Dorothy / “Little Chicago,” USA

“They called me ‘Little Chicago’ (that’s where I’m from), and decided to ‘take me under their wing.’”

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“Martin Sheen, the iconic peregrino from the independent film ‘The Way,’ was the one who implanted the idea of the Camino in my head. However, I had long been set on taking a long trip. I am the youngest of three kids. By the time I finished high school, my two older siblings had already left home to live all over the world, from Los Angeles to Ho Chi Minh City. I too wanted to find a unique and exciting experience to travel and exercise my freedom.

I planned and prepped for about nine months. Convincing my parents had been a struggle, but once they agreed to it, safety was still a big concern. See, I wanted to figure out the Camino alone. But, I had never traveled abroad before, had never long-distance hiked before, and I was pretty well known for getting lost! So, my mom and two friends of hers decided they would join me for the first three days just to be sure I got off to a safe start. The four of us began in Pamplona in mid-May 2014. Right away, we were plagued by blisters – when their days were up, they were happy to go. I was excited to be on my own.

I spent the next day walking alone, but when I arrived at my destination that evening I almost immediately met the people who eventually became my ‘Camino Family.’ They were a pretty broad mix of people, of all ages from 20s to 60s, coming from Canada, Germany, and other places around the world.  They called me ‘Little Chicago’ (that’s where I’m from), and decided to take me under their wing. I spent the rest of my Camino with them, and it still surprises me today how easy it was to find not only them, but so many other good people on the Way. I made it a point to always ask new people I met to teach me something new about them, or things they knew, so that every day would be a learning experience. I learned some really interesting things about the world around us in those daily conversations.

My most beautiful, but also most bittersweet, memory of the Camino was the last night I spent in Santiago with my Camino ‘Familia.’ It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to these people with whom I’d formed such great bonds and gone through such a journey. I came to the Camino hoping for a spiritual experience and I certainly got what I hoped for – I was able to see the true kindness and compassion of others on a daily basis. From this experience, I took away a brighter view of the world. It helped me to reconsider my values and to affirm my own strengths. I truly believe I left Santiago a more spiritually developed person. And I will always cherish the connections I made with other peregrinos on the Way – they may be brief or they may last the entire journey, but they are very strong and we carry them with us.”

-Dorothy / “Little Chicago,” USA

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