We’re home. The dogs are happy to see us, the house is intact, the laundry has been washed and assembled into a giant heap that neither of us is intent on folding, and we’re slowly getting over our jet lag. It’s good to be back.
You look at your life a little differently when you’ve been away from it. I had almost forgotten about our remodel last fall, and it was a pleasant surprise to open the door and see our new couch, the lovely open space where there used to be a wall and is now a functional kitchen. In the backyard, the crape myrtle we planted in October has suddenly bloomed. And after about 14 different hotels and albergues, our bed was reliably comfortable, the pillows thick, the overhead fan a wonder. And the shower! Spanish showers are so small, I don’t understand how any woman has ever shaved her legs under those circumstances. So, yes, there was some basic maintenance to attend to.
It’s good to be back, but it’s also sad that we’re back and not living on that alternate plane, where every day was a new experience. Like many of you, I lived the same day over and over during the pandemic, with rare glimpses of friends and few new experiences–at least, nothing that seemed to be worth noting in a blog.
But, with the trip in the rear view, I feel like I should clarify something: I wrote about the good, the bad, and the ugly, but I enjoyed the heck out of myself. It was never going to be a pleasure cruise—the Camino is a walk that tests you, and teaches you something about yourself, and maybe the world around you. There’s necessarily some physical challenge; in addition to the walking (we pulled 40,000+ steps frequently) there’s the challenge of getting enough food and sleep, and all the attendant complaints: vasculitis, blisters, sore muscles, sunburn. And of course, for the unlucky, Covid.
But all those things are par for the course, and I knew to expect them. For me, it was a challenge—a thing I didn’t know I could do, a chance to step completely outside my very ordered existence. Of course—it would have been great if I didn’t get sick, if I’d made it four more days and crossed the finish line. I guess that just means I have unfinished business—maybe not for a few years, but it’s coming. Still: I’m proud of myself. I learned I possess some deep stores of energy and motivation. I navigated a different country alone, when I was too sick to do much more than mumble gracias into the folds of my mask.
During those last days when I was holed up in a hotel room, I learned that I wasn’t really alone. Will texted often, sending me updates about his location. Friends and family reached out multiple times a day to see how I was feeling. A friend in the same time zone reminded me she was available to chat anytime. People sent messages on Facebook and left sympathetic comments. And of course, you already know that the Janets took care of me, bringing cheese and bread and Nyquil. For a person who is a natural introvert-turned-pandemic-recluse, it felt a bit like the world was wrapping me in a hug. (Too much? #sorrynotsorry) Also, at some point, I realized you can check the stats on WordPress–this blog has received more than 9,200 views, from about 1,500 unique visitors, and I could feel that support, the invisible hands holding me up. (Def. too cheesy.)
Would I recommend walking the Camino? YES! But honestly–only if you like walking, if you don’t mind being alone with your thoughts, if you like meeting people with different perspectives, if you can problem-solve your way out of a situation with the language skills you have. I read about a million Facebook posts in Camino groups and chatted with everyone I could before the trip, but somehow, I didn’t realize it would be quite so hard.
I’d like to thank my partner in all things, Will. Even if he did lose 16 pounds on this walk and I only lost 9, he’s still the person I’d most want to be with.
Thanks for reading, everyone. And wherever you are, buen camino.
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