Interview with Mark Shea about his film, The Way – Spiritual Journey along the Camino de Santiago.

Thank you for your time Mark, can I first ask you why you decided to walk the Camino?

I first heard about the Camino in Paulo Coelho’s book, The Pilgrimage. I was fascinated by the history and mysticism mentioned in Paulo’s book, and started doing my own research with regard to the belief that the Camino can be a life changing spiritual experience. The idea of my film, was to walk the Camino, from the French/Spanish border, right across the Pyrenees, and document my own feelings, trying not to let my own beliefs and prejudices influence what I experienced.

You did the Camino alone, with no camera crew. Did this influence how you put the film together?

I was lugging about 18 kilograms of gear, way too much I discovered early on. To do the Camino in the time I had allotted, I had to adapt my filming style. I found it to be too time consuming to set up my video camera several times a day as I was walking, so I incorporate a lot of still photos in my film. As a filmmaker, I have never liked using ‘talking heads’ shots, that is a shot of someone talking directly to the camera or being interviewed in front of the camera. I believe it is lazy filmmaking, to just film someone talking and not use cut away shots to visually tell a story. In ‘The Way’ a lot of the film is me talking directly to camera, so the whole experience of making this film, has really stretched me as a filmmaker.

You are really quite honest in what you were feeling during the Camino, Was it painful to watch the footage back, remembering some of the difficulties you faced?

I wanted to be honest in explaining the Camino experience, and a lot that experience, particularly in the early stages, when your body is adapting to daily walking, is not particularly glamorous. A lot of times in those early pieces to camera, I’m talking about the difficulties I am experiencing, the aching muscles, dealing with inclement weather and crowded living conditions. But this is all part of the experience, and if I was to delete these scenes, I am not being truthful to that experience, and you wouldn’t see the transformation that occurs later on.

It is amazing to watch your progression, from freshly shaved to fully bearded, your commentary going from unsure to exuberant. You mention three stages of the Camino in your film, can you please elaborate?

The first stage is called the Physical Stage. No matter how fit you are, the Camino will test your body. The end of this stage usually ends in a ‘runner’s high’ experience, I was lucky to capture mine on film.

The next stage, the Emotional Stage, occurs during the Meseta, the flat lands. By now you are getting sick of the walking, and the long distances lead to introspection. For me, I had to really just accept the walking, forget about the next town, the next meal, and totally be ‘in the now’ It was only when I let go of all the noise in my head, that I was able to reach a meditative state.

The last stage, the Spiritual, occurs in the beautiful countryside of Galicia, ancient forests and gentle streams. It is in this stage that you really start enjoying the daily walks, they become like a walking meditation, an appreciation of nature.

Finally Mark, was the Camino a life changing experience for you?

I didn’t think it was, until I received an email from a fellow Pilgrim. A German girl I met on the Camino informed me she had just finished her Yoga teaching exams and was now a fully qualified Yoga Teacher. Before the Camino, she was a secretary.
I sent her and email back, congratulating her, and saying she was a great example of someone who had done the Camino, and changed their life. She sent me an email back saying, ‘So was I!’ At the time I was working in a Prison, as a pre release program co-ordinator. It took someone else to make me realize the changes that had occurred in my own life!

After the Camino, I still find walking a meditative experience, and I am no longer held captive by consumerism. The experience of walking the way, carrying my belongings on my back has really lead to a scaling down of my lifestyle, not just with regard to my belongings, but also with regard to the noise all around me in my daily life, the bad news on the television, the crap I am force fed in advertisements and political spin.
Interview by Mercedes Ramallo, Spain

18 thoughts on “Interview with Mark Shea about his film, The Way – Spiritual Journey along the Camino de Santiago.

  1. How can I see this in the UK?

  2. Mark,

    I’d suggest that you delete the reference to ‘following the Milky Way’ as a method of finding your way to Santiago….. you’d never get there!
    The Milky Way doesn’t and can’t do that.
    As far as I can figure out the reference to the Milky Way is a piece of modern nonsense put out by hippie types more interested in what sounds nice rather than what’s factual.
    When you set out each day on the camino the Sun was behind you in the east, at midday it was overhead and in the late afternoon it was in front of you, in the west. That’s how you found your way westwards to Santiago.
    During the night the sky overhead rotates by about fifteen degrees per hour, completing a circle in about three minutes less than 24 hours. Each night the Milky Way points about one degree away from where it was the night before. That’s hardly conducive to accuracy of travel. The Pole Star, which remains fixed, and around which all other stars and the Milky Way rotates, is due North in Spain. The pole star was used for navigation…. not the Milky Way. Mike Smith Sydney

  3. Mark is being very honest, and truly helpful, by showing us that the Camino is not always easy. He clarifies the stages pilgrims travel through: the physical, emotional, and spiritual.

    Books or films that sugarcoat the Camino experience do a disservice to travelers — 500 miles through mountains, across plains, and through forests provide a extremely varied pathway with numerous physical challenges. Emotions DO rise to the surface quickly when one is tired and hungry and unsure where to get food or shelter.

    Like Mark, I found that my realization of spiritual changes came after my Camino walk was completed. My life has changed dramatically since I walked the Spanish Camino. Walking across Spain gave me a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. The beauty of the country, the warmth of the people, the intriguing culture, and the enjoyable food and wine provided such great reward that I have returned to do other Camino routes — in Spain, France, and Portugal — time and again.

  4. Thanks for all replies. The dvd will be available on as of the 28th of October.
    One morning I got up at 4.30am (or was woken up) Mike and did try to follow the ‘Milky Way’ as I walked the Camino. It was impossible! But I think it was worth mentioning the beliefs various people have about the Camino other than those just related to St James.

