Phil & Cathy, USA

“The beauty of the Camino is the ‘sameness in the uniqueness’ of each day … There is a great leveling among pilgrims.”

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“My wife Cathy became intensely interested in doing the Camino in 2013, visiting all sorts of chat groups and studying carefully the various logistics and trail routes. I initially wasn’t as eager – hiking is a passion of mine and we have hiked every single 3500-foot peak in the Catskill mountains in New York and nearly half the Appalachian Trail. Given those experiences, neither the idea of a ‘pilgrimage’ nor the thought of walking from town to town seemed very appealing.

To further complicate our logistics, Cathy was very eager to begin and wanted to travel before I was able to. She also wanted to go on her own for a period of time. To meet with her at some point after she began meant I would miss the part of the Camino that actually seemed interesting to me – going over the Pyrenees. Well, Cathy planned the logistics masterfully. She started in Pamplona and went to Burgos, traveled back to Pamplona to meet me, and then we got a ride from there to St. Jean Pied de Port to begin our shared Camino. We planned to hike from there to Pamplona and then skip ahead to Burgos (as she had done that section already), and then head to Santiago and beyond.

When Cathy became serious about doing the Camino de Santiago she had a powerful dream of reconciliation, which really motivated her. And when she was on her own in the section from Pamplona to Burgos she met a man who encouraged her to listen to the spiritual messages entering her consciousness and to trust that whatever happened each day was for a reason. “You are where you are supposed to be” became a steady inspiration and calming mantra for her. She met lovely people who became dear friends, but then had to leave them to meet me. She was worried I would not be as happy or enjoy the journey as much as she.

Well, things could have started off better – my boots were stolen on my very first night, in Roncesvalles. I think Cathy was more upset than I was because it seemed like a very bad omen. I was upset, of course, but also very happy to be with Cathy again after being separated for the longest time in our 35 years of married life. I also had already begun to sense the blessing in store for me in sharing this journey with a community of fellow pilgrims. It was difficult to develop our own community of fellow travelers, however, until we skipped ahead to Burgos. Only then did we begin walking more or less in parallel step with a large group of people. Yet somehow, people we only met for a day or two at the beginning ended up crossing our paths much later for a variety of reasons.

Every time we met one of these people it was an occasion for great joy. It’s hard to explain how such short encounters produce such real joy, but you can see it in the pictures we took. For example, shortly after leaving Burgos we met the ‘Three Amigos,’ Nilanj, David, and Greg. These guys didn’t know each other until they showed up on the same day at St. Jean and began a long special journey together. Cathy and I were lucky enough to meet them early on our journey and share many special moments with them. Our joy came from deep inside throughout this journey and in each of those encounters.

Both Cathy and I had our rituals throughout the trip. In necessary ways they merged. In other ways we pursued our own unique calling. The beauty of the Camino is the ‘sameness in the uniqueness’ of each day, the simplicity of a common goal (to reach Santiago) in the complexity of so many individuals’ motivations, personalities and methods. There is a great leveling among pilgrims. There is no need to compare and contrast, or to feel superior or inferior. For me it became a great celebration of my retirement. For Cathy it was an opportunity to live in the moment in ways she found very fulfilling. For us, it became a celebration of our uniqueness and our shared life together. We definitely want to do it again.”

-Phil & Cathy, USA

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