It's a sign that we've all gone insane. A summer on the Camino de Santiago: Part 3

During the summer I walked the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile century old pilgrimage across Spain. Each day I'd get up, shower, pack my gear and walk with endless thoughts in my head. Most days I would meet up with friends for breakfast, typically a Napolitana (Pain au Chocolat) and some Cafe con Leche. Then you walk some more. Eventually, you arrive somewhere, an alburgue, where you wash your clothes by hands, shower again, grab some wine and make plans for dinner with friends. If you want to know what it's like to walk the Camino de Santiago, let me just say that it's not all sunshine and rainbows. This is that adventure... 

See Part 1: How to Find Happiness: A Summer on the Camino de Santiago
See Part 2: Maybe a dog fight near a cheese farm is simply a dog fight near a cheese farm.
" All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don't sit looking at it. Walk."
- Any Rand
30K Walked: Leon to Hospital de Orbigo

My feet are the worst they've been. We've all gone through some ups and downs but after a 30k+ day, I'm worried about the next 300k. Though I did not begin this journey with the commitment of a purist, I've come so far that it would be a shame to have to take a bus or a rest day and risk reaching Santiago.

Trying to tickle meaning out of every curve in the road. 
The madness that I've witnessed in others has infected myself. We're all a bunch of lunatics racing across Spain for some idiotic reason. Why are we here? You'll hear lots of answers but there's only one valid response: for ourselves. Such an answer is not without a second question. Exactly what sort of person requires a 800 km walk for themselves? It's not normal.

A photo posted by Liv Jones (@liv_adara) on

I brought this up to Britta a few weeks ago and she insisted on our sanity and normalcy. However, I argue that normal people do not commit acts such as this and therefore we must be monsters. "No, no, no", she rebuked, "We're just highly social!". Of course this was before we were spending six to eight hours a day in silence tromping through Spain because we had ran out of things to say and knew each others' stories in detail.

I do think she had a point. There are some character traits that seem to define those of us on the Camino. Most, but not all of us are extroverted. Most are the adventurous type beyond typical, somewhat bordering on hyperbole. Most of us are seeking something beyond ordinary to define us, something which isn't relgious despite this being a pilgrimage. Indeed, it's that fundamental human question, "Who am I?", that still perplexes both me and others out here on the Yellow Brick Road. We all want to live amazing lives. We want our existence to mean something. We want to truly say we lived. For me and my merry band of lunatics, perhaps this is how we do it?

For Britta, who meticulously  immerses herself in meditation and yoga, it seems at times that this experience is less about it defining her and more about her defining it. She's guarded and vacant in our conversations about such matters. I'm convinced there's some hidden truths that haven't risen to the surface. It's as if she's certain of her expectations for this journey and perplexed by my willingness to ignore the shared common sentiment to elevate it beyond what it is. Which begs the question, what is the Camino de Santiago?

It's a very long, hard walk that affords you to see more towns, villages, and beautiful Spanish countryside than most people will see in a lifetime. You'll meet hundreds of people. You'll eat amazing and horrible food. The cost is relatively cheap in money but you will pay for it with your feet. Will it change you? Probably not, though many will argue otherwise afterwards.  In the end, we all go back home. We return to old habits and will find this Grand Tour of a tale to fall on deaf ears of family and friends who cannot grasp exactly what occurred.  People will grow tired of your endless stories and constant declarations of life changing experiences. Eventually, the memories will fade, both the good ones and the bad (blisters), and we're left  with a footnote in our own history about that crazy summer when we walked across Spain.

That said, I think most would agree that the Camino is still one of the best things in life that you can never really fully share with anyone. It's this, the quintessential hero's journey that makes a pilgrim special. It's this unique feeling that should we succeed or fail trying, we will find exactly what we're looking for: a happy ending. Now isn't that crazy?

Read Part 4: God Wants You Dead.


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