Maria. Spain-Australia, 2018.
María is Spanish, but has been living in Australia for 59 years. In 2002, she made a trip to Spain to attend a family wedding. She had recently divorced and, after attending the wedding, decided to tour Galicia with two relatives. She knew nothing at all about the Camino and only became aware of its existence when she arrived in Santiago and saw the pilgrims in the cathedral. She remembers some people performing rituals like head-butting the “saint dos croques” of the Portico de la Gloria. She thought they were crazy.
However, returning from Santiago by bus while half-asleep, she had a clear idea in her head: “I will do the Camino”. She also saw an image, that of her only son -who had died years before- and who kissed her. Although the idea of the Camino never left her, she did not relate it to her son again, nor did she have religious or mystical thoughts, but the truth is that she made the firm decision to do the Camino.
Years later, traveling with her current husband through the north of Spain, seeing the shells and signaling of the Camino in towns and villages of the Basque Country, she thought about it again. In 2015 she began to plan her first Way for the following year. All the preparations were made with a friend, but at the last moment this friend said that she could not go. But Maria had no doubts and, with her husband’s encouragement, decided that she would do it alone. In the autumn of 2016 she finally began her first Camino in Roncesvalles.
As soon as she stepped on the Camino in Roncesvalles, María knew that her friend had done her a favor by not doing the Camino with her. She understood that she wanted to do it alone.
That first Camino was physically hard, especially because of blisters that were so painful that she had to go to the Burgos hospital for treatment. For this reason she had to skip two stages and go by bus. Now, however, on her second Way, she completed those two stages alone, continuing later from Ponferrada with a group of fellow Australians.
Maria is clear that she will not seek suffering on the Way. She believes that if there is a God He has put us on earth to do the best we can with our lives and not to suffer. For her, who is now 70 years old, doing the Camino with a backpack and sleeping in shelters is not an option. Just walking is already enough of an effort for her, and she believes that after a lifetime working, she can afford to pay for hotels and have her own room and shower. That is why she does not understand the purism of some who believe that there is only one way to do the Camino, she believes that everyone can choose their own particular way of doing it.
She likes being able to walk alone when she wants to. On her first Camino that time alone in nature was what most delighted her. Discovering and perceiving the beauty of nature that surrounded her made a great impression on her. She realized that we took nature and its beauty for granted but the experience of walking in the midst of nature made her much more sensitive to its beauty, and she lived it with intensity previously unknown.
She defines her most intense experience of the Camino as being: the observation of what surrounds you, of being able to observe attentively, without distraction. That is why she appreciates being alone on the Camino. Normally, she is always surrounded by people and on the Camino she likes solitude, silence, peace. She does not need or like noise, she got tired of noise in her business life before retiring, now just twelve months ago.
María and her current husband have to face a complicated family situation, a situation that causes them a lot of stress that is why a few months ago while she was reminiscing and looking at photos of her previous Camino, her husband encouraged her to return and disconnect for a while. And here she is, on her second Camino, partly alone and, from Ponferrada, with a group.
After this second experience, she can say that for her the Way has not meant a revelation or a religious awakening, but a personal experience that for her is especially linked to the solitude and the contemplation of nature, but is also a different way of knowing places, eating well and walking outdoors without worries. But nature continues to be the first thing, and if on her first Camino it was the colors of autumn that she fell in love with, on this occasion she remembers especially the fields of poppies in Castile.
She believes that she will return to the Camino, perhaps by other routes, with friends and her husband; she would like to walk with her husband with a support car, so they could stop wherever they want and walk whenever they want.