For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now. To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post. Today’s theme is, “Enough is enough.” Whatever that means to you, feel free to comment, link your blog, or repost online with any stories of your own. Thanks for reading!
Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina. Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause. It would mean the world!
With the interest of returning to hike the Camino again, I’ve been reading several forums about how much things have changed since 2009. When we hiked, there were no smartphones, no apps to guide our path, and no way to check social media without putting a Euro in a router at a hostel. It was also pre-The Way, a beautiful movie that helped spread the Camino’s tradition, and apparently significantly boost its popularity. Understandably, technology and popularity brings along as much bad as it does the good. I’ve read countless posts about the overcrowding of hostels, squabbles over wifi speed, and a commercialization of the hike.
I am trying my best, and will keep fighting the urge, to not join in on this mindset. It’s very easy to get sucked into the “everything was better last year” ideology of life. I have my original memories, and if I am able to make new ones there, they will be on a new path, unrelated to my original experience. I can’t lump the two together, as much as I will try.
I remember on our first trip, hearing these worries as we approach Sarria–the common starting point for those walking the final 100 kilometers. “People will be wearing makeup! They are loud and pushy! They don’t know the true meaning of the Camino!” And this is only a sliver of the warnings we heard. The two battling mindsets the entire trip included: “Everyone has their own Camino” vs. “This is the true way to do the Camino.” Basically, a giant metaphor for life, as usual. We tried to take the side of the first motto, and accepted that as people hopped on busses or stopped at 11am to have a few beers, it was not our place to judge. It was also not our place to determine why someone was walking a certain length of the trip. I don’t know their business, why would their trip affect mine?
As we arrived in Sarria, the grumbling was starting to grow even louder. And I have to admit that I was anxious about not getting a bed that night, or that the energy of the path would lose its peaceful quality. Nonetheless, we settled into a small hostel and made the executive decision to cook in the hotel’s beautiful kitchen instead of joining the growing crowds in the nearby bar.
Hostels (or Albergues, as they are known there for Pilgrims) are often as basic as can be–a bathroom, a large room with bunk beds, and maybe a kitchen. Kitchen nights were pretty exciting. You save some money, and usually feel a lot healthier. Well this hostel not only included blankets on their beds (BLANKETS WERE THE BEST!), but it also opened up into a stunning courtyard with a fountain, stone patio, and two rooms with a dining area and a fireplace. Hoo-eeee! Why would we bother leaving this perfect little haven?
Determined to avoid the anxiety around the new group of hikers, we held our chins high and went to the store to get basic ingredients and a whole bunch of wine. We cooked a massive pot of pasta and veggies, set the table, poured the red wine, and celebrated feeling like accomplished adults. Our simple meal was one of the most celebratory of the trip thus far.
As the sun began to set, and the well-timed full moon appeared over the stone courtyard, we washed our dishes before following voices outside to the fireplace room. The owner of the hostel had placed out bottles of limoncello and other liquors, and invited us to sit by the fire and ease into a well-deserved rest.
As I pressed my sore feet against the side stones of the fireplace, the room took turns telling the stories of their lives. The group formed a perfect conversational rhythm of support and celebration. We spoke of childhood adventures, of tragedies, or failed relationships. And in the glow of the fire, I looked around at the faces of people had become characters of our personal Camino stories: the girls from South Korea who I washed dishes with in week 2 (without a scrap of common language between us but laughter), at the same characters on the night of the rapping nuns, at the women we called “Pilgrim X,” who was one of the toughest ladies I’ve ever met, and of course, of the girls I had walked the first 400 km with by my side, who were also beginning to slip under the spell of the evening.
When it was time to go to sleep, the complaints and worries about newcomers had slipped away. Both old and new were entitled to experience the support that forms after a day, and weeks, of hiking. The Camino will welcome you in, fold you into its community and exhaust and humble you past the point of judgment. I knew I wouldn’t, couldn’t, lose that joy–it wasn’t possible.
And as anxious as I am try to and complete the trek again, I know that no amount of technology or crowded paths could erase its rare capability of making each hiker believe in humanity again.