1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
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The Way – A Boomeresque Movie Review about Walking the Camino de Santiago

by Suzanne Fluhr on August 23, 2016 · 33 comments

Scallop shell symbol of the Camino de Santiago

I have secretly  started my campaign to convince Mr. Excitement that we should walk the Camino de Santiago. (Please don’t tell him).In 2002, much to my surprise, he agreed go on a four day guided hike on the Milford Track in Fiordland National Park on the South Island of New Zealand. The hike was 55.3 kilometers (33.2 miles). We only walked one mile the first day, leaving the other 32 miles to traverse in 3 days. Up and over a mountain was involved. We both agree that the Milford Track hike ranks very high on our list of marital travel experiences.

Scallop shell symbol of the Camino de Santiago

Since I haven’t “yet” walked the Camino de Santiago, I was happy to find this scallop shell, symbol of the Camino, in Brigantine, New Jersey, where lawn ornaments go to die.

Ever since then, I’ve been harboring a secret desire to walk the Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) which starts in the Pyrenees of southern France and then traverses northwestern Spain before reaching the cathedral of Santiago de Compostella in the Spanish province of Galicia. The cathedral is a shrine said to be the burial place of St. James, the patron saint of Spain. I’m worried Mr. Excitement might notice that it’s a mere 476.8 miles longer than the Milford Track —-  and we’re 14 years older. To subtly introduce the idea, I cajoled invited him to join me in watching the film, The Way, live streamed on my lap top computer.

Mr. Excitement watched the entire two hour movie about walking the Camino as we traded off balancing my overheating laptop computer on our laps. (Note to self: maybe next time put it on a table.) His preferred movie and literature genre is apocalyptic science fiction, so the fact that he almost didn’t whine during the two hours, is an encouraging sign.

The Way was released in the United States in 2011 and was an Estevez family project. The actor Emilio Estevez wrote, produced, directed and acts in the film. He cast his father, Martin Sheen, as the main character, and other family members were involved in the project.

The opening credits state that the film is loosely based on a book entitled Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain by author, Jack Fitt. One of the characters encountered on the Camino is an Irish writer named Jack who is besieged by writer’s block. Probably not a coincidence.

There is a semblance of a plot to the film, but that is really just a foil for the Camino itself, a pilgrims’ journey since the 9th century, following ancient paths and roads extant in Roman times and before. One theme of the film is the father – son relationship, so complicated and fraught for so many. Martin Sheen plays Tom, a successful California ophthalmologist who doesn’t “get” his adult son, Daniel. Daniel leaves his Ph.D program to find himself out in the world, telling his obviously disapproving father, ““You don’t choose a life, Dad, you live one.”

My law partners gave me this when I "chose" to semi-retire from full time lawyerdom.

My law partners gave me this when I “chose” to semi-retire from full time lawyerdom.

We interrupt this movie review to bring you a Personal Aside: I must be more practical than spiritual because having reached an age by which I most probably would have been dead during the Middle Ages, I see life as a series of choices. Many of our choices are dictated externally, but within those givens, I believe we exercise free will, viewed by many as a gift from a Supreme Being. In other words, to some extent, we do choose our lives. We also have a Daniel in our family. Our younger son, for now anyway, has chosen the life of a digital nomad with no fixed abode. However, unlike Tom, despite ourselves having chosen exceedingly traditional paths (doctor, lawyer), Mr. and Mrs. Excitement are much more understanding and accepting of our son’s choices — especially since he is self supporting. 😉

Tom is on a golf course when he receives a call every parent dreads. It is from a French police officer, informing him that his only child, Daniel, died in an accident suffered in bad weather in the Pyrennes, on the first day he set off on the Camino. Tom had not even known where Daniel was. He travels to France to retrieve his son’s body, but upon learning that Daniel intended to walk the Camino, he decides to finish his son’s pilgrimage, taking Daniel’s backpack adorned with the scallop shell symbol of the Camino and his ashes to spread along the way.

The story line then seems reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. At times, it even reminded me of the picaresque tale of Don Quijote. Despite starting out intent on a solo, somewhat self-punishing, introverted pilgrimage, Tom reluctantly meets, and acquires as walking companions, three other international sojourners, each seeking to exorcise their own demons on the Camino. Along the way, the three share adventures and cross paths with others on their own crusades, ranging from the touching to the absurd. By the time Tom empties the last of his son’s ashes into the tumultuous Atlantic, the four disparate pilgrims have jelled into a small band reminiscent of a less swashbuckling version of the Four Musketeers, one for all and all for one. They will go their separate ways, better understanding themselves and ready to reenter and face the challenges of the real world beyond the Camino.

