Camino de Santiago 2021
16 July 2021, Marnix van de Poll set off from a little village near Eindhoven The Netherlands towards Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In 3 months and 3 weeks he walked the ancient path to Santiago, Finisterre and finisched in Porto Portugal. Every other week he wrote a blog post on his socials together with some pictures. You can read them all here.
On to my next adventure: Walking the Camino de Santiago!
The idea started very simple: I don’t have a house, let’s walk. Of course it’s more complicated than that. And of course there’s more to it than housing practicalities. I hope it will help me free up my mind and continue my personal growth. Many people talk of a life changing experience. Well, let’s see…!
Tomorrow in Vessem near Eindhoven in The Netherlands I will start following the route called Via Monastica, which will take me right through Belgium. Then I switch over to the routes Via Campaniensis and Via Lemovicensis diagonally through France. Lastly comes the Camino Frances, on which people walk since the 9th century! A grand total of 2.400 km. That’ll take me three to four months.
I sold all my furniture and my car, Mary Kondo-ed the rest of my belongings and tomorrow my pilgrimage starts. It’s a reset. Afterwards I will begin somewhere new, make a place, an atelier with my Steinway.
I can imagine that I will post something on my socials every now and then. Though, expect it to be very irregular…;-)
Abbey of Leffe
Heavy rain at the Abbey of Leffe next to Dinant has a new feeling to it after the flood last weekend here and the monsoons in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany two weeks ago. A small abbey in which I am taking a day rest.
Eleven days on my way and already I start to feel what makes doing a pilgrimage famous.
It is in meeting the friendliness of complete #strangers on a daily basis, trusting that they will be there when you need them. One example. A couple of days ago in the small village of Orsmaal I couldn’t find a place to sleep. No B&B, no priest, no hotel, and my feet were done for the day. I met Patrick and together we rang the doorbell of Hilde and she went on her bike ringing every door! Eventually I stayed at Patrick’s and we had a wonderful night with his
wife Sonja, daughter Fleur and Hilde, with nice food and home made elderflower champagne. Thank you so much!
And it is in learning about life and one’s self. In my case it is about learning to find balance and I am learning it very physically. To respect the boundaries of my body, my feet, legs and hips. They bring me to a halt and shout, I need rest.
One comment on my last Camino post spoke of my pilgrimage as a journey to the #present. I like that and it feels just like so!
Abbey of Leffe, Dinant, 27 July 2021
Today I Sat in the Forrest
TODAY I SAT in the forest
Looked at trees that stand there
And stand there
If not anger what will drive me
If not ego what will define me
If not thinking what will occupy me
If not housing what will shelter me
If not people what will center me
Let it be life
Let it be light
Let it be love
Let it be trust
Let it be joy
Let it be here
And be here
Viroinval, Belgium, 30 July 2021
A week ago I had a major breakthrough. And, it’s great luxury to walk every day. Through forests and fields, towns and hamlets. Just follow the path.
Yesterday I slept in an auberge and the bartender was blind. Still he tended to guests, served beer, handled money, cleaned whine glasses, manned the reception desk, answered phones. It was amazing to watch him at work wearing his blue disposable facemask over his nose and eyes.
Somebody called my pilgrimage my “journey to the #present”. Spot-on! During walking my mind keeps looking for anchor points to keep itself busy with thinking about words to be spoken, texts to be written, problems to be solved, ideas to be developed. Nothing needs to be done. The only important questions are: Where do I eat and sleep? How are my energy and my pain points?
Take for instance my breakthrough. The first two weeks I was having serious problems. Standing on my right foot was painful, my hips and shins were hurting and some joints of my toes were infected. I saw a GP and she advised rest, which I did. The issues kept returning nonetheless.
Was I not able to walk for long hours with 7 to 8 kg on my back? I started losing #trust in my pilgrimage. Then it hit me. The newly bought inlay soles, let’s remove them. Immediately I could walk again. The pains subdued and the joy of walking returned. They were too thick causing all sorts of problems elsewhere. On cue my mind went off.
It was seeing the whole thing as a metaphor; how one problem in life can cause other problems. And vice versa: random life problems can be indicators of an unimaginable root problem.
