The first time I went to Santiago it was the result of something like “where do you go Vicente, where do people go”, I signed up for what everyone was doing and I did it wrong. But on the Camino de Santiago there is always something that marks you and there was also then.
That trip was by car, with my husband. We followed the route and headed for Santiago, because what we wanted was to get to Santiago. But one day, I remember that it was raining and I was listening to my husband complaining and complaining about the time it was taking to drive, when I was surprised to see a man moving forward in a wheelchair, he came from I don’t know where and there were at least ten pilgrims by his side helping him. . I was impressed by what I saw and also by the contrast with our situation and all the complaining. I thought that I had to do the Camino, travel it in another way. It will be about 24 years and many paths since that first experience.
Shortly after that I started my first Camino on foot. I did it with my sister and a German friend. We had a broom wagon, but we walked. On that Camino, about 20 years ago, I already discovered something very important for me: many times I went alone, I walked ahead and I found myself alone on the Camino. It was in those moments when I realized what the Camino is : because when you go alone is when you really see yourself as a person, you see yourself inside, you discover yourself a little. There you are, to make your way, to do what you like, to get inside yourself, to get out of the city, to get out of the noise, to listen to the silence, to realize that in the big cities we are robots. You arrive at the Camino, you are walking and you say: I have to organize my life in another way, I have to love myself a little and organize my life in my own way.
Later, my husband and I became members of the Association of Friends of the Caminos de Santiago in Valencia. There you realize that the Camino is not only the week you walk, the Camino is every day. I started doing the Camino with the Association every year and very important bonds were created. What you share makes you feel closer to those people, we have monthly dinners and enjoy a very healthy relationship.
Now I am 80 years old and I have just done the English Way, after an illness and a serious operation. But I had to come because even when I still felt very bad, I always had the Camino on my mind and that forced me to get better. It made me take a paracetamol and go for a walk to get better so that I would be able to go on the Camino. It is a very strong desire that the Camino gives you.
For my husband and me, the Camino is what makes us still lively and physically fit. We go out for a walk and take care of ourselves so that we can do the Camino. After my illness, I thought that I would not be able to walk, but already on the first day I did 15 kilometers! I realized that the limitations are self- imposed. I surprised myself. The sick people who walked in my association group had short stages, 12 or 15 kilometers long, and I didn’t have any problems. In fact, on the second day I already discovered that using the word “valid” is not necessary. I don’t have to doubt that I can do things. In view of my age I can put the brakes on a bit, but all the same I get to everywhere I want.
I have done many Ways: with the Association, with friends, with relatives. Also a very special one with one of my grandchildren, in which we spent a lot of time alone talking about everything. From that Camino with my grandson I remember something that moved me a lot. It was when I got back to Valencia. I remember that he posted on social networks: “I have done the Camino de Santiago with my grandparents, the best experience of my life”. It still makes me emotional to remember it!
Another grandson of mine did the Camino a couple of years ago with his friends. The young people hear me talk about the Camino, they see my photos and I transmit my wish to them. But recently a Camino went wrong for my grandchildren and their friends. They didn’t make reservations beforehand and in the end they had problems finding where to stay … It wasn’t a good experience, but… what does the Camino have that makes them, despite everything, want to return ?
Thinking about what has happened to me with this Way, I also remember that when I was about 70 years old I used to tell the president of the Association with whom I walked that I had many doubts about being able to do it, that I did not know if I could walk…Just like now, after my serious illness, even then I had doubts, but I always did. I think that this is a great lesson of the Camino and something that I would like to convey: that you realize that the limits are set by yourself. It is something you have to overcome and the Camino helps you. My experience is that, there are always fears but in the end I always overcome them.
The best proof of what I say is to remember that a year ago I was sick and had lost 20 kilos, I felt terrible… but now you see! You don’t have to set limits, you have to work all year long doing what you can so that in the end you can enjoy yourself. You mustn’t say ‘never’, and in the end you have an incredible personal satisfaction. My grandchildren tell me everything, they call me a heroin, a crack, a champion… Because everything is hard for them, they don’t know how to walk, they do everything by car or motorcycle. On the Camino they discover that you can walk and that you have legs to walk. I always tell those who don’t have experience: It’s very easy, first you put one foot down and then the other, and that’s how you arrive in Santiago.
I would also like to explain that I am a religious, Catholic woman. This aspect is important in my relationship to the Camino. But my message or teaching about the Way is the one I have already mentioned: that it can be done, it can be done! It is true that wanting something gives you power, because it is a matter of desire, you have the desire and that enables you to do it. What one person does, another can do, some take more time and others less, but in the end you do it.