The fifth protagonist in the film is the Camino de Santiago itself, “the way”, meandering across mountains, rivers, farms, large towns (i.e. Pamplona) and through small, charming villages. Some say the Camino has been ruined by modern asphalt, vehicular traffic and international hordes intent on making the pilgrimage. Some day I hope to be able to make that judgment for myself.

(This post contains affiliate sales links which will take you to the shopping site. If you purchase something via these links, Boomeresque will receive a teeny tiny commission which does not affect your purchase price.)

Have you walked El Camino de Santiago? If so, what was your experience? If not, do you have a dream that will force you to challenge yourself? Do you think it will ever become a reality?

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim August 23, 2016 at 6:23 am

I am an ultra runner and just recently listened to a podcast where a runner had run the entire the Camino. It sounds like this is a very good hiking route as there is many small villages to buy food, drink, and stay overnight. I hope you do make it to *the way*!


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 11:53 am

An ultra runner? I’m impressed. I’ll settle for being a regular walker if that will get me across the 500 miles of El Camino.


Paula Kiger August 23, 2016 at 7:19 am

I hope you get to do this!


Jacqueline Gum August 23, 2016 at 7:36 am

WOW! I can only say that your ambition completely amazes me. I enjoyed the review of the film so much I’ll look for it! And the tangle is very entertaining as well. I guess, in lieu of Mr Excitement joining you on this journey you can be pleased that he kept his whining to a minimum during the cajole. Victory!


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 12:32 pm

I’m a little chagrined to admit that if we ever actually do set out to walk the Camino, I’ll be the one doing the lion’s share of the whining.


Janice Chung August 23, 2016 at 8:06 am

Yes, the fact that Mr. Excitement didn’t whine is a good sign. I saw the movie as well as I have always been intrigued about doing the Camino and wanted to know more about what it is like. I’m so impressed that you did the Milford Track! Bravo! This means you’re ready for the Camino, don’t you think?


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 12:34 pm

1) We hiked the Milford Track 12 years ago.
2) The Camino de Santiago is some 476 miles longer than the Milford Track.
For these 2 reasons, I suspect we’re not quite ready for el Camino. However, I’d like to think we’ll maybe give it a try someday—soon.


Donna Janke August 23, 2016 at 9:51 am

My sister walked part of the Camino de Santiago a couple of years ago. She posted updates at the end of each day which I found fascinating. Because of her experience, the movie The Way is on my list of things to watch, but I haven’t got around to it. I hope you get to make the walk yourself soon.


Madaline Resendes August 23, 2016 at 11:54 am

Great well written review. I have not seen the movie, but thanks to your analysis, I can see that it is fraught with deeper meaning and magnificent scenery! Wonder how long the journey takes? By all means do it and do it soon! I am amazed that Mr. Excitement got past the “dying in inclement weather on the first day in the Pyrenees” part of the story!! I love how you tied in your urge to take this trip with the leaving-your-day-job arc of your life and I also love the very personalized Tangle. I think this is one of your best posts among many wonderful ones. Keep it up!!


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 1:28 pm

I’m pretty sure it would take at least 6 weeks to walk the Camino de Santiago. Note to self: Do not hike in the Pyrenees in inclement weather. We’re meeting some people close to our age who did it last year.


Patti August 23, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Anyone I know? 😉


Debbie D. August 23, 2016 at 12:23 pm

That sounds like a fascinating hike, but exhausts me just reading about it! Best to start training now. Don’t forget to pack various braces, liniments and pain pills. 😉 You and Mr. Excitement must be in excellent physical shape to contemplate such a trip. Kudos! The film sounds interesting also. I’ll check it out. Thanks for the review.


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Note to self: “Don’t forget to pack various braces, liniments and pain pills.” We’re not in excellent physical shape. We’d definitely have to do some pre-training to build up our walking stamina.


Kathy @ SMART Living August 23, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Hi Suzanne! Do it! Both my husband Thom and I saw that movie when it first came out and as walkers ourselves, I was definitely interested. Of course, parts of the movie made it less romantic than it sounds. And it seems like there is another movie out about the walk–but I can’t recall the name. Either way, the symbolism of walking that path as a “meditation” is what makes it so attractive to me. Seldom do we take the time to get away from “ourselves” long enough to see what we might find once we do. I look forward to reading about your trip! ~Kathy


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Both my husband and I notice that when we walk, we tend to enter a somewhat meditative state. At a minimum, we only think about one thing at a time. I mentioned to him just yesterday, “Don’t you think it would be good to be in this state for 6 weeks?” He just looked at me like I had lost my mind.


