Hello everybody from Rabé de Calzadas, España. I’m posting this from a picnic table in front of the Albergue I’ll be sleeping in tonight, but It was written in Burgos during my extended (amazing, luxurious) stay there.
In this post I’m talking about some hot topics I’ve been thinking about on the Camino: Time, connection, and being human. Of course. Hope you enjoy or maybe relate.
I´ve been on the Camino de Santiago for twelve days. It will be just over two weeks by the time this post is published. When I say that “Two weeks,” it sounds like nothing. A quick jaunt, a vacation. In the scheme of my 35-40 day trip, I suppose it is. But it feels like so much more.
Walking the Camino de Santiago is a time warp. You walk it, of course, but you also eat it. You sleep it. You scrub and shit and breathe it. It is every minute of the way. Even on a rest day, you´re still “On the Way”. You see the same people over and over again, day after day—we´re all walking in the same direction, after all. You meet someone on the trail, you see them in a cathedral, and then later that night you sleep beside them, or above them.
A room of 14 pilgrims—different languages and countries of origin. Different hygeine practices and sleep styles. Different schedules and temperments. But still all bound by this one thing. The Camino.
A small café along the way, backpacks lined up against the front wall, familiar faces scattered about the tables. You go to dinner, thinking how clever you are to have found this vegetarian restaurant in Estella, Spain, only to find yourself surrounded by others in hiking clothes and sandals. “Come sit with us!“
It is a beautiful thing, bonds form quickly. But it only contributes to the feeling that we’ve been here a long while.
There are other situations like this.
I remember celebrating my 28th birthday while in Orlando for flight attendant training. Me and seven of my closest friends from training had dinner and drinks and laughed the night away. I lost my shoes that night.
That was January 27, 2014. We started training on January 22.
In the five days leading up to my birthday, my classmates and I had learned airport codes and airplane parts, a whole new language of aviation. We had shuttle rides to class together and ate breakfast together in our hotel. We studied together in the evenings and ate terrible sandwiches for our dinner break at school. We ran into one another at the gym. We slept in rooms next to one another. It was all in, all the time.
And this complete immersion is what made us feel close, tightly bonded after only five days in Orlando. After five days we´d already said sorrowful goodbyes to classmates who failed a test. We celebrated with our other classmates after every passed exam. We swapped stories of home and backgrounds and in this tiny bubble of a world, time was magnified and stretched.
The Camino has a similar feel for me. The time passes as normal, but without the markers of regular life— a work schedule, a weekend, interacting with a loved one´s schedule— it feels different. I wake up in one place and I go to sleep in another. I visit three or four or five different villages in a day. I see the landscapes change and I bear the wrath of the weather´s changing plans, too. I see more than one should in a day.
A vacation means visiting a new city for a spell. Hanging around, seeing the sites. Some good meals and good laughs, time to sightsee and time to rest, maybe even time to party a bit.
And we do all of this. But when you see so much, how could your brain believe it has only been one day? Two weeks?
The road is long and time is weird.
But don’t worry, we still tourist.
I bid good morning to my fellow pilgrims and I go to bed with them at night. I know intimate details about some of them, crazy stories about others. Some I see as bright beams of sunlight, warming the people around them. Some of them give me that funny feeling we were destined to meet. Some are background players in my Camino story, familiar faces but unknown.
They are all different and all the same.
It is all routine and all new.
How could my mind believe this experience, the all-day-every-day-ness of it, is a mere two-week blip? When, for now, it is everything. Every waking moment, and the sleeping moments too.
It is something that I think about often, the immersiveness of it.
Perhaps this is why people write about suffering the “Post-Camino blues” after returning home. Fitting yourself back into your old life when for the last 30, or 40, or 50 days—which feels like 60 or 80 or 100–you´ve lived one thing only: The Camino.
Wake up, pack, walk. Check in, shower, wash your clothes, eat. Sleep. Wake up. Pack. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Over and over and over again. The simplicity is beautiful and at times maddening.
“Must I really wash laundry again!?“ I´ve lamented. But the answer is yes, I must. When you carry only enough clothing for two days, washing is a daily necessity. It is groundhog day every afternoon arriving to your final destination. It can be annoying. The unpacking and packing and washing. The over-and-over-ness of it ad nauseum. But it is also a comfort. A daily routine on this long journey where time is not real.
Without the morning commute and the gym classes and the meetings and the weekend plans, you can feel like a ship unmoored. And even I, a small but determined little boat, looking for adventure, do not want to be lost at sea.
