HALF A BANDANA WILL DO: A Little Book of Camino Stories by Gail Woodard – a book review

book review
Half a bandana will do on Goodreads

Thank you to BookSirens for providing me with a copy of this book! I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this book review voluntarily.


Wasn’t this the perfect book choice for me? Well, almost, at least. I am in Santiago, but without the Camino. But, doing the Camino is something I promised myself long ago when I first heard about it. (Yes, after I watched The Way for the first time.)

Firstly, I devoured this book. It is short, a quick-read, ”a little book of Camino stories”. The author walked the Camino in 2019, and it took her two weeks and 180 miles to get to Santiago. She describes those two weeks and the preparation that preceded them, sharing anecdotes, tips, and thoughts about this journey. Her Camino was ”a bucket list checkmark and a search for the Divine Feminine”. This pilgrimage means so many different things to so many people. The author sums it up like this:

For some modern-day pilgrims, the walk is a religious experience strongly connected with the heritage of the Roman Catholic Church. For others, the Camino is spiritual with little or no concern for Catholic dogma. Many traverse the land for deeply personal reasons. For others, the walk is an inexpensive outdoor vacation.

If I know anything about the Camino, I know that this description is true. It is a journey everyone sets their own pace for, they take however time they need or want for it, start wherever, and make as many stops or trail offs as they want. Maybe that’s why it attracts more and more people each year, because of the freedom it provides in doing it. You can walk alone, or you can meet a bunch of new people; you can make brief acquaintances or lifelong friendships.

I enjoyed the way the author described and presented her Camino. She also provided another perspective. Because it is (mainly) about walking, there is so much preparation and training that goes into it long before the ”official” Camino starts. The author said:

The actual walk in May will be a celebration of the transformation that will already have happened.

There’s no one to say that you can’t just up and start walking one day, wander until you get there, book a ticket to a city that will be your starting point, and just go. But, there is something beautiful about seeing the Camino in this way – as a celebration of a change that will already happen in you, in whatever way. In the book, there’s a link to a video the author posted on Facebook, in which she compares walking the Camino to writing a book, concluding that with a message to keep moving forward on the path. There are no other set rules.

Upon coming to Santiago, the author experienced something I can relate to. She said that, after finally coming to the plaza in front of the cathedral, exhausted, she couldn’t feel much beyond ”Ok. I did it. Now, where am I going to sleep tonight?” I remember my first morning in Santiago, after traveling all day the previous day and arriving in the city around 9.30 p.m.: I came to the plaza, wanting to see the cathedral for the first time after seeing it so many times in the pictures. I sat in front of it, and it was like all the excitement abandoned me. For some reason, I wasn’t as happy as I thought I would be. I still don’t know where that excitement went. So, even if I didn’t do the Camino, I still understood the author or at least recognized the reaction I went through myself. I wonder if this is the case with other pilgrims here. I see so many of them every day.

As the author said at the beginning of the book, one of the goals of this Camino was finding the Divine Feminine. This is a concept that I am, honestly, not familiar with. I feel like there’s so much work I have to do, so much maturing and developing to be able to tap into this. To recognize it and be familiar with it. Reading this book made me think about how I perceive God, what that means to me, who I am, and who I want to be. It made me unlock the questions of my spiritual Camino – which is more difficult than the physical journey I’d have to make. That’s why I think that no matter what you know about the Camino de Santiago or if you plan to do it, you can read this book as a completely separate concept. You can think of it as taking a journey inside yourself, asking questions, looking for answers, and exploring your thoughts and beliefs. The final destination doesn’t have to be the cathedral in Santiago. It can be – as it always is – yourself, that you got to know better.

This week’s been so good to me with the books I’ve read and the different joys they brought me, and I’m so excited to talk about them! 😀 After I catch up with my studies this week, I will share more about it.

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