Why do Camino friendships last?

Really, when you think about it, it makes no sense.

You might have met the person only once or twice, and briefly at that – yet months later with each of you now at other ends of the world, you're still swapping emails.

And you know that should you ever lob into that country, that town or city where that person lives, you'll be greeted like a life-long friend – perhaps given a bed and told you can stay for however long you wish.

I'm not talking romantic attachments here. This is not as simple or as primitive as sexual attraction. This is genuine friendship. Yet you might hardly know that person.

What is it about the Camino that engenders this depth of feeling?

I can name half a dozen people from my pilgrimage that I would now regard as dear friends. And I largely kept to myself. I was by no means gregarious,

If I put a clock to it, if I calculated the actual time I spent with them, it might only be a few hours. But that brief time forged an immutable bond that I know will last years – in some instances perhaps even our lifetimes.

What's at work here?


In my book, I make a couple of references to the bonds of mateship that are formed during wartime. Soldiers in a trench about to go over the top, not knowing if in the next few minutes they'll be alive or dead.

The intensity of a shared experience. A life altering experience. Something that others who haven't been through what you've been through, will never fully comprehend.

But with the Camino, I think there's something more. Again in my book I talk about soul contracts between pilgrims. I'm talking about relationships that go back lifetimes.

There are people you meet who you have an immediate affinity with – who you feel you've known for ages.

Perhaps you have!

The Camino is a spiritual path. A life journey. A place where you are stripped back and reassembled again. A place where people come into your life for a purpose.

Are there people you've met only briefly on the Camino who are now dear friends? If so, why?



27 thoughts on “Why do Camino friendships last?

  1. I heard a phrase in a movie recently and it struck a deep chord with me relative to my life and especialy recently on the Camino, even being brought up as a catholic this made me believe in reincarnation as I met a few people on the Camino who I knew I had met before even though they were from a few thousand miles away. We just clicked it was as if we were continueing a conversation we had started earlier, and we are still in contact. I am not airy fairy about stuff like this but I now believe we are linked to people we meet.
    The phrase was:

    Our lives are not our own,
    from womb to tomb we are bound to others
    past and present,
    and by each crime and every kindness
    we birth our future.


        • They’re good filmmakers – those guys. (the Wachowski brothers)

          the same brothers (or brother and sister, because one has since had a sex change) -that made the Matrix movies.

          But the book is so rich and dense – almost impossible to make into a movie.



  2. Yes, I wondered about this often. And i believe too that there is some link connecting us to others we just haven’t met yet. I don’t know what that link stems from, whether past lives or souls recognizing each other and we don’t realize it. There is a man from the Camino I regret not having contact info for. I had met him and his partner many times over the course of our 6 weeks and saw him the last day in Santiago, just 10 minutes after receiving news that my daughter had had to make the decision to have our cat put down. I cried in his arms. I have never done that with anyone else, not even my husband.


    • Hi donna –

      that’s a very powerful connection.

      think about those soul connections that DIDN’t happen, because of circumstances.

      Free will and choice



  3. Hi Bill –
    Your statement above …”There are people you meet who you have an immediate affinity with – who you feel you’ve known for ages. Perhaps you have!”
    When I met Britta at the start of our group Camino it took me about 2 seconds to connect with her – she was the only one in our group of six walkers (plus Gordo and Pat who guided us) who I didn’t know. The rest of us wondered what the person with the exotic name would be like and how she would fit in. I knew the rest of the group would all gel and hoped that Britta would too – and wow – did she ever!!! She became a Camino Angel to practically everyone – offering back massages and foot massages, sharing her tennis ball so we could roll it under our feet and in doing so relieve tired and aching feet, and EVEN HER NUTELLA!
    Jokes aside, she was a true pilgrim – caring and sharing for others.
    I did have an immediate affinity with Britta, and it has grown from the first meeting into a wonderful friendship. As you know, she’s not afraid to ‘tell you straight’ (!!!) but really, it’s what you need to hear and it’s only a good friend who is going to tell you what you need to hear, with love and with compassion.
    I’ll say it loud and I’ll say it proud, I believe in reincarnation … possibly Britta and I have known each other in another life – possibly not – but in this life I hope that my friendship with Britta will be until the end of our days – I’d love to think of us ‘all’ growing old and still being friends. By ‘all’ I include Janet, who my long-standing and precious friendship for over 23 years now speaks for itself.
    Cheers – Jenny


    • Dear Jenny,

      From an outsider’s perspective, there is such a unique bond between you and Britta, and you and Janet. You all have very harmonic energies – and so it doesn’t surprise me that you say this – about feeling an immediate connection – as though you’ve known each other in a different life, or lives.

      For me reincarnation, if that’s what it’s called, makes a whole lot of sense on a number of levels, and it explains a lot too – such as this kind of immediate connection between strangers.

      When I took that shot of the three of you, I titled it Three Camino Angels – and that’s what you three are!



      • Thanks so much Bill – we do have a special bond, that’s for sure.

        The immediate connection between strangers can be a kind of ‘recognition’ – whether it’s picking up on a kindred spirit at a level you just can’t ‘quite’ recognise, you just know it’s there; or possibly it’s that cellular memory that is often spoken of, of someone in a former life who has come into your life once again, for whatever reason.

        Three Camino Angels – thank you Bill!

        Cheers – Jenny


    • Dear Jenny, … and she cried!! I’ve been very busy and not had PGS time and as I’m off to the Ashram tomorrow morning early and then to Canberra, will not have PGS time for at least a week … but thanks!! 🙂 and you and Janet too also 🙂


  4. I’ve personally found that sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t — the other thing is that the Camino can be a very effective means of destroying existing friendships, too.


