Brazilian photographer Marina de Almeida Prado joined us in June 2012 along the Camino de Santiago.
Here she shares with us and comments on some of her favorite photos from her pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. To see more of her work, please visit her website.
Marina de Almeida Prado's Photo Essay on the Camino (2012)
In September 2010, exactly on the 14th, I woke up thinking about the Camino. I knew absolutely nothing about the Camino. I only heard of a few people who had already done it. I eagerly started researching. But a few days later I was completely discouraged, because in my current life with a son, husband, job and home, the thought of leaving everything for 40 days off was just impossible.
One day, just because I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I posted the word "CAMINO" on Facebook and immediately a friend asked: Did you do it? I said no and that I would love to do it but 40 days was not feasible. And she told me, there were other ways to do the Camino and told me about the website www.onfootinspain.com.
She told me: “Choose which way and how many days you want to do it. I recommend it!”
My contact with Nancy began on the same day, but due to lack of vacancies, I waited until June 2012.
And on June 3 I left for Spain. This would be my first trip all alone after 12 years. A very special moment. I chose the route "On Glory Roads," The Camino de Santiago From Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela in 12 days.
I’m a photographer and I took all my equipment with me. But I wanted to photograph every second of the journey and by the third day I opted to take pictures with my Iphone 4S so I could use the effects of Instagram and immediately post all my emotions to the world.
There were places and people during my journey that touched me so much. During my time on the path, away from my daily life, I realize what a very privileged person I am. What a great life I have and that I am a truly blessed human being.
One thing I can say for sure: after 12 days in the company of 11 wonderful Australians, 1 American (Nancy), and 2 Spanish guys (Jose and Sam), something very special was born inside of me. Unforgettable!
I’ve attached some of my favorite photos. Click here to follow the link to the gallery. Here are my comments about some of the photos:
I couldn’t believe how gorgeous this bridge was. The water reflection was just amazing! The most beautiful bridge I’ve ever seen!
The second most beautiful view of my path. I felt like standing there, time stopped.
This moment was my favorite, because this view is the winner! I could feel the immensity, the liberty. My freedom!!
On the path, lots of stones piled up. These really impressed me.
The picnics were always a pleasant surprise, with different kinds of cheese, cold cuts and salad every day. A moment we all look forward to! And,the pilgrim bar, long-awaited throughout the path by all of us!
Another very special moment in my path...The deepest blue sunset of my journey. The view from my bedroom window. I think I could grasp the meaning of blue.
I was very touched when I arrived at the Iron Cross. One of the simplest and most meaningful moments of the Camino.
For a moment, this iron bucket made me go back to my childhood at the farm.
Close to Cebreiro. A very special place.
The mass, the smell, the people and the place. Pure emotion.
Marina de Almeida Prado
Fotógrafa - MAP . PHOTO
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Nancy’s Book Review
Walking Your Blues Away. How to Heal the Mind and Create Emotional Well-Being by Thom Hartmann (Vermont: Park Street Press, 2006).
I was gifted this book by a body worker who walked with us along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in 2005. After sitting on the shelf unread for at least a year, the right moment finally arrived to crack open the pages. It’s a quick read and easy to access. The most compelling parts are when Hartmann discusses how walking is a potentially healing activity for emotional trauma. This concept immediately began to resonate with my own anthropological work on the contemporary reanimation of the medieval pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, which culminated in my book Pilgrim Stories. On and Off the Road to Santiago (UC Press, 1998). In the late 1980s people from many different backgrounds, countries, walking experience and belief systems (and frequently without a religious motivation) began to take up the traditional symbols of the Santiago pilgrim, the scallop shell and staff, and set out on demanding journeys walking westward across northern Spain (and even the far corners of Europe) to reach the tomb of the apostle James the Greater in Santiago de Compostela. Every year since then, more and more people undertake this walking journey and come home with positive stories of self-discovery, personal triumph, transformation and, even, change.
I found over and over again during my research that many people were led to walk the Camino (a personal journey that can range from one day to four months depending on the walker) to work through their own personal issues. Many were at a breaking point – graduate from college, mid-life crisis, retirement – or had experienced a loss – divorce, death, employment. Whereas many pilgrimage sites, framed within a more religious context, are sought out by pilgrims to heal the suffering body, I found repeatedly that along the Camino, as they walked, people were healing the suffering soul. In Pilgrim Stories, I write:
The journey of the Camino can reveal wounds – loss, failure, fear, shame, addiction – left festering from daily life. Experiences along the way often act as the catalyst that allows them to be exposed. It has been, and appears to continue to be, a road for hopes and miracles of fulfillment of a different order. Some pilgrims, acknowledging this themselves, refer to the Camino as la ruta de la terapia, the therapy route (Frey, p. 45).
