Taking you beyond the guidebook

Inspiring you to live your best life through travel

Hiking The Camino: How This Spiritual Walk In Spain Helped One Woman Heal & Grow

Who knew that hiking the Camino de Santiago — a spiritual walk in Spain that starts in France and extends for 500 miles  — could be a great way to not only heal the mind and soul, but also the body?

I don’t think many people who sustain a physical injury would of think of travel as the next logical step in their healing journey, but that’s just what Jennifer Bristol did. 

Working in the fitness business, she struggled to regain full mobility after an injury, turning to the Camino for help. 

If you’ve ever thought about taking a trip to reconnect with yourself — physically, mentally, or spiritually — or if you just want to know more about the Camino, read on. 

Hiking The Camino de Santiago For Healing [Video Replay]

Prefer video?

Check out the replay of my Facebook Live conversation above, which also features an extended interview with additional questions.

How This Spiritual Walk In Spain Helped Jennifer Reconnect With Her Body & Self

1. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. To get started, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I’m Jennifer Bristol, an American expat currently living in Mexico. 

I’m a transformational coach, helping clients tap into their inner alchemist to ignite the magic in all aspects of life.

Additionally, I’m the publisher of Elan Vitae digital magazine — which is just launching — and I’m an artist specializing in mixed media and acrylic ink painting.

You can learn more on my website at elanvitae.com or follow me on Instagram @jaye.be.

St. Jean Pied de Port

The St. Jean River at the very start of the Camino, which is actually in France (St. Jean Pied de Port).

2. While many people love travel, we all get into it for different reasons. For you, it was an accident that pushed you to book a trip. Can you share more about that? 

Travel has always been a pretty big part of my life; but yes, in this particular case, it was an injury that never completely resolved that prompted me to embark on this type of trip, much further outside my comfort zone.

It was several years prior to going that I had suffered a back injury — lumbar disc herniation — while hiking.

I went to all the extremes, sans surgery, to get back to optimum shape. I got to probably 90% for day-to-day life, but maybe 50% for my physical performance abilities.

I was in the fitness and wellness business at the time, so feeling that limitation in my body brought up a lot of feelings of shame, betrayal, and not being good enough. And I knew I’d have to take a big leap and make some big changes if I wanted to get back into full harmony with my body.

Suddenly it started to make sense:

If I was out on a trail with no option to get from point A to point B unless my body got me there on foot — with no responsibility other than being in the moment and making that daily trek — then my body and I would really have to work it out together; to communicate better, perform better, and work together toward this goal.

'If I was out on #TheCamino with no option to get from point A to point B unless my body got me there on foot then my body & I would really have to work it out together.' -Jennifer Bristol #healingClick to Tweet

PSST, DON’T FORGET TO PIN THIS POST FOR LATER! 

How Walking the Camino can be a Journey of Self Discovery

3. For many, losing their physical strength would be a reason not to travel. What was going through your mind that made you land on travel as your next step?

Travel has been part of my tapestry from a very young age.

I was always hungry to learn about people, places, cultures, language, art, and what made people in all those places tick.

I think the difference for this trip on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela is that it was all about me and my relationship with myself, my body, my purpose, my future.

And while I was surrounded by all those things I love — natural beauty, language, art, culture, cuisine — it was merely the backdrop this time around.

hiking the the Camino de Santiago trail

Jennifer by a sign on the first day of hiking the Camino de Santiago trail.

4. Building on my last question, you even went so far as to choose a very physically demanding trip — the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Can you tell us more about this trek and what made you choose it?

I had been interested in the Camino as a spiritual pilgrimage for some time, largely due to Shirley MacLain’s book about her experience on it.

But in the midst of everyday life, it seems crazy to figure out how to take a month out of life to go do it, so I had kept it in the back of my mind as something for down the road.

When I was at a serious crossroads with my body and my work and basically life in general, suddenly having a month away to tackle something like the Camino became more of a necessity than a whim.

It was also a type of travel I had never done before.

I had never backpacked in my life; never even really had an interest.

