“People walk the camino for many reasons; seeking forgiveness for the pain I had caused to other people, turned out to be mine.”
I had never been very good at living my life. Even though I come from a loving family and was surrounded by beautiful friends, I always felt the need to be elsewhere, doing different things in different ways. Every single aspect of my life was going in the exact opposite direction of where I wanted it to go.
I was studying nursing after having received my bachelor in design years earlier. I didn’t feel like a nurse and envied my classmates for being so driven and passionate about what we were learning. I was in a relationship that always caused me doubt, wasting seven years of a good man’s life. And I was pissing away my art degree washing dishes in a residential care home. I wasn’t doing anything artistic other than trying to print the occasional Sunday Mornings at the River magazine, something that only could be achieved when I had some spare money to do so, which resulted in two issues with more than a year in between.
For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me, feeling this constant restlessness and being drawn away from everything I was a part of. It was suggested I should go to therapy to sort my shit out. I didn’t want to go to therapy. I didn’t think it would fix anything. I wanted to fix things my own way, not talk to some A level graduate about the relationship I had with my parents, or how my abandonment issues stemmed from my childhood. I went twice, declared myself healed, and never set foot in the mental health department again.
I felt that I wasn’t living my life to the fullest. That I was settling for less, because everyone else seemed to do it. Whenever I talked about my dreams my loved ones seemed to think I was looking at life in a very immature and over romanticised way. The feeling I had, deep down, that life was more than working a job I hated and coming home tired to spend three hours in front of the television before going to bed started to be pushed to the back of my head. I slowly started to conform; if everyone else thought I was crazy, they were probably right and I was probably nothing more than a dreamer and a self absorbed drama queen.
I heard about the camino a while back. A pilgrimage from France to Spain. A journey undertaken by millions of people every year. Something that started as a religious undertaking in the days of old, but nowadays attracting all kinds of travellers; people walking for spiritual reasons and thrill seekers alike.
I’ve always had the urge to walk; roaming the woods behind our house during my childhood, exploring the neighbourhood by foot rather than on my bicycle. Walking clears my mind, being underway takes the pressure of life. Traveling as a purpose of its own. While I travel I don’t feel the need to justify my actions, I just have to move. Getting to my destination by nothing more than my own two feet gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I figured the the trail to Santiago was long enough for me to be able to do some proper soul searching. When I talked to my friend S. she decided to tag along to St-Jean Pied de Port for our 800 km trek from the French Pyrenees to the medieval city in Spain.
Just before setting off to walk 30 days across Spain, my emotional rampage came to a high. I bucked like a wild horse, locked in a cage of my own making. Things with my boyfriend ended in a horrible way a day before setting off to walk the camino, because I did not have the guts to end our relationship properly. I was an absolute train wreck after this and if it wasn’t for S. coming along to walk the camino with me, I would probably never have left. She literally dragged me away from home, putting my sleep deprived and teary face on the plane to Bordeaux and making sure we reached St. Jean in one piece.
People walk the camino for many reasons; seeking forgiveness for the pain I had caused to other people, turned out to be mine.
‘Walking from France to Spain’ is the first article in a small series about ‘El Camino de Santiago,’ an 800km pilgrim route across the north of Spain. Stories and photos by Rebecca Rysdyk