“More Blissful, Less Ignorant” Chuck, USA (2014)

“If my 2012 Camino was more of an introspective journey, this was more of a social one, shared with and cherished because of my companions. Who’s coming for the May 2016 reunion?”

“If my first Camino in 2012 can be characterized as blissfully ignorant, then I was more blissful and less ignorant when I started from St. Jean this time around, in May of 2014. I was more prepared and was determined to walk the entire journey. I came back from my first Camino with truly deep personal insights, and also some great memories of the people I met. This time the impact was more external than internal. I began alone as before, but the people I met remain my most lasting and treasured memories. Mark Mosher DeWolfe’s ‘Sing Out Praises for the Journey’ set the tone for me:

Ours the spirit of adventure; ours the truths of then and now;
Ours the visions of the crossroads; ours the choice to seek new goals.
Walk we onward now together, journey in our cherished earth.

No matter how short a meeting is, you can make an impact on someone, and they on you. Some encounters were fleeting, like two women I met from Port Townsend, Washington. Over dinner one evening, they told me about the Suso and Yuso Monasteries, where the first written evidence of the Spanish language is found just 10 kilometers off the Camino. While I have more affection for and stories about those I walked with for longer periods, I am still amazed at the strong impact of so many chance and fleeting encounters – like the time all four of us in a cubicle at Roncesvalles discovered we were from Washington State. For Mario, who lives near Seattle, moustache wax was an essential backpack item. My only souvenir of Mario is a photo he took of me the next morning. My memory is his comment as he aimed the camera, ‘You should look bad, to show people that you are suffering.’ And the other two Roncesvalles roommates who live just 130 miles from my home, I refer to them as the ‘Kennewick women.’

Other encounters lasted weeks. I made many meaningful relationships along the way. Cathy, who I met early on in my Camino taught me to ‘laugh at the rain’ as we slogged into Burgos. She was walking alone from Pamplona as her husband Phil was unable to arrive until later in the month. She then planned to turn back, meet him, and walk together with him from St. Jean to Pamplona, skip forward to Burgos, and walk the rest of the way from there. Cathy also made the profound theological observation while another man and I were discussing the ease of answering the call of nature in the woods – ‘God is male, otherwise things would be different,’ she declared.

I was more connected this time to the places we passed through and the aura that surrounds them. I remember places like Ponferrada Castle, the men in Carrion de los Condes who made an early entry into heaven by mistreating El Cid’s daughters, and ‘St. Someone’ (whose name I forget) in a church in Burgos, who was the local boy who made good. Or the bartender in Burgos who demonstrated how to get from the old city center to the train station: ‘take the napkin holder and get off after you go around the dish with the olive pits.’ I never tire of telling the story of an 82 (we guessed) year old woman from Manhattan who kept me up too late in the evenings. ‘Let’s go for coffee,’ she would say after dinner. Too embarrassed to tell her I wanted sleep and couldn’t keep up with her – we went for coffee.

There were so many touching memories and moments like these that filled my 2014 Camino with happiness. Among these memories was the special dialect of words and inside jokes that seemed to emerge among walkers. Take for example the created word, ‘Camigos’ which is used regularly to this day among my walking companions. There is Nilanj‘s ‘Vitamin I,’ a valuable daily dietary supplement for anyone walking (otherwise known as Ibuprofen).

I was lucky to enough to reunite with Cathy and Phil later on in Sarría. We connected with Rachel from Toronto in Sarría as well. Together, we somehow became known as the ‘The Four Racquels,’ merry Pilgrims trekking for the last five days to Santiago. One day, we walked past the town of Pedrouzo where we had planned to stop for the night. Luckily, Phil recognized that something was wrong, and we backtracked a few kilometers and avoided a possible disaster.  With little bits of good luck like this along the Way, thanks to my many companions and new friends, I not only managed to make the entire 500-mile walk, but I then walked 60 more miles to Finisterre. I am proud of myself and could not be more pleased with how my second Camino went. If my 2012 Camino was more of an introspective journey, this was more of a social one, shared with and cherished because of my companions. Who’s coming for the May 2016 reunion?”

-“More Blissful, Less Ignorant” Chuck, USA

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