I’m not someone who thinks of sleeping in a refugio as a good time, but it’s just an inevitable part of the Camino experience. And it was the specific experience of the Camino that made it work for me at the time.

I don’t think a week in the South of France or lounging on a Caribbean Island could have yielded the same result for me physically.

Other than the grueling physical strength and stamina required for this trip, I had read about many healing experiences on that pilgrimage route; so part of me felt like, well, if I put myself in a position to do the work and open up to receive the healing capacity of that route, then anything can happen.

And in any time frame.

So what do I have to lose?

'I don’t think a week in the South of France or lounging on a Caribbean Island could have yielded the same result for me physically.' -Jennifer Bristol on #TheCamino in #SpainClick to Tweet
basque country field camino

Passing by a lovely Basque Country field along The Camino

5. What were some of the major challenges you faced along the way?

The physical manifestation of everything I had going on in my life.

It was a very real, palpable version of fears, insecurities, connection vs. loneliness, and patience.

I had to meet myself and my crap full on.

Other challenges of the trip included:

  • The physical strain of repetitive motion
  • Figuring out where to sleep each evening
  • I overpacked and packed some wrong items, and had to adjust along the way

It was also difficult to create space for myself in the midst of others.

I was trying to be alone, but in close enough proximity to other pilgrims to feel safe.

An inspiring sign along the camino de santiago

An inspiring reminder along the trail.

6. What was the most rewarding aspect of the trip?

I think the after-affect.

They say you don’t really understand why you walked the Camino until after you return.

'They say you don’t really understand why you walked #TheCamino until after you return.' -Jennifer Bristol #transformativetravelClick to Tweet

7. How did the experience change you beyond the trip itself? 

In retrospect, it changed so many things.

As stated previously, they say you never really know why you walked it or what the impact was until afterward — and I would add “significantly afterward”; like, I’m still making connections to things today that were likely shifted within me, like:

  • A massive clearing of my space upon return
  • Acknowledging new needs and boundaries with people and relationships
  • Taking a bigger picture view of my life and situation and being able to approach from that standpoint instead of being caught up in each moment and its perceived limits
  • Taking the leap into a new approach to my work that more suited my needs and lifestyle, which resulted in my current coaching business that is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done
sign along this spiritual walk in spain

Motivation to keep going.

8. What advice would you give someone else looking to heal — either physically or mentally — through travel?

Choose something that is challenging, but set yourself up with some safety nets.

On this particular trip, I had gotten plenty of advice from others who had done it before, but I encountered completely different challenges, as well.

And I think that’s part of the process.

To think on your feet, use your wits and make use of your surroundings.

And ask for help.

Having new experiences on your own puts you in a place where anything is possible; to really consider who you want to be and what you want your situation to look like moving forward.

So literally just stepping out opens a path to the healing process.

'Having new experiences on your own puts you in a place where #AnythingIsPossible; to really consider who you want to be & what you want your situation to look.' -Jennifer Bristol #transformationClick to Tweet
refugio along the camino spain

Relaxing in a refugio along The Camino

9. Do you have any tips for those who want to have more transformative experiences on the road? 

I think there is something magic in thinking of anywhere you go as an exchange rather than just taking in the sights or consuming the experience.

You are leaving your footprint there too and that place is different because of your experience and thoughts of it as well as your emotions while in contact with it.

Just as you are different from having experienced all the aspects of a certain place.

I think it adds a real reverence to the experience when you think of it in that way.

A red road along the Camino de Santiago Spain

A red road along the Camino de Santiago.

10. What do you think is the biggest misconception about travel?

That there is one right way to do it. Or that more is better.

Also, that you have to see everything everyone else sees with the best tour guide, or be the exact opposite of that completely doing your own thing.

Or that you should check places off your bucket list.

There is no right way.

Curate your own experiences that feel good and expand you a little bit.

Go with what speaks to you in the moment, even if it’s not a dream trip.

Spend a day in your own city and think about it as if you were just plopped down there for the day with fresh eyes, never having known it before, and see how things open up for you right in your own town.

