Deep, true love doesn’t have to take years to cultivate, for this group it took less than one month to find. I didn’t know it was possible to connect with humans on such a level until we spent everyday hiking, talking, laughing, suffering through pain, being tired & grumpy, singing any song that came to mind & just walking in silence with one another (and sometimes alone) as we reached our goal of conquering nearly 500 miles by foot while backpacking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago in the summer of 2017.
There’s something so powerful about the relationships you make while thru-hiking; you possess a level of vulnerability that forces you to bypass bullshit and get to the deep stuff right away. You lose your fear of being judged because everyone shows up on the trail stripped-away and just as they are– why hide behind boring pleasantries when you can gain a little free therapy by being unafraid to share your burdens with a willing-to-listen companion?
I met these boys after a series of events fit for another story, but that ultimately left me in a town I had never originally planned on staying in. That’s how the world works though, isn’t it? Plan A turns into plan D and then something magical happens on that new path. The night I met them, one asked what the tattoo on my wrist meant. I was used to answering this, specifically if it was an inquiry from a stranger, by telling them the cursive phrase has to do with my travel-lust, or some other easy answer. Instead, I looked him right in the eye and said “the last thing my dad wrote to me before he died was that he loved my spirit and passion, and it’s tattoo’d in his handwriting.” I shocked myself, but he didn’t miss a beat to tell me about how his father had recently passed away too and he had been thinking of getting a tattoo as a memorial but couldn’t think of the right piece, and thought mine was excellent.
When we reunited the following day (around the infamous “wine fountain” pictured above) we talked for what felt like hours– covering our childhoods, how special our mothers, fathers and siblings were, and what it’s like to live in the wake of our fathers passing’s. We even talked about the haunting dreams we had about our dead dads, details we had never shared with anyone else. When he asked if my dad had passed away from cancer too, I didn’t even hesitate when answering honestly: “no, he hung himself.”
During our final week of the hike, during a particularly hot morning climb, it was just the two of us and we were inspired to exchange pleasant memories of romantic things our fathers had each done for our mothers. Later, he confided how refreshing it was to relive these special memories because at home it was hard for him and his siblings to say them out loud. For three weeks we had been casually telling our favorite stories in a way that felt impossible to do at home.
This is just one example of one connection I had with one person, but as you can imagine, those 10-20 mile hiking days allowed each of us, whether in our group, pairs or even solo, to explore in conversation or meditation every facet of each of our lives.
I will forever be in love with the people I got close to during my Camino, how the first day of hiking with each of them we told things to each other we had never really told anyone, just because we felt safe and in a cathartic environment.
Somehow seven months has escaped since we all went different directions in Santiago, but last week I got to reunite with one of my best Camino friends & introduce our white-face pups for a gentle four mile walk through the woods that didn’t include one moment of silence– he even let me do >75% of the talking (per usual.)
It was so productive to talk about the “realizations” each of us came to during our Ways and how we’ve been acting on them since we’ve been back home, plus what we see for our futures. It’s indescribable to get life-feedback from someone who you only knew for a few weeks, but knows you better than almost anyone.
I am forever thankful for the most powerful month of my life & the space I made in my heart for this group of beautiful Pilgrims. If you ever have the time to even spend a few days out of your comfort zone maybe you’ll stumble across a perfect stranger who will forever brighten your life too!