So You Want to Walk the Camino… — by Shelby Canonico

Reflections by Shelby Canonico (from 28 May 2017)

So, you may be thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago. I am here to tell you that while this is a wonderful decision, it may also be the most painful decision you have ever made. While you might be a lean mean walking machine (@Cayla @Tracey), you could also be an actual human. For those of us who are unfortunate enough to feel pain the walking will inevitably begin to take its toll.

What I discovered is that I am not only a human, I am subhuman. During this trip my feet have turned into literal blisters. I have blisters on top of blisters. However, as a result of this I have had the opportunity to see just how kind people truly are. I have been offered 2 canes, 3 sets of walking polls, and received countless sympathetic comments regarding my limp. I also had multiple people personally help me with my blisters (even though they were disgusting). I believe this is testament to the truly kind nature of human beings.

Seeing so many genuine people everyday made this experience even more special. I learned through this journey that it is always best to have a positive attitude and to appreciate what is going on around you. The world looks better when you focus on the happy as opposed to the sad. What is a little pain from a few blisters in comparison with the opportunity to travel through Spain and make such wonderful friends.

Adios

“Shelly” (This nickname is against my will but I’m coming to accept it)

A Tough Day — by Coleman Vincze

Reflections by Coleman Vincze (from 23 May 2017)

Hola peregrinos! Today was a tough one. It is never tough until you can see the town or until you start walking on the pavement. The thought of knowing that you are almost there but just keep walking and not knowing when exactly you will get there is really the only hard part about the camino. All you really think about is your feet hurting and the amount of blisters you will see when you take off your socks. Anyway, we are in Astorga now.

We were walking and met this man named David at the House of God where there were hammocks and many fruits and snacks. He was a really nice man and had some delicious oranges. David also had cold water which was the first time having cold water on the Camino.

As we continued walking we got closer to the town and saw a man playing the guitar and singing. He was alright. AJ asked to play his guitar and it was way out of tune, it was pretty funny, I don’t think that man actually knew what he was doing. He also kept asking for money which isn’t unusual but he only wanted American money.

When we got to the town the first thing I did was take a steamy shower. After that, we started having fun. Since this was one of the last Roman outposts in Spain we toured some of the museums of roman bathhouses and sewers. The sewers were by far the neatest things on the tour. I had to crouch the whole time in them to get through.

Oh today is Tracey’s birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Food is the Fuel of Life  — by Tracey Meyers

Reflections by Tracey Meyers (from 29 May 2017)

Food is the fuel of life. During the Camino, we all needed a lot of food to help us climb up the rocky slopes of the Galician mountains. After three weeks, it is evident that food is a highly valued aspect of Spanish culture. It is a time to discuss what has happened throughout the day and reflect on life in general. This tradition of sit-down meals with your family is starting to lose importance among the growing generation of young Americans. Taking time to enjoy company and home-made food continues to be a tradition within my family in the US.

The local cuisine is very different in Spain than I expected. In the United States, a tortilla is a flat, round type of flour or bread. In Spain, a “tortilla de patata” is a thick omelet, almost cake-like, that is cooked with potatoes inside. (This is my favorite type of Spanish food.) Also, an empanada at a restaurant back home is a rolled flour tortilla with vegetables, beans, and meat inside. The Spanish version is almost a kind of pastry with two slices of thick bread baked with tuna, corn, beef, vegetables, etc. Although the food surprised me, it is even more delicious than I imagined.

We walked for hours during the Camino; our meals were a time to tell each other what we experienced individually and immerse ourselves in an important part of Spanish culture. When I return home, I hope to continue to sit down and remember to enjoy a nice meal with my family and friends.

A Chance Meeting — by Jill Sower

Reflections by Jill Sower (from 2 June 2017)

Today we walked~24k from Portomarín to Palas de Rei.  The terrain was a mixture of rolling hills and flat land, of mud rocky paths and of asphalt.  In the morning there was a light fog that blanketed our way, but after a few hours of walking, the fog lifted into a bright sunlight.

