Travel and Culture

Camino Skies: Get Up and Go

Fly on the wall documentary Camino Skies is a story of catharsis and healing. Grandparents NZ previously spoke with Julie Zafireh about her experiences walking the Camino de Santiago, today we hear from Susan Morris and her experiences as a 71 year old, her second time walking the 800km treck.

This is your second time doing the Camino de Santiago: what was your first experience like?
My first Camino Journey was one of Exploration – the overwhelming need within myself to “Get up and Go’ – to leave behind me for a while the ‘mores’ of daily life and , to find “Me”. I had been ill for a while, was approaching 65 and realised that ‘life was passing me by’ in many ways – I had this incredible restlessness and The Camino had been in my mind for a number of years. In many ways I kept feeling drawn to this unknown and in the end I just up and booked my tickets and then began my planning in earnest.

This journey taught me that I was capable of far more than I ever thought possible, both physically and mentally.

I began my walk Alone, but very soon realised that one is never alone on the Camino – there is always someone there to chat to, to help you out when you are struggling, to support you and to reach out to if you feel the need and I felt the same need – to reach out and connect with people in a way that I had not been able to do very easily in my everyday life at home.

Susan Morris

What made you come back?
Funnily enough, at the end of my first Camino, when I reached the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the question was asked of me by many people – Well, you have made it, would you do it again.? My answer at the time and, for some weeks after was a resounding NO but gradually, I found myself becoming quite depressed and lacking in much enjoyment in my daily life at home – I had ‘moved on’ but those around me were still the same. There were very few people with whom I could share my experiences and who ‘actually got me’… I found myself missing the joy of being ‘out in nature’, getting up in the morning, pulling on my boots, my only thought was coffee and something to eat, then wandering along at my own pace with just my pack on my back in all sorts of weather and being responsible only to me.

I loved the idea of not having to make decisions as to what to wear today or tomorrow as was the case at home and, as time went on, the compulsion got stronger and stronger and I had no choice. The decision was made for me, so, off I went and booked another ticket for France and Spain. Unfortunately this second journey was cut short because of a tear in one of my Achilles tendons which forced me to return home early.

So when I came back home, I started up an Australians on the Camino Face Book group in order to keep in contact with others who had either walked the Camino or who were planning to walk, This kept me from succumbing to the natural depression and let down of not having completed something which I had set my mind on and helped hugely in keeping my interest alive.

When that healed, I went off to walk the West Highland Way in Scotland and then after that a journey in France, whilst still, actively planning another walk, which by this time had got into my blood, my mind and my psyche and had become my passion in life.

There was a very relatable moment in the film when you were so frustrated at your body. How was it for you watching that back again.

I actually found this scene very confronting to watch. and rather embarrassing – I recall the moments just before this happened. I was happily wandering along when a wave of utter sadness and frustration hit me and actually stopped me in my tracks. I was in a great deal of pain, as I had been right through the walk to that point and just felt that I could not go on any longer. I have Severe Degenerative Arthritis throughout my body and have had for many years, coupled with Kypho scoliosis in my lumbar spine.

I sank to the ground and gave in to the emotions which came welling up, seemingly out of nowhere.

I guess that this was a realization and coming to terms with my age, my increasing inability to do the things I loved doing so easily, because of my medical and health issues. Inside my head, I am still that ‘laughing 21 year old’ who is capable of anything which I set my mind to. But, the reality of this 71 year old body and its limitations, hit me very hard indeed.

What made you decide to be featured in the film?
As mentioned, I was still actively planning another Camino Walk. This time in France, from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, when I received an email from Fergus Grady (producer), asking me if I would be interested in participating in a small documentary which he was thinking of doing in 2018. It took me a while to decide but, I thought, ‘Why Not, What had I got to lose’. I was due to turn 71 in 2018, was experiencing increasing pain and disability in my hands, feet and spine and was actually, terrified at the thought of Not being able to do those things I loved doing for very much longer. So, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to challenge my age and my pain levels and just see how far I could go. Fergus was aware of my physical issues, and was keen to use this in the film.


See Susan Morris’ experience in Camino Skies in cinemas nationwide Thursday 11th July

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