Should. That word brings up so many meanings for people. And for me. I have finally let go of anything attached to what I think people should or shouldn’t do along a camino. It only took four caminos to get to that point. A friend of mine, who has also done a lot of walking, said “You’re a fast learner” when I told him about these developments. I used to feel just a twinge of self righteousness when I talked to people I met here. As if I had all the answers. As if by having been here four times I knew something they didn’t. And because I had walked all of it, never sent my pack ahead, and other than when in Santiago, had always stayed in albergues. Because that’s how you should do it if you want the real camino experience.
So picture me sitting on a bus one morning, riding into Ourense rather than walking five hours along the pavement, a good chunk of that time within the city limits. I just didn’t want to. My body and heart felt tired. So I got up early and along with Francisco, a Spanish man with a sore knee, caught the bus. We wandered around the city and deliberated catching a little tourist train that would take us on a route showing all the thermal pool sites. And then after exiting a building that showcased information about the pools, Francisco beckoned me over. There was a spa right in the middle of the city. Steam rising from the 38 degree water, a dozen or so senior residents soaking, free entry. But only one problem, I had no suit. As I stood there, trying to figure out how to persuade the attendent to let me in with shorts and a t-shirt, a young woman saw my dilemma and offered to loan me her other suit. Oh my yes. Within 5 minutes I was lying back in the water, waiting for my fingers and toes to turn into prunes.
There’s something about water and I. I need to be near it, I need to immerse myself in it from time to time, I need to hear and see it. I can feel it in my heart, a longing for it when I walk alongside, be it the ocean, a lake, or a river. I’ve had the fortune three times this camino to find water to sink into. It’s as if I start to develop cracks in myself if I go too long without, and when I finally find water to submerge myself in, the water eases in and around the cracks, and I am whole again. I ground myself in water.
It was a very restful day. There was a time I would have told myself that I should walk in, that I should keep walking after I had arrived by bus, that I should always sleep in albergues. But after that one day, I finally got it. My body said it was tired. My spirit said it was tired. And rather than convince myself otherwise, I listened. I am doing my camino. Sometimes I stay in a private room. Sometimes I walk 15 km. Sometimes I walk 35 km. Other people do their camino. I don’t care what they do. It’s in the realm of “I don’t give a f*ck.” And I really don’t. The highlights of my caminos are isolated moments of beauty and remembrances of people.
The next day I felt great. It was one of the few times in my life that body, heart, feelings, and mind were working together, helping each other. In harmony. And if that’s the only thing that I bring home from this camino, I will be completely satisfied.