Maybe a dog fight near a cheese farm is simply a dog fight near a cheese farm: A Summer on the Camino De Santiago Part 2

See Part 1:  How to Find Happiness: A Summer on the Camino de Santiago

Over the summer I walked from the south of France to the west-coast of Spain with only a backpack and some gumption.  A week before arriving in Biarritz France to walk the Camino de Santiago, I was in Cardiff Wales graduating with my class for my master's degree.  It had been almost a year since I saw Ish, Ves, Marialena and my closest friends. Friends that I missed intensely and whom I have a deep respect and love for. Friends who showed me my own worth, a gift that I'm grateful for and with which I carried along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I would make new friends along the way, this is that adventure...

Well, Jack, maybe a dog fight near a cheese farm is simply a dog fight near a cheese farm.
20K Walked: Calzadilla de los Hermanillos 

Upon a flying vortex I was whisked away.
To land in a place of legends and dreams.
Follow, follow the road of Saint James way,
By yellow glyph, nothing is what it seems.

The mountains of God stand to defeat man.
These Galacian mounts have conquered many,
Made grown men cry till no more could they stand.
To become greater than simply just any.

In defiance of predestined failure,
The challenge becomes a courageous act.
But glory in prevailing can be yours,
If you prove freewill and take what's yours back.

By feet alone, you will endure the pain.
Degloved by the earth, eroded by self,
To risk it all, a sacrifice to gain
An answer worth more than the greatest wealth.

To become something more for those who try.
A rite of passage is the Way to know,
The answer to the question, who am I?
...on El Camino de Santiago.
Today marks the half way point of the Camino. While the first 400 K seemed both overwhelming and easy at times, self-doubt continues in my head. Others don't let on or are void of this sentiment. Though one by one this Camino has taken its toll on our group. We've lost many due to planned time limits. Kerstin, Becca and Nicholas has left us. Ingo, left us a few days ago due to his own choice but had suffered foot problems prior to his departure. Remaining are, Verena, Britta, Diego and myself. 

We've received word tonight that bed bugs and blisters have plagued Britta. Diego is out there wandering somewhere, but such is the norm of our lone Spaniard in the group. The other day he arrived at 11 PM at night hungry and dehydrated declaring "I thought I had lost you forever!". The Germans of our camino family have learned the English word ditsy and use it to aptly describe Diego. Diego who is solely responsible for bringing enough hash for the entire five-hundred mile journey continues to woo certain females with his stories of being a cross-dressing rock star in an open relationship with a cougar.

Verena and myself seem to be keeping a similar pace together. This is surprising for me considering I'm fifteen years older than her. We began this adventure together meeting on the train to Saint Jean Pied de Port, France. We're very similar in many ways including our observations of our group travels and how we like to experience the day: generally alone. Somehow though we always seem to end up in the same alburgue and enjoy the companionship and familiarity of each other.  As with everyone you meet here, it always feels as though you've known them forever. Verena has become my camino sister and a bit of a role model for myself. I've never met anyone who can tear through a dozen kilometers without water in a foreign country with no fear whatsoever like Verena. Sometimes I wonder if she's human or machine. The paradox of all this is she looks like Heidi and comes across as the girl next door.

Many out here look the part. They're physically strong, young and make fifty kilometers look easy. Then there are those who are less fit, some who stay in hotels, take taxis and buses, and some who overestimated their abilities only to become lost to us and their whereabouts unknown. 

Becca and Diego
I do believe that anyone can walk the Camino given enough money and time. However, while twenty kilometers seems like a reasonable amount to walk in a single day, it's the drudgery of day after day, less than healthy food and the inability to sleep well in the snorer filled alburgues that provides little recovery if you find yourself injured. Most people who continue to make the stages, those who we continually see, tend to be thin, healthy and eat relatively well. I would likely be the exception to that. Whether it's my own self loathing or not, I typically feel as though most people are surprised when any chubby American arrives successfully. I remember the look this guy gave me the last time I did the Camino in 2012. At that time, weighing at least 100lbs more, I constantly had to stop and catch my breath. Arriving in the city of Santiago de Compostella, I got the sense that everyone had taken bets that the fat American wouldn't make it. But now I'm two days from Leon and a week from Galacia, the part of the Camino that I struggled with last time and I've forced my inner fatty deep down inside and I'm not letting her out.

I wonder when I will have the confidence I see in others. This character trait which I so desire. To be certain in the face of failure that I'll succeed. Perhaps everyone feels the same and merely maintains face? I wish I could find the same changes in myself that others claim to be experiencing. Where is my transformation? I didn't come on this adventure for this reason nor do I actively seek it, but if this road is as magical as others suggest it to be, shouldn't I have been moved by this journey by now? How am I supposed to embody the heroine of my own story without my own reformation.

24 K Walked: Mansilla de las Munas

The Camino is a really  weird place.You have strange conversations with the opposite sex in communal bathrooms. It's normal to shower with four or five other women at the same time like some high-school locker room. It takes a certain level of crazy to do what we're doing but the variance of madness ranges from religious fanatic to mere pragmatic curiosity. Somewhere  in the middle is a spiritual happiness with constant intoxication both from the adrenaline of walking four to six hours a day and the countless bottles of wine consumed. Despite these differences, everyone is accepting of one another. It's nice, refreshing and complete lunacy all in one. 

While I wish I could say I was a bit more delirious with happiness, I generally lean more towards a pragmatic observer. I've realized out here that my numerous personal dreams, these life-changing experiences of the last few years have done little to change the long term direction of my life. In the short term it's been great, but my education, travels and the people that I've met still can't change the reality that I'm going home to a small polyphobic town North Carolina of 2800 people.

This same town with which I grew up in. The same town where I dreamed of the world, never expecting to be able to see it. In many ways my life has been perfect even if it's been imperfectly difficult. Now I fear of everything going away. I fear the end of the adventure. Do I return home to a future in an unfulfilling job where the past is a constant reminder of what was rather than what will be? 

Indeed, after this I've promised to turn in my running shoes to Shannon. I've spent these last few year following my heart at the expense of being together. Perhaps it's time to let go of childhood nonsense and fantasy? Perhaps I must accept the fact that I've already experienced more than most people. Some may pray on this pilgrimage and I've tried that in the past. However, this time I think it's time for me to accept the truth. The truth is this: tomorrow the sun will rise, I will walk to Leon. It will be beautiful, it will be hard but I will arrive. Will it be perfect? Of course not. I will sweat, freeze, ache and curse often. There's no God to get me through, just the unrelenting beating of my heart and my feet on the ground. Should God decide to show up during this task I have several questions about student loan forgiveness, my inability to tan as a white girl and when exactly that I might find an actual job. Considering the fact I've planned my inquisition, I can't blame him if he stays away, which likely he will. 

The other night, me and Verena stayed with the infamous singing nuns of the Camino. A comment from one of them struck me odd. The nun stated that their job too is to find God. Well Hell, if the nuns can't find him then how am I supposed to? To borrow from writers Emilio Estevez and Jack Hitt, maybe none of this matters. Maybe we should stop trying to ascribe meaning to the Camino or life? Maybe what is perceived as miraculous or a tragedy is neither. Maybe a dog fight near a cheese farm is simply a dog fight near a cheese farm.

Read Part 3: It's a sign that we've all gone insane.


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