While on my pilgrimage, I kept a journal fairly regularly so I want to go stage by stage to share my journal entries and my thoughts looking back on each particular step of my journey in my next few blog posts. I will write my posts in the present tense as if I am currently writing in my journal...
21 August, 2014 - flying over Spain
It isn't until I spot Spain from my window seat on the plane that I allow my mind to wander away from travel logistics to the commencement of my journey along the Camino. I had been in such a state after missing my connecting flight in Atlanta then almost missing another connecting flight from London to Madrid. My mind has been in super-focus-travel-mode, racing with thoughts about my bag getting lost, mapping out where to go and how to get to the next terminal, quadruple checking that I still had my passport and boarding passes, etc.
So when I let my mind release those thoughts and grab hold of the Camino, I start thinking about how I feel and what I want to get out of this pilgrimage. Trepidation and excitement are the two words I have come up with to describe the most prominent emotions I am feeling. Trepidation mostly at not knowing enough Spanish to communicate effectively and excitement at finally getting to take this pilgrimage that I have been dreaming about for two years.
I'm not really sure why I want to make this pilgrimage other than that it seemed to be an amazing adventure. I also have to say that it gives me a sense of pride and validation when I would tell people that I am going to make this pilgrimage and they would admire my "bravery" and "adventurous spirit". It isn't that I am doing this pilgrimage so I can brag about it to people and solicit compliments and praise from them - it's just that it makes me feel special when I do something that not a lot of people have done before. Finding something in yourself that sets you apart from others feels pretty good.
But I hope that I find a deeper meaning to this journey along the Way and maybe even get a sense of purpose for this stage of my life. I plan to pray and/or meditate every day on the Camino so God, please help me find my Way...
22 August, 2014 - on the train from Madrid to Leon
By the time I get to Leon, I will have been travelling for almost exactly three days straight. I began on Tuesday at 5am California time (2pm Spain time) and will end around 2pm Spain time on Friday. And while I recognize how important the journey is compared to the destination, I will be VERY happy to finally be at my physical starting point for the Camino.
I am now on the train to Leon having just left Madrid. It is a three hour ride and I am going to begin preparing mentally for the Camino by taking this time to appreciate the scenery, pray, and probably nap. God, thank you for this opportunity to walk the Camino. Let this time help me become closer to you through physical exertion and solitude. But also please help me make new friends along the Way.
22 August, 2014 - Leon
So I fell down within 20 minutes of arriving in Leon. I slipped on wet pavement on a crowded sidewalk but so many people came to help me up. I don't know what any of them were saying but I think they were all very nice. I was even wearing my backpack so while some people were grabbing my arms to help me up, others were lifting my backpack.
It wasn't too embarrassing and I wasn't hurt so I just walked on. After wandering for a while and loosely following the map in my guidebook, I eventually found the convent where I will stay tonight. After a minor panic attack at remembering that I don't actually know how to ask for a bed in Spanish, I was able to check in (using English and some pantomiming), settle down and explore Leon for a bit.
One thing that Dad kept saying before I left was to make sure I take in all the sights along the Way - to not push myself so much that I only experience walking and not the places I walk through. So I would have felt bad if I had just taken a nap on my first day instead of exploring a bit. :)
I visited the cathedral, wandered a bit more, bought a conchella (shell) for my backpack and am now back at the convent. I plan to attend the pilgrim mass this evening and get the pilgrim menu dinner at the convent. I also want to find a grocery store but I can always get food along the Way tomorrow.
I am going to try to use this journal more for observations and insights rather than a narrative - the operative word is try. I also like the idea of ending each entry with a quick prayer so...Dear God, please bless the hospitaleros who volunteer their time to helping all of the pilgrims. Let them get as much out of helping us as we find comfort in their welcoming presence.