It has been one month since I completed the Camino and flew to Paris to reconnect with my wife. It was so wonderful to see Betsy and again get to hold and hug her and share her welcome and much missed company. Wow, this transition redefined culture shock. Moving from the simple life on the trail to the heart of Paris in a few hours time was not easy. I stumbled around in a daze for a few days truly missing the ease and rhythm of the Camino. Home life in Nevada City has been easier but ‘real’ life is so much more complicated than walking for a few hours a day with the only real concerns being sure to have plenty of water and a place to stay at the end of the day. I loved Paris, my first ever visit there, and plan to go back when my mind is more ready to absorb all the wonders of the City. We did all the ‘tourist’ things including visiting Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre (Mona was much smaller than anticipated), the Orsay, the Picasso Museum, Notre Dame, the Rodin Museum, etc. Food was delightfully sinful especially in contrast to my diet of the previous 35 days. But all the while I was there I was also missing the simple pleasures of walking the Camino de Santiago.
I have had four weeks to contemplate my Camino experiences and what I brought back from the journey. First of all, life is better lived in the slow lane or, at the very least, out of the fast lane. There is so much to be said for attempting to live a slower and simpler life. I am in a semi-retirement mode so it is a little easier for me to espouse this philosophy but when you have choices, take the less stressful path even if it is longer. Being in the real estate industry for 40 years I have done more than my fair share of worrying, especially needless worrying. Let go of the things you cannot control (weather being the best example) but do be prepared for whatever might come your way. Be flexible, rigidity does not serve you well. If the inn is full, the next one probably has plenty of room and may even have more to offer. Tread lightly on this planet, it is better for the mind and the body (especially the feet). Time spent with family, friends and community is the best time spent. Being alone is healthy and necessary, being lonely is not. Getting lost is OK. If you are never lost, you will never be found. Surrender routine. Mix it up a bit. Live life. Lastly, listen more to your heart and less to your head. The heart is right most of the time and if it isn’t then the head can probably get you back on course.
Bombarded with weird and unsavory feelings and emotions. I should have bought a t-shirt or hat or some other badge screaming “I just walked the entire Camino from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Finisterre.” I am at the airport in Santiago waiting for my flight to Paris and many of the people in the waiting area are obviously pilgrims with their packs, worn-out footwear, and rather grizzly look about them. I, on the other hand, have no pack (I mailed it home so not to have to lug it to Paris), have a face smoother than a baby’s butt, and am wearing my freshly cleaned Ecco sandals. Many of these peregrinos are engaged in animated conversation no doubt yakking about their experiences. I sit by myself knocking out this blog posting sucking down my third caffeine loaded cafe con leche feeling very left out, unrecognized, and ignored. I guess the lesson learned is that, if nothing else, the Camino helped me recognize these feeling so I can address them. Did I walk the Camino for some sort of recognition? Do I need for complete strangers to acknowledge my accomplishment? What’s going on in this scrambled brain of mine? I arose this morning so excited about zooming to Paris and getting together with Betsy but as I rode to the airport I passed lots of hikers looking both worn down and enervated as they trudged the final few kilometers to the Cathedral of Saint James. This is the first morning in 36 days that I haven’t arisen with nothing to worry about except making sure I had plenty of water and didn’t get lost. I miss it already. But now I’m off to Paris more excited than ever. Life is strange for this crazy pilgrim. Time to get out of my head? Finally???
The wind was blowing quite swiftly when I headed out to walk the final few miles of my pilgrimage but I get the feeling that it is always breezy here. I trekked out to the lighthouse at the end of the Fisterra peninsula and the final monument on the Camino. I don’t know if you can read it in this photo but the kilometer reading is now 0.00. I am wrestling with so many feelings that I really don’t know where to begin. Happy. Sad. Proud. Humbled. Strong. Insignificant. Lonely. Fulfilled. Exhilarated. Left a bit of Andy at this final monument so, as he promised, he did finish the Camino with me. Shared a cab ride back to Santiago (the taxi took 65 minutes to cover what took me 3+ days), got a delicious shave, and then sorted out all my gear and made arrangements to ship everything back home except for a few items for my trip to Paris tomorrow morning. For the last 35 days I have gotten up early, thrown my pack on, and started walking. Gonna miss it in the morning but am so excited about seeing and sharing with Betsy again. Five weeks is in some ways a long time but in other ways just a quick walk in the woods. Next chapter starts tomorrow.