Buen Camino, my friends!!
Thanks for still reading these blog posts- I’m sure they must be riveting for the five dedicated souls who still do…
Having conquered 20 days and roughly 530 km of the journey, I have given myself permission to feel like an experienced pilgrim. So much so that I’ve drawn up a list of potentially obvious and probably fairly surface-level things I’ve learned so far on the Camino. Some of them are applicable to life beyond the pilgrimage and some of them…well…aren’t.
- Walking isn’t running- I’m a runner. I still feel kind of like I’m lying as I write that sentence. Like if I claim to be a runner, then people might assume that I like to run and maybe even that I’m good at it. But don’t be fooled my friends, I hate running just as much as your average person and I’m very subpar at it. However, I do it. And kind of a lot for someone who doesn’t like running. I recently ran my 3rd half marathon in May. And I kind of assumed that if I can run 13 miles not problem, I should be able to walk 15 no problem- right? Lies. All lies. Walking sucks. Sorry not sorry. It take 3x longer than running and it rubs different parts of your feet and you get blisters such as these:
(Ew. I know. Sorry. They’re ugly to look at but they’re even uglier to walk 15 miles on…)
2. Don’t walk behind horses- in some regards, I mean don’t put up with people who make you deal with their crap. You’ve probably got your own crap to deal with and you don’t need to surround yourself with people who make you walk through theirs. But in some regards I mean quite literally do not walk behind horses. They make you deal with their crap.
3. Don’t be afraid to say “hi” first- idk what it is in society where we feel like there is this unspoken rule that strangers have to stay strangers unless you meet said strangers at socially appropriate functions where you’re “introduced” or something. It’s dumb. Like we’ll talk to the guy we don’t know in class, or we’ll strike up a conversation with someone at the bar because that’s ok, but heaven forbid we say hi to the stranger sitting next to us on the bus or whatever. Say “hi” first. Be brave. By and large people are all the same in that they want to feel valued and important- granted how that need is met varies, but I think a good way to start is to oh, I don’t know….say “Hi” and introduce yourself. If people were always as friendly and brave as they are on the Camino, this world would be a much nicer place.
4. There’s no right way to do most things in life. There’s the right way for you and there’s the right way for me. And they’re not always going to be the same. So you keep doing you, man. Don’t feel like you need to follow the rules to someone else’s game. We’re all just trying to make our way to Santiago the best we can. Or to happiness or success or whatever.
5. Be a cheerleader- in case you haven’t noticed, this world can be a dark and scary and lonely place and we need more people rooting for other people. This number could be retitled “4b” because they pretty much go hand in hand. Just because our way of doing things isn’t the same doesn’t mean that I can’t cheer you on for doing what you need to do. AND that doesn’t mean that I should feel insecure about what I’m doing. Let’s all just take care of ourselves and support one another. Pilgrims are exceptional at doing this. Oh, you’re continuing on to the next village? You go, pal. Imma find myself a cerveza and camp here for the night. You’re going to take a taxi tomorrow instead of walk? Yeah, bro, you do what you need to do. Keep on keepingon. See what I mean- we don’t have to make the same choices to be on the same team. Team humanity! Lol that was corny. Sorry. (But not really)
6. Stop and look around you and enjoy the little things. I know I just got done saying everyone should be able to do their own thang without criticism, so I suppose if your thang is to get to Santiago as fast as possible, you should ignore this. But I just can’t help but feel that if you blaze through life and don’t notice the beautiful wild flowers or the scenic views or the birds chirping, you are missing out. Slow down, enjoy the little things.
7. Smiles are international. Except among the Germans….KIDDING. We lived in Germany for 3 years, we’re part German, we’ve met Germans here. We love Germans. But smiles really are international. I speak a very little bit of Spanish. Mostly enough to get us by in broken, un-conjugated Spanglish. But it gets the job done. And I’ve had the unfortunate experience of watching other non-Spanish speaking pilgrims butcher the language and then legitimately get angry that the local people can’t understand them. And instead of being patient and smiling and trying to act out what you’re trying to say or something, they just get mad and grouchy and humiliatingly rude. Don’t be that person. A genuine smile goes a long way. It eases the moment and it makes you feel better. And if you smile and you’re kind to people, for the most part they’re going to be kind back.
