One rainy Sunday afternoon in Burgos, I walk into a café and order the menú del día. Suddenly, I hear a voice from behind apologising in the most terrible Spanish for not finishing the food. I know it’s an Englishman, not because of the awful Spanish but because of the apology. I turn around and ask a pilgrim named Paul if he needs any help.
Paul’s been on the Camino for 22 days, and has already covered 180 miles. He’s now feeling very, very low: laid up for three days in Burgos because of tendonitis. He explains that he’s walking the Camino in the aftermath of his mother’s death. Paul’s suffered from physical exertion, bad weather and thoughts of his mother which have frequently reduced him to tears. He admits though that walking amongst nature with its beauty and birdsong has been comforting.
Before tendonitis struck, life on the Camino was becoming easier as he found his natural rhythm, new routine and the simple enjoyment of just walking, eating and sleeping every day.
Now, he is so defeated by his pain that he has decided to skip the Meseta; he’s already bought a bus ticket to León, 110 miles away. I ask Paul one simple question:
Would you like to see photos of what you will miss on the Camino by taking that bus tomorrow?
I know what you’re going to miss because I’ve also walked the whole length of the Camino and the Meseta is an amazing experience.
Paul listens intently, but then flips into worry mode.
What if my tendonitis flares up on the Meseta?
Maybe it won’t!
Our conversation comes to an end. We discover we’ve been talking for hours. We exchange email addresses. Four days later, Paul writes to me:
So, as far as my Camino is concerned, our meeting in Burgos was a chance encounter of great magnitude. Whether you attribute it to chance or God or something else I don’t know, but I would almost certainly have gone to the bus station and broken up the Camino if we hadn’t met and I would have regretted that. So thanks very much. I’ll let you know when I get to Santiago.
During our conversation, Paul had asked me whether I’m religious or crazy. In the end, he describes me as an angel. I’m not any of those things. I’m just a man who knows the transformational power of the Camino to move our life from where it is now to where we want it to be, even if we don’t have any clarity about where that is. If you’d like to know more, contact me here.