On the second night I stayed in Zubiri, a fairly grim experience. The albergue was as much like a concentration camp as I ever wanted to experience. During the night I got up, to go outside to the toilet, which meant walking across the yard in the rain. I had heard the rain before I got out of bed but I hadn’t remembered that my walking shoes were outside! Thankfully some good Samaritan had moved indoor so they were only partly wet. In the morning I was up early and it was still dark as I packed and dressed without disturbing others too much. After breakfast when the light was just about up I set off to find the yellow arrow that would direct me back onto the Camino.
During the day I stopped for coffee outside Pamploma where I sat with Christian, a young German, who was walking alone that day as his girlfriend had taken the bus due to an injury. We were sitting out in a wide open square with lots of tables and chairs, and although it was midday the place was almost empty. Christian then sprang the big question on me, why I was doing the Camino. I took a moment to consider his question as my answer felt very personal to me and I felt emotional before I responded. I was wondered, ‘will I give the real answer or tone it down to something bland’? I realised being truthful would expose my vulnerability and I didn’t know if I was ready for that. However as I began to find the words, the tears came and I knew I couldn’t deny the truth “I have come to meet and be alone with myself”, I said. My companion asked “is that not something you can do in day to day life, without coming on the Camino”? I replied “no, I don’t think it is, there are lots of distractions and I can’t do it to the extent that I wish to”.
It was strange and surprising to discover that even on the Camino it was difficult for me to reveal and acknowledge the truth of why I was there. Even on the Camino I was afraid of being judged. I had thought that it would have been easy to be truthful as I assumed that others would have similar reasons for being there. In fact, lots of people I met seemed unsure, some for the challenge (the walk), some for time out to contemplate, for others it was on their bucket list and one person I met told me he was there to give thanks to God. In this exchange with Christian I was beginning to come out of hiding about the importance of my inner relationship with God (true nature, higher power) in my life.
My sense is that we were all searching for something – connection, meaning, purpose – whether we were conscious of it or not.