'Curate your own experiences that feel good and expand you a little bit.' -Jennifer Bristol #transformativetravel #travelClick to Tweet

Have you ever considered hiking the Camino as a spiritual walk in Spain?

Any other transformative or healing experiences you’ve had on the road? 

*Note: All photos above were taken by Jennifer Bristol. 

ENJOYED THIS POST? PIN IT FOR LATER!

How Walking the Camino Changed one Women's Life

 
Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

blogging resource library

Want to live your best life through travel?

Subscribe for FREE access to my library of fun blogging worksheets and learn how to get paid to travel more!

3 Comments

  1. dalibro on August 9, 2019 at 5:21 am

    Really good interview, loved it! The really cool thing about the Way of Saint James is that it’s basically a network of trails leading to Spain, so you can start pretty much anywhere in Europe! 🙂

  2. Marie Leon on August 27, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Beautiful post. Healing can be done in many ways. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Comment





map

THE NEW STRATEGY FOR PROFITABLE TRAVEL BLOGGING

Short on time but eager to learn how to REALLY grow your blogging business? This FREE 5-day email course was made for you.

*FREE E-COURSE*

GAIN THE CONFIDENCE TO TRAVEL SOLO IN 6 DAYS

Join my email list for access to the *Savvy Solo Traveler E-Course*. Learn step-by-step how to plan and navigate a safe and fun solo trip without fear! // Privacy Policy
Yes, sign me up!
close-link
#BeyondTheGuidebook 

A CURATED (& QUIRKY!) TRAVEL NEWSLETTER 

Sometimes bizarre, always empowering, each issue will help you discover truly unique trips.

Explore offbeat attractions, quirky news, imporant sustainable tourism issues, active adventures, and stories of inspiring nomads. // Privacy Policy

(Bonus travel planning kit included!) 
Yes, sign me up!
BEST TRAVEL NEWSLETTER
close-link
FREE WEBINAR

TURN YOUR TRAVEL BLOG INTO A PROFITABLE BUSINESS

In this free limited-time webinar, I'll be sharing the exact 4-part strategy I used to take my blog from hobby to business -- so you can do it, too! // Privacy Policy
REGISTER NOW!
close-link
[FREE CHEAT SHEET] HOW TO START A PROFITABLE TOUR COMPANY
YES, PLEASE! 
close-image
[FREE WEBINAR] LAUNCH YOUR EMAIL LIST IN 24 HOURS
SIGN ME UP!
close-image
free email course

Short on time but eager to learn how to REALLY grow your blogging business? Sign up for my email list and get this FREE 5-day email course was made for you.

You have successfully subscribed! Check your inbox for your course welcome email. Make sure to add [email protected] to your contacts so it doesn't go to spam.

free email course

You DON’T need a partner to explore the globe. Learn how to feel confident while mastering the art of traveling by yourself by signing up for my email list and getting this FREE e-mail course.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

multi-season packing list

Want to add more travel to your life? Sign up for my email list and get these resources to help you plan your trip smart, pack light and go beyond your guidebook.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

free email course

You DON’T need a partner to explore the globe. Learn how to feel confident while mastering the art of traveling by signing up for my email list and getting this FREE e-mail course.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Explore NYC travel guidebook

I'm a native New Yorker, licensed sightseeing guide and curious explorer. Sign up for my email list and get my FREE Explore NYC Like A Local Guide and I promise to take you beyond the Empire State Building.

You have successfully subscribed! Check your inbox for the FREE Explore NYC Like A Local Guide. If you don't see it in the next few minutes, check your spam folder for a message from [email protected]: Replying to the welcome email you'll receive helps ensure my emails to you go to your inbox, and not to spam! :)

More in Europe, Hiking, Inspiring Stories, Interviews, Video
chantel in monaco
Tourism Industry Issues: How We Can Make Travel More Inclusive + Diverse

Let's tackle tourism industry issues, like working to make travel more diverse, accessible + inclusive. Here's how you can be...

Close