Craving the Camino
Nearing the end of the first quarter of the school year, I can’t help but feel exhausted and I know I’m not alone. Whatever it is you’re doing from nine-to-five (an obvious joke for 99.9% of the population), I have a feeling you are dreaming of somewhere else you would rather be as your stress levels have reached their peak.
Stress, as we all know comes in a variety of forms in our daily lives. Whether it be a scare at the doctor’s office, a pile of overdue bills, or the kid who acts like he has never seen the verb ser a year into learning Spanish.
It will come as no surprise that this week, my stress-free somewhere is the Camino de Santiago. If my previous posts have not sold you on walking the Camino, maybe this one will.
The most stressful point of my Camino experience (aside from the
stress thrill of flying standby), was deciding what gear to purchase: the pack that would become an extension of my body, the boots that I would have a love-hate relationship with, even which quick-dry underwear to buy.
The near obsessive two-month pre-departure packing aside, the Camino was pure peace. Sure, there was the physical pain that no doubt comes from walking a daily mini-marathon with a 15-pound pack on your back, but that is part of the essence of being on a pilgrimage. (Not really sure about the pack stat. Never weighed it. Oops.)
In trying to accurately verbalize my Camino experience to family and friends, I have said over and over that this Road to Santiago revealed to me human kindness in its purest form. It was acknowledging your neighbor as they passed with a “Buen Camino,” sharing an orange with those resting beside you, and waiting at the outskirts of town for your pilgrim family to catch up to go to the same albergue for the night.
From the books I read beforehand, I knew not to be afraid, especially of traveling alone; the Camino was another world where everyone looked out for one another. I never imagined I would see that kindness from Day 1.
Flying into Paris, two days prior, I had developed a little blister from walking the most perfect loop of the City of Light. (No complaints, I would have gladly welcomed a punch to the face gut for but another afternoon along the Seine.) Already nervous about the most challenging stage of the journey, an eight-hour climb up and down the Pyrenees, I was terrified of becoming immobilized by blisters. Enter the kind, gray-haired Canadian who had just serenaded his wife the night before after dinner. (Scene from a movie, I kid you not. Check it out here.) Without hesitation, he took my foot in his hand and tended to my blister. I’ll spare the details of the mini surgery, but I sure was grateful and in awe of the kindness of this stranger.
And that was thing, no one was a stranger on the Camino and no language barrier was too great to understand someone’s suffering and offer to help. You know a true pilgrim when he or she can look at a foot blistered and battered beyond repair and barely cringe at all.
The kindness of my fellow peregrinos delivered me an inescapable peace, as did the simplicity and solid tempo of rising each morning, walking, eating, washing, eating (drinking), and sleeping.
Some people say they fear all that time “alone” with their thoughts. What I found most surprising was how all the happenings in my head suddenly slowed. I lived in the moment, savored each distinct landscape I crossed, and enjoyed the company of my new family from all four corners of the world.
I leave you with a video (below) I created with Animoto.
Have I convinced you to walk the Camino? What is the somewhere you are dreaming of?