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Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Story #3: Meme, age 60, from Canada

Meme on the Camino

Meme on the Camino

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

Camino Francis from from Pamplona to  Belorado. Once.

When did you walk?

May 2013

Meme’s Story:

In October of 2012 the love of my life left me. I was shocked and devastated. It came as a complete surprise to me although I should have seen it coming. All of a sudden in December I knew I had to get away and I knew walking the Camino in Spain was what I needed. I didn’t want anyone to go with me and I wanted to be away for my 60th birthday. I wasn’t sure why I had to do this but there was a strong pull.

I started reading books about the Camino and I went to a meeting in Toronto with friends who had walked the last 100 km a few years earlier. I had to buy everything as I had never done anything like this before, sleeping bag, back pack, map book, lightweight washable clothing etc. When the snow disappeared I started walking. I knew I could do 3K easily and I was surprised to see how far 10K was when I had driven it many times before. I walked a few times with my back pack, filling it with 1/10th of my weight.

Darren and Meme on the Camino

Meme met Darren on the Camino and they became fast friends.

I booked my flight to Pamplona, thinking that I could take a bus to St. Jean  Pied de Port. I was very nervous going alone but knew that that’s what I had to do. I borrowed an ipod and put all my favourite tunes on it. I really didn’t know what to expect. (I actually only used this my first day of walking.)

The day finally arrived and off I went into the wild blue yonder wondering what I was in for. I had booked my first night in Pamplona at a hotel near the airport hoping I would be able to get into town and I knew I had all day to find the bus station.

In the morning I got a map of the city from the front desk and decided I would walk into the town and see Hemingway’s Pamplona before trying to find the bus. I guess I was excited as by 11 o’clock I had seen what I wanted to see. I decided to see if I could get a Pilgrim’s Passport there as mine had not arrived before I left. Now I started to see people walking with back packs. Why was I going all the way back 2 days to start at the beginning when I knew I only had a total of 2 weeks in Spain?

First day on the Camino!

First day on the Camino!

So I joined the many hikers, using my Pilgrims guide map and wondered what I had gotten myself into. As I walked my first day people went past me and said “Buen Camino” and I thought …What am I doing here with no knowledge of Spanish other than cerveza which I don’t drink. This was a big mistake!

I started to take notice of all my senses… The smell of the flowers, the beauty and colours of the countryside, the sound of the birds singing and even the taste of the cool water I was drinking and realized that I was in the right place. The path was well marked but very stony so I had to pay attention to where I put my feet. This caused me to stop often to take in my surroundings. Stunning!

I only walked about 10K that day and ended up In Zariquiegui at a little private albergue early in the afternoon. People from all over the world started checking in and I realized that most of them had a good knowledge of English and were very ready to chat and be friendly. That night the albergue set up a very long table for all the pilgrims that wanted dinner and I realized that this walk was really set up to make it easy for everyone. My worries were over!

I was not in a hurry to get to a certain place at a certain time so I didn’t overdo it any day. I was here to heal and come to terms with my new life. During my walk I met many wonderful people from all over the world and some that I hope will be friends forever. Some people walk faster and some stop walking for a day, so paths can cross many times especially if you plan to get all the way to Santiago. My longest walk was about 25K on my 60th birthday but it was also one of the best days…The first day of the rest of my life!

Even though I only walked 11 days and covered less than 200K it was a fabulous experience and one I will never forget. I became more confident in myself and realized that I can go on living on my own. I may go back one day to do another Camino and even reach Santiago, but for now I have memories of a lifetime and doors have opened to other parts of the world.

Any advice?

If the Camino calls you, you must go. Something is waiting there for you.

Another thing Darren and I discovered is…You don’t always get what you want on the Camino but you get what you need.

Thank you Meme for your story.

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