8. This is more of a 7b type situation again, sorry. Idk it kind of goes with 3, too. And kind of 4 and 5. Wow, this one is really just kind of all-encompassing. But I digress. Let me start over. Ahem, number 8. Connect with other people. Your life will be richer because of it. Time will go by faster. You’ll learn from people. They’ll be your cheerleader and you’ll be theirs. Smile at them. Connect with them. Amy Poehler talks about how people should know their currency- like how you can make a way in this world- for some people it’s ingenuity or creativity, for some it’s sheer beauty, for some it’s their big sense of humor- I think mine is connecting with people. My dad says when I lock eyes with someone and smile I get a twinkle in my eye- and that’s why I can get a drink faster at a bar and why some people feel comfortable talking to me right away- not because I’m pretty or anything, but because of the twinkle in my eye. (He’s probably lying- he’s my dad- he has to make nice stuff up about me. And you know, as I’m writing this, I’m now realizing maybe this isn’t the compliment I thought it was….anyway. I digress again.) I really love connecting with people. I consider it of the utmost importance to make each and every person I interact with feel valued and important. Because they are! And when you stop to make eye contact and smile and pause and listen to people’s stories, you learn so so so much more than if you run your own mouth about your own boring life all the time. Connecting with people is so important- for you and for them. Do it!
9. Drink more water. Just do it.
10. Always bring food with you. I feel like this should go without saying. And not just enough for you- but probably enough for me, too. Because let’s be real, when everyone is sitting down to have their planned snack and I’m mad because I ate mine two hours ago, I will be hangry enough to enslave the entire planet and wage the first intergalactic war. And win. All before you have time to say “Rach, you’re going to have to wait to get your own food.” I’m slightly kidding with this paragraph. But mostly not. Save food for me. Please. For the sake of maintaining peace in the Milkyway.
(Here’s a picture of me eating- putting what should be 7 to 11 bites of food in my mouth at once- i.e. NOT attempting to wage war. Basically, this is a picture of me saving the world. Nay. The GALAXY. It’s casual)
11. There are gonna be ups and downs- and there are pros and cons to both. The good news is, neither of them last forever. I mean quite literally there are periods of climbing 5000 ft in elevation and periods descending 5000ft in elevation on the Camino. But I also mean figuratively, there are ups and downs. And you don’t want either to last forever. The ups- the good seasons in your life will be less good if you never have not good seasons. Good seasons need to be intermixed with not good seasons. You can’t just be the same kind of good all the time. You should constantly be growing and trying new things and being brave and learning about yourself and striving to be more than you were yesterday and along the way you’ll discover more good things and have more good seasons. But along the way you’ll probably encounter some not good things and have not good seasons and that’s good because they help you realize what you need for good seasons. Good is good and not good is good. We good?
(Here’s an up. And there was a down on the other side. And it sucked. Downhills are really awful on blisters and broken toes and especially knees. I also ate a Snickers after climbing and descending this bc I was cranky. SEE WHAT I MEAN?)
12. There are some dumb days. There are days when everything is dumb. The heat is dumb, blisters are dumb, swollen knees and broken bones are dumb. Walking is dumb. Spain is dumb. People are dumb. Everything is dumb. And that’s ok. You’re allowed to have dumb days. In fact, I’m actually a huge proponent of dumb days. Unless you’re like Leslie Knope or Mother Theresa or something, I think it would be wildly irrational for you to NOT have dumb days. I think having dumb days is a great way to reset. As mentioned above, the not good helps reset the good. I mean, it’s important to not like set up an albergue and force other pilgrims to have dumb days with you. And it’s important not to live in dumb days. But having one every now and then is ok. It doesn’t detract from the experience, it doesn’t mean you’re too emotional, it doesn’t mean the world is ending…it just means that you’re human. So have your dumb day and wake up the next day and kick it in the butt. Remember, you’ve got cheerleader like me rooting for you.