Arriving Santiago in Santiago de Compostela was an anti-climax. All the pilgrims crowded into the pilgrim office to get their certificate of completion. I paid 3 euros to get some diploma looking thing written in Latin with my name on it that I have probably lost by now. We settled into a hostel that was more expensive than usual. Peter, Anders, Alex and I went to the Cathedral that everyone says is must-see, just like the 1000 shows on Netflix that I have to feel guilty about not watching every time I have a conversation. I started fidgeting after 15 minutes into the mass and we eventually leave halfway through to get tapas after a vote of unanimous boredom.
There was a festival with parades, people playing bag pipes and then fireworks later in the night. My three companions had beers while we ate at Doner Kebap and we went to this outdoor concert where everyone was packed into the space like sardines. I went back to the hostel as they were getting drunker and more rambunctious and I couldn’t take anymore sweaty people brushing against me. I sat in the hostel alone at 1 am. It was one of the first times I had been awake past 11 pm on the Camino, and I felt a sadness for its end. It was odd to be night dwelling after being a creature of early pre-sunrise mornings for so long. I regretted rushing it when I may have been able to extend the trip by 8 or so more days by slowing down. All the great friendships were there the whole time, I just didn’t allow many to grow past the seedling phase. Most of all I would miss the community, the shared living, eating with new people at every meal. I would NOT miss the food. There is a saying you will hear if you do the pilgrimage, “The Camino provides” and for me it did. At a down point in my life, it showed me that kindness is our optimal functioning state. Also, there is so much to learn about other cultures that I am ignorant to.
I said goodbye to Katrine last night as we both felt it was best to link back up with our original “Camino Families” and to end the hike with them. I still maintain my group wasn’t a Camino Family and was just a few dudes, because I’m a lone wolf, and tough, and sometimes I believe that. Although I thought I never quite fit in with Katrine’s group as many more of them caught up with us in the last few days. There was this American girl that had manic positive energy that seemed contrived in many situations. I had no desire to keep up with her Energizer-Bunny chatter. It’s possible that she had a great personality and I’m just an anti-social curmudgeon. My sister swears by the latter. The larger group may have looked at me as expendable because I was so obviously interested in Katrine the whole time. I should have kept it as my Camino and not followed Katrine for that long. “It’s your journey, no one else’s, you will find out what you need to know on your walk.” said the sage-like hostel attendant on my first night in France.
I felt like a tiger in a cage that wanted to roam free after staying in Santiago for two nights. It was the worst part of the trip. The re-integration into normal, mundane life was a tough pill to swallow. Now I was just like every other tourist: buying souvenirs, going on tours and looking at statues, all things I hate. The temporary location-based defining of my identity, as an elusive wanderer, would no longer suffice. This approach is dismissed and warned against as “geographics” at the twelve-step meetings I attend. “Wherever you are, your still there.” or however the saying goes. “You can’t outrun your problems.” This conjures an image of a teary Matt Damon and Robin Williams in me. My favorite pastime is drama and I’m a puppet of the consumerist commercialization of sadness and longing. I had met everyone I needed to meet and was maxed out on extroversion. It felt complete.
I wholeheartedly recommend doing the Camino. It will be one of the best things you do. If you can’t get a month off from work, then quit your job and go. You have a great resume, I know you’ll land on your feet when you get back home to the grind that will always be there for you. You have enough savings to go 3 months without a job, so stop making excuses. Unless your a hoarder, then I can’t help you. In 3o days on the Camino, at 35 euros a day, all costs of lodging and meals included, you could reasonably spend $1,050 from start to finish, in one month. And do it alone, it’s so much better that way, if I can do it and I’m shy and introverted than most of you can definitely can do it. Women, you will be completely safe at all times, especially in July and August when the Camino is very crowded and you never go 20 minutes without seeing another pilgrim.
Always be polite and say “Buen Camino.” to creepy or annoying people, then speed up without remorse. It gets easier with practice. But there will be far more interesting and magnetic characters with wisdom to share than annoying ones. And leave the map at home. If your from the U.S, bring the phone and don’t get an international plan. Only work off wi-fi so you preserve that precious solitude in the wilderness every day. Your only outlets on the trail every day will be your thoughts and conversation with strangers. What a novel concept!
I will continue this blog on a broad range of topics. Making it an outlet for my rants and ramblings may not be the best thing for me as I can blabber on forever, so I will try to find a more structured approach but I can’t guarantee anything. I am currently living in Madrid, Spain teaching English to kids ages 12-18 at a high school. Feel free to email me with any suggestions or feedback on the direction of my future posts- firstname.lastname@example.org
Ideas- Dates in 250 words, language exchange-olog (one on one language meet ups with strangers in Madrid), reactions to Spanish culture and customs etc, Tinder in Spain, sobriety blog, English teaching in Spain, the process of learning Spanish