Connection is important. We don´t need a heavy anchor. But we need something. A distant star to guide the way. A familiar face. A small routine that makes each day feel real, that lets us count the days, reminds us that we’re human.
Connections steeped in fun.
And those forged through sold out hostals and sunburns and many many miles.
I´m being reminded of this, my humanness, constantly. On cold mornings, walking in the dark, hands pressed forcefully into the thin pockets of my shell rain jacket. On the seemingly endless stretches of exposed dirt road, sun beating on me, and choosing between the excessive heat of a black long-sleeve shirt or the risk of burn on bare arms.
My bladder reminds me daily just how human I am. When I enter a little village before the shops have opened. No place to pee inside or out. Or on those long exposed stretches without a tree or bush to hide behind. When I´m walking a busy stretch with pilgrims before and behind me. No break in the action for nature to call. Holding and holding and feeling oh, so vividly, the sensations of the human experience.
When I think, in moments, that everyone has found a clique but me. The comical human pang of longing for something I do not want. When sharing humor across languages, over a community dinner of cheap pasta and cheap red wine. Understanding I do not need the security of a group, or a clique, or an agreement to have real connection. I can feel it deeply, and let it go once the moment has passed. It´s my journey.
The moments of frustration, when I´m short on sleep, aching in my feet and legs, missing caffeine and up earlier than I´d like to be. When I can´t muster a conversation, cannot even bear to speak to someone else, so I say “I’m walking slowly, you go on ahead.”
It is back to basics on the Camino. Despite the privilege inherent in my being here, and the things that make life so easy like mobile apps. It is still the walking, the packing, finding food and shelter, tending your wounds, making connections, making discoveries—about the world and about yourself. Healing. Daily healing. Of muscles, of heartache, of grief, loss, or the closing of a chapter. We are all healing one thing or another.
Hopefully by the end of this very human experience, in this very long bubble of thick, viscous time, we will all be better people. We will have healed the things that needed healing and discovered things that needed discovering. We will have made peace with the things outside our control and maybe gained a new outlook on life. Perhaps we will have found deep connections, relationships, that will anchor us to this experience forever. That will allow our Camino to go on, a living, growing thing. Perhaps we will have found that connction within ourselves.
If nothing else, we will have walked a long, long way. We will have completed something we set out to do. We will have seen cities—Pamplona and Burgos and Léon and Santiago de Compostela. We will have sauntered through tiny villages like Villambistia and Agés and Puente Fitero. We will have walked through a season. Through different regions. Up hills and through rain storms. Burning sun and cold winds. We will have taken on our feelings about god. Attended mass and receieved blessings. We will have pondered what is holy and what it all means. We will have met people we never would have met otherwise, who will make us believe, with their appearance in our lives, that we were meant to walk The Way.
We will have seen divine coincidences, and Camino magic. Will have witnessed the giving goodness of other people, no matter where they come from or which language they speak. We will have grown callouses and muscles from carrying our packs. We will be made stronger on The Camino.
We will have walked our own way. And it will have been the right one.
The laundry—a never-ending torment. And also a small, necessary anchor.
Watch for the signs, and find your own Way.
I hope you guys enjoyed this meandering, pondering stroll of a post. I sat down in the public library in Burgos, expecting to write something else, like a Week 1 Recap. But this is where my mind and fingers landed.
I will likely publish some recap posts—brief descriptions of the different stages and the things that stood out to me along the way. I’ll also be publishing informational content like a packing list and everything you need to know about accommodation along the Camino de Santiago. But those types of posts are not time sensitive. The feelings posts, on the other hand—the ones about revelations on the road, the lessons I’m learning, or the big questions I’m tackling—those feel more pressing. I’d like to share those things before the moment passes and it was “just a way I felt one time.”
I hope you’ll have understanding when I publish things out of order, while waiting for a recap piece, or if the layout doesn’t look quite as polished as usual. I’m working from just a phone, making the process of formatting difficult. And I’m working at whatever pace, and on whichever topics, I feel like in the moment. It’s a Camino commitment I’m making to myself. I’d love for you to come back and check out some of this Camino content when it does, finally, make its way to the homepage.
Until then, thanks so much for stopping by. Best of luck to all of you walking—or finding—your own way. ❤️
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Thanks for stopping by. I’m Toni and I run the show here at A Wheel in the Sky. Here we talk all things travel, flight attendant life, and…being human. I’m in Spain for a month and a half, walking the Camino de Santiago, so the content here will be Camino-focused for a while. If you’re interested in doing the Camino de Santiago, stay tuned for future information posts. Or if you want to follow along with my daily Camino hijinx, give me a follow on Instagram.
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