I live in California and I am an English teacher, but I also write. I have written poetry for children and I have been published in some anthologies, I have also written poetry about my experience and I continue to write. In my poetry I speak of following the stars and sharing an identity with the people who have travelled the Way throughout history and of feeling a common identity with all those souls who have walked the same Way, and undertaken the same journey.
The first time I heard about the Camino was in 2008, on television, during a travel program where Nancy Frey was interviewed because she had written a book about the Camino. I read the book and decided that I wanted to do the Way. At that time I was taking care of my mother, she was dying, and she died in 2010. My mother was a devout Catholic and she knew the Way for that reason. We talked about the project and told her that I wanted to do it. At that time it was not possible, but my mother told me: do it for me.
My first Way was in 2014. I did it alone, I came from California and started in Saint-Jean-Pie-de-Port. I had prepared for it a lot – mentally, physically and spiritually. I was 60 years old and alone, but I had taken the time off to do it. It was a double promise: do it for my mother and do it for myself. It was a kind of cure, I had looked after my mother for six years and that had been a very profound experience.
I found a friend on the Camino and on the first day, what is more. She is a woman from Wyoming who lives in California, and since then we have done three caminos together. Actually, I found a kind of family on the Camino, a small group of people, but also – after ten days – I understood that I wanted to do my Camino alone. So from Burgos I continued on alone. That is why, since Burgos, this was my Way, and each experience was my experience. But also walking alone I met many people.
I remember walking, letting myself go, day by day, without having things scheduled. I asked the hospitality workers about the following day’s stage, and then set off alone. This was already something very different from my life at home, a life in which the same thing always happens and everything is very organized. I lived it as a complete individual liberation. Then, walking alone that way, I understood that this Path would allow me to return to my life, to my freedom, to leave that period of care behind … It was a profound, very profound experience.
When I arrived in Santiago I was very tired and I still had some time in Paris and traveling in other places, I also think that part of the trip was a challenge. I felt a great confidence in myself, I realized how strong I am. I learned not to be afraid and to have confidence in myself. You trust the Way and feel that you are protected.
When I was little my parents went to Mexico and bought a small sculpture that they had at home. On my Way, in Pamplona I entered a church and saw the same statue of a Sacred Heart and somehow I felt my parents were with me. In general, in Spain and on the Camino I feel as if my parents were with me. Maybe it has something to do with my family history, my great-grandfather was from Salamanca, one of five brothers who left Spain at the end of the 19th century, which means that now have a family all over the world, a family that I am in touch with thanks to the Internet.
My second Way was with my friend and it was also the French Way, from León. It was a very good Way. I had fun and felt comfortable, without losing my own freedom. It was only two weeks but it was a very important experience for me. I cried a lot on that Road, whereas on the first one I didn’t.
Now I have just travelled my third Way, and it was a very different Way. I walked with three American women, I will not do it anymore because I have understood that it is difficult. The other pilgrims lived it in a different way and difficulties arose, for example it was difficult for me to have conversations with one of them who is very conservative … But it was also physically difficult to adapt to the rhythm of the others, you have to go slower if the others are slower … We started our Camino in Porto and for some the heat was also a difficulty, in reality the difficulty was to move forward together. I organized, made reservations … and for this reason I could not feel the freedom I had felt in the past.
I would like to do my next Way alone- to enjoy the Way, to enjoy Spain, to talk to the people you meet … I want to go back to Spain but I don’t know if I can walk in the same way, or if I will still have the physical form to travel on foot, maybe with a support car … or maybe I can walk, but knowing that my physical form is not the same.
For me the Way was a transformation, for others it is more a challenge, but for me it is mostly a transformation: it changes how you see the world, how you see people. You become more compassionate, you become more humble, you know how to put yourself in the place of others because you have had to be helped many times.
Doing the Way alone is a liberation. I live alone, I have an adult daughter who lives in the house next door, but I am used to doing things alone, to making my own decisions. That is why it is not always easy to walk with others, but I enjoyed walking as much as when I walked with a friend.
In this experience I lived a moment of great emotion in Porto. I have an older sister who is dying and there I entered the cathedral to pray and dedicate my Way to her in some way. I felt very moved and I think that having done the Way can help me to be close to her on my return.
Regarding that return, the experience that you have lived is always with you, although it is true that you experience the difficulty of adapting again to everyday life. You think: what is this compared to the Way? But you know that you can move on, as you did on the Camino, and you feel enormous confidence after that experience.