Father and Son Walk the Camino

Geert van Emelen walked the Camino de Santiago four times including two trips with both his sons William and Robbe. Geert openly speaks of the incredible impact the Camino had on his life and the bond with his two sons. As a busy businessman Geert states the Camino changed his life and encouraged him to be more focused on the relationships within his family and being more aware of living in a slower pace. Geert shot a beautiful short film on his journey and wrote this little article on his experience with Robbe, his youngest son.

Father and Son Walk the Camino-image

"During the walk, our relationship father-son changed..."

Why I decided to walk with Robbe

It was something I asked him. I just felt that it would be an enrichment to do that with my son. I was really scared that he would not do this. It is so uncool for a 15 year old adolescent to walk with his dad. It was a very "fragile" period between the moment I asked it and the moment he said "yes, maybe we can do that". He did not tell it to his friends.

I was so happy when we started together but in the beginning, the first days we walked together, I was afraid that he did not like it. However from the moment we started walking we talked and talked and talked all the time. About silly things, about his life, about my life, about people, about the world... During the walk, our relationship father-son changed and altered between adult-adult, child-child and even sometimes I was the child and he was the adult. This experience is amazing, when you feel it is authentic.

Some images/experiences I have in my mind...

  • Every evening he asked to give him a foot massage.
  • Eating together was always a feast with or our without other people...
  • I cooked his food when he was resting on his bed , he fell a sleep...
  • In the beginning Robbe just wanted us to be together, later on he started to appreciate the contact with other people, later on he really wanted to meet other people, he had no fear anymore to join conversations with other adults and in other language.
  • We enjoyed the silence when we were walking, we were hungry and thirsty at the same time, we never had any tension or dispute (we walked more then 700kms together)
  • When we arrived after a walk, we took a shower and then together in bed we listened to sportgames on the radio
  • We never cried , on the contrary we were always in an overenthusiastic positive laughing mood , even when it was raining , cold , hot, when we were tired, sleepy, …it was all about us walking and we were having fun
  • We laughed a lot, we were always walking around with a smile, we felt so free that a joke was always around the corner. Everything and everybody is funny. Often we had laughter attacks.
  • We met a budhist monk (female). We were in the same albergue. She told us about her life in Korea. She invited Robbe to come over to Korea , she would take some months (!) to show him the country.

All the people we met became part of our Caminoworld…

Special moments to remember

I walked for more than a week with Robbe and on a certain moment he said to me, "Dad after I graduate I want to do the Camino, but this time I want to walk it alone, all by my self". I found this an incredible moment. This was my maximum success in education!

We had a very though walk to Reims , there was a lot of mud and we both were really exhausted . I was complaining all the time about the weather, my legs, the weight,… On a certain moment Robbe said to me: "Look dad, we have to go further , there is no other option than continuing, so let’s do it. (it was the first time he took the role of father and I was the kid and I realized it on that moment, it was amazing).

On a certain moment I realized that I had lost my Camino shell , it had fallen off the Wheelie somewhere, in my first reaction I was very disappointed because it was a gift of a very good friend of me. Until Robbe said to me: "Don’t worry dad, our shell is now lying somewhere, we don’t know where but we are sure it is somewhere on the Camino".

We gave names to our daytrips (the shit-trip, the bonjour-trip)...

We were walking for hours and hours , a very though trip. We were walking all the time alone, we did not meet anyone and suddenly, my 15 year old son took my hand and we walked hand in hand. Can you imagine this?

We met 3 girls who were in their 20's. They were really crazy in a positive way. We called them the giggling girls. By coincidence we slept 3 nights in row in the same albergue. The last night we had dinner together by candle light. We drank a lot of wine together after which they started giving Robbe ‘love lessons’. They gave him 3 rules to seduce a girl: 1. Always candlelight, 2. Always good wine, 3. Never use Paco Rabanna!

We were in a bar after a walk , I ordered a beer and asked my son what he wanted for drink , he answered me, "yeah give me a beer too…" Of course I know that as a real Belgian he drinks sometimes a beer with his friends, but now he ordered it with his dad in such a natural way. I will never forget this first beer together.

We did not sing together, the 2 of us, but we had 2 singing nights with ‘the giggling girls’ , one of them was a professional singer and we knew a lot of the songs and sung all night together with other pilgrims.

In the beginning Robbe did not like the Wheelie , he was uncertain about its coolness. But that changed very fast when he saw the reaction of other people and of course because the advantages of using it. It made our walk more easy. The Wheelie became a companion , a witness. It became a magnet to built social contacts.

The Camino With a Hiking Trailer - Youtube

Geert van Emelen - 2016