El Camino de Santiago by Dr. Brett Schrewe

by Mark Chmiel

A long while back, I put Dr. Brett Schrewe in touch with soon to be Dr. Amy (Nuismer) Afanasevich.  Brett had walked the Camino years ago, and Amy was soon headed there. Brett offered the following advice to Amy, and I am happy to share it with you.

Hi Amy,

Apologies for the delay in response.  Ive spent most of the weekend on call and trying to figure out Victoria a bit more.  Looks like you’re getting pretty close to the departure day.  I figured instead of me going on tangentially for eight paragraphs, I’d try to distill this into pithy aphorisms, as a nod to Mark who pointed me to Kerouac‘s.

So.  Here goes.

1) One of the best things you will ever do, easily remembered in all seasons, joyous, sorrowful, or glorious.

2) Thousand year old paths move much more slowly than iPhone instant gratification.

3) The first few days are always hard.  Everything is strange. Initial contraction into fear-self quickly blows one open to the kindness of strangers to never be seen again.

4) Three days in, your eyes will become attuned to yellow seashells on blue backgrounds and spray-painted yellow arrows.  They will never lead you wrong.

5) Orange arrows, on the other hand, are not yellow arrows.  And they might lead you away from where you want to go.

6) Every Spanish village no matter how small has a cafe filled with smoke, elderly men, cafe con leche and tables.  Buenos dias and hasta luego go such a long way.

7) Good hiking boots are key.  Equally key are comfortable shoes to change into after the walking is done for the day.

8) Don’t break blisters.  Invest heavily in Dr Scholl products.  And bring twice of what you think you need for foot care.

9) For everything else, bring as little as necessary since you have to carry it everywhere.

10 Raincovers for packs are lifesavers.  Wet packs are heavy and wet clothes often don’t dry completely in albergues.

11) A really good map and always always remember your pilgrim passport.  It opens up The Way.  And when you need help, “soy peregrino” opens up many doors.

12)  Two good water bottles and daily chocolate bars will keep you moving and prevent hypoglycemia and dehydration.

13)  Walk with written wisdom of a truth-seeker, such as Hafez. Morning ghazal and evening ghazal make you see the day’s work in unexpected ways.

14) Again, the first few days are hard.  Dont get frustrated.  We accommodate to the Camino, not the other way around.  The harmonization happens without any focus upon it.

15) Mobile phone? Yes.  For emergencies? Yes.  Turned on?  Never unless it is an emergency. Headphones?  No.

16) Some will start with you, some will join you on the way, some will disappear, some will walk into the city of Holy Iago with you.  There are reasons for all of it.

17) Finisterre is just beyond Santiago.  What better way to start a new chapter than going to the end of the world during this one?

18) Live simply during this time.  The option is not always easy as a physician in the global North.

19) Find a walking stick.  It’s nice to have something come with you the whole way.

20) Eating with others at night is holy.  And a great pleasure.

21) If you’re walking to end a war within, it will.  But the cliche is true – it is always darkest before the dawn.  But that dawn is magnificent.

22) And Meister Eckart was right.  Thank you is enough.

23) Remember the anode – be in love with yr life.

24) Remember the cathode – accept loss forever.

25) Remember that The Way flows between those and its days are all Hallelujahs.

26) Remember to e-mail me if I can be of any more help before you go.

27) Remember that good-bye is a contraction of G-d be with ye.

So. Good-bye, Amy.  Enjoy your walk.