After seven days of walking el Camino, my perspective has changed a lot. I have admired picturesque views more majestic than my imagination could conjure. I’ve met people from many backgrounds, each with a compelling story and an offer of personal truth. I’ve learnt about the logistics of the Camino – how to find a bed, when to change my socks, how to order coffee, where to put my shoes at night. But I’ve also started to realise the power of this road. After only seven days of walking, I find myself invested, committed, and almost addicted to the steady crunch of the path underfoot.
As I ‘ve stepped past cereal fields and vineyards, along paths of sand, mud and stone, my mind has begun to expand into the wide open spaces around me. Sometimes the space is daunting, like a too-big balloon about to be popped. Sometimes the calm and quiet is comforting. And sometimes, the space forces me to go to places in my mind that I’d rather avoid. So naturally, with all this time to think, to walk, to just keep on stepping forward, I’ve had a few little realisations to humble my ego and confront my urge to stay in control.
At first the Camino was like a walk in a very pretty park. Day one offered wind turbines, yellow canola fields, fresh farmland, a ‘Buen Camino’ every five minutes and a jug of sangria in the afternoon sun. But, as the days ticked over and the kilometres fell behind, my daily existence became streamlined (walk, water, food, sleep) and the white noise faded, leaving little distraction from my inner monologue.
First I realised that the challenge of the way would be in the repetition; each day I must rise early and walk, regardless of mood or weather. Then I was reminded that the world is made of all types, all valid and necessary (and many of whom are represented in a 40 bed peregrino dormitory). Then sad news from home haunted my walk, making me feel very far away from my past life, my family, my blood. And during the past two days, with Dave’s knee refusing to play nice, I was reminded that the Camino leads the way, not me, and my journey cannot be planned, only followed with an open heart and mind.
Now, after two days of not walking, after a bus from Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Burgos, and after a confusing but productive adventure to a Spanish hospital, I am preparing for the next stage of my Camino – the solo road. Disappointingly, Dave’s knee remains sprained and in need of bed rest, so I will be taking on the next four days on my own, before joining him via bus to Leon. Sad as I am to leave him holed up in a hotel room (even a nice one with hot water and no bunk beds), I am excited to be going out on my own again (my default travel mode) and exploring the Camino from the perspective of solo female pilgrim.
I have no doubt the way will offer me plenty more insights as I adjust to being alone again (after five months of partnered travel) and walk about 70km across the Spanish Meseta.
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