Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Pilgrim or Princess?



My Anniewalkers trips were designed to help pilgrims with limited funds experience the Camino Santiago with minimum but consistent support.  Each person is given lots of information to prepare them for the walk and each is given a walking booklet with directions to each night’s booked lodging. I am available via telephone and email if anyone has a problem or needs help. 

People who need or expect more support have a plethora of more expensive choices  
New tour groups are popping up every other week. 

Over the years I have met my share of both pilgrims and tourists — and have escorted both pilgrims and tourists looking for an affordable experience on the Camino Santiago. 

Those who are true pilgrims are easily recognized. 
They are grateful for small luxuries.  Their smiles and hearts are open. They are enriched by the people, the culture, the beauty of the landscape, and the art. 

Over the years, those who are tourists have been easily recognized as well... mostly by their demands and their constant complaints and their ‘toos.’

‘The bed was too hard, too soft, too large, too small.’
‘The sheets were too rough, too slippery, too perfumed.’
‘The room was too cold, too hot, too far away, too small, too old, too outdated, too thin-walled.’
‘The people in the street kept me awake.’ (culture shock or lack of earplugs)
‘The church bells kept me awake.’ (culture and religious shock or lack of earplugs)
‘The water was too hot, not hot enough,too difficult to adjust, tasted funny.’
‘The lighting was too bright, too dim, flickering, 
‘The trail was too steep, too rocky, too close to the road, too remote.’
‘The food was too spicy, too bland, too expensive, cut too thin, too Spanish (really?)..’
‘The taxi driver, hospitalero, waiter, grocer didn’t speak English (this is Spain?)’

You get the picture. 

At dinner last night I watched a group of tourist girls make catty remarks about an overweight pilgrim. Watching them was like being back in junior high school and having to deal with the ‘Mean Girls.’ It makes you wonder what made them this way? I see this more and more on the Camino. I think it may really be time to hang up my pack for good. 

On the Camino Santiago, most old timers advise new pilgrims to ‘have no expectations,’ because the Camino is like a big mirror - it will give you only what YOU are willing to give, and what you are willing to receive - and absolutely nothing more. 

Having an open mind and open arms and an open heart puts you in the perfect position to receive blessings and pleasant (or not) enlightenments about yourself. 

Having expectations limits your ability to experience the magic of pilgrimage - letting others provide what you need, not necessarily what you WANT - and experiencing gratitude for what you get, a warm dry bed, a hot bowl of soup, a smile from a local grandmother. 

I spoke with the owner at Casa Morgade this afternoon. We agreed, the Camino is changing and not in what we feel is a good way. Bus loads of people get off 1 k before the village and hop back on 1 k after. We’re talking 40-50 people, not 10-12. None of the small local albergues are able to handle this many tourists. Morgade, which is usually buzzing with activity, was quiet today. Most pilgrims had stopped at the ‘new bar’ a couple of kilometers back. A shame really - Morgade has served pilgrims for generations. I wonder how many more seasons they can make ends meet. 

I ask myself (often) why I’m doing this?  I began doing it so I could afford the walking myself, as a prescription for my MCS. However, I’m coming to realize the amount of work involved in planning and executing the trip often doesn’t feel worth the frustration. 

I’m feeling sad and disheartened this week. 
Maybe it’s the constant rain. 
Maybe it’s a message from my heart. 
More likely, it is a message from the Camino, “There’s no place like home, 
But for now you are here in Spain, so BE here, and savor each moment!”

And so I remind myself, again, to have no expectations. 
Have NO expectations. 

Just  put one foot in front of the other and get my butt to Santiago,
 and do my best to do it with the heart and grace of a pilgrim. 

Buen Camino. 
Annie

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