Camino de Santiago: Day 15 (Christina)

From Itero de la Vega to Villacazar de Serga (28 km)

It is a late start to the day as Chris and I are not in any rush to leave our lovely, private room.  I leave before Chris at around 8:00 am and I reach the first town around 9:30 where I am disappointed to find no restaurant.  The tall, dark and handsome fellow from Leah´s stolen walking sticks story is walking behind me with a priest, I think from Portugal.  I can´t remember if I mentioned but this is the same man that the Irish nurses were swooning over in Granon, claiming they couldn´t possibly sleep with such a gorgeous man on the mat right across from us.  Those girls even went to the Prayer Service, in part, I think, to try to impress Mr. Gorgeous as we have all concluded he is very religious and might even be training to be a priest.  Anyways, I digress a bit, but it is this same guy who tells me there is an Albergue off the main road, next to the church from where he and the priest have just emerged.  They stop to pray in every church along the way.

I am grateful for this piece of information as I am dying for a cup of coffee.  The albergue is like a little piece of heaven, tucked away from the road.  I walk through the main gate into a courtyard with a beautiful garden full of unique sculptures.  I see David who I met a few days ago, and he tells me he is taking a rest day in this quiet oasis.  The gardener comes up to greet me in English and offers to make me breakfast.  As I sit down to a huge omelette, salad, bread and the biggest cup of coffee I have seen on the Camino, David comes inside and sits down for a little chat while looking for a pen.  We share our experiences and some information about ourselves.

One of the best breakfasts I enjoyed on the Camino.

David works in the field of psychology and is winding down his career in the government while ramping up his private practice where he specializes in couples counselling, the same field my daughter is studying.

During our conversation, I go out on a limb and I share with him my thoughts about changing careers into the field of organizational psychology.  I ask him for his professional opinion and he gives me a very thoughtful reply.  At 60, he sees me as quite young (age is so relative) and so doesn´t even consider that to be a factor in the decision.  He talks more about the logistics and the practical matters of making a living.  But as we talk, he observes how passionate I am when I am talking about this subject and really encourages me to pursue it.  Then he suggests that given my corporate background, perhaps an MBA or Executive MBA program would get me the needed credentials more quickly.  He said there are several that offer specialities in organizational psychology and international development.  He suggests I might be interested in working with NGOs to help them get better organized, to become more efficient and effective in order to get the most value from donor dollars and the biggest return on investment for their recipient communities.

As soon as he mentions this, I am so excited.  First, finding a way to short track getting the credentials appeals to me.  I want to get into this field as soon as possible.  Second, the idea of working with NGOs is exactly the kind of thing I think would give me a sense of purpose and meaning in my work.  All of a sudden, I know what I want to do next with my life.  Just like that, my question has been answered.

I actually get rather emotional while talking to David, but can´t explain why.  I am just overcome with relief that I have figured this out.  We have talked for one and a half hours and now I must get back onto the Camino.  As I walk, I formulate a plan in my head.  First, find a good MBA or Executive MBA program.  If going the Executive MBA route which would be my preference, I can continue to work, and hopefully get my company to support my efforts in some way or another.  Then, I would like to transition into this new field of organizational change management within my own company, either supporting my company as they go through internal change, or by developing and leading a new consulting business  line in this domain.  Then once I have some years of experience under my belt, I can branch into consulting for NGOs and continue this until I don´t want to work anymore.

My brain is racing with ideas, and I can hardly wait to get back home to start sharing these ideas.  For the first time since leaving Ottawa, I am ready to go home.  Maybe not literally, this instant, but when we are finished our travelling, I am ready to go back home.  Wow, this is very powerful for me.

As if this isn´t enough to think about, I am also thinking about how Chris and I have been criss-crossing (ha ha) our paths on the Camino.  I had thought that when we said good-bye in St. Jean Pied de Port, the next time I would see Chris would be in Santiago…..I did not understand the way of the Camino.  Each time our paths cross, something happens between us, sometimes good and sometimes bad.  I never expected relationship issues to surface on the Camino and it has taken me quite off guard.

But it is an interesting experience because we come together, something happens (good or bad) and then we part and go our separate ways, often  several days pass until we meet again.   And there are many hours to think about things on the Camino.  The Camino gives me some clarity and I see there are changes I want to make within myself in the context of my marriage.  I need to better respect the place I am at in my personal journey and not hold myself back because Chris is in a different place.  I see that I do this often in both small and large things.  For example, I want to visit India on this trip but Chris does not.  I simply accepted that we would not go to India.  But now I ask myself why can´t I go to India and Chris go somewhere he wants to go?  Why can´t we find a compromise?  Why am I so willing to defer to others at my own expense?   I think we both need to individuate more in our relationship, to be more whole as individuals, while still remaining close as a couple.  I think I have lost a sense of myself in our coupleness and I want to regain a better balance in this area.  This is all tricky business because patterns are so deeply engrained, but I know that now that I see some of these patterns, I will work on changing my part in them.  This is pretty heavy stuff.