Well, let it think. Meanwhile, I follow my path.
First my shins need rest and so do I. It’s time for the local drink: #champagne!
Montmort-Lucy, 5 August 2021
Seeing the great #Basilique of Vézelay appearing in the distance moved me. I made it to this picturesque and important little city atop a little #mountain with spectacular views. 31 days into my #pilgrimage, of which 27 walking days, totaling 688 km.
One pilgrim said that the first month is for learning how to walk, the second for reflection, the third for partying. The first month is done. Arriving here is a major milestone.
On the main square you can see tourists, pilgrims, sisters and brothers of the two #monasteries and crew preparing a large #festival coming weekend.
So far I’ve met two other pilgrims, both from The Netherlands. In Vézelay a couple of pilgrim paths intersect, and many pilgrims start here. So it comes as no surprise that in the Centre Saint Madeleine, where pilgrims usually stay, I’ve met fifteen others in one day.
On the 32nd day I am taking a day off. Learning how to walk involved overcoming many problems. The footbeds of my shoes, serious shin problems, and more kept coming and staying. So I decided to buy new shoes. A major difference though I bought them too small. One of my hosts bought larger ones and brought them to me, driving 60 km back and forth. Fantastic!
It’s a wonderful example of the #generosity of people that I meet on a daily basis. Special thanks to Josee, Daniel & Nadège! Let anyone who lost faith in #humanity do a pilgrimage, preferably through three countries.
I love being outside every day all day and see different landscapes and people and ways of living. Regularly people stop me for a chat. I discovered that they do it more for themselves than for me. I take all the time for these encounters.
If you want to go fast, go short. If you want to go far, go slow. Let’s reflect on this and other things the coming month.
Vézelay, 17 August 2021
Today’s leg was outstanding! On my way from Éguzon to La Souterraine I walked through dense #forests waking up, steep overly green valleys with #waterfalls, green fields with many trees alongside the path and beautiful villages, like Crozant. As a bonus the blackberries are ripe, and there are many everywhere. How I like to eat fresh fruit straight from nature!
Today was a welcoming distraction from, let’s just name it, a bit of #boredom settling in. Many days are alike: get up, eat, walk, shower, wash clothes, eat, sleep, repeat. After 994 km the going gets the same.
For me the boredom tells a lot about how my mind works. It simply has too little to do. I slowly enter a stage where I can get passed the thinking into the #feeling, and then into mere being.
A friend reacted on my last blog’s remark about the stages of a pilgrimage. According to his memory the first stage is overcoming physical difficulties, then facing emotional challenges and finally spiritual growth. I am mentioning it here since I like this one too. The growth is something to look forward to.
Today was tough. 33 km with a combined total ascend of 505 m and descend of 396 m, and that with long stretches through the blazing sun. Nonetheless, I am joyful to be walking. Because a week ago a wisdom tooth broke while eating a sandwich. I had to wait three days to get an appointment with a dentist. Waiting. Not good for walking.
I keep meeting#interesting people. Yesterday a guy stopped me in Gargilesse-Diampierre. Within five minutes I played a piano for an audience of four. A nice lunch and an inspirational exchange followed. Thank you Jean-Philippe and Christine for your walking-tip. It really helps avoiding the pain in my hips. And thank you for contacting the mayor to see if I can come back to give a concert as part of my 2023 Canto Ostinato Europe #tour. I’d love to!
La Souterraine, 1 September 2021
Life is change, as is a pilgrimage.
After two months, two days and 1.415 km I’m almost through France! The landscape changed from forests in the north, to fields of wheat during harvest above Reims, then grapes for champagne and Chablis wine, flat and very green land with long straight canals after Never, forests again with meat cows around Limoges, grapes in the Dordogne, again wheat and maize fields and now flat land with lots of production forests, very similar to Holland!
Finally I can just walk everyday. Today a short leg after fourteen days straight to have the afternoon off. Nonetheless problems come and they also go. Meanwhile I just continue, like you do in life. And then suddenly in Aixe-Sur-Vienne a man has a gift for me, he writes my name in calligraphy. Minutes later I receive an ice cream, and while eating it I meet a sister on her way to the church and then she comes back to bring me a little souvenir. I didn’t ask for this, things like this just happen.
