Many people have been asking for the wrap-up chapter….oddly for me, this has been the hardest chapter to write. My apologies to those who feel I am simply dragging my heels. This just isn’t the case.
I am struggling to distill 35 days into a condensed, meaningful summary.
I carried a Fitbit pedometer with me every day and have downloaded all the information from this little device. In total I took well over a million steps from September 19th to Oct 23rd. Burned an estimated 129,000 calories and traveled an actual distance of 1,045km. (it still surprises me the route is promoted as 800km in a straight line. It is much longer if you have to climb up one side of a mountain and back down the other)
The morning after arriving in Santiago was surreal. When I woke up I instinctively looked for my boots. No kidding. The early morning hours felt disjointed and something constantly felt wrong. For the past 34 days my routine was well rehearsed and had become completely automatic. My patterned behaviour had become suited the demands of the Camino and would now have to be modified to fit into the “real world”.
The previous day we had been unable to find a laundry machine to wash our clothes within the old city of Santiago. I needed to launder a shirt, socks and underwear in order to have clean clothes to travel home. The bathroom sink and my trusty bar of ivory soap would have to be the laundry. After washing and rinsing I wrung the water as best as I could from each and draped my laundry over the bathroom to dry. When I got up nothing was dry enough to wear. I used the hair dryer to try and get things ready to wear. I concentrated my efforts on my socks….at least this is minimum.
Then my shirt, and, well, I gave up on the underwear. I would have to make due with a second day on my cleanest pair. (more information than you probably needed…..)
My socks were 80% dry and my shirt was 50% wet….My shirt as it turns out would have to dry while I wore it. My socks would be stuck inside of my boots and wouldn’t be likely to dry….but I will survive.
Somehow everyone woke up with the constant sound of the hair dryer going in the bathroom. My apologies to Susan and Bene for this. After cramming everything into my pack for the last time I headed downstairs to get a cab, and make my way to the airport. Bene and Susan came down with me and we were joined shortly after by Zeb. To say the mood was somber is making a funeral sound like a party. Everyone was smiling, but it was one of those smiles you put in front of a face feeling very different. Obviously I was not wanting to leave my Family alone, and I clearly felt they didn’t want me to leave. We had been through so much together, albeit a relatively short time.
My feelings were tearing at me. I didn’t want the experience here to end. All of the people I met, the relationships….
The unreal nature of the Camino is perhaps related the simplicity of your life during the journey. Wake up, walk, eat, and find a place to sleep. It is quite remarkable how reducing daily life to these simple components had become so comfortable. Of course I knew this is not represent life in the real world, and I also knew exactly when it was going to end. I had a plane ticket back to Canada.
I decided it was necessary to compartmentalize the whole Camino experience, to draw upon this during my day-to-day life at home. My resolve equally strong to maintain contact with as many people as I can.
The cab to the airport was waiting. Bene was still a bit sleepy, but was the trooper she had been every day. When is the next time I will see her? Especially with young people, time and change are synonymous….. she may even be married with kids (and chickens….inside joke) when we meet again.
Susan’s eyes were tearing up. I didn’t want to look directly at her. I have always adopted the “stiff upper lip” attitude in situations like this. Motor through and deal with your feelings later is my way of handling difficult emotional situations. It was difficult for us all to maintain smiles. Saying goodbye to Susan was the most difficult thing to do.
I felt so strongly Eddie, Bene, Susan and I had become so close on this adventure. So many other people were also part of this family and now the threads of this fabric were beginning to slowly unravel. I pulled another thread aa I got into the cab….
The cab pulled slowly away into the square while we waved to each other. My driver spoke to me the whole way, but I was only able to visit this conversation momentarily. All I wanted to do was tell the cab to turn around.
While at the airport, just before boarding my flight, I spot Ebbe and Jytte. They are flying to Madrid to connect to a flight to Copenhagen. We had not been able to connect with them in Santiago….so this was a fortunate coincidence. Seeing both of them was a moment of happiness. I have promised to visit them in Copenhagen…..and will.
During the flight the reality of the separation hit me hard. It is so easy to explain, I didn’t want my Camino to end. The experiences, adventure, and especially my attachment and relationships to some people had become so important to me in a short period of time. For the past month life had been reduced to a few simple priorities. Walk, eat, sleep. I shared this with many people, especially with my closest friends. As Mark said, ” there must have been dust in the air in the aircraft”, my eyes welled up and my nose started running……..
I want to thank the many people making this journey possible. My family, friends, co-workers, and especially those closest to me. None of this would have been possible without Margaret from Nova Scotia inspiring this originally. Thank you all.
I have been asked by many people if I changed on the Camino. I did lose 15lbs, but other than that I didn’t think I needed changing. I did however learn a great deal.
Walk the Camino, or a portion of it and you will understand……