Image of things seen on a walk in Dublin, taken by writer of article/ HCDCU member

My Camino Journey – Week 5

As the dust settles and the afterglow of accomplishment begins to wear off, I have emerged from my Virtual Camino challenge with a mixture of relief and sadness. What began as a rather unorthodox challenge set by my friend and I to walk the equivalent of the Camino de Santiago around Dublin, became one of the most enriching and rewarding experiences of my life. 

In the initial stages, I was filled with blind ambition and motivation, setting myself deadlines and set routes around my college timetable every day to ensure I walked exactly and only the distance that was required for that day. My enjoyment was confined to the kilometres on my Apple Watch, the number of steps taken that day taking priority over any desire I had to simply stop and smell the roses. 

After a while, however, I began to see my daily pilgrimages for what they were; an opportunity to unchain myself from my desk, stretch my legs and fill my lungs with the fresh air that Zoom lectures and seminars don’t provide. For as long as I can remember, I have always felt at peace outside in the fresh air. 

During both lockdowns, escaping the confinements of my four walls for a few hours every day felt like an escape, a respite from the constant waves of bad news, deadlines and college work that seemed to crash against me at all times. Rain, wind or shine from the break of dawn till the wolves howled, I was walking. 

Though this was a personal journey of reflection and self-growth, the response of friends and family to this challenge was incredibly overwhelming. In light of the recent outbreak of image based sexual assault in Ireland through the leaking of thousands of Irish women’s nude photographs on social media, my friend and I decided to dedicate this challenge to Aoibhneas, an Irish domestic abuse support charity. In spreading awareness and raising money for this charity, our friends rallied around us in a circle of loving support, cheering us on along the final kilometres and across the finish line of our Virtual Camino journey. 

By our 33rd day and 764th kilometre we had raised over €1600 for Aoibhneas, a figure I couldn’t have imagined reaching for walking a few hours a day. 

As I began to embrace weekend lie-ins, lectures from home and walking for pleasure again, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that I know many people experience after a drawn-out physical and mental challenge; is that it? What now? What can I do now that’s even bigger and better? The slightly deflated feeling of anti-climax prevailed for a couple of days after the last donation and congratulatory text rolled in and I settled back to normal life. 

Now, however, I am four days removed from the last stage of my Camino pilgrimage and I can finally appreciate my experience for what it was; a commitment to daily exercise, fresh air and clearing my head while raising awareness and money for a worthwhile cause. I am incredibly proud of what my friend and I have accomplished, and when the time is right who knows where I’ll end up next!