Through the walking experience people opened themselves up, usually without any perceived intention on their part, to a whole series of unforced emotional experiences. Time and again, people recounted thinking of people that had not been in their conscious thoughts for years, developing a more active dream life as well as feeling ‘more deeply’ while on the road.
In my book, I discuss this process of opening as part of the elimination of the distractions/stressors of daily life. When life is reduced to its basics and your mind is not absorbed with the minutiae of running a busy life, full of obligations and demands, all of sudden there is space for feelings, emotions, memories to come to the surface. While walking (though also many times during sleep and dreamtime), pilgrims described to me how they came to new insight, resolution or clarity regarding issues from the past. The walking became a healing process for both known and unknown or conscious/unconscious (prior to beginning the Camino) issues from the past.
In Walking Your Blues Away, Hartmann has added a new dimension to my understanding of this healing process on the cognitive level with his discussion of ‘bilateral therapy’ – the alternating stimulation of the right and left lobes of the brain ‘while thinking of a problem or issue’ (p. 30). Stimulating both the thinking and feeling parts of the brain with the bi-lateral movement, the person is able to process the experience in such a way that it is moved from the forefront of memory to the past thereby reducing its negative hold on your psyche. Apparently most of our memories are processed during our REM sleep – another form of bi-lateral stimulation. Sometimes, though, the memories are too big/painful to be worked through in REM. Bi-lateral therapy works to simulate the same type of memory processing so that painful experiences can be worked through and moved into the past. Hartmann explains, “With the walking therapy…in most cases this recognition that the experience is in the past happens during the walk itself. That is the key indicator that the session has been successful” (p. 13). By applying bilateral theory to walking (an activity that requires the constant stimulation of the brain’s left and right hemispheres with its side-to-side motion), Hartmann offers an excellent way for people to heal themselves without having to resort to traditional ‘talk therapies’, or even any kind of verbalization of the trauma or painful memories. He posits that perhaps we have been healing ourselves, since the dawn of time before we had experts – psychotherapists, psychologists, shamans, etc. – by engaging in our most fundamental human activities: walking and thinking.
His work is strongest when discussing the history of bilateral therapies and the application of them to walking based on his own experience and practice. Bilateral therapy has its origin in the development of healing techniques derived from hypnotism first recognized as therapeutic by Mesmer in the 1700s. He describes the fascinating story of Freud’s initial usage and success with bilateral therapy and hypnotism before he abandoned this path in favor of psychotherapy when hypnotism was discredited in Europe and America in the 1890s. His middle chapter on cultural bi-lateralism is over generalized and I found it to be an unnecessary distraction to the larger theme.
The last three chapters provide concrete advice on how to utilize his technique not only for resolving past trauma or negative feelings around a nagging issue but also as a means to increase creativity, motivation and physical health. His technique is thoroughly described and is easily accessible to the lay person. It consists of five steps very briefly summarized here (pp. 62-67):
1 – “Define the issue”. Figure out what’s bothering you and picture it in your head.
2 –“ Bring up the story”. Flesh out the issue and determine its level of strength inside of you.
3 – “Walk with the issue”. It usually takes less than 30 minutes to get resolution.
4 – “Notice how the issue changes”. While walking observe how your feelings around the issue shift.
5 –“Anchor the new state”. Review the transformation of the feelings to fix it in your mind.
He encourages a positive and optimistic viewpoint and helpfully reminds the reader: “Remember: There is no failure. There is only feedback. Learn from the feedback and continue on.” (p. 65)
His ideas resonate with my own observations of how people experienced the walking along the Camino. It was very common for those walking to come to some kind of resolution or decision. Many people wanted to do something more creative with their lives upon return home. Others spoke about returning to the Camino to ‘recharge their batteries’ – that the walking along the Camino gave them mental and physical energy that they felt lacking in their daily lives. Perhaps it was simply engaging in this process of bi-lateral movement while walking that allowed people to stumble along the path to their own healing process. In 2008 I interviewed a modern-day Camino legend, John the English gentleman who aids wayward pilgrims in his campervan, for a chapter I wrote for Lonely Planet’s 7th edition of Spain. He had a nice of way of describing the same process of healing. I asked him why he thought people were walking to Santiago today and he responded :
“My impression is that a very large proportion have suddenly been confronted with a grave problem with home, work, family, career, their physical health or love life…and they are so overwhelmed by their everyday preoccupations that they don’t know what to do about it. Walking the Camino is a unique kind of therapy. I call it ‘Self-administered Ambulatory Psychotherapy’. Troubled minds heal themselves – by walking the Camino de Santiago. (Spain, 7th edition, article: Camino de Santiago by Nancy Frey, p. 125, Lonely Planet, 2009).
