My second to last walk went from Alcuéscar to Aldea del Cano; a short 15km. My legs felt strong and the weather was perfect: clouds cast some shade, it wasn’t too hot, nor too cold. Yet for some reason I was having a though day. The sky felt oppressive, the air didn’t seem to supply sufficient oxygen and my mind was hazy. I figured it had something to do with the nearing ending of the Camino. I remembered feeling lost and sad on the Camino Francès too, when Santiago came within reach. Surely, you’re happy to have made it. But when you enjoy being a pilgrim as much as I do, the foresight of finishing the journey and becoming a non-pilgrim again isn’t so joyful one. It’s a mixed feeling that catches many walkers a little of guard, but not me. I’m an experienced pilgrim now. Right?
When I stopped in Aldea del Cano it was instantly clear that I would be the only pilgrim in the albergue again. It was a lovely house, with a high ceiling and plenty of electrical heaters to make the cold evening comfortable, yet I instantly felt lonely. “My legs are doing great,” I pondered, “I might as well walk a bit further…” I hesitated but decided to stay. Knowing that tomorrow would be my last day of walking, it didn’t make much sense to shorten the distance just for the hell of it. I was going to end in Cáceres anyway, there was nothing to gain. I made myself some tea Canadian C had gifted me, blasted some music, got out my water colours and tried to cheer myself up. It wasn’t a very successful attempt but at least it kept me from crying.
Looking back to that afternoon now, I realise very well that I wasn’t just sad because of the end of my Camino. I was processing a lot of things. The only way I can properly describe it, is by comparing it to a computer.
If you have an old laptop like mine, you’ll know the feeling. Your working on something but all of a sudden, everything starts running slow. The machine is making noise, blowing hot air around, getting stuck in the most simple applications for no apparent reason. You check the task manager but nothing seems to be happening. And you wonder What is the problem? Why won’t you just work??? Big mystery. Maybe it’s because of the hot weather, you think. Maybe the machine is just too old and tired. So you ignore its struggles and keep working on whatever you were doing. Until, all of a sudden, the laptop shuts down and restarts itself. Mayday! You panic for a moment, thinking it has crashed. But then it just starts loading the setup and proudly informs: 5 new updates have been installed. Of course… you now realise: that explains everything.
On my second to last day on the Camino, my head was installing updates. It’s funny isn’t it? For over a year I had been doubting and stressing. Should I quit my job? And would I go travelling if I did? Would I dare? Would I enjoy? I couldn’t decide. I drove myself mad. And then, on the Camino, after just two weeks of walking – the update installed itself, just like that. I could feel the weight of it on my shoulders. I felt my heart adapting to something, my brain accepting something, slowing me down and blowing hot air out of my ears. And still I was stupid enough (
I’m really slow and thick sometimes) to not realize what they were doing.
To be fair, it probably took me six years (
slow and thick, right?) to go from kinda knowing I had to leave the company at some point to actually deciding this is the time to then finally daring to do it. It was a long journey and as with most journeys, the path only became clear when looking back. Yet still it were those two weeks of NOT thinking that made my mind confident. Not the hours of crying. Not the endless pondering. Not the bathing in self loathing and fear. But the NOT thinking and the just being. On the Camino I remembered what it’s like to stay close to myself, to feel connected, to focus on the important things. And I guess it’s a feeling so lovely and strong that it makes your whole soul grab on to it. In the end, it leaves your worried mind with no other option than to follow.
Long story short: after a while I got out of the albergue and walked into the pueblo. I sat on a bench as the siesta ended and watched as doors opened, chatter filled the streets and church bells rang. Aldea del Cano woke up from it’s slumber and it seemed my heart woke up with it. I ordered a beer, sat in the sun and watched the people go about.
A little later that evening I messaged my mother, as I usually did each day to let her know I had arrived. Without having planned that conversation at all, I told her: I think I’m going to make the round the world trip happen. It was a strange thing to do, because usually I would avoid the quit my job and travel topic as much as possible. My mom didn’t really like to hear about it. It made her worried and nervous and she would usually brush it away, perhaps hoping that if she ignored it, I would eventually forget about the whole thing. This time, however, she didn’t brush away anything. In fact, she asked genuine questions and said that, if I really wanted to do it, she would support me because she wanted me to be happy. It meant the world to me. It made me so happy! I was so happy I cried. Reading those words was the last thing my heart needed: the last thing that was keeping the update from being installed. Only when my mom told me “yes, I will support your plan”, that’s when my screen blacked out for a moment, restarted the system and proudly announced: two important updates have been installed.
When I opened the task manager, Quitjob.exe and Starttravel.exe were running smoothly.