My walking partner and I parted ways after three days. As much as I enjoyed his company- his knowledge of the local flora and his manners (while we were walking) that ended at the alburgue when the hostess thought we wanted one bed. I’m not sure what he told her in spanish, but I was not on board. The idea never even entered my mind! Seriously crazy.
In the end, he stayed at a different alburgue but you know how the Camino is. You step out into the dark morning and viola, there are the pilgrims you walked with the day before. Sometimes welcomed and sometimes, well, let’s just say, I welcomed solitude-while it lasted. No harm done.
“Don’t worry, About a thing, Cause every little things, Gonna be alright.”
-Bob Marley, Three Little Birds
Yep. You got it. Add to playlist along with No Woman, No Cry.
The past two years had been wrought with trauma along with indescribable emotional pain. The emotional pain was so real that it affected my physical integrity. I literally felt my heart in my chest breaking. My life of the past twenty-five years had been demolished out of malice. And so here I was walking across Spain, seeking the grace to forgive the perpetrator of the destruction.
Ladies, if you are in a similar situation, I would recommend that you read Mother’s On Trial by Phyllis Chesler. My attorney recommend it to me. Get. It. Now.
My next Camino will be for you; and all survivors of violence- even sexual. Please know that God heals.
Add Redemption, Dermot Kennedy and The Cave, by Mumford and Sons. This is real. It’s about having the strength to forgive and move forward.
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Back to the graces of the Camino for God’s love is magical.
Like I said, I had not planned on walking the Camino when I came to Spain last summer, but the Way called me. When I told a friend in Madrid about this he shared with me his wisdom:
“That is exactly what you should do…Let the Camino flow through you. El Camino has graces; the Camino itself. You can’t receive those graces anywhere else.”
-A Holy Priest from Madrid
“And let your mind wander,” I recalled my friend saying.
Add: Lost in My Mind by The Head and the Heart.
Memories came forward stirring up the muck in my heart. Anger and sorrow would ebb; and love would flow as I released the pain to the One who took it on Himself. There was nothing too great for him to bear. The more I released the more joy I found. The more joy I found, the more peace I recieved. The Camino flowed through me.
Add Ripple, by The Dead.
I kept walking keeping my chin up; that part is essential: HOPE.
Also, don’t forget to smile at the your fellow pilgrims. Be ready with “Buen Camino” to greet them. They have their sufferings too. No pity parties on your Way. Just keep adding to that playlist.
For me it was: Keep Your Head Up (Ben Howard), Panic! At the Disco’s, High Hopes, and for fun, This Is How We Roll, by Florida Georgia Line. Music is therapy for the soul.
Singing is praying twice.
Go to every Pilgrim’s mass you can. Offer up all of the muck along with all of your efforts of this Camino with the priest’s offering. Let His love flow to your very core. He did not do this to you, dear one. His love heals. He is there. Present.
He knows your suffering.
She knows the scandal of injustice.
Ave Maria by Beyoncé added to playlist.
If you can, receive everything on your pilgrimage as a gift. The blisters, the fatigue, the aches, the heat, even the illness that may come.
And come it did. A nasty cough. Try as I did, nothing seemed to relieve it. I hope my roommates were able to get some sleep. I sure wasn’t. But the worst part was my difficulty with my asthma. I had to make some choices and they were not easy.
In the end, I made the right choice for me. I realized that my pilgrimage to Santiago was to visit the Apostle in celebration of his feast. That had always been my dream. To celebrate mass there on July 25th. For me it didn’t have to do with how many kilometers I could walk in a day, or even getting my Long Distance- even though something inside me really did want that.
And so without shame: I got on a bus.
I knew I needed to practice self-care and I could not safely walk the next stage. The unexpected benefit of the short- again, short- bus trip, was being able to dry up my drained blisters by pouring rubbing alcohol on them a few times during the day while wearing my open toe Birks. I’m certain “experts” will warn not to do this; you should listen but it did seem to help me. A little.