Valeria Terpytska August 23, 2016 at 12:56 pm

No, not yet, but to be ready for it one day, maybe, I don’t just stand on escalating staircases when I am in the subway, waiting for it to bring me up, I go upstairs with it, I love to go up, not down. How was the trip down, Suzanne, did you enjoy grabbing bushes to keep some balance, as I usually do?


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 1:33 pm

The trip down Mount MacKinnon on the Milford Track was definitely harder than the trip up. The regular trail had been closed due to avalanches, so we had to use what they refer to as “the emergency track”—it was steep and rocky, a killer on the knees.


Stephanie Weaver, MPH, CWHC August 23, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Loved the movie, and your review made me want to watch it again. Maybe set a smaller goal and work towards that? I am walking my first 5K in October and I love having a small but do-able feeling goal.


Roz Warren August 23, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Great post. I love the idea of a list of marital travel experiences!


Betsy Wuebker August 23, 2016 at 5:25 pm

We thought quite extensively (for us, anyway) about doing the southern route from Sevilla or the Portuguese route of the Camino, simply because the number of pilgrims is smaller on each. Time ran out in Spain and Europe last year and we were not in shape besides. I love that so many people I now know have had or are contemplating this experience. Perhaps we will revisit our thoughts.


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Maybe we can find a company willing to do a Camino press trip for a small band of Boomer Travel Bloggers.


Judy Freedman August 23, 2016 at 6:24 pm

I’ve never thought of doing this walk, but it sounds appealing. Think I would have to prepare myself in advance and get my body ready to walk that long. Might be an exciting adventure for my life after 50.


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Judy, you’re add 10 and some change to 50 to get to where Mr. Excitement and I are.


Carole Terwilliger Meyers August 23, 2016 at 7:10 pm

I viewed the movie “The Way” last year and really enjoyed it. It brought the Camino de Santiago to life. I’ll probably never walk it, but I did enjoy walking it vicariously.


Mike August 23, 2016 at 8:53 pm

Good job on the review, Suzanne? I thought you and Steve owned a tv? It would drive me batty to watch a movie on a laptop at home. So, out of 5 stars with 5 being a must see…how many stars would you give The Way?


Suzanne Fluhr August 23, 2016 at 9:23 pm

We have a TV, but I’ve never seen The Way as an On Demand choice and we don’t have a DVD player. That left streaming via Amazon. I suspect there’s some other technology we should be using, but I’ve never spent the time to investigate. As for stars, this is a movie where the number very much depends on the viewer’s interests. For someone with little interest in the Camino, they might only give it a 3. As I explained in the review, there are other themes that might appeal to some. I’d give it a 4, I guess.


Elaine J Masters August 24, 2016 at 1:25 am

I hope your plan works sooner than later! I’d love to walk the Camino – I think. It’s become very popular and crowded at certain times of the year (when I’d want to go, I’m sure.) The idea of pilgrimage appeals to me though. It will be a vicarious experience until it happens and I enjoyed the movie for the same reason.


nan @ lbddiaries August 24, 2016 at 4:29 pm

It is never too late to walk out a dream. I believe you guys have been so active these past years since Milford Track, you won’t have any trouble other than the whining. You can do this – sis boom bah, rah rah rah! Notice that I am cheering from the sidelines because you’ll never catch me walking this far! I have other things I dream of doing – and am learning the age I am, this is the PERFECT age to tackle these dreams!!


Julie Dawn Fox August 24, 2016 at 5:44 pm

If the French Way proves too long for Mr Excitement, consider the Portuguese Way instead. A mere 240 km if you take the central route from Porto or 260km if you go the coastal Way. Both are wonderful.


Natascha (from WESTWARDS) September 9, 2016 at 5:10 am

I walked the Camino in 2001 from Saint Jean to Santiago and on to the Atlantic coast to Finisterre (another three days). It was quite crowded back then, although this was before the boom set in. I met a lot of interesting people and made one friend, I am still close with these days. Not sure, if I would walk it again. If you still have stamina after arriving in Santiago I would recommend the three days more to the coast. Traditionally you burn some of you pilgrim clothes there…


Irene S. Levine October 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

I hadn’t heard of the film. I’d love to see it~


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