Goodbye Santiago de Compostela, Farewell Camino

The third day after –

Today continues the transition back to real life.  

While it’s sad to leave, it is time.  With friends departure, some of the magic has dissipated.  But the memory lives on.  And will continue to live on.

I was up at 7 (but awake thinking about things earlier), showered in the morning for the first time since I started the Camino (usually I’d shower after completing the days hike), and ate a leisurely breakfast included with the room stay.

The hotel has an interesting history.  The first part of the building was built in the 18th century as a tannery and was converted in the 19th century to a convent that used the structure for over 100 years.  It was abandoned and restored/refurbished in 2001 as a top quality hotel that remains today.  It’s nice, but not quite as spectacular as the old monastery i stayed at in Zoilo.

I had one place I wanted to visit this morning: the museum of the pilgrimage and Santiago de Compostela.  So I made two trips – one each way – through the plaza to the museum and watched as another steady stream of pilgrims arrived…. but none of them were ones I met along the way.  The museum was outstanding – it traced the history of St. James, how he ended up in (what’s now) Spain, the discovery of his remains in the 9th century, and the history of the pilgrims that have traveled here since.  It was well worth the visit and was free just by showing my pilgrim credential.  

Back to the hotel by 11:30, with a cab booked at 1 PM.  I said a fond goodbye to the Hoka shoes that brought me here & treated my feet well (I and others will miss the unique peacock blue & turquoise shoes with orange and turquoise soles), and I finished packing.  A couple of other items hit the trash as I won’t need them anymore & still aim to lighten my load.  

As I think about the trip, it was an experience that exceeded all expectations and has changed the way I view things.  From the friendships & new relationships I made to the kindness and generosity of folks along the way.  I feel deep gratitude and privilege for this journey.  I will do my best to pay it forward in real life.  And I now understand why some people have made many Camino journies.  

I also can’t help but be inspired by folks like the woman I met the first day who had beaten cancer and after doing so hiked both Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Camino over the Pyrenees.  Or the one that walked about 200 km after having hip replacement.   Truly inspiring.

I’ve often said that the Executive MBA program was one of the hardest things I’ve done. The Camino is right up there at the top, too.  Physically and maybe mentally, too.  There were only about 3-4 really, really physically hard days involving steep climbs (over the Pyrenees was one, the walk to O Cebreiro was another).  There were long days of 33 km hikes, and short days of 16 km.  Each taught a lesson in perseverance and the power of helping others with their journeys.  After reflection, it feels like I want more – A few days rest will do that – I wish I had the time to go to Finisterre.

Everyone’s Camino will be different.  

But one thing that stands out is that there are opportunities for communal dinners, usually in albergues, where everyone dines together and you meet the other pilgrims there.  Depending on the situation, you may have the opportunity to join such a meal if you’re in a private room, but if you’re in a hotel the opportunity might not exist.  Because I had private rooms in a few albergues, i did have the opportunity to join on several occasions & met folks that I wouldn’t have otherwise met.  I know I’d still have a concern sleeping in an albergue dorm room, but the meals were a great opportunity.  I got to know my new German friend that way – we kept running into each other on the trail after that night (and I hope to see him again when he visits the US.

I left the hotel about 1 and headed for the train station.  Less than 15 minutes later, I’m paying the driver and headed in.  Print my ticket and grab a sandwich at the cafe.  The Renfe trains in Spain require that you clear a security screening as you enter, so the bag is x-rayed and the guard randomly pulls folks aside for a metal detector scan (at some stations you walls through the detector).  Once cleared we head for assigned track.  The trains were full.

We did have a connection but made it easily and 3 hours on the train gave me a chance to focus some more on my Camino. I’ll post more about that shortly.

We arrived in Madrid and it sure seemed easy to walk the 2 km to the hotel.  The pack seemed lighter (and it was since I was wearing the new shoes instead of carrying them after leaving the Hokas behind).  Checked in, settled in, got some dinner down the street, and washed put clothes so I won’t have to do it again before heading home.

Tomorrow will probably be a ride down to one of the art galleries (Renia Sophia, Thyssen, or Prado) and maybe walk a bit of the city.  I’ll need to be out early Thursday to the airport but that should be no problem – about the same time as my last few Camino segments.