Home (T +2 days). 3:30 a.m., and my body still thinks it’s 10:30 a.m. and time to stop for a papa tortilla and a cold San Miguel. Oh the humanity. Anyway … now what???
First, a final, yet sincere thank you to all who followed virtually on my pilgrimage. A special thanks to my family, my prayer team, and members of the American Pilgrims on Camino (APOC) forum. Many, many of you who aren’t already, became family. I’d love to name names, but there are just too many, and I think you know who you are anyway. Thank you for walking with me, and for your encouragement that meant so much on many hard days. From my heart … thank you.
For 99% of the pilgrim population, staying wired to the internet is a BAD idea. DON’T do it. Leave the clutter behind. These opportunities to unwire don’t come along often.
I decided to ignore my own advice early on for three reasons: (1) My livelihood is through story-telling and I wanted to reclaim that important part of my life. It would be more difficult for me NOT to tell the story. I’d have been miserable NOT telling it. It’s just who I am; (2) Documenting the story in real time was therapeutic for me. I carry my own baggage just like everyone else. Every time I shared a photo, video or thought … well, it was a part of my healing, and; (3) APOC is a hugely diverse focus group I wanted to utilize in testing ideas for the future, and as my pilgrimage continues. It was a planned part of my “what next?” from the beginning.
As have many of you on APOC, I’ve read a ton about the camino. I’ve read a few good things, and a lot of not so quality things. I’ve seen video documentaries that touched my soul … others that were, eh … pretty meh.
So I felt from the beginning as though there were room in the marketplace for a new, well-written piece. And subsequently just a few weeks before leaving for Spain, my wife convinced me I was capable of gathering good material for a nice documentary. In October I came to believe those things just might possibly align for a new chapter in my career as a missions-focused journalist. Post-camino, I believe it even more.
There were preconceived notions about the focus of my future book and documentary. The weighty topic of “truth,” and how people across the world view truth was my original mission. As many of you understand, and might expect, the camino has a way of altering, even radically simplifying your perspective on so many things. It did so to my preconceived notions about my post-camino journalism.
Throughout my 40-day walk two simple thoughts recurred in my mind again and again.
(1) This is really hard. (it’s okay if you want to nominate that for understatement of the year.)
(2) What a pleasure it is to be in a place where so very few people cry, complain or make excuses while undertaking something so ridiculously hard. The absence of whining was a breath of fresh air to my soul, honestly. As one man suggested in a post early on, the complainers do exist, but they are pushed to the margins quickly by the majority of pilgrims who will have no part of it.
Life is tough. You know that, and so do I. Yet we walk on, don’t we? We just keep walking. We’re not quitters, you and I. We won’t lay down to defeat. We’re made of something special. There’s a certain “toughness” to us, and yet it’s not something we wear proudly, or with hubris. We’re genuinely thankful for the gift. And we ideally use it to the glory of the one who bestowed it upon us.
Early on in my posts, I began using the hashtag #pilgrimstrong and didn’t think so much about it. It just seemed appropriate as I walked through endless rains, bone-chilling cold and an all-day snowstorm. Some of those days just weren’t for crybabies. I remember walking the first two hours through that snowstorm from Ocebreiro until we came to the first small, open bar with heat and food at Hospital. I bet 30 soaking wet, numb pilgrims were gathered in that small space to dry out, warm up and replenish. And we all knew there was at least another five hours to walk through it to reach Triacastela in the haven of the lower elevations.
It was a situation tailor-made for despair, but do you know what the prevailing mood was in that bar at that moment? Pure joy. Not a complainer in the house. NOT ONE. It was #pilgrimstrong if I’ve ever seen it. At that moment, I was proud to be part of something so special. It really was special.
I’ve purchased the domain pilgrimstrong.com. Don’t bother looking as nothing’s there yet, but it’s the title for both a book and documentary I intend to publish next year, God willing.
The working title is actually, “Pilgrim Strong: Unfiltered Reality on the Camino de Santiago.”
My current thinking is to write this as a complimentary guide to the traditional guidebooks, yet one with less technical and geographic information … just an account of what this experience is really like … absent all the false images.
What I think I discovered though my social media posts on APOC is that in a world that’s so completely driven in our pursuit to create a false image of who, and what we are, simple transparency, mixed with a bit of humor, a willingness to laugh at yourself, and a pinch of occasional sarcasm, works well.
I hope you’ll enjoy the eventual book with some of its working chapter titles including:
The Day I Stopped Being a Pilgrim and Started Being Myself
I Thought I was Supposed to Cry a Lot?
The Pyrenees: That ‘What Have I Done Moment’
40 Nights. 40 Beds.
I Could’ve Just Walked to Pensacola
Know Your Municipal Albergue Tolerance Level (MATL)
I Walked Until My Legs Bled. Really.
Body Management and the One Thing Nobody Talks About
Cold and Damp. Damp and Cold.
Vegan Tom: Little Man, Huge Superiority Complex
I’m Not Changed. I’m Much More of Who I Was.
Naomi & Aida: My Camino Sisters
Coming Home. Nobody Really Cares
Snowstorm at 4,000 Feet
The Three Phases of Buen Camino
Leaving Cleanliness Behind
Just Keep Walking…
That’s just a working sample of title chapters.
I’ll continue to test, not all, but a lot of this writing here on the blog, and hope to publish in late summer or early fall.
Thanks again to everyone who came on this journey with me. We took quite a ride didn’t we?
Vaya con Dios for now.