Most of us took it easier today than in previous days, because we knew that the next day would be our longest walk.  We didn’t arrive at our albergue “Albergue Castro” until nearly 3 o’clock. It was a relief to arrive there and to be able to relax.

In the morning, at our first second-breakfast stop, we met another Hokie walking the Camino.  His name was David, and not only had he attended Virginia Tech (class of 1974), he is a lifelong Blacksburg resident.  He is currently a practicing attorney in the NRV.  David both stayed in the same albergue as we did and ate lunch with us.  Although I didn’t have much of an opportunity to talk to him (he is a very fast walker, me not so much) he seemed to enjoy meeting and talking with our group.

Although my feet hurt and I grew more and more physically exhausted throughout the day, I still continued to enjoy the natural beauty of Spain and everything it has to offer.

Walking the Camino — by Emma Pence

Reflections by Emma Pence (from 26 May 2017)

Walking the camino provides a unique opportunity to experience Spain. Not only does the path allow you to literally walk from town to town journeying through northern Spain, but the path also provides a platform for intimate interactions. Because you are walking twenty plus kilometers a day, every day on the camino allows for countless interactions with fellow peregrinos and locals of the towns.

The culture of the camino is compelling and after a couple days, or even one day, you grow to appreciate it on a new level. Conversations with locals along the path, or store owners when stopping for second, third, or even fourth breakfast on the trail reveal meaningful aspects of the culture in Spain. You come to understand their way of life in Spain more through these small, everyday interactions than you would traveling through a country simply visiting the busy main attractions filled with tourists.

The camino showed us how many of the people in Spain value time spent in conversation with one another, especially when that time is spent indulging in cafe or tapas. The Spanish way of life is definitely one I think we can all get behind.

The Camino of the Mind — by Eliana Marrs

Reflections by Eliana Marrs (from 3 June 2017)

Walking the Camino was something that I knew was going to be physically challenging, likely one of the most challenging things that I have ever done in my life. I knew going into the trip it was not going to be physically easy at all. However, one thing that I certainly underestimated was how mentally challenging walking the camino —would be.

On our 30 km day, or about 18 miles, the longest day that we had walking, my physical strength was tested, but more so my mental strength. Walking so long was really hard for my body, but using different methods to pass the time such as story telling together or setting minor goals along the way can mean all the difference to getting to a destination. Celebrating the little victories along the Camino can make you feel like a winner each step of the way, whether the small victory is making it to second breakfast or something larger like making it to the albergue at the end of the day.

The Camino has taught me to celebrate the small victories on the way to the destination, as well as how powerful mental stamina can be when persevering through something physically tough. Above all, the camino helped to remind me that often times, laughter is indeed the best medicine, and can be one of the most powerful things help get through the day. All these lessons will not to be left on the Camino, but remembered in my life each and every day!

Reaching Santiago

Today we walked into Santiago.

We’ve reached the end of this particular Camino, but not the end of our journey.  (In particular we have two more weeks in Santiago and then Barcelona…)

 

Up at 5:30 to walk out of town.  Today was a relatively short day, but we wanted to be on time for the Pilgrim’s Mass in Santiago at noon.

 

At this point, walking is second nature to us.

 

Stopping for sellos (stamps in the Pilgrim’s Passport) and maybe a bracelet or a banana along the way.

 

Our last second breakfast and a final hill (or two):

 

Camino horses!

 

We stopped for a quick picture at the monument at Monte de Gozo. This is a sort of penultimate stop–a pilgrim’s plaza and albergue complex on the mountaintop. This is the point where we catch first sight of the city of Santiago.

 

After all the eucalyptus forests, wheat fields, mountains, cherry trees, and fog, we descended into the city of Santiago–a bit of highway and train track to get over…

 

But soon we were bustling through the old city, pulled onward by our goal.

 

Just around the corner…

 

Here at last!

 

And then it was time to meet our homestay families.  As Annie promised, we entered the Pilgrim’s Mass as peregrinos and left as estudiantes.

Stay tuned–the adventure continues!