It’s bigger than me

Day 19

Saturday starts partly cloudy.  I’m up early because I’m not going to sleep much/any more before I head out.  It’ll be a 30+ km day today given such a short day yesterday.  Will reach Leon tomorrow (with a nice hotel booked, where some friends will also stay).

Dinner last night was nothing to write home about.  Oops, I just did write home about it.  So I have mixed feelings about breakfast at the hotel this morning.  

In the end, I decided have some of the nuts I’ve been packing and stop somewhere for food along the way.  Lets me get an earlier start and hopefully beat the t-storms later today.  Nowhere to hide along this stretch of Camino.

With time to rest and reflect yesterday, it’s become apparent that I went into this adventure with the attitude of what it can do for me.  And the realization is that it’s not about ‘me’ at all – it’s about others and the relationships we have with others.  The situation with our sick friend from the Netherlands brought that home.  To make sure she’s able to reach out, I gave up my reluctance and installed WhatsApp.  And the relationships folks have built are far bigger than ‘me’. This walk is not about coming home and saying “look what I’ve done”, it’s about taking the lessons and applying them to life.  I hope to be a better person.

I also hope I can inspire others as so many others have inspired me.

They say travel changes you, and it’s true.  But the degree of change depends on how you travel.  Doing a packaged tour lets you see different places but within the context of someone else’s idea of things.  I’ve long liked to travel independently, meeting local folks and going to local establishments (not just those that pay a hotel concierge).  But getting to know a new friend that has lived in several places takes that to an even higher level.  Most Americans won’t understand.

One thing many Americans won’t understand is how walking, biking, and public transport (train/bus) are so deeply intertwined in Europe.  So many of the European walkers are more fit because they get outdoors so much.  In America, folks tend to hop into their rolling chunk of metal and glass and hurtle down the street spewing exhaust.  The roads here are generally pretty good – some better than some in the US – but outside of the cities there is less traffic.  And that’s not a bad thing.

As for the Camino, I was intrigued by this article on CNN this week about the Camino and how it changes lives.  I totally believe the story based on things I’ve seen in my walk so far, and the stories I’ve heard about others that met and decided to share their lives together (one story even has a couple that ended up owning and running an albergue on the Camino).

There are also a surprising number of repeat walkers.  I’m not yet sure that I’d do this – or part of it – again from fear that I’d compare it to my first.  But if I did, I’d want to do it starting from earlier stages where folks first bond in relationships.  It would be different no doubt: hence the saying “it’s your Camino”.

Enough waxing philosophical for today.

30+ km today with temps around 20/21 in the afternoon, and the likelihood of late afternoon rain.  So I did want to get moving.  

I kept a pretty good pace today – 5+ km/hour.  Plus a couple of food stops and rest stops.  Leaving at 7, I arrived at the destination right at 3 pm.  

Feet are a bit sore but I don’t find any new blisters.  The patches on the Hokas have held up well.  On a long day.  Silicone caulk: good stuff.  They are more comfortable than the Salomons especially on gravel and hard pavement.

The countryside is like walking across Ohio.  Stretches of trees, towns 7-8 km apart, and lots of open fields used to grow grain.  I did pass one little airport, but it was very sleepy – there just isn’t the money or regulatory structure as there is in the US.  Few photos today as it would be like Groundhog Day all over again.

The bed for the night is a private room in an albergue.  And it’s set up for wheelchair access.  Doesn’t matter, private room, I’ll take it.  There was one private room, and I got it, much to the chagrin of a new friend from Germany that I met a couple of towns back. This is now the third time we’ve crossed paths.

The woman running the albergue is nice & really understands the needs of the pilgrims.  And it’s the only vegetarian restaurant in an albergue on the Camino.  At least the only one I’ve seen.  I’m actually looking forward to vegetarian… other than the dinner at the monastery few vegetables have been served.  So this should be healthier.  The place is almost like someone transported California here… they’ve even got whale music on. And it’s a place that I’d readily return to – because of the folks running it.

But there’s also a washing machine so clothes will be squeaky clean – if they dry.  Thunderstorms rolled through and it’s sunny now but everything outside is wet.  No clothes dryers.

Tomorrow will be shorter – 24 km into Leon.  Much as I’d like to spend more time, I will only spend one night there.  But I should meet up with the group of friends and I’m looking forward to that.