Help, I’m in a love bubble and I can’t get out!
In today’s post I am talking about how drastically things have changed in my Camino, about my feelings as I approach the end of my 500 mile walk, and about something I’ve dubbed “The Love Bubble.”
Beware—intense feelings to follow. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy.
It’s day 28 on the Camino de Santiago, and a lot has changed. For one thing, the thick, viscous time I wrote about in the last post has shifted, turned to sand slipping far too quickly through my fingers. Seven of us pilgrims sat round the table in Astorga, Spain and counted day 26 of walking. I gasped aloud, I can’t believe it’s been so long.
I’ve said it before: The time is weird.
We are immersed. Bonds form quickly. Each day brings so much new that it feels like a week. And yet, when you attach a number to it—26 days, 28 days—then suddenly it’s a ratio. Completed to total. I expected the Camino to take about 35 days to complete. And now that I’m far closer to the end than to the beginning, the time feels fast. It hurts how fast it feels.
Seven days left until Santiago de Compostela, more or less. How could so much time have passed? How could we have so little left? How could it feel so long and vast—the whole of my life, at the moment, in this bubble—and yet entirely too quick?
I did not expect this.
Still following the arrows
The rush at the end, of course. The wishing for more time, of course. These things I expected. Is there anything more human than needing just a bit more time?
I read a book recently about a woman who sells her soul for more time. To live forever.
A quote stood out to me for its apt ‘timing’.
“Time always ends a second before you’re ready. That life is the minutes you want, minus one.” (V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie Larue)
As I finished the novel, I was also finishing the first chapter of my Camino. And the story has changed drastically since then.
I’ve said goodbye to friends and I’ve solidified beyond doubt other relationships. I’ve partied with people my age and had deep conversations with pilgrims who were once only familiar faces to me. I have had so much fucking fun that I lost track of writing at all. Lost track of the new book I’ve started. Of the expectations I had of solitude and quiet contemplation. Of my stubborn insistence on independence and alone time.
A 10-Day gap in my journal from the last time I’d opened it, a picture, in numbers, of how much things have changed.
I did not expect to feel the way I feel. To have fun, yes. To feel thrilled and excited and challenged, of course. But to form attachments? To feel dread at the thought of not speaking to my Camino bestie, Ed, every day once this ends? To mourn the loss of simplicity and the weight of my pack? To feel something bubble up inside that feels a lot like love? These things I couldn’t have expected. The warmth of the bonds with these people—best friends and adored acquaintances alike—has surprised me. Thrown me for a loop. Who even am I?
Used to walk alone
Now I find myself walking with friends.
The Love Bubble
This phase of the Camino will be called ‘The Love Bubble’. It’s how I will remember this time, between León and Santiago. When I’d been doing this for long enough to recognize that things are different now.
The bonds that have formed have been strengthened. Through time, yes. But also through festivals in the big cities. Through late nights of drinking and dancing in León. A trip to the spa and passing the word along to other pilgrims. Through long walks and talks about relationships and love and life, hopes and dreams and fears. Our favorite qualities in ourselves and the things we’d like to let go of. Childhood memories, our craziest hospital story.
The natural process of whittling and adjusting has occurred. The pilgrims on your route will be there, in town after town, but eventually you find yourself spending less time in conversation with some and gravitating towards others. You find your people.
This is where the big shift happens. Even I, self-proclaimed loner, anti-attachment evangelist, lover of independence, have fallen into the trap. I found my people. And I love them.
I don’t “OMG, Love it!” love them.
I love them so much it makes me cry to think about leaving them. I love them enough to spend a full minute and a half hugging one of them. (For those of you who don’t know me in real life, hugging is not a strong suit.)
Enough to talk sweet, sappy, complements behind their backs. To have the urge to tell each of them “Hey, you’ve impacted my Camino (and maybe my life.)”
And I’m not the only weirdo in this. I’ve named this phase ‘The Love Bubble’ because it seems all of us are floating through it. I sit at a table for dinner and listen to person after person talk about how comforting and chill and stylish Lucas is. I watch people’s faces light, their wheels turn, rapt attention watching young, beautiful William speak. Sweet Helmut has given me some of the best hugs of my life, along with a rock to place at the Cruz de Ferro. A rock which he instructed me to imbue with all the things I’d like to let go of.
I have people tell me, over and over, of my Camino bestie “Ed is a really good guy.” About his obvious kindness and care for others. About how his positive attitude makes them want to be more like him. (I won’t lie and say I don’t feel some kind of second-hand pride at being the bestie of one of the best people here.)