I finally reach the town of Villacazar de Serga.  I was so busy thinking today that I actually didn´t mind the long, boring walk that followed a highway for most of the day.  The temperature is comfortable even though the wind was still very strong today.

I arrive at the municipal albergue to find a few people that I know – Damien, the French speaking Belgium with whom I have been practicing my French, Leah (walking sticks) is here and Erin and Cameron are here too.  I thought they would have gotten further but Erin got some bad blisters and in fact walked the last 8 km in her flip flops, with Cameron gallantly carrying her pack the entire way.  We all watch as Damien plays doctor and drains her blisters.  It´s actually quite gross but we are all equally fascinated by it.

Yoshida, or Crazy Yoshida as he calls himself, is a 72 year old Japanese man who I have run into a few times along the Camino.  This is his fourth Camino and he is in incredibly good shape, even though he smokes a lot.  When I first met him, I made a comment about his smoking, and he smiled at me as he lit up his third cigarrette and said, I only smoke one cigarette a day.  Every time I see him resting, he is smoking his one cigarette for the day 🙂

Anyways, Yoshida makes dinner every night where he is staying, and he makes enough for everybody.  Japanese soup and steamed rice.  So he tells us he is cooking tonight.  There are 10 of us by now so we decide to go to the store to get some more ingredients for a salad, some bread, cheese, sausage, and wine.  It turns into another feast.

There are several new faces at the table: Charley from Germany who is a rather sad faced older man who speaks quite good English, Ana from Spain, Marco from Romania, and another man in his mid-30´s from Lithuania.  After dinner, we are talking about some of our Camino experiences.  The young people get up and do the dishes but us older folks continue to sit around.  I share some of things I have been thinking about regarding my marriage, and some of the things I am struggling with.  It is quite personal what I am sharing and everyone is listening very attentively.  They are all very understanding and share their thoughts too.

After dinner, each of them approach me privately and thank me for what I had shared; in some way, what I had said touched each one of them directly and helped them in their own situations.  It was remarkable how just sharing oneself can be a gift to others.  Charley said that he now understands his girlfriend better, that she had been trying to explain to him exactly what I talked about but he couldn´t hear it from her.  Marco revealed to me that he was a recovering drug addict, 6 months clean.  He was walking the Camino as a way to give thanks to the sisters who helped him in his recovery.  He has nothing, but cherishes moments like the one we had at dinner because it makes him feel accepted and part of a family.  The fellow from Lithuania (can´t remember his name) shared a little about his abusive past and how his mother was codependent and sacrificed herself for everybody else.  What I shared made so much sense to him.  And then there was Ana.  I didn´t learn too much about her story, but she completely understood the issues I was grappling with as she was doing the same.

This is a memorable day on the Camino….the day I answered my question, what´s next?  I can harldy wait to run into Chris again to share with him my news, I am so excited about it.  And I want to share it with him before I write about it on the blog.  But who knows when our paths will cross again.

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4 Responses
  1. sonja says:

    Fantastic to hear you are going ahead with this dream of yours!!

  2. Dinesh says:

    Hi Christina/Chris,

    What a fascinating journey. Glad to see you are back in high-spirits. Keep-up your determination and hope your feet get better 🙂

  3. Angus says:

    Hi Christina, this is awesome. You had said much earlier on that you were searching and not knowing what you would be going back to or what you wanted to do. I’m really happy you have meaningful direction for the next phase of your life. I’ve always simply fallen into what I’m doing at work but never really been passionate about it so I’m always a bit jealous when I see people that have turned their passions into their livelyhood.

    I’ve been thinking much the same thing the past couple of years. What do I want to do for the next 10-20 years? So far no real answers but I’ll keep searching.

    • christina says:

      Hi Angus
      I am so excited about my future now that I know what I want to do. And I am equally shocked that I have found my answers on the Camino. This Camino is like nothing I have done before. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone, it is an amazing experience. Many people do it in segments, especially Europeans where they take one week of vacation each year and do the next stretch of Camino. You can do it any way you want. Maybe a Camino is in your future to help you answer your question about what to do in the next 10-20 years.