Some 8 or 9 years ago she was listening to the radio when she heard a piece of music that she liked a lot. She wondered what it could be, and when it finished she knew that it was a violinist who had recorded an album on the Camino. Oliver Schroer was a Canadian violinist who in 2004 toured the Camino playing his music and recording it in different churches (he passed away in 2008). Joanne decided then that she wanted to do the Camino, but her daughter was still too young to leave at home and so she decided that she would have to wait. Finally, in 2012 she did the Camino, and again in 2015.
She began her first Way in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in the month of May. She did not prepare herself for it, she just walked. In reality she came to the Camino with hardly any preparation at all. She was alone without any preparation, and she was scared but she went ahead and did it just the same. She had 35 days at her disposal to travel and she did it in that time. She arrived in Santiago and the very next day she flew back home. She had some problems with her feet, but nothing that forced her to stop, and she went ahead every day. Of course, along the Way she met many people who helped her and who, she now believes, made her Way possible.
“While I was walking I always thought: I will never do this again! But when I was flying home I was already thinking that I wanted to come back!” Actually, she was delighted with her Camino. She was aware all the time that what she was living through was new, everything, every moment was new, unrepeatable.
She walked alone and with others, more or less half of the time alone and the other half with other people. At the beginning of the morning she liked to walk alone and then, as the day progressed, she would integrate with the people. The nights were decidedly to be with the others and talk.
Regarding the accommodation, she slept in shelters seventy-five percent of the time, but she met someone who had experience and knew the Camino well and when that person thought the shelter would not be all right, they went to a hotel.
She met people and did not feel afraid, but neither did she feel afraid when she did not know anyone and she walked alone.
She liked to feel she was living in the present and there were many small things, such as gratitude to the local people who helped her, the pilgrims. For her, nature was not a novelty, but history was, and so was the respect for nature. She felt a special contact with sounds and smells, because in the Camino you are very perceptive you are awake.
Her arrival in Santiago did not have a religious significance, but the feeling of having achieved it and meeting up with a lot of friends, was very exhilarating. She thought: “if I can do this I can do anything.” It was her first trip alone; she has four children and never before had she had the opportunity to live something like this.
In 2015 she traveled the Camino again from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, this time she wanted to be alone, more alone, she wanted the Camino to be hers, and less of a social experience. She found what she wanted, a couple of times people walked with her, but she always found a way to go on alone. She likes the autumn; she set off in September and she liked it. It was a time of more reflection. “I needed it and found it.”
Also this time she thought she would not return to the Camino. But once at home again, she knew she would return. Last year, back home, she said that she would be returning to the Camino and her 22-year-old daughter said she wanted to do it with her. They started off last year in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port but they had to stop in Logroño due to family health problems. This year they returned and have walked from Logroño.
For her daughter it was not difficult physically, but she had to face other problems, also good things … she found a boy … The truth is that her daughter is happy with the experience, finally she can also have her own experience and understand for herself what the Way is.
Walking with her daughter was an important experience. They were both very close before, but the Camino was an especially good experience. This year Joanne had some problems with her foot, but even if she did not walk, she accompanied her daughter. Now, once in Santiago, she finds that, as always, she sees and tells her daughter the things she did not like, as if she were never going to return to the Camino … but she already knows that this will not happen. In fact, she believes that she will do the Portuguese Way or maybe walk from Le Puy to SJPDP.
She believes that a change is produced when one does the Way: an inner change, of the soul, and she believes that it has to do with one’s contact with people. On the Camino you believe in peace, in the possibility of peace in the world, thanks to what you see and live there. You also see how people, the others, change and become more humble along the Camino. She saw, for example, many pilgrims who, at the beginning of the Camino, were perhaps over-confident but ended up like the others, calmly, humbly. The Camino is a lesson in humanity.
After the experience of the Way there is more gratitude and more openness towards others. On the Camino she feels a little more open towards others. She also enters churches, likes the environment and is open to it, but she is not part of that religious world and her daughter is very skeptical. However, on this Way they met a little nun in a chapel before Hontanas who moved them. Something about the atmosphere and that woman combined to give them a special emotion.
Just to finish up, I have remembered something. People often ask me why I go on the Camino and I always think “I do not know”, but then I think a little and finally what I answer is: “If I knew why I went, I probably would not need to go back again to Camino!”