I am Alina from Romania, I was around 20 years old when I first heard about the Camino de Santiago. It was on TV, a presenter of a television program recounted her experience of the Camino, it fascinated me and at the same time I admired her act of courage: to go alone to make that magical trip for a month in an unknown land.
Twenty years passed and again I heard an acquaintance of mine talk about her trip to Santiago, of which she gave me an icon with the Apostle. Then I remembered again the presenter and her beautiful story lived on the Camino. I began to gather more information, because something inside me stimulated my interest to know more about that famous journey.
In the year when I turned 40, to be more exact on June 17, 2018, I started my own Camino from Saint-Jean-Pied-du-Port with great enthusiasm.
At first, I did not know the exact reason for my pilgrimage. I felt that call to do it. I thought it would be a beautiful experience to see so many emblematic places that are found along the Camino and in this way it would be a different type of vacation.
Day after day you wake up early; walk in the mountains or among the wheat fields of La Meseta; you see how each sunrise shyly embraces you with its first rays; you walk slowly, without haste, because on the Camino there is no rush, on the Camino time stops; you take a good shower at the end of each day and enjoy each drop as never before, which seems to cleanse my soul more than my body; and you look forward to going to Mass every afternoon to pray – on the Camino I prayed as I had never done before – and to receive the pilgrim’s blessing.
I really liked this new way of living. All my thoughts changed then, now they are different, my life is still very simple because I realized that I do not need so many material things to be happy, what I have in my backpack is enough.
I realized that my path is spiritual because what I liked the most was that I had the time to talk with the Lord, before I did not feel that need to be in contact with Him.
In the 30 days of travel, I have never made plans to continue, I have never booked a place in any hostel, I left everything every day in the hands of God, I was never disappointed.
Before arriving at the emblematic O Cebreiro, my legs did not listen to me anymore, I had a tendinitis and a swollen knee. I thought I would not arrive and, as I walked, I began to pray, until without realizing it I saw that I was already in front of the landmark of the entrance to Galicia and, although I was alone, I felt that someone was accompanying me and coming up with me helping me.
And so arrived. I thought that the best thing was to go first to get a bed in the hostel and then return to enter and pray in the church of Santa Maria la Real de O Cebreiro. But something was calling me inside and it would not let me go to the hostel first, so I entered the church and my gaze went to the crucifix that is on the altar, it seemed that Jesus was looking at me, as if waiting for me, my tears began to flow involuntarily. I felt embraced, it was a hug full of kindness and an inner peace that overwhelmed me. It was just like the feeling when you are little and you hurt yourself and your mother comes to calm you down and hugs you with affection.
There I met Fray Paco, a Franciscan priest who was watching what was happening with me and immediately, without thinking, I asked him for a hug, without knowing that precisely in that church he had the custom of hugging each pilgrim at the end of mass.
I did not go on that trip to seek God, but I found him in every pilgrim, in the sunrises, in the little birds that sang around the Camino, in rivers and eucalyptus forests, in the stones of the Camino and in the small churches. It was everywhere, it was always there, it was in me, but before I didn’t know how to look for it.
Before arriving in Santiago, on my penultimate day of walking, I couldn’t get to Pedrouzo and I stayed in Santa Irene, the pain in my knee was killing me. I started to cry, I felt unable to continue the last 21 km. My goal was so close that the only thing I could do was pray and trust, once again, in Him. I asked Him not to take away the pain, I had accepted that, but to take me, like this, with the pain, to hug the Apostle.
The next day I arrived in Santiago without any pain, as if it were my first day walking. I had nothing reserved for my arrival in Santiago, nothing prepared, when I left the Pilgrim’s Office with my Compostela in hand, a nun smiled at me and asked me if I wanted to stay that night at the San Francisco Convent hostel, and the luckily, the shelter was managed by the same Franciscan priest, Fray Paco, whom he had met in O Cebreiro.
Someone up there loves me!
The Way truly teaches you, without rushing, to enjoy every moment. It teaches you to smile sincerely, it teaches you to share not only smiles but pain. It is not necessary to know many languages to relate, on the Camino another language is spoken, the language of the heart and, most importantly, the Camino is not done so much with the feet as with the soul.
For me the Camino was like going “home”, you want to get there as soon as possible, you need it. On the Camino my soul feels freedom in its purest form, but, as Fray Paco told me, the Camino does not end in Santiago or in Finisterre, the Camino begins when you finish walking, then the true Camino begins.
It is the Camino of life!