November 28th, 2018. This day seemed to drag on a tad bit more than other days on the camino. Which seems like a blessing now.
We walked and walked and walked. I know it was late because it was dark when we began our quite literal decent into our final destination. The rainy walk into the center of Santiago de Compostela seemed like it was never going to end. We reached the official Santiago sign but we still had a ways to go to reach our goal.
📸 by: @masuyeon88
📸 by: @meincamino18
So, we did what any normal group of weary walkers did when things got daunting on the camino… stop for chupitos! (Shots) Just like every other day, some of us were happy to make a short detour and some rolled their eyes refusing to enjoy or participate. And, in their defense this was one of many, many, MANY detours that kept us from reaching our daily goal. So I get it, but I definitely partook in the “almost there” celebration. We WERE going to make it to the Cathedral that night through hell or high water! (Is that a religious saying? Haha I don’t know but it seemed to fit.)
Earlier someone had mentioned to us that back in the old days, the first person in the group to catch a glimpse of the cathedral was known as the King for the rest of the day. Some of the more competitive people took this to heart and any chance they got, would take off running in hopes of being first. This was all for a good laugh because we all knew that we would enter the square together… as a family. So when we sensed the Cathedral right around the corner, we grabbed each others hands and made our final steps into the square. OR SO WE THOUGHT! Picture 9 adults (+ 1 dumb, idiot, trump loving, American man) holding hands, trying to find the square. Which ended up still being like 3 blocks away. And we kept holding hands the whole. Entire. Way. Bahahaha If the Spanish people weren’t already annoyed with the thousands of pilgrims that flood their city daily, we definitely made sure to help with that!
After 47 days, my camino finally came to an end. I made it to Santiago, my whole camino family in tow! WE made it to Santiago!
📸 by: Javier Fernández
📸 by: @minima_90
I desperately wanted to write a post about how the Camino de Santiago changed me mentally, spiritually and… shit… even physically. I fully intended for one of my posts while walking the camino to be named “Well there goes my foot modeling career” but in fact my feet held up way better than I had expected. There was that little stint of tendinitis in the beginning and a couple of blisters a few days in. But once those healed I was good. I had done one long hike prior to going, and not very much else. My whole body surprised the shit out of me in fact.
At the beginning of the camino I knew I’d be meeting new people and having little camino families but I was there for myself. To find myself, to figure out myself and to be with MYSELF. Besides a few groups here and there, I hadn’t really been apart of a real, solid group since the beginning. I hadn’t found a camino family. I wasn’t even sure I wanted a camino family. Then one day thanks to my camino emotional support animal I found them! I was convinced by said support animal with a melted McDonald’s hot fudge sundae to take a day off to wait for the rest of “his group”.
I’d classify myself as being a strong, independent woman, that doesn’t need anyone. So, I was skeptical to say the least. But when they finally all trickled in, and I let go of the feeling similar to interviewing for a job, I really started to enjoy their company. I knew this was going to be a good fit! We had a great day of exploring, and eating our way around Ponferrada. So much so that the next day when we didn’t start walking until almost 2PM I didn’t lose my shit, even when I wanted to, I stuck with them.
I am an extremely impatient person so it came as no surprise at maybe the 2 week mark with the full group (8-9 people) that I became extremely annoyed when not everyone moved at my quick pace. And that goes for doing almost anything. Waking up, eating, breaking during the day, walking, talking… everything. I have come very accustomed to being by myself and doing whatever I want during the last 2 years of traveling.
There was a particular day in which I had honestly gotten to my breaking point of waiting for everyone else. I had spent every waking moment with my new found camino family and I needed some damn time alone. I needed to do my own thing and move at my own pace. I think I’ve mentioned that I am extremely impulsive, right? So, when the group decided to stop walking after only 6 or 7 miles with multiple breaks, I was so annoyed and decided to leave and keep walking. In their defense, it was rainy, and the day wasn’t very ideal, but we had a plan, and I was going to stick to it. I said goodbye to the few people in the group that were with me, fully aware that I may never see them again. It sounds a bit dramatic, but that’s how the camino works. You may see someone again, but it’s likely that you may not. I hugged the only camino family I had, one by one. Leaving my most favorite for last: Daniel, my camino, emotional support animal. As our bodies separated I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I felt actual feeling… for the first time in a very long time! It’s no surprise that I absolutely hate saying goodbye. I always have and suspect I always will. I can remember when I was maybe 9, my older brother Daniel (different Daniel) left for like a 2 week trip to Japan, and there I was balling my eyes out, like I would never see him again. Spoiler alert: he came back, lost all of his disposable cameras, never to return to Japan again. But anyway, I left my camino family, walked another 3 or so miles, crying the entire way, asking myself why I just left them. Regardless, I don’t go back on my decisions. I do what I say and I say what I do, so I continued to walk. Even in the midst of the crying and the rain when I dropped my THIRD cell phone (on the camino) and the screen cracked, I continued to walk. I got to the hostel, and when I met another group of pilgrims, I basically begged them to invite me to dinner. They graciously obliged, and we had a fun night. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about the group I left, the entire time. Even still, the next morning I got up, broken heart and all and set out for the next town.
