get there next year.You have all been such gift to me!


          • Ah, Sister, we are all sisters under the stars and we all have our own unique way of connecting to our creator. It is wonderful, when one has found that which makes us live in hope and be loving and fullfilled. The lives we touch and the ones that touch us, are like pebbles in the water, creating circles never-ending. BTW, I loved your response to Bill’s question regarding what God is to you.. the light of your eyes already gave testament to that. Blessings Ingrid


  4. Arlene, and anyone else walking the Camino. Give yourself a treat and spend a night in Casa de Diaz about 4 kilometers past Somos. It is an incredible place to stay. 5 star rooms and meal at a 2 star price. You can find it on line and I think even book it thru I picked up a brochure called Posadas del Camino that shows many affiliated hotels and hostels along the Camino and that is where I first found Casa de Diaz. There are many reasonably priced nice hotels mentioned. We stayed in several of them. I know you are not going to Larasona, but for anyone else reading this, a treat is to stay in the Hotel Akerreta which was used in filming “The Way”. A little pricier, but quite unique and charming. It is a renovated 1723 manor house. They saved much of the old wooden structures inside.


    • Steve,
      I stayed in the Hotel Akerreta last year. I loved it – Joseph was a wonderful host!
      I’ll make a note in my tablet to stay in the Casa de Diaz, where did you get that brochure?


      • I forgot that you stayed in Hotel Akeratta. That is where I got the brochure. You could get one at Hotel Duques de Najera in Najera or Hotel San Anton Abad at Villafranca, Hotel Norte y Londres in Burgos, or La Posada de Castrojeriz at Castrojeriz. Once you stay in one of them, then they should give you a 10% off card good at any of the others. Another really special one we stayed at was Hotel Real Monasterio de San Zoilo in Carrion de los Condes and also the Hotel la Posada Regia in Leon. Yes, we did do our share of albergues, but hotels were nice, and each time I stayed in a hotel, I thought of myself as a “real pilgrim” who was also very comfortable and warm. 🙂


  5. Ah Steve, I know, you got it all, the rain, the sleet, the snow, the drudge, I was wondering as I followed your blog, how I would have dealt with it… no clue of course. I love the rain, but not every day… I don’t particularly like the cold either… get enough of it each year were I live, but then I have a nicely heated home. I do not think, you or any of the pilgrims walking at that time of the year this Spring, were prepared or expected that kind of weather. You are all my Heros for not giving up.

    BTW, Steve, what I like about your comments is, that they are all very logical, grounded, no mushy stuff… brings us ‘dreamers’ back to reality. Like a cold shower…lol hugs Ingrid


    • Ingrid, You make me laugh. Yeah, I am not too good at mushy.

      I am reminded of a Charlie Brown cartoon I think I mentioned in my blog. Lucy and Charlie Brown are looking up at the clouds and decide to share what they see. Lucy goes first and sees the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and the Burgos cathedral. Charlie Brown says he was going to say a horsey and a ducky, but decided he did not want to play. I see horseys and duckys. Jill sees cathedrals and faces in the clouds. She points them out to me and I say, huh??? I am pretty boring.

      You would have dealt with the weather the same way we did. Grumbled a little and then realized what a treasure an upcoming bar is by granting a brief respite from the weather. I appreciated the simple things like heat and dryness. After a while I wanted there to be rain the next day so it could add to my weather bragging rights. 🙂

      After a while I quit looking at the weather on my cell phone because it always showed 7 more days of rain. My memories are great. If I have a choice, my next Camino will be in dry weather, but I don’t have a choice, but at least I know to be a little more prepared for ANYTHING.

      Bill’s advice at the time was to not check out the weather because it would affect my attitude. Now how would he know???? Mr. sunshine man. 🙂 I am seriously thinking of going in April just so I will be guaranteed good weather.



      • Steve,
        That would be awesome – to have you along on the PGS Camino Portugues.
        I’ve been hoping all along that both you and Jill will join us on this group 🙂


        • We will be driving up the Pacific coast next month and make a decision. We have not even talked about it. She will hear it first, here. Another tribute to Bill’s blog. Helps couples talk to each other. 🙂

          From: PGS – The Way <> Reply-To: PGS – The Way <> Date: Monday, September 2, 2013 11:55 AM To: Steve Langham <> Subject: [New comment] Guest Blog – Arlene – Lessons learned…

          Arlene commented: “Steve, That would be awesome – to have you along on the PGS Camino Portugues. I’ve been hoping all along that both you and Jill will join us on this group 🙂 Arlene”


          • Goodness, it is a good thing I am keeping up with this blog, otherwise I wouldn’t even know what my possibilities are!!

            Arlene, I am so excited for your trip, Its Here, Get Ready!! I know I would love to meet you all that is for sure. I need to be back in Palm Springs by April 23, so I think the dates would be perfect! Now, Steve, what do you think of that!! 🙂

            Travel, safely, Arlene and know that your Family will be with your every step!! xoxo


          • Hi Arlene,
            Evenings this week might be best. I think we are on the same time now aren’t we? PST? Im usually free by 7 of not before. But try me and lets see. Also, what about good times for you? I think you have my number don’t you? xoxo


          • Hi Jill,
            I’m working Tuesday and Wednesday but should be home late afternoon both days. So 7 or so is a good time for me.
            Yes I do have your number. Yes our time is the same now, Arizona doesn’t participate in DST.
            Talk to you this week,


          • Bill,
            That’s three to one and Sister hasn’t chimed in yet!
            Steve – looks like you might just have to sign up


          • Just woken up here in Aus and going through all the comments –

            Wow the blog has been busy this morning!

            Yes Steve, you will kick yourself if you don’t go and you have to read our blog posts each day.

            Do you really want to torture yourself like that?




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