I have been the English teacher in my group of Europeans (and Quebecers) so I pause because it sounds funny when I hear my friend say, “I feel like I deserve everything now.”
But she’s right. Every cookie, every shower, every break where we can put down our bags and take off our shoes is more incredible than you could ever imagine.
And there is so much I don’t need. I can carry everything I own, pee next to a vineyard, lay down in the street when I’m tired, use the same soap to wash my hair and my clothes, and not wear underwear because I actually hate washing clothes (and scheißegal).
Yesterday I shared five mattresses with eight friends on the floor of a gym for 3€, and I think I might’ve gotten the best night’s sleep yet.
When you’re walking 30k a day, you feel every ounce you’re carrying. So when the Spanish man I didn’t know stopped to offer me a poncho as we trudged through the cold rain, his kindness left me speechless.
One of the reasons I’m here is because I lost my feeling of independence. When you’re with the same people all the time, sometimes it feels like you’re never getting exactly what you want… and I was okay with that for a long time. Until I wasn’t.
But I don’t really know. Because I don’t feel like a pushover when I offer my trekking poles to a friend who’s struggling, or when I share my last bit of food with a stranger on the trail. I just feel good.
And I am learning even more about the spirit of generosity from my new friends. I see how they carry their garbage from lunch 10k in order to find a trash can; how they selflessly wait for the whole group before finding an albergue for the night, even if it means spending extra (or sleeping in a gym); how they share not only their things, but also their knowledge and stories and experiences.
So I think that actually this is independence: being so sure of yourself that you have the ability and desire to also care for others.
I am serenading the Spanish landscape with We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together when the man from Copenhagen stops me and tells me to take off my headphones.
“The Camino has so much to tell you. Are you afraid?”
For now, yes.
“Is it your fear or someone else’s? Listen to your stomach. Listen to your body. Send everyone else’s fear away.”
I have to walk faster so I don’t start crying for the first time on this continent. But he’s right. And maybe by next week, I’ll be ready.