Flumes Vol. 5: Issue 1, Summer 2020 - Page 96

irst hike, now providing safety for all those heading out into the fields. Couples that met on the Camino started families and opened their own hostels for weary pilgrims. The road is filling up with those looking to escape the loneliness of a disconnected world.

But new crowds bring new challenges. A week prior to sitting down to this drunken feast, I found myself cursing the onslaught of disrespectful pilgrