Stillness and Silence in Camino (Alyssa Wolan)

Albergue: 5 euro
nutella: 2.50 euros
hiking boots: 15 euros
camino: PRICELESS

Galicia is a northern province of Spain that is home to one of Europe’s most famous pilgrimages.  It is believed that the remains of the apostle St. James are buried in Santiago de Compostela, which is the end destination of the pilgrimage.  With a friend I met in Toeldo, we decided to pursue this pilgrimage starting from the small town of Sarria.  We completed the pilgrimage in 2.5 days and walked a total of 113km.

I would describe our daily routine like so:

1) We wake up extremely sore from the day before and question our sanity and if we should even do this.

2) Once we start covering some ground with the fresh mountain air surrounding us, our spirits pick up a bit.

3) We make it to our first major kilometer-marker (every 10km), and we literally jump for joy (actually more like a hop since we were pretty sore).  The end feels a little bit closer and our positive thoughts return.

4) Ok now we’re at about a little less than the half-way mark for our day’s goal.  This would be the most difficult time.  This is when we start focusing our attention on our newly formed blisters. We’re not quite half way and our bodies are not doing too hot.  This is usually when we each gave our personal pep talks.  As the kilometers dragged on, the pep talks became even funnier.

5) Once we made it past the half-way mark we were running on adrenaline all the way to our albergue where we would sleep for the night.

In my opinion, I think our daily journey is comparable to daily life.  It taught me the importance of taking breaks for silence and stillness in my daily life (even if only for a very short time).  Even though our five minute breaks every two hours seemed very small, we strived toward those little breaks with every muscle in our body.  These short breaks did wonders for our spirits and energy.  In real life, I’m guilty of taking the least breaks when I’m the most stressed until it piles up and I forget the meaning behind what I am putting all of my energy into.  Now I realize that breaks are essential.  Stillness and silence is what I have been missing most post-pilgrimmage.  We stopped for a few minutes just to listen to the stillness of it all.  Without the swishing of our jackets, it was so still.  Although I don’t think about it much, this is pretty rare to find since if you live by a city you are bound to hear cars and other shenanigans going on at all hours.

Alyssa Wolan is studying abroad in Toledo, Spain, with the University of Minnesota.

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