Day 214 – 1 Oct, 2015
Me: I can hear you chewing again.
Maria: (chewing loudly and also laughing)
Maria: Argh! Your backpack is squeaking again!
Me: I don’t know how to fix it so I think you might have to get used to it.
Me: (slurping water right next to Maria’s head while she’s trying to sleep) That was really loud wasn’t it?
Maria: I’m going to kill you. (Ok, I don’t think she actually said this, but she probably thought it. She would probably tell you it sounds like something I would say and she would be right.)
It was commonly accepted on the Camino that one day walking with someone was like 3 months of dating. When all you have is time and open countryside, relationships tend to ebb and flow at a much faster pace than in the real world.
Even though this phenomenon was widely known, it was perhaps one of the biggest surprises to me. I thought I had come on this pilgrimage alone to simply walk. I was so so SO wrong.
Three weeks after leaving St. Jean, I found myself in Leon, watching a tangled web of hurt feelings, gossip, and broken hearts. Tears, anger, and misunderstandings abound. I was a bit on the outside of the drama, but it gave me a unique perspective to examine the circumstances from neutral ground. None of these people had known each other 3 weeks earlier, yet their feelings were raw and intense….and real. Person A and Person B are flirting and somehow Person C is interfering so A is angry with C. B takes a bus to finish the Camino early. A and C continue walking together when they meet Person D. A falls in love with D but D doesn’t return the feelings and accuses C of stirring up trouble. A thinks that C is in love with A and that C is trying to ruin A’s chances with D. A says that C is a gossip, never mind that A is the one who shared this story with me. Follow? Yeah, me neither. It’s not important. The key here is that our 2 nights in Leon were largely spent counseling on relationships. The good and the bad was all laid on the table, private conversations were hashed out, and it wasn’t unlike friends with decades of history sorting out their differences. Ultimately, A decided to separate from the group and move ahead, C fell ill and had to hang back, and D had a brief love with Person E, who subsequently, ALSO fell in love with D who then had to break E’s heart as well. My head stirs just thinking about it!
These ups and downs were an inevitable consequence of the bonding associated with the Camino. Perhaps this is why many of my fellow pilgrims are still struggling to adjust to life back home. For many of them, the Camino was their one adventure and they all had to go back to their lives and families and jobs. It felt different for me because I was going to carry on with my pilgrimage, in a different way. It’s not time for me to go home yet. There is no question, though, that the bonds that unfolded during 5 weeks of walking were one of those special gifts that the Camino brings.
After one week, Maria and I could walk side by side for hours and not say a thing. We didn’t need to because I already knew that the rhythm of her steps meant that her blisters were festering. And she knew that I always picked up the pace in the afternoons. We had reached the stage of old friends who know what the other is thinking before they even say it.
After two weeks, we were starting to get on each other’s nerves (as will happen when you spend every second with someone!). And after three weeks, we weren’t walking together anymore but still knew we would reconnect in the evenings. Four weeks past and it was the first time we were in a different town for the night (accidentally, but it happened nevertheless). It may sound like we were drifting apart, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When we walked into Santiago (separately) exactly 5 weeks after we began, I was confident in knowing that she had become like a sister to me. No matter how much we might drift, I would always have her back and she would always have mine.