Connecting with Others

May 24, 2018 - Leading up to Burgos, it seems pilgrims keep pace with one another regardless of the speed with which they want to complete the Camino. They may want to finish in 29 days or 34, but until that point, the terrain and the body's adjustment to walking so many kilometers a day keeps people together.

After Burgos, the leveling of the path and the ticking of time causes the cohort of people to begin to break up. This is a difficult reality for many who have become attached to the people they have been walking with. Today, I said goodbye to a whole host of people who want to be in Santiago much earlier than I do.

Among them were two Russian girls, who's feet are covered with blisters, one of which who could benefit from slowing down a bit, but they were bent on pressing on, wanting to walk 34 kilometers today to keep up with the group. Though they have no time limitation, they are pushing themselves to keep up with those who are walking very fast because they cannot bear the thought of being left behind. I fully understand that feeling. On my last Camino, I would have probably done the same thing. Pushing forward helps to push off the feeling of sadness, loss, and being left behind. It is a mixture of wanting to stay connected to your cohort and the fear that you will not find another. I am finding, this time around, as I walk, I enjoy the people I meet and the conversations we share, but I am not holding on to them like I did the first time around. You might read that and think I am not connecting to people, but that is not true.

Yesterday, I was sitting in Hontanas, talking with a professor from Calvin College, and one of the 16 students she brought with her. As we sat and chatted in the small village, at a wide spot on its only street, more times than I can count someone walked by who either asked me a question or who I greeted and asked how they were doing. At one point the professor turned to the student and said, Ron knows everyone on the Camino. It is not true of course, but her observation caused me to reflect on the fact that even though I am not as attached to the people I am walking with, I am definitely connecting with them. I do not know the exact word to describe this posture. I do know it is void of the anxious feeling of needing to keep up with or hold on to the group, but it also contains in it a willingness to be present to those in front of me. It feels like freedom, trust and security. This a huge difference from the man who walked four years ago. It is one of the things walking the same path is mirroring to me regarding my personal growth. As I sit here in Itero de la Vega, I have been walking for 15 days. I have covered 335 kilometers, or 209.4 miles. In many ways, with a large part of the group moving on, a new phase of the journey is beginning.

It begins with sharing the albergue with a group of 8 people who are both closely and loosely connected with my friend Helen, from the last Camino. That is in itself a surprise, and no surprise at all. It is simply the reality of the rythm of the Camino.

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