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Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Story #1: Currie, age 52, from Florida, USA

Currie in Santiago

Currie in Santiago

How many times have you walked a Camino? And which ones?

Camino Frances. Once.

When did you walk?

May/June 2013

What caused you to decide to walk the Camino?

For the year I turned 50 I wanted an adventure that was outside of my comfort zone. Partly to determine how I handled discomfort because I plan to join the Peace Corps in a few years and partly to test myself by traveling alone and for an extended period of time to see how I handled that part! My total journey was traveling for nearly three months and The Camino was the first chapter, using 5 weeks of time.

What were some of the highlights of your Camino?

The number one highlight was the people I met from around the world. Once walking, I realized that The Camino is a bit like a river we have all chosen to jump into. Its path is set, but we are the variables, and you bump into new faces, already met faces, and no faces at various times. A wide range of reasons bring people to walk and then we all have the common bond of being Pilgrims despite our differences. And such a range of ages!!! My favorite daily pleasure was cafe con leche. I have never particularly cared for coffee in any special way. I like it, but don’t consume it often. But cafe con leche became my mouth joy every day. I think in part because I am vegetarian and while I received terrific food on my arrival night in SJPDP, it was about three weeks until I had wonderful food again. Eating was basic and survival-ish, cafe con leche was sunshine in the mix.

Beer please.

Beer, please.

It’s funny to look back at memories as I try to think what to write about. Most highlights were small wonders. The donkey who liked beer at a cafe. Bumping into someone who had been given the converter plug I accidentally left at an albergue in the hope that they would see me again. Hot tired feet submerging in the cool water of a stream. Smiling faces offering help at just the right moment. Clouds. Sky. Distance. Flowers. The journey itself is the highlight.Okay, but with that said, my absolutely favorite moment was probably filling the tub at the hotel in Santiago for my first hot bath in five weeks. Showers are fine, but they cannot compare to sinking beneath the surface and being surrounded by hot lovely water! It was pure bliss.

What were some of your biggest challenges on the Camino?

My biggest challenge was food. Spain is a meat-centered place. As I got closer to Santiago things got better, but the first three weeks were difficult and boring. I must have eaten 500 tortillas by the end of the walk! It was the only thing I could consistently find in cafes. If an albergue had a kitchen and the town had a market, I could at least cook something.

Snoring!!! Jiminy. Sleeping in a room with multiple people means wending your way through a dysfunctional symphony of sound to get to your desired REM sleep.

Strain or injury. I had painful trouble with my right ankle and there were days when I just wanted to give up. But I kept going, even at a snail’s pace sometimes, and eventually, things got better.

Camino

One step at a time.

How did the Camino change you?

The biggest change for me was letting go feelings of frustration when things didn’t go as I wanted. Or when people didn’t do as I wanted. I got very connected to being present and accepting. I also released the need for a lot of planning. I let things unfold. I trusted that all would be well. I learned to be happier with less and to take more pleasure in small things.

What is the one thing you wish you had known before the Camino? Advice?

Do not pack in fear or what if. Spain is not a wilderness. I lived in one pair of pants, one long sleeve T, a rain jacket, a fleece pullover, and one t-shirt and bottoms to sleep in for the whole five weeks. And then I had the genuine pleasure of buying a new t-shirt and a skirt in Santiago. Putting them on was a religious experience!

Remember to walk your own Camino. Do not walk faster or slower to make anyone else happy, it will either injure you or piss you off. Be selfish in this way and you will find you are selfless in many other ways.

Anything else you would like to add?

You are very likely to ignore the advice anyone gives you before you go. It’s fine. You’ll understand once you are in the midst. But you can save yourself money and frustration if you do actually listen! Either the cost of the items you abandon or the cost to ship them home. I coached a friend who walked after I returned. Nearly everything I warned her would happen did. She spent her money on shipping…

Thank you, Currie, for your story.  If you would like to share your Camino story, please do!

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