    Buen Camino


  5. Hello!

    I’m a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He’s the first best-selling
    author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

    Have a nice day!


  6. Mark,

    My book is called .. WAY (the title literally came to me as I walked across a Denver road on the way to buy groceries) and it, too, is divided into three parts … Life, Death, Transcendence. I can thank a well-versed Camino guide, Roland, for those clues to its essential nature as I and a cozy sluster of Camino-meaning seeking pilgrims sat around Acacio de Paz’s welcoming refugio, “San Saturino”, one balmy April evening.

    Interesting that marvelous Mike Smith, everyone’s favorite Oz pilgrim, expert astronomer and general all around swell mate, sent me virtually the same e mail years ago when I first started lurking on the Camino website. I was all a-twitter about cosmic lay lines and meanings … and you know, the Camino is so vast that it encompasses both the scientific and “alternative” meanings as well.

    As you will discover, the Camino de Santiago is a gift you give to yourself … unlike Christmas morning, it keeps ON giving to you the rest of your lifetime.

    Can send book via e mail, if you wish.

    Well done your movie and here’s to “two thumbs up!” on its reception!

    Dashing off to work in sunny Missouri,

    Catherine Cameron

  7. Congratulations Mark. This is an amazing feet/feat. As a fellow filmmaker and author on a book about the Camino, I know the struggles and joys one faces when presented with the possiblity to share your own Camino with others. You are passionate about the Way and I’ve found, in the end, that’s what inspired me to keep telling stories about it for almost 8 years now. You are doing great work.

    Buen Camino, pilgrim.
    Sue Kenney

  8. Hi Mark,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I look forward seeing the movie on the 28th. I plan to walk the Camino next year, so this was a great way for me to learn more about the Camino and what to expect with an open heart.


  9. Hey Mark,
    Andrew and I walked the Camino this year in June…how about that? Our paths so often cross and turning points of our life. All the very best with the film.

  10. Hi Mark,

    I did some of the Camino in 2007. I am getting ready to do most of it this fall. Your film rekindles my yearning for it. Such a sweet feeling! Though I walked only a short stretch of it – the Camino became like a teacher for me and a way of life. Actually when I went back home my life turned upside down. I do not know if after this year it will flip back on its feet, but I am sure I started a process which needs a completion. A birth cannot go half way, I think. Thank you for creating your film. It is a great invitation for self discovery and for self purification. The Camino is a mystery, which contains special power. It is like a communion with power – once you try it, you are never the same. Thanks for sharing.


  11. Thanks Paula, I wish you the best on your fall journey

  12. Mark,

    Thanks for a really inspiring and ‘different’ type of video. What time of year did you travel? And how did you get to St Jean from Australia?


  13. Mark, thankyou for sharing your experiences on youtube. It made me wish I had been more disciplined in keeping my journal. I completed the Camino in August this year and watching your video I felt like I was back there!

    You comments about living in the moment rang true for me. My main reason for walking was that in life there is so much emphasis on goals and targets and whilst we are constantly striving to reach them we never really fully appreciate the now. The irony of the way being that the goal is to reach Santiago, it did worry me that I would be preoccupied with reaching the destination and again not living in the here and now. However I found I was able to reconnect with nature, (almost) enjoy the physical pain and feel an absolute sense of freedom. To me the Camino is a metaphor for life and the struggles I had on the journey represented struggles in my life. Every person I met, every ache and pain had it’s significance somewhere! And beer tastes so amazing after you have walked 30Km!

    Life after the Camino is tough and I’m struggling to put what I learnt on the Camino into my day to day life but I’m sure I’ll get there! Thankyou again and keep making inspiring videos.


  14. Thanks for your comment Rebekah. I have found that, post camino, I am less materialistic and have a different view on organized religion. Since doing the camino I did a 10 day vipassana silent meditation. I feel the camino taught me to meditate through movement, vipassana taught me to meditate through stillness.
    best wishes


  15. Vipassana meditation? Unlikely that I’d be able to stay that still or that quiet for long but maybe I’ll give it a go until my next adventure.


  16. Hi Mark.
    I have just received ‘The Way’ all the way from Australia. Thanks for your encouragement ‘Enjoy the Journey’. I WILL!
    Mark I discovered you when someone told me about a film ‘The Way’ a real shot movie created by Hollywood with a story of someone dying etc. Of course it is a taste for someone who has never walked Camino. But not the real deal!!!!
    A friend of mine walked ‘Carmino’ and I joined him for the last three days from Santiago to Cabo de Finistera, where the walkers all burn there clothes beside the Atlantic Ocean. I will always remember my all be it short walk and then discovered your film which in fact is the ‘real deal’ the pain, passion, unwinding story and spiritual growth. I like what you said at the end about the baggage we collect in our lives, very true.
    I brought your film to share with people because no way can you explain it and your journey does this very well.
    Carry on with this good film making if you’re ever close to Amsterdam drop by and well have a few ‘tinnys’. I’m also conected to film.

    Best wishes Christopher.

  17. Thank you Christopher. I always appreciate feedback. I funded this project myself and although I cringe watching it now, I learnt an important lesson with this film: Be Honest. Many people have said as you have, that seeing the good and bad is important to understand the journey. I’m setting off for a new RTW film in July. If I reached Amsterdam be great to catch up. If you are keen, may even interview you about Amsterdam.



  18. To all the women who have walked The Camino:
    I am planning a trip to walk The Camino next year and was wondering your take on safety. Is the pilgrimage safe and more so, is it safe for a single woman? Any words of advice for a single traveller?

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