I know I wasn’t going to write any more entries until Spain, but a number of you have been asking for more, and I’ve been itching to write them. So here you go – one last entry before the journey begins:
It’s now nearly 24 hours before I embark for Spain. Mom is taking me to Dulles, where I’ll meet Senorita Michelle la Loba and head out for Spain. In Madrid I’ll be picking up another couple pilgrims, before taking the train to Pamplona and crashing (hard) after a long two days of travel. Time zones are not nice to pilgrims (or anyone, for that matter). The next morning we’ll meet for breakfast, and for the first time meet all together as pilgrims. Unfortunately, our preliminary travels don’t end there. After stocking up on supplies in Pamplona (food for the next day, calling cards, etc.) we take the bus up to Roncesvalles, the traditional start to the Camino. Pilgrims have walked through the passes of the Pyrenees and bedded down in the monastery at Roncesvalles for centuries, and now we’ll be joining them. After what I remember as a strange and exciting first night, we hit the road, looking down from the mountains with our sights set on Santiago.
Thinking of that first day makes me smile. The Camino feels like an old friend, one who I can’t wait to meet again. Sure, there are times when I think that it won’t be as exciting, or as fresh – and I’m sure that’s true – but it’s okay. Each journey is supposed to be different, after all. I’m not going to Spain for the same experience I had last year; I’m going to make a new one. What makes me a little uneasy is that I have no idea what it will be.
I thought going into this that I’d know exactly how it all would work, and none of it would really be new. I’m starting to realize that’s not the case. Sure, the Camino itself isn’t that new, and I won’t be nearly as inured with it as I once was. In a way, though, that’s a good thing, because it allows me to shift my focus to something else entirely. Having already seen the meseta waving in the afternoon sun and the fog sliding over the mountains of Galicia, my attention will be elsewhere, perhaps inward. I have no idea where. That’s the scary part. Last year, what I took in were the thousands of amazing memories and new things and experiences. Cathedrals, albergues, Spanish food – all of it new. This year I’ll have already done that. So what will be the focus of my attention? What will make this trip unique? I’m not sure. But I have a good feeling it will be the people, rather than the places or things, that make a difference this time around.
So I’m heading into this with a focus: a simple, centered lifestyle of contemplation and well-being. A little exercise each day, lots of time to think and write, and good people to talk to. I don’t think I could ask for much better. That is my goal – to center myself. Lord knows it’s hard to keep your center in college, and I would like, this summer above all, to do exactly that. That’s part of the reason why I’m not working after I get back home. I need this time to focus myself, to recap all that’s happened in this past year and figure out who I am and how I’ve changed. Luckily, the Camino is good for that kind of thing
Of course, if there’s one thing I learned from last year’s trip, it’s that one should leave all expectations behind on the Camino. So I expect things will change, and for the better.
However, none of this is even going to happen if I don’t get out of this chair and get some work done. So, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
I’ll see you in Pamplona.
“Keeping to the main road is easy, but people love to be sidetracked.”
~ Lao Tzu (6th century B.C.E.)