    • You are right Julian, one of the couples I walked with broke up shortly after returning from the Camino, they weren’t married and I suppose just as well. I think all couples should be made walk the camino together instead of doing the compulsory marriage guidance cource, it would be much more effective in deciding if you wanted to spend the rest of your life with this person.


  5. Julian, I think sometimes the changes within oneself are so massive, that it can distance people for a while or some forever. I always then wonder, how much of a ‘friend’ they were to start with. I also believe that for the most part we attract people akin to us and then when we change, they just no longer fit, or more precisely, WE, no longer fit.

    The friendships formed via Camino, either pre, during or post, are powerful. Why, I have stopped questioning it. I just accept and feel so blessed. I did not ask for contact info while I was walking, I did hand out a teabag with my email on it to whoever I felt a deeper connection with and let them choose to re-connect. Accept for one, they all did, somehow. The only person I asked for his email was Stuart, my archangel from Scotland, who helped me finish my Camino the last 3 days. Inexplicably, I could not find his email once I got home, no matter how hard I tried. I finally, contacted the Confraternity of St. James in England and asked them to let him know I was looking for him and let him get in touch. Happily he did and I am so grateful, he was my father’s age, he even looked a bit like my dad, at least the way I imagined him, had he lived past 47. Stuart is now 83.

    When I started following Bill’s blog, I lurked for a rather long time. I didn’t know what to make of him. But there was a day, when he bared his soul and I felt such a kinship, I had to come out of hiding. He was a twin walking and each step he took, felt as he had stepped into my footsteps.

    I consider him a friend, never having met him in person, but I feel I know who he is and IF I ever had had a brother, he probably would fit the mold. And Bill, just like a sister, I could clobber you sometimes. 😉 I know, Bill and hopefully Jennifer and I will meet one day, no clue when or where, but it is written in the stars!

    This weekend, here in Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving! Last year this day, I was waiting for a friend of Itabyra’s (the then owner of A. do Brasil in Vega de Valcarce) to drive me to Samos. My walking days, I had thought at this point, were over. I did of course continue walking from Sarria on, somehow, with the help of Stuart. So, a year has gone by and today is as difficult a day, as it was last year..my cup runneth over, and I know the next 8 days will be bitter sweet memories. I thought it to be the end of a journey, little did I know, it was only the end of 1 quest and the beginning of another Camino all together.

    So I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! From my heart to you all, Light and Love, Blessed Be. Ingrid


    • Dear Ingrid –

      What a beautiful heartfelt post.. sister… 😉

      I feel the same about you Ingrid – and many others on this blog. A very real and deep friendship, even though we’ve not met. Yet I feel that if we were ever to meet, we’d sit down and talk like we’d known each other for years.

      Steve for instance is like a second brother – even though we come from different worlds. And Jill too.

      Your Camino, with it’s incredible difficulties, was like a cauldron – intensifying your experiences, and relationships. And proving to yourself that you have a level of courage and determination you probably thought you never had.

      Friendships born of that time will last lifetimes.



        • Sister-

          I thought you were on your retreat! Are you finished now? Are you back in Canada?

          Yes I should have mentioned you – but I couldn’t figure out how to describe you – not as a sister, and certainly not as a mother! – and being 5am when I wrote that comment, it became too hard.

          So my apologies.

          You are very special here – with me, of course, and with so many others too.



      • Bill, I have said before that i love you like a brother. Great that you feel the same and i knew that you did. It is amazing how our friendship could florish having never met and being halfway around the world. Is that the Camino or human nature? It matters not. It just is.

        Sorry about being a little slow on returns. In California as you know.



        • Hi Steve,

          I’m equally slow on returns. In Queensland now and about yo start my teaching / master class duties.

          Hope all is going well with you and Jill.



    • Julian, I think sometimes the changes within oneself are so massive, that it can distance people for a while or some forever. I always then wonder, how much of a ‘friend’ they were to start with. I also believe that for the most part we attract people akin to us and then when we change, they just no longer fit, or more precisely, WE, no longer fit.

      Yes; I agree — but there’s another aspect, is that the true Self is revealed on the Camino in some ways that are not normally possible “in ReaL Life“, so that friends can discover things about each other that they simply cannot accept.

      And there’s another possible combination, that you allude to, which is that the Camino can simultaneously reinforce one friend’s existing personality while deeply changing another’s, so that they can simply go through a process of drifting apart and no longer knowing each other, of losing whatever it may have been that they had in common.

      And Bill, sorry, but I would be very uncomfortable giving any examples.


      • Julian,

        What you say here about how relationships can drift apart is so so true.

        I saw one couple bicker the entire way. At the end, they both finished, but they had separated.



  6. Oh Sister, you are my fellow astronaut and star sister… there is much the bonds us, but those are stories better left to be told in person. I wish you and your precious son a very blessed Thanksgiving, may the one you love so dearly watch over both of you. Across the miles, in thought and prayer – hands are touching! ❤ Ingrid


    • Ingrid, you express this far better than me –

      Sister, I feel the same way.

      Perhaps it’s my Australian reticence to express emotions and feelings openly

      But you are unique, and very special, and I am privileged to know you, and call you a mate.



  7. Bill, my wife and I met Diane and Kathy at Orisson. We spent time with them at Roncevalles and then lost them for a few days. Then we met up again again at Los Arcos and it was so great to see them again. Over the next couple weeks we walked with them and if you walk with someone for eight hours, you find yourself touching on personal topics and bearing your soul. We became very close with them and it was so sad to leave them in Fromista because we had to head home.


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