During an interview with Bill Rodgers after he won his fourth Boston Marathon, he was asked what he thought of the people who were still running 3, 4 or 5 hours after he finished. His response was great, he said, “I couldn’t possibly run that long.”
The Camino de Santiago is something that you walk at a pace that makes sense for you. Steve and I start each day with dozens of “pilgrims.” Most of them pass us sometime during the morning, and by the end of the day, we often feel like we are the last people to arrive at our destination. Some people pass us at breakneck speed, as if this was a race. I wondered about this and with a little research (not hard to do on the Camino) I discovered that without a reservation, or in the case of Albeurgues, a bed, folks need to rush to their destination or be shut out of a place to sleep, and may have to walk several miles to another town before finding a bed. Wait a minute!!! Aren’t we doing this to reflect on life? To smell the roses, or the wild rosemary that grows along the way? A friend told us that people are leaving earlier and earlier each morning, some at 5:00 am to get to their destination to line up for a bed for the night.
Truth be told, we are doing this in a very different way. We had all of our hotels booked in advance, and whether we arrive at 3:00 in the afternoon or 8:00 at night, our room awaits us. Each morning we leave our suitcases and they are magically waiting for us at our next destination. We carry backpacks filled with raingear, water and snacks. We have the luxury of enjoying some breakfast in the morning before we leave and stopping as many times and for however long we choose. We are covering the same ground each day as most pilgrims, but at a pace that is sometimes akin to strolling. We stop to take pictures, to watch the storks in their enormous nests atop churches, or simply to have a sandwich or a cup of soup at a restaurant or on a bench in a town as we pass through. We are also paying a lot more than 8 or 10 Euros a night for a bed. That is a trade-off and one, at our age, we think we’ve earned. Some people cover the same distance we do in half the time and when they arrive in a town and secure a bed they can shower and explore the town. We usually arrive between 3:00-5:00 pm each day and we shower and relax, sometimes exploring a town, having dinner and crawling into bed in our private room with our own bath. Staying in Albeurgues is not for me, a room with 10-100 beds with people snoring or coughing and sharing a bathroom with loads of strangers. There was probably a time in my 20’s when this appealed to me, but at 67, it’s the last thing I want after a long day of walking. There are lots of ways to get to Santiago and people choose the one that works for them. As we get further along the Camino there are more and more people joining the way, looking for rooms or beds and making it more and more competitive. I suspect some people welcome the rush and challenge of getting a bed, others find friends to share hotel rooms with. Whatever way people choose they will get to Santiago and have the same thrill of arriving. We will likely come strolling in several days after most people we started this journey with and we will have a huge smile on our faces as we make our way to our hotel and the hot shower that awaits us.
With love and gratitude,