On the Camino: Will Carnahan from Helio Road

On the Camino: Will Carnahan from Helio Road

Will and I met in 2016 while walking the Camino Francés, and we’ve always shared an appreciation for the ancient pilgrimage that taught us so much. When referring to the Camino, Will says “I met some life long friends, felt even more comfortable in my own skin, battled large blisters, lost 20 lbs, practiced my Spanish, heard and told stories with people from around the world, drank lots of wine, cried, laughed, sang, danced, and just enjoyed simply being a human.” Well said, my friend. With that, let’s get into the questions! 

 

 

When and how did you first learn about the Camino de Santiago?

I learned about it when I was in college, about 9 years before I walked it. A few years before I walked my uncle had decided to do parts of it, and made it about half way on his first trip. Then of course the movie came out.

 

What made you decide to walk it?

Honestly mostly, the adventure. Since I am a freelancer it was easier for me to take time off, the hard part was saying no to jobs after planning the trip. I just had to simply decide to go, and follow through.

 

Camino Frances
Photo by Will Carnahan. Buy the print here.

 

Did you train at all before walking the Camino?

I trained a little bit. Not nearly enough. For a couple weeks beforehand I went on some small hikes, some with my back pack some without. I’m athletic enough that my training was basically the first week or so on the Camino. 

 

What photography gear did you bring with you on the Camino? 

I started out with a small mirror less camera (Fuji xt-1) and like 3 lenses and an iPad. The first big city I got to I shipped all the lenses home but one and sent my iPad and big headphones back. There is no room of extra luxury like that.

 

Camino Logroño
Photo by Will Carnahan. Buy the print here.

 

I’m sure there are many, but could you recall one of your favorite memories of walking the Camino? 

Oh there are so so so many. I know a consistent feeling of the first steps every morning always felt good once you got moving, every evening when we would sit and have dinner and talk about the day was also memorable. 

My absolute favorite memory was finishing. I think being done and celebrating with the people you’ve been walking next to for a month is invaluable, you have to go through a lot to get to that point.

 

Camino: santiago sign
Photo by Will Carnahan. Buy the print here.

 

Were there ever moments when you felt like giving up? Were these moments physical or mental?

Oh, all the time. The first day about 45 mins in I was the most worried, and that was 100% physical so my mind could sort of talk my body into pushing on. Around the 11th day mark, just before the two week mark, my mind started freaking out that I couldn’t do this for 20 more days. Thinking about the 20 days ahead of you felt just impossible to my brain. Luckily the people around me and the stronger my body got were able to push through all together. 

 

Pilgrimage, whether religious or not, involves an inner journey that takes place, which can be deeply transformative. What did you learn about yourself from walking the Camino? 

Oh again so much. The most important thing that the Camino taught me about myself was that I truly loved myself. Not in an egotistical way, but in a way that was that I loved being with myself. Walking the Camino forces you to spend time mentally alone with yourself for an extended period of time. Sure there are people around everyday, but you really learn what your body can do physically and how your mind works when its in a sort of survival/ pushing it self mode. 

That to me has been the most impactful and helpful in life. I loved walking with myself more than anyone else. Something I had a hard time feeling before the Camino. 

Camino sign
Photo by Will Carnahan. Buy the print here.

 

With that being said, what does the Camino mean to you now, and how have you integrated it into your life? 

Someone told me on the Camino that I wouldn’t feel all the benefits while I was walking it. But that I would always reference it as my life went on. 

When things are hard in my life, I think back to some of my hardest days or my gnarliest of blisters, or the nights I got no sleep but still walked 12 miles – and it makes me stronger in the present. “If I can walk across a country, I can do this…” kind of mentality. 

 

I love that perspective! Any advice to future pilgrims?

I’d say 2 things.

1 – If you’re thinking about going, then you must go. Even if you’re on the fence or considering it, then it’s in you. The only way to know or see is to just start walking. And no one is going to start this journey for you, you must take action and do it!!!

2. Slow down once you go. You don’t need to crush every day. You have time to talk to, listen to, watch, hang out, EAT at every moment. It took me a few days to just slow down and walk, and that’s when the best things happen to you. 

 

YES! Great advice. I totally agree with both. Which route will you walk next? 

I’d like to do the same route again if I can. After walking the Camino Frances once, I feel like I could personally relax a little bit more knowing where I can go, knowing where to stay. After that I’d like to do the Norte, maybe when I am in a little bit more shape. 

Photo by Will Carnahan Camino
Photo by Will Carnahan. Buy the print here.

And finally, name one must-bring item that you wouldn’t think of walking the Camino without. 

Other than some great walking shoes? Music. Every day I would play music to get through some hard parts through small wired headphones. I just don’t think I could have done it without that motivation or release. Even at nights when the snoring was too loud or I couldn’t sleep I had music. 

That’s a good one. I remember those nights when the snoring was like a symphony of loud noises. Good times!

Will, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Like you, I can’t wait until the next one. Buen camino! 


Will captured some incredible images along his Camino. Be sure to follow him on Instagram and check out his amazing photography at  HelioRoad.com I bought this print for my office, and  it looks amazing! 

If you’re planning on walking the Camino de Santiago one day, be sure to check out our FREE Camino de Santiago guide and sign up for our newsletter to receive a Camino packing checklist! 

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