Walking the Camino means meeting many different people and ways of life, cultures and opinions. Fellow pilgrims, hospitaliers, strangers, hosts. Everyday I sleep somewhere else. In refuges and as a guest in people’s homes, in chateau’s and sometimes in hotels.
Through all these #experiences I feel that I am part of something far bigger than myself. I feel the greatest gratitude for all who hosted, fed, helped and inspired me. A thing like this you don’t do alone.
Well, what in life do you do alone? Nothing. We are connected through and through. Feeling this is discovering my #spirituality.
Roquefort, 18 September 2021
Today I crossed the border with Spain. CaminoFrances has started, I am so excited!
I was very much looking forward to the mountains. Sitting at the highest point I felt that now I can do anything (photo 2). So much power in my legs and in my mind.
To mark the phase change from France to Spain, from one #pilgrim route to the next, from meeting several fellow pilgrims to many, I took a rest day after walking three weeks straight. I loved spending time high up in the mountains at this wonderful refuge Orisson (photo 3).
Basque Country is so beautiful, very green, gentle, feminine (other photos).
Lintzoain, 26 September 2021
Hospital de Órbigo
I have passed Pamplona, Burgos, León, many small villages and, two days ago, the 2k mark: I have walked 2.095 km in 88 days. In 10-11 days I’ll arrive in Santiago!
Spain started with many goings up and down. Dense forests, nice viewpoints, harvest in Rioja, a wine fountain for pilgrims, tap as much as you want, free of charge and meeting many pilgrims from all over the world, my languages get all mixed up. We walk the same path, stay in albergues and keep bumping into each other. It’s a parallel universe, our own safe bubble.
The Meseta, roughly between Burgos and León, is infamous for its long stretches of nothingness. Going endlessly straight allows me to find a #meditative rhythm.
A friend of mine told me she is currently thoroughly rethinking herself. It made me think about identity. Who am I?
Well, is it the right question? Can it be answered? To be thought about and then to be taken with you for the rest of your life? Sounds pretty static.
Walking 17 km straight without any villages, other pilgrims, or corners, it seems you don’t make progress. Then it helps to know that at least I move. At some point that’ll get me somewhere.
Could identity be thought about as movement too? If so, then, Who am I? is a weak question. Stronger ones could be: Where am I now? Am I moving? What is my direction?
My camino is amongst others things about hearing my own voice amidst distractions. To stand alone. The more I do that, the less anger I feel, which is a result of suppressing my voice in favor of other things. The less anger, the less stress. I think this is why I feel good despite being tired. I follow my voice.
I wish I can do that after my pilgrimage too, so that it gives me direction for my movement.
For now, I am in a super nice albergue, waiting for a yoga meditation session and a vegan community dinner in the sunny garden, whilst eating fresh figs from the tree. Life can be so abundant!
Hospital de Órbigo, 11 October 2021
Yesterday I arrived at the Praza del Obradoiro, the square in front of the cathedral. This is the end point of all the caminos leading to Santiago. I did it!!
So strange, the mixture of feelings upon arriving and the day after. Gladness and sadness. The former is clear, happy faces, hanging around to meet others coming in, taking pictures and hugging and congratulating.
The latter was already building in the background for a week or so. It is over, this comforting bubble. And yet, it continues. I’ll walk to Fisterra, possibly via Muxia. This is the appendix many do, to the #sea, to the end of the world, as it’s been said. 3-4 more days.
Along the way I collected many stamps in my credencial which got me my “compostella”. It’s stated in this official document that in total I walked 2.383 km in 97 days.
Today and maybe tomorrow I stay here. So strange not to be walking after 25 days since my last stop. Already I miss my daily rhythm.
I need the movement, both physically and mentally. And I need the community. I think now that in the final analyses it’s the people around you that defines life, more so than where you are.
The third phase of my pilgrimage turned out to be both about party and spiritual growth. I had many merry times together in albergues with communal dinners and conversations on the way. Camino Frances gives a unique exposure to
people of many nationalities, generations and walks of life. That has made me softer, more understanding.
