Imagine you have a dream, a dream so big and so unfamiliar that you have no idea how it could ever become a reality. And honestly, the very idea of the dream becoming a reality actually scares you. Or maybe it exhilarates you. Maybe it makes your heart sing and your spirit soar.
You know you have to have it. You know this dream has to come to be.
For Alysa Golden and thousands of women like her, that dream is – or was – walking the Camino de Santiago.
What happens when you find a dream, or a goal, or you add something to your bucket list that’s so big it becomes all you think about? The idea of it keeps you up at night and sends you down a seemingly endless cycle of research and discovery, where you find answers that bring even more questions. And with each round of questions, you cycle through a range of emotions so broad you wonder if you will ever reach the end. What do you do?
You do what Alysa has done. You create a community around you, of like-minded people who can share the journey together and support each other through the fear, the nerves, the struggles, the joy, and the excitement.
For Alysa, those like-minded people are women of a certain age, specifically, women over age 50 who have walked or want to walk one of the Camino routes. They have faced and are facing trials and hardships. They are celebrating milestones and big accomplishments. And they are reclaiming parts of themselves they set aside decades ago to raise families, build careers, support spouses, overcome illnesses, and, well, live life as it happened. They are strong, empowered women who, like Alysa, now have a dream and they recognize the power of community in making those dreams come true.
I first met Alysa through the Facebook group she started, WOACA the Camino. The reason I join and participate in Facebook groups is to share my 18 years of experience walking the Francés route of the Camino de Santiago. I have had the privilege of helping hundreds of pilgrims get started on their very first pilgrimages on the Camino, formally as a guide leading groups from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, and more broadly as the host of a podcast that is specifically for and about first-time pilgrims.
Join the WOACA the Camino Facebook group.
First-time pilgrims are a special group of people, diverse in every way, from religion to geography, from age to world view. Yet they all have one thing in common: in order to complete the pilgrimage, they must all take one step at a time, from where they start to wherever they finish.
I love what Alysa is building through the WOACA group. It reminds me that if what you want and need doesn’t exist, you can create it. You, me, anyone. And if you want and need something, chances are thousands of others want and need it too.
I am also reminded that none of us are ever alone. You are never alone. We need community; we need each other.
Alysa has such a gift for bringing people together. She knows that we are all parts of the whole and that when the community is held with love and safety, we can move through any challenge. And walking the Camino – goodness, even just getting started – can be quite a challenge.
In many ways, WOACA is simply an extension of Alysa’s professional and personal work. She is doing online, on Facebook, what she has been doing for years in her life in Toronto: bringing people together for good, to heal, to thrive, and to deepen and broaden their life experiences.
I am inspired by Alysa and what she is adding to the Camino community.
What is the Camino de Santiago? What does it mean to “do” the Camino? This book is going to make you want to know the answers to those questions.
Seriously, this book should come with a warning: You won’t get through it without wanting to pack your backpack, lace up your hiking boots, and get yourself to France, Spain, or Portugal to go for a long walk on the ancient pilgrimage route that leads to the city and Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
On my first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, which I completed at the age 40, I met a Canadian woman who was walking to celebrate and acknowledge her 50th birthday. At the time, I thought, “cool, good for you.” Now, at 58, I know the significance of that. I know that reaching age 50 and embracing the years that follow is essential to who we are as women, as leaders in our families and circles of friends, as members of our communities. As beautiful, resilient, daring women, confidently – or not so confidently – bringing forth our gifts and talents to light the way for each other.
Who are the women on these pages? They are women just like you, just like me, who have done any number of big, bold things that our younger selves could never have dreamed possible.
And we are not done yet, are we? No, not even close.
There is power and freedom in saying yes to your dreams.
Your dream is important. Go ahead and say yes, and we will walk through this together.
Whatever your challenges, whatever slows you down or gets in your way, know that you have found your community, and we will support you in making this dream come true.
Foreword from Hearing the Camino’s Call
Connect with Alysa Golden:
Get the book, Hearing the Camino’s Call: Stories of Inspiration and Celebration from Women over 50 walking the Camino de Santiago. Available on Amazon.
Join the WOACA the Camino Facebook group
Alysa was recently a guest on the My Camino podcast, hosted by musician Dan Mullins. Check out that inspiring and insightful conversation on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Release date January 16, 2024, titled “The pure joy the Camino brings women of a certain age.”