Alena, an American I love running into, told me she thought I was cool. (Ummmm best and most unexpected complement ever?) Paula told me she thought I was very pretty and I doubled down by telling her she has the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.
This is the kind of shit happening on the Camino right now.
Everyone is just walking around gushing over one another. Thanking their friends for being their friends. Telling the person across the table how much they’ve enjoyed the dinner conversation. Giving complements as freely as we hand out judgements in the real world. We are hugging. Long, extended hugs, positioned heart to heart. We are checking in with one another—how are your feet? How is your head? How can I help? We are all falling over ourselves in love with one another.
It’s fucking crazy. And amazing. When else could I give so much vulnerability and sweetness without risk? In what other scenario could I care so much about so many people? Have the feelings returned without doubt or cynicism or a single string attached. The love bubble has its hold on me and I’m happy to float in it, to make this last as long as possible.
We’re receiving sweet gifts from strangers,
and giving them, too
Dreams & Reality
I received my November work schedule last week. Apparently life goes on and the world keeps turning despite putting myself into a tiny bubble world within it. Seeing trips on my schedule made real the fact I’d like to ignore: This time is finite. It will end.
That night, in Astorga, Spain, I sat in an Irish bar, serving German Oktoberfest-themed beer and Italian pasta dishes with a group of friends. When one of them commented on our jubilant partying “It’s like the other people here are just sitting in a restaurant, but we’re in a bar”, I looked behind me to see.
She was correct, but I hadn’t noticed before. The corner where my people sat was all I’d seen. My vision had tunneled, leaving only the most important things. I might have been in any town USA, or in any city in the world, in any bar or restaurant, on a bus or a street corner. These people before me—Germans, Canadian, Dutch, English and American—held my entire focus. Were all I needed.
I haven’t felt so much sweet, holy contentment in a very long time. I basked in it, a lizard on a rock baking in the glow of those around me. Warmed by their laughter and by our shared joy—exponentially grander than the sum of individual parts.
I went to bed that night feeling as if I’d won something. And I have, haven’t I?
I woke in the middle of the night with knots in my stomach. I dreamt that it was over. We made it Santiago and one by one my friends and I flew home.
I was back in tiny Rhode Island, in my comfy car I love to drive. The backseat was full of produce from the supermarket—a watermelon, limes, and heads of lettuce rolled around in my backseat. These comforts are things that I love about home. If I miss one thing about home it is the availability of fresh vegetables regardless of season or location. I can have any veg I want any time I want. It’s excessive, how on-demand everything is in the States, but boy will it be nice to take advantage again.
Yet, even these creature comforts couldn’t ease the sting of feeling my trip had been cut short. I longed for more time. To fly back. I felt, in the dream, the sense that something had gone seriously wrong. Surely it couldn’t be over yet.
I woke, thankfully, and laid in the dark feeling both deep relief and deep sadness. It’s not over yet. Thank god it’s not over yet.
But it will be.
Turns out I’m cool…?
Basking in the glow of the best of the best
We are at the point in the Camino, about one week from Santiago, where I will have this thought every single day. At least once my breath will catch. The sharp stab of knowing will course through my body, I’ll shudder and wince. Try not to cry. I’ll feel my daily dose of pain for my future loss. And then I’ll take a deep breath and another step.
The Camino is one of the best metaphors for life I’ve encountered. A short way, a long walk, challenges—physical, spiritual, and emotional. Relationships in all forms and levels of intimacy. And this thing—the pain we cause ourselves when we look too far ahead—is as human a thing as I can think of.
This experience has been dynamic, changing so much from week to week that I hardly recognize my first week’s worries, wins, or attitudes, when I look back in my notes.
The things that mattered then— getting a bed, being early to an albergue, whether someone snores, having plenty of alone time—matter far less now.
The walking is still important. We still must find a place to sleep and wash the laundry and have moments of searing clarity within ourselves. But now the focus has shifted outward. To the people, who I guess I love, who I’ll miss dearly. To the landscape, once again mountainous after the dust of La Rioja and the maddening flat fields of La Meseta. To the experience of living simply, with all you need strapped securely to your back, your comforts and your burdens light. To this bubble that each of us is so, so blessed to exist within for now.
I’ll be devastated to say goodbye. I’m so glad I’ve finally gotten round to walking the Camino de Santiago—8 years after learning of it and at precisely the right time. For now I’ll try to put the future hurt, the tears that come with it, aside and steep in every joyous, glorious, love-soaked moment.
I know this isn’t my normal vibe, but man this is a vibe. I hope that every one of you has the chance to live in this kind of love bubble at some point in your lives. Until then, have a dope weekend.