I’m a regular sort of guy. That’s not a comment on my digestive system. What I mean is that I’d like to be the kind of person who walks into a bar and orders “the usual.” I’d love for the waiters to know that this guy always orders water, but he’ll tip as though he had a beer. The owner should come out and tell me about a new dessert that I “have to try” and when I say, “Wow, Jean, that’s perfect,” he’ll reply sardonically, “I’ll put it in the menu then.”
Peter Mayle fantasy aside, I think this is an important introspection which the Camino challenges on a daily basis. My nesting instincts are completely violated here. I can’t build rapport with any bar or hostel owner on the way, because I’ll probably never see them again. If I see a cute little café, I either have to go there at that very moment, or I probably won’t. Ever.
Every day I’m faced with this problem. Mmm… This albergue (hostel) looks great. Shall I stop here? But then again… I’m not that tired. Should I push on, at the risk of the next place not being as nice? In the morning, my feet seem to say, “Why not stay here? It’s warm, it’s safe… Who knows when you’ll find such a nice place again?”
Time and again, however, moving on is rewarded. The sooner, the better. Leaving a warm bed early means that I have more walking hours which in turn means that I have some freedom to skip a town if it looks dicey. So far I’ve been blessed in that I’ve been received warmly and kindly, despite never having met the hospitalero (volunteer working at hostel) before. Last night, one of them literally washed and kissed my blistered, cracked feet. I’m not ashamed to say that this simple act of servitude left me in tears. I’m crying all over just writing this…
On the Camino, my first impression is my only impression. Every smile or frown is received by a fresh audience. Kind of. Sometimes, it’s clear from an encounter that the person has a negative pilgrim taste in their mouth. All I can do is add my proverbial pebble to the pile, and hope that ultimately the sentiment will be positive.
Uncertainty lies at the heart of my wandering mind today. The preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:10 writes:
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
This simple rebuke is weighted with insight. Looking back, we view our memories and the days during which they transpired through a lens marked with certainty. At it’s heart lies: “I’m alive enough to remember, so it must be OK.” The future is less certain.
Ultimately though, if we allow it, the uncertainty is replaced with a simple certainty. Tomorrow will be different, but it’ll be OK.
Moving on then…
This article is part of a longer, as yet unnamed series following my Camino journey. If you’d like to read more, thank you! You can click here for the complete index, where you can also find a signup link.