The Camino doesn’t just end so you may find me dwelling on parts of it for a while.
Today, while more rested, I began to think of those people on the Camino that triggered in me an “attitude.” I’ve already mentioned a couple– the bikers and the 100 km day packers. The list could include those that send their ruck sacks ahead by taxi those that take a cab or bus over many segments.
I was discussing this with a fellow pilgrim who had developed severe hip pain and had to seek medical attention. It turned out to be a problem with her back and she continues in a lot of pain. She still is carrying her pack though she walks shorter days. It made me hurt just watching her move. She listened to me talk about some of these pet peeves then said, “So you think that those with physical problems who can’t carry their packs are not “real pilgrims?” Of course not! It wasn’t those people I meant, it was the healthy, young day-trippers.
We had seen a not too old man pulling his pack on a cart behind him. I assume that there was some reason he couldn’t wear it. We met Pricilla from Georgia along the way. She is a elderly woman and was dressed in a cotton blouse with Capri pants (pink and green) and “grandma shoes” with socks falling down. She wore a black straw hat with daisies in it. She was pulling a roller bag. She seemed totally unprepared for this journey but was determined to make it. Those two pulling their packs got me thinking first about how they were taking the easy way by not having 20+ pounds on their back, and then of how terribly difficult it would be pulling the cart/bag over the rocky paths, not to mention the rocky ups and rocky downs (did I mention the rocks?). It would be awful! I bet they both had interesting personal stories that brought them here.
The point is there is not one Camino. I don’t mean the fact that there are several Camino routes (Camino Frances, Camino Portugues, Camino Inglés, etc.). Jaime on his 10th Camino said that all of them were different. People walk the Camino for lots of different reasons and none of those reasons are THE right one.
Some people come for the religious experience of following in the foot steps of thousands of pilgrims who have gone before to pay homage to St. James, to visit and worship in the holy places along the way and to be blessed when they reach the saint’s remains in Santiago. Others walk to test themselves physically. Many of the young people we have walked with do so as a time to think about who they are and what they want to do with their lives. Other walkers are tourists. They want to see the Spanish country side, the old buildings, and get some exercise but want to do it in a touristy way. There are many people who have a limited amount of time and have always dreamed of doing the Camino and cannot start in SJPP and who have to take a bus to be able to finish within their time constraints. There are people who get hurt along the way and have to bus forward a segment or two. The bikers…I don’t know. Maybe it is on a list of must do bike rides.
Even within these and other categories people bring many different things with them. The death of a loved one, recovery from a disease, confusion about what they want to do, and many other things. If the bikers ever slowed down enough to talk with them, I bet they have interesting stories, too. I started to try to think when I saw some young person bouncing along with a day pack or less, “I wonder what drew them here and what they hoped to get from the experience and I wonder why they chose that way to make the journey.” It is only when one doesn’t know their stories that one can be less tolerant of their presence on the Camino. Knowing peoples’ stories works against intolerance.
Of course you don’t have to walk the Camino to realize that. But you do have more time to think and talk about it and you are exposed to so many wonderful stories on the trail and over the table.