People Coming and Going – A Good Training for Life
All along the Camino, pilgrims meet people who come and go. You may walk with someone for an hour, two hours, half a day or for most of the hike. If you didn’t arrive with someone whom you were planning to walk with, you will meet people on the way. You may meet find one, two, three or even ten friends to hike with over a period of days or weeks. You may form a team and walk the rest of the Camino together.
If you’ve seen the movie The Way, starring Martin Sheen, whose family is from the Galicia region of Spain, then you have an idea about how people, some completely different from each other, can end up walking side by side for several hundred kilometers and becoming good friends. I recommend this film. It’s a great portrayal of walking the Camino Frances.
Staying in albergues as opposed to hotels facilitates making walking friends. You have to get up at 6:30 p.m. Light are out by 9:30 or 10 p.m. at the latest. So, everyone goes to bed around the same time and wakes up together. They wash up, pack and depart together. So, it’s easy to end up walking with someone or with a group and bonding and becoming friends. This is not true if you’re staying in a hotel, especially if you don’t get up very early and meet those leaving the albergues by 7 a.m.
Because of COVID, I didn’t want to stay in albergues with lots of people in the same room and a much increased chance of getting COVID. So, I worked with On Foot, an English agency, that plans great hiking and trekking adventures in many different countries.
They selected excellent places to stay. I have slept in a different hotel or inn every night until I reached Lugo, where I’ve stayed in the same hotel two nights in a row. What a gift. The hotel life has spoiled me. It will be hard to go back to the albergues and not have room to spread out my things, stay up later, keep the lights on and depart at my leisure.
Most people walk “a stage” of the Camino each day. The Camino Frances has 34 stages. Each Camino has a different number of stages that I takes to walk. Some people who are strong and fast walkers can do the Camino Frances in less than 34 stages or days of walking. Cyclists usually can do it in two weeks or less. There are even people who ride horses or run the entire Camino.
For walkers, you find people coming and going in your life. If a person you like decides to stay an extra day in a town or city, you will always be one day ahead of them unless you decide to stay an added day somewhere to rest or tour the city or town. Some people can only hike for a week at a time, and you learn that they are heading home and suddenly you must say good-bye. Some people get bad blisters or an injury and must stay behind and rest and heal.
Others walk at a different pace or decide that they want to walk with someone else for a while. As a result, you make friends, but friends come and go along the Camino. It’s good practice for life, where people come and go in our lives more than we imagine. I think of the Pryors, Hollisters and Halcoms at Christ Church – all of whom moved in the past year to Michigan, Georgia and Florida respectively. We didn’t anticipate their leaving. It’s hard to say good-bye.
Life is a coming and going, welcoming, bonding and bidding farewell. We never know when we are having a final conversation with someone we may not see again. How do we value and savor our conversations? How do we serve one another as we walk alongside each other on the journey of life? The Camino is good practice for making friends, walking beside them and then letting them journey on without us.
With love and prayers from Spain,