“I first heard about the Camino when I read Paulo Coelho’s book, The Pilgrimage. The concept of a pilgrimage resonated with me, and in 2006, near the end of my last semester of college, I knew I would have time and decided to do it. The idea really just popped in my head one day and I ran with it. I was on a plane a month or two later.
The reason I decided to do the Camino was much deeper. I had long felt I needed to go to get away from all the distractions of the world and focus on improving myself. Until then, I had had a bit of a dark past with suicide attempts, a devastating relationship which had destroyed me emotionally and that I still hadn’t fully gotten over even after five years. I realized I had huge issues with depression, and on top of that I had become a very secretive person, never allowing people to help me with my problems.
While at home I was able to ignore these things for times by playing video games, watching television or just wasting time on the internet but on the Camino I wouldn’t have any of these distractions – just my thoughts.
My plan was to start in St. Jean Pied de Port, but the airline lost my luggage and I was stuck in Pamplona a few days waiting for it. Concerned for time I decided to just start there instead, and ended up hiking all the way to Finisterre. I pretty much hiked the whole thing alone. I’m a pretty introverted person, so I didn’t go out of my way to talk to anyone and I was deep in my own thoughts most of the time anyway trying to figure things out.
My experience was more emotional than anything. I spent my days remembering all the good and bad in my life and how to deal with them and thinking of ways to deal with my depression.
My favorite moment was probably at the end in Finisterre. I had been very fortunate in that it did not rain once the entire time I was hiking, with the exception of the very end. I made it to the albergue in Finisterre, dropped off my bag, and started my walk to the lighthouse at the end while the sun was shining and the sky was clear blue. But the weather quickly turned and soon it was a torrential downpour with horizontal rain. There is a statue along the way to the lighthouse of a pilgrim, fighting to walk forward against the weather and I remember seeing it and I just started laughing hysterically. It was my last challenge before the finish line. When I reached the lighthouse I was completely soaked through and with the white shirt I’d been wearing it looked like I had just been in a wet t-shirt contest. The rain stopped as soon as I reached the lighthouse and I reflected on the journey while staring out at the ocean for a while. When I finally started to walk back a nice couple was nice enough to offer me a ride and I accepted, making it the first vehicle I had been in since getting off the plane in Pamplona, officially ending my Camino.
I made a great number of steps to becoming a better person out there and it was my first solo travel experience. I learned that I’m a great deal stronger than I thought, and that just about anything can be accomplished if you just keep trying.
In addition to these lessons, the Camino also wound up giving me something else very special. At the same time I was doing the Camino, there was a woman reading Coelho’s book halfway around the world in Latin America while also doing her first solo travel trip. We had gone to the same high school, just one year apart, and had many mutual friends, but yet we had never met. Not long after we both returned from these trips we both managed to find one another via MySpace. She saw this picture of me on my profile page and realized I had done the Camino; I had heard about the volunteer work she had done in New Orleans after the devastation of hurricane Katrina. We ended up finally meeting one day and now over eight years later we are still together.”