John has also observed the healing quality that is experienced by those who walk this historical pilgrimage path. Intuitively people have sensed that walking to Santiago will be good for them and have heeded that call to go, once again, the ‘human speed’.
Hartmann’s book and technique will potentially be very helpful to people who walk (or those who don’t but who would like to) and who would like to more consciously make their walks productive for healing, creativity and focused thinking. While for many people the bi-lateral movement brings about the healing without realizing it, by having the technique available, it can potentially help people focus on problem solving as well as ‘anchor’ the new state so that the change is more lasting. In Pilgrim Stories, I write: “While it will not determine outcomes, making the pilgrimage can help the participant on a personal level to ‘rework the past’ and possibly ‘move toward a renewed future’ (Frey, p. 46). This sentiment is in essence the point of Walking Your Blues Away – it takes a very basic human activity and explores its great potential for healing and future well-being. Go take a walk!
 Thank you Erin Susan Parks for bringing this book to my attention. Erin is the owner of LMT Massage for Optimal Living in the Atlanta area.
The Grand Tour of the Camino de Santiago emphasizing the artistic, cultural and historical treasures of northern Spain while walking through scenic countryside to Santiago.
Combining the interior and coastal Camino de Santiago trails from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, the tour explores the historical wealth and beauty of these borderlands.
To prepare for and enjoy more your walking and hiking tour in Spain, along the Camino de Santiago or in Portugal, here are some of the brochures from these area’s official tourism websites (www.spain.info, www.turgalicia.es, www.visitportugal.com, www.turismo.navarra.es, www.tourism.euskadi.net).
They are great resources and will help you with trip planning and anticipation of your holiday in Spain and/or Portugal. Find many additional brochures not listed here through the tourism websites.
In 2008 Australian journalist and organic olive oil producer Dee Nolan journeyed with us on our On Glory Roads: Camino de Santiago pilgrimage tour.
She has crafted an extraordinarily beautiful book detailing her pilgrimage to Compostela - A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Penguin, 2010).
Dee Nolan's Food Journey Testimonial
Sometimes you just stick a pin in the map and get plain lucky. Or, as happened to me in this Age of Google, you click on one of the zillions of Internet entries for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, and find yourself reading about Nancy Frey. I just can’t imagine how my pilgrimage and my desire to write a book about it would have been if I’d hadn’t met Nancy and her partner Jose.
In an act of faith, our little gang of Australian pilgrims flew half way around the world and placed ourselves under Nancy’s tutelage. The result was an experience and a relationship that has been rewarding beyond any of our expectations. Her deep knowledge of the camino, of its history and its stories, past and present, put our pilgrimage in a rich cultural context that it would have taken months, or more likely years, to match if we’d had to tackle it on our own. As well, she gave us all an insight into contemporary life in Spain via her years of living in her adopted country and her time with Jose.
And best of all, we laughed a lot along the way.
Nancy and Jose’s adorable four-year-old daughter Marina accompanied us on our 11-day Camino de Santiago adventure. At the start of the first day’s walk she gave each of us a scallop shell - the symbol of the pilgrimage. In winter the family gathers shells on the beach near their home which they thread with red ribbon and give to their guests. Jose disappeared off each morning to track down sensational local produce for our picnic lunches - not just delicious, but the ideal way to understand why regional food traditions remain so treasured. Our itinerary was carefully chosen to build, bit by bit, the narrative of the Way of St James, medieval and modern, and so by the time we reached the cathedral in Santiago, the pilgrimage jigsaw puzzle fitted together beautifully.
Those of us from the other side of the world returned home with Marina’s scallop shell and the camino forever in our hearts.
Dee Nolan journalist and organic olive oil producer www.nolansroad.com
A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to Santiago De Compostela by Dee Nolan, published by Lantern / Penguin Australia, 25 October 2010, hardback 420pp, ISBN 9781920989910, RRP AUD 100.00.