And so I walked the last day of my first Via de la Plata. The clock had switched to daylight savings recently and, with that, walking in darkness became a thing again. I enjoyed the absolute quiet. Staying in an albergue alone also means walking alone, and with the nearest towns over 10km behind and ahead of me I knew I’d have the Camino all to myself. Soon came the sunrise.
I talked out loud to the hazy colours – the blue hue that had enveloped the trees and grass. I talked to the birds singing and to the flowers slowly opening up to a new day. I talked about travelling.
Six months earlier, I had met a girl in Greece. It happened right after I decided on my “let’s give it 6 months time and see what happens” plan, so the idea of quitting my job and going to travel was fresh in my head. This girl, Babi, wasn’t thinking any more. She was doing. When she told me “I quit my job and am travelling for two years” my honest yet slightly salty reaction was something along the lines of “There you go, some people actually dare to do it!” It was envy, but it was also admiration. I wished right there and then that I would one day be just as bold. Babi and I, we talked a lot during the next two days, as we explored the gorgeous monasteries of Meteora and the equally stunning landscapes around them. I felt like it was destiny that I had met her. As stupid as it may sound, I felt like I was called to Greece simply for meeting her. I felt that in some way, it would change my life – just as I had felt when I first met J and J at the start of this Camino. A sense of importance.
So when my mom told me she would support my decision to resign and travel, Babi was the first one I wrote. She replied immediately. Occasionally we reminded each other of the purple flowers we saw in Greece. The ones Babi loved so much. The ones that were scattered all throughout the forests. On my last hike on the Via de la Plata, for the first time the grass wasn’t filled with white or yellow, but with purple. Under each and every tree, the flowers were there.
I told them I had made my mind up. That I wasn’t going to ponder or hesitate any more. I told them I had no choice. For so long I had been dreaming of this travel, and every time I had found an excuse. Most of those excuses were based on fear, or trying not to let people down or upset them. Most of them were valid excuses, too. Grown up worries about money or safety or simply about whether or not I would enjoy being on the road by myself for that long. Yet none of those theories had made me happier. After ten years I realised that every time I was in weakness, every time a change was due, this crazy idea would re-emerge. And time and time again I told it “Not now. Later”. I couldn’t tell it no, I just postponed. I couldn’t tell it no because deep down I knew that my heart would not forgive me. And so now the time had come to pay my debt. Fear or no fear. Doubt or no doubt. You can’t dream of something and not do it, just because it’s scary or inconvenient. That just ain’t right.
I realized very well in that moment, that fear was the only thing holding me back. I had the possibilities: the privilege of being able to resign and spend a fair amount of money on travel (we don’t often realise enough how many people in this world never get to travel). Would I push that privilege aside, together with my dreams, just because it seemed a little bold? I looked at the purple flowers once more and told them: I would not.
This is were Bruce Springsteen’s The River comes in again. I told you it would be featured once more and now here it is. The previous night, I had been asking myself one line that has intrigued me since I was just a child. Is a dream a lie, when it don’t come true. Or is it something worse?
I decided that a dream which you have the power to fulfil but choose not to, is a lie to yourself. And not just that. The lie will become the worse: a spell that will haunt you. A regret in the making. A missed opportunity to feel truly alive. A dream left to rot is a step away from your heart. Yet how many steps can you take in that direction before the heart turns it’s back on you in return? How does that make you feel? And how many yellow Camino arrows does it take to guide you back to where it all started?
That’s my story of the passed 6 or 10 years.
That’s the story of my Via de la Plata.
To be continued…