Before I arrived, I read followed several blogs about the Camino and often writers would comment about seeing people many times or developing a Camino family. Since I’m traveling with a large group, I didn’t know if we would have the same experience. I imagine traveling alone would lend itself to connecting with other pilgrims more than traveling in a group. I’m not sure I’ve made lifelong friends, but I have made some connections.
One of our early days (I hardly knew the town names when we were in them — I don’t know any of them now!), we had dinner with everyone in the albergue. Toward the end, a pilgrim announced someone’s birthday (we thought it was her son’s birthday, but it turns out they are not related). Everyone sang to him (in English?!) and it was just so fun. I love those kind of group bonding moments. A day or so later we ran into the birthday boy again — his name is Marcel — and he’s from Germany, near Frankfurt. We’ve seen him several times since then and it really does feel like we’re running into a good friend when we say hello and call each other by name.
Yesterday our stops were coinciding with an American couple. At one cafe all of us were examining our feet and my friend shared neosporin with the woman. We soon learned they used to live in Indy and that the man worked at Eli Lilly. Then they discovered we’re a clergy group and asked if I’d heard of St. Luke’s UMC. Well, I told them, yes I have — I worked there for five years. They were members there during the same timeframe I was there. We talked about people we both know — former pastors and staff. Not long after we left and said goodbye. A few miles later we ran into them again. As the woman was walking she was reminded of her time at St. Luke’s and was thinking of more people to ask me about. Then she said, “Did you go on any of the youth trips?” Yes, of course I did, I was one of the youth ministers. She mentioned that her kids weren’t vary active but she wondered if I knew them — as soon as she told me their names, their faces immediately popped into my mind. Yes — I knew them! What a small world!
Two or three days ago as we were headed back to our albergue after dinner we happened to talk to a young woman from Australia. I can’t remember how the conversation started — maybe she asked us a question. We soon learned that she had been on holiday with her boyfriend for the past three weeks but he went back home and she still had two weeks left. On a whim she decided to walk the Camino (?!). We were in Sarria, so she was in the right place to begin in order to receive the certificate at the end. We gave her a few tips then wished her Buen Camino!
Yesterday we encountered her on the trail and asked about her walk so far. She was plugging along enjoying the walk and the beautiful country views. She’s sending her pack ahead so she was able to move a little faster than us — we once again wished her a Buen Camino!
Today I turned around and there she was again — Lena! She was struggling with blisters and didn’t plan on a long day of walking. We left her in Melide and didn’t expect to ever see her again. However, we had to stop a little more often today due to one of my friend’s struggling with her foot. We were very surprised then to see Lena walk up on us again! It turns out she started to feel much better after some Camino friends patched up her feet. When she got to town she arrived at the albergue just as the van with her pack arrived. At the same time, she had a Camino friend that was looking for a place to stay tonight who was with her in the town. So — she gave up her spot at the albergue to her friend, sent her pack ahead to the next town and kept walking. Eventually she came upon us and we walked together for the next several miles.
We learned that she and her sister started a clothing company in Australia (we looked it up and plan on making some purchases!). She then asked us about what we do. After we each shared, it wasn’t long before she said: What do you think about the after life?
Well, ok. We just jumped right in — each of us sharing our thoughts on the topic. After awhile she shared that her father died earlier this year. Ah ha.
So, everything that happened today was for that conversation to take place. It was beautiful. A perfect Camino moment. A perfect life moment.
I hope we’ll run into her again before we’re done (only two walking days left!). But, just in case, I went ahead and requested a picture with her now.
Of all the people out here, these are the people I’ve met. They have been a gift to me. I hope I’ve offered similar gifts to them.