That- somewhat of a rest day- along with some new cough lozenges seemed to help. (Shout out to the pharmacists along the Camino.) I was walking again the next day, no longer in solitude but with the Moldovan pilgrim I met walking to Logroño. Remember the one who sang the Beatles? That day we would walk for 30+ km, the longest stretch of my Camino.
We stopped at a place that had la ensalada de papa. Score! While we walked he told me that most people can only handle being around him for a couple of hours.
Spent more time with him in Leon…I started to think his friends were right.
I had been making due with one pair of hikers since Logroño and so now in Leon, I had a chance to shop! Where did I head to? El Cortes Inglés, of course. Now it wasn’t quite the same experience as shopping in Madrid but I didn’t have much time anyway. I did manage to find the most beautiful blush cotton dress with long flowing butterfly sleeves, the floral motif reminiscent of the gardens of Alhambra. Putting it on after a long day of walking the Camino felt heavenly. Best. Decision. Ever.
Add to playlist:
Señorita by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello. Not for the Camino Playlist. Instead add: King and Lionheart, Of Monsters and Men.
The Moldovan left in the morning to do his 50 km day. I stayed and toured the Cathedral.
It is breathtaking.
And so worth the late start.
Now, just so you know, I am glad I came to the Camino alone. I would not have it any other way. There really was a beauty in going it alone. With complete freedom, I became dependent on God for my strength. Being alone enabled me to rediscover myself; the strong, friendly, gritty, joyful, free-thinking, feminine me; the me who had to be buried in order to survive an abusive, patriarchal relationship.
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. -San Pablo
…I AM FREE.
Brand New by Ben Rector gets added to the list.
Thank goodness for my playlist. The next stretch of the Camino is black asphalt and car exhaust.
Someone told me that I really should stop in the next church because the statue of the Virgin of the Camino had a lot of significance. I do not know the story of this statue. What is clear is this image is special. Very special.
A Thousand Years, Christina Perri, added to the List.
I urge you to stop here even if the locals don’t want you to. They may even charge you for being a vagabundo–a vagabond. That is what my lunch receipt said. Just shake the dust off your feet and go to the friendly little peregrino eatery just across from the church. They welcome pilgrims with a smile.
Add to playlist: Shake It Off, by Taylor Swift.
Also, if you leave before dawn, be careful. Another pilgrim and I, missed the Camino due to some very large dogs being let loose on us. To afraid to turn back, we kept going not aware of our mishap. We eventually both made it back to the Camino, after probably two hours of walking. She had to climb a fence and cross a highway. Lucky for me, I checked my phone when I came to the only crossroad. I was able to cross through a little village that eventually met up with the Camino. I never want to see those dogs again! They were as big as lions.
A-wimoweh…S T O P. Hold up a minute. That song will be stuck in my head forever.
Okay, that’s better: “Don’t worry about a thing…”
Now, after making it back to the Camino, I ran into the pilgrim priest again, along with the pilgrim I had started off with that morning. Fr. Jojin told me about a monastery that he was headed to for evening vespers chanted in Latin. I so badly wanted to go but as I was still feeling sick, I didn’t think I could make it. He made it, and sent me a little video. Little did I know, I would be there soon along with a caravan of American pilgrims.
Get to add to the playlist: Pretty Shining People by George Ezra.
But first Astorga:
The lessons Astorga had for me: Good things come to those who wait. Remember my 4th of July longing for a bacon-blue burger? Got it here. Right outside the bell tower.
The other lesson? Bed bugs are nasty little buggers. I saw my first poor victim of bedbugs. Fear is the right response. The worst part? Instead of compassion, she had to be greeted with: leave & follow this protocol. My heart went out to her.
That night, I crawled into my silk, wrapped myself up like a caterpillar in a cocoon and slept soundly. Tomorrow would be another day of Wake, Walk, Wash, Wine, Repeat… I need a vacation.
Single gender bathrooms would be welcome too…
Hey, thanks for checking in! Part 3 of this series is coming soon. So subscribe. Also, you can find my Camino playlist: El Camino de Santiago, on Spotify. Follow American Peregrina to find it.
Also, I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts below. Cheers!