Upon arriving to St. Jean Pied de Port, I got swept into the camino frenzy. We exited the bus into a misty hill town and hurried about like we were participating in The Amazing Race. “What’s your plan?” “Where’s the tourist information?” “Where do you get a compostela?” Accommodations seemed scarce and hard to find. Michael and I resorted to our default roles. I started observing and going on instincts and Michael pulled out the gps and started plotting. That sounds like a good good match on paper but when we part our efforts like that it always leads to us being lost (at least this time we weren’t in the woods).
When we finally did find a damp old farmhouse that had been remodeled into what I guess passed as a hotel, we were able to reflect on how we approached the situation assuming we would be lucky to get a bed and would probably get screwed somehow given the amount of people chaotically rushing about. It seems everywhere you find the mantra “make the camino your own.” But it seems that is an impossible task for most pilgrims. There are just floods of people each day. A man at the pilgrims office said “this week, about 300 pilgrims each day. Next week 350.” In those first couple of days, if you weren’t up and walking by 6am you faced not having a hostel to stay in. And if you didn’t make hotel reservations a year in advance, you are outta luck there too. Now imagine what it is like when the weather has been too bad to cross the pass for a few days and all the pilgrims who arrived earlier are waiting for better weather. Let’s just say that it piles up very quickly.
Part of me began to wonder if resources were really that scarce or is it just what happens when you get a group of 500 people together. As a therapist, I have seen a theme amongst people. There are those that believe there is a finite amount of resources and you have to funnel them all to you, and others that believe there is always enough and when we live and give freely, the more there is. I see that here. The majority believe there is a finite amount of beds and food and you have to strategize by either joining a clique or keeping to yourself. The more Michael and I embrace the living and giving freely and believe we will find what we need along the way, the more it seems to happen. And the more we seem to find others that believe the same.
Which brings me to another theme: The camino is a giant mirror! If you are spiritual and you came here to find more for your spirit, you will find it. If you are here for a grueling, stripped-down, rugged-living experience, you will find it. That’s what makes the camino so powerful for so many people from all parts of the world. You see yourself as you are, and it makes the beliefs you live by transparent. It’s another mantra of the camino that it brings you the gift of self-acceptance.
I’m still not sure what of all these themes I embrace or how they will impact our journey. In fact there have been some times I ask Michael “what the hell are we doing?” And they seem equally balanced by times that I say “we are right where we should be.”
So, there you go. An exhausted ramble about the camino so far. Today we are in Pamplona. We found an incredible 4-star hotel yesterday and decided to stay an additional night. I am nursing a couple blisters and general fatigue, but apparently I’m married to Terminator 2, who will walk forever. I’ve also relearned what an introvert I am. It’s been so exhausting to learn a new language and communicate ALL day long. Currently Michael and I are locked in our hotel room having some much appreciated silent side by side time.