There were many days before this that I had walked alone. There was even stretches where 3 days passed and I hadn’t had a real conversation with another human at all. I walked that day, and got a chance to really digested the day before. And when the next town had a very popular pulpería (A restaurant that serves octopus) I knew I had to stop. So, I did, sent my location in the group text and settled in, preparing to wait it out. Much to my surprise I only had to wait 4-5 hours for them to catch up. When they arrived I felt so good. It felt right. Like many times before, we took over our own hostel room (because of the size of our group) we moved the bunk beds together to accommodate the 2 couples in the group, and ALL was right in the world. That night was one of my most favorite on the camino! We went out to dinner, did tons of chupitos (shots) and took a bunch of photos. All of that reassured me that despite the day before, I was right where I was supposed to be. But I did have to leave them to realize it.
I’m back home in Mexico now and trying to figure out A. How I feel about my experience and B. what was so difficult about writing a blog post while on my journey. I struggled the whole time about what to write, how to write about it, and why I wasn’t feeling more feelings.
While there I realized that I’ve become a very non emotional person over the last few years. So acknowledging, accepting, and then dealing with feelings has also become incredibly difficult. Maybe not difficult, maybe just different. Different than the way I dealt with things previously. But now that the experience has ended and I have the time to reflect on my feelings and I’m sitting here typing; there WAS one recurring feeling that kept popping up during my time in Spain. And it has managed to stick with me to this day. I’m incredibly nervous. No. scared. (Are those to words the same) Scared/ nervous that I didn’t do it “right”. WHY THE FUCK DID I JUST DO THAT?! Why did I just walk for 48 days? Am I still searching for the reason, the meaning, the life changing lesson I learned while hiking across Spain. Did I cure what ails me? Is that even possible? Per my previous blog post.. did I figure it out? Is it possible that I didn’t have a life changing epiphany while hiking 500 miles? I KNOW, that there is no right way and I should stop worrying about it. My rational mind knows that. And like the famous camino quote reads “Caminante no hay camino se hace camino al andar” or “Walker, there is no path, the path is made by walking”. And I’ve chosen to interpret that as: OF COURSE there is no “right” way of doing anything…. especially life. As I’m writing this it all makes sense. I didn’t change on this journey. I DIDN’T NEED TO CHANGE. I’ve done some wild shit, made some crazy decisions and what has always remained a constant is what I love and care about the very most can be summarized in one simple word: COMMUNITY.
I literally just went to google community for the definition to further drive home my point. But I don’t need to google the definition. MY definition is love; doing what other people want to do even when you don’t want to; caring to ask people a million annoying questions; listening to them sing in the shower; secretly taking ugly pictures of them and embarrassing them later; giving them silly nicknames; hugging; kissing; holding hands; picking up the entire tab for the group at a bar; cooking them dinner; helping wash and dry dishes because you don’t know how to cook; having a group chat and waking up to tens of hundreds of messages; crying when you leave them; but holding on to the hope that you will see them again. That’s community and I needed to walk almost 500 miles to realize that above all else I’ve been missing that in my life.
There have been sooo many amazing groups that I have been apart of: There was a dinner party group I can remember being apart of when I was in middle school, my Syrup fam, my TEFL group in Guatemala, and now my camino family. GOD I love you guys soooo FREAKING much!! All of those groups naturally grew or physically we all moved apart. It’s so sad, but that’s life! I think that’s what racking up all these “miles”, before and after the camino, has really been about… finding MY community. It might be time to settle down a bit. I don’t know when, where or how but I foresee in the near future, NEVER less “miles” but maybe a more permanent place to call home!
Top from left: Jinhe (South Korea), Daniel (Germany), ME, Daniela (Italy), Katherine (Belgium), Javier (Spain)
Bottom from left: Lucia (Spain), Serry (South Korea), Daniele (Italy), Roger (Spain)
This post is dedicated to my amazing camino family: the day I don’t wake up to at least one text, will be a very sad and tragic day. XOXO ❤️