As said, the way continues. I’ll try and listen to where it goes.
Are you following your way?
If no, what’s in the way?
If yes, whereto is it leading you?
Santiago de Compostella, 21 October 2021
Or, in Galician: Fisterra.
The Romans saw this village at the west coast of Spain, three walking days from Santiago, as the end of the world. For me, it marks the end of my pilgrimage. And I couldn’t have wished for a better ending. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the sea, the sea, was glorious in it’s vastness. To see you, o sea, my heart jumped.
We sat there, me and my pilgrim friends, on the rocks, a hundred meters above the shore, at the lighthouse on the tip if the peninsula and watched the sun go down. It was a magical moment. Thinking back, now, two days later back in Santiago, again, my eyes get wet.
Well, and I shouted with all my strength: I did it!!
The next day in the afternoon I went up once more and I sat on the same rock for hours. Contemplating everything and nothing. Let the emotions flow. For what else could I do, after three months and ten days of walking?
This is not the end. Now it starts, as they say, the Camino of life. My next step, how to find the way? No more yellow arrows.
What, where, how, and, maybe more importantly, with and for whom? If you see an #opportunity for me to add value, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Around every corner everything can change, I learned. I leave the way with #trust in my mind and gratitude in my heart! Such an enriching experience.
So one more time: Buen Camino!!
Santiago de Compostela, 27 October 2021
Piano concert in Santiago de Compostela last night…
By far this is the #1 lastminute organised piano concert ever: within 4 hours from idea to execution. Yesterday at 5pm I heard piano sounds in the street in Santiago and it turned out to be coming from a music school. I went in to ask if I could give a concert the same night. And that I could!!It was a great moment with my pilgrim friends!!
My Camino prayer right at the start of my pilgrimage, one day in, 17 July 2021:
May I be open for everything that comes my way
May I receive with gratitude all that will be given to me
May my body be strong and my mind flexible
May I be at home within and connected with everybody I meet
May the acquaintances be mutual inspirational
May I enjoy the journey and all the beauty
May the wounds of the past year and of longer ago heal
May I learn lessons about life and myself that will stay with me for the rest of my life
May I find rest in movement
May my Camino be an extraordinary experience
Baiona, 1 November 2021
Today I crossed yet another border, I am in Portugal now. I am walking the Camino Portugues along the coast in the opposite direction towards Porto. It feels great!
In the first week of my pilgrimage I adopted two rules and I stuck to them ever since:
1. Don’t go back. If there is no solution to a certain problem (eg. where to sleep), don’t stop, keep going forward, the solution will present itself. Just don’t go back.
2. If it is hard to make a decision, sit down and eat something.
I sat down, and ate, and cracked my head, after finishing in Fisterra, taking the bus back to Santiago and giving a concert. What to do where? I couldn’t see what my next step could be, yet.
Then the second day in Santiago I remembered my golden rules. Why not walk on until something presents itself? When a friend told he was starting for Porto the next day, I made up my mind. Off I went, along the coast. It is beautiful.
An advantage of going against the current, is that me and the pilgrims going up, we are each other’s future, having walked today what the other will walk tomorrow. Time on the Camino works differently in many ways.
The temperature is dropping though the sun is out again. Now it is time to not only sit on a stone at the water front and contemplate #life. It is time to take off my clothes and jump in!
Carreço, 3 November 2021
I arrived in Porto and now I finally stop. It is done, my pilgrimage has come to an end. What an experience it was indeed!
I walked 2.758 km in 114 days through five countries – now my body too says it is enough. It needs rest. So strange, because it doesn’t really feel as if I’ve been walking so long. Time has flown by.
I would like to keep the pilgrim spirit alive. The #simplicity of living. The silence. The easy access to myself and other pilgrims. The clarity. The moving forward. Always being outside. No stress, no distractions, no mind, no planning ahead. The trust that The Way will provide. Listening to my voice and letting others walk their Camino.
And above all the gratitude and generosity: let’s share the abundance of life!
For those of you who are inspired and want to know more, please, don’t hesitate to contact me. And for groups I could give a talk combined with a concert. That’d be great fun to do!
My Camino has come an end. And, my Camino starts now. Integrating everything into all that has yet to come. Tomorrow I fly to Munich. Got to see about a girl I met in Finisterre. Excited, possibly a new phase is starting.
I’m diving in. Like I did in the ocean. Naked, with all I have.
Porto, 9 November 2021
Old versus New
The Camino has started, the inner that is!
I am back in the Netherlands now for three weeks and I am still trying to find my feet. Where to live, what to do, and, with whom?
Coming back by train from Munich, I felt so powerful. Though in the middle of the first night I was awake and lost most of it. Hopefully the teachings of the Camino and the #clarity that comes with it will help me access the deeper layers underneath more easily. And not to worry, I start most of the days with new #energy and several times a week with long walks. It’s grand!
What I am discovering is a very clear distinction between the old and the new, the old being much stronger than I would like. Through journaling, reading books, listening to (Camino) podcasts and talking to others I hope to find the root cause of why the old is so strong and how to replace it with the new. You could call it #deconstructing, or #integrating.
One concrete example is that my mind is pulling me out of my heart. It is trying to work solutions constantly. It doesn’t really help that in my experience the dominant energy in the Netherlands is a rational energy, exercising control. And exactly this controlling I would like to let go as part of the old and to replace it with #trust. On top of that, it feels to me that many people here are focused on themselves. Every time I come back after a long time abroad, I feel resistance.
How to be connected? How to have easy access to the self and to others? How to be the #change I would like to see? When my mind is making too much noise, it doesn’t make me happy necessarily.
One thing for sure: I will listen to my voice and will spend time and resources to give myself only the best. So then I can more readily give love and play for you.
Bergen, 9 December 2021
The Camino is a mirror
The Camino is a mirror, a mirror for myself and for society.
It seems to be very common that pilgrims enter a state of not knowing after their pilgrimage. I hear it a lot from my fellow pilgrims, and I read stories about it. I met a filmmaker who stayed at Finisterre multiple times for multiple months. He talked to many pilgrims who felt lost completely, not wanting to go back to their old lives, calling their bosses to quit their jobs right there on the beach, and then just staying there.
I find myself saying this to myself too. That I currently feel lost.
Well. And. I’m discovering that this is a negative judgement. I’d rather choose to say that we pilgrims are courageous enough to not take life for granted, to let go of many so-called certainties, to go look for signs within and without, change old habits and beliefs, try new things out, walk new ways. I think that’s brave. That’s very brave and far from being lost.
It’s just that we haven’t learned how to do this. Society doesn’t teach us and doesn’t easily let us, everything is organised to keep us in the treadmill.
This is on society, not on us.
Those pilgrims at the end of the world, they are a mirror for society. The state of society is a mirror to us. The things I’m saying to myself are a mirror for myself. Mirrors, mirrors that give direction for inner work to be done.
So that’s why I choose to say:
I am a brave pilgrim, I march on!
Bergen, 12 December 2021
I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to you all!
Thank you supermarket personnel and all working in logistics, the farmers and food producers, so that I can buy my food.
Thank you everybody working in public transport, so that I can go places.
Thank you ladies in China and Portugal for making the clothes I’m wearing.
Thank you government and all the officials for running the country, making sure that I can get my Corona support.
Thanks to all my friends and family who are there for me when I need help.
Thanks to those making sure that I can drink the water from the tap.
Thank you meditators in the park for letting me join in for a sec, reminding me of slowing down and being in the Here and Now.
Thank you police, you work hard to make the city a safe place to be.
Thank you carpenter for making the chair I am sitting on.
Thank you Crazy Ambassadors, board members, production leaders, fundraisers, and everybody else, for being part of my foundation Crazy Initiatives.
Thanks to those working in the electricity company, so that I can charge my phone and switch on the light in the morning.
Thanks to all invisible everywhere in the world, we are connected, and thanks to you I can live my life.
And thanks to the lady who said hello and smiled to me when I walked past. That made my day, and now I can pass on the smile to the next person.
Amsterdam, 20 December 2021
Shop window art “Alice and her Wonder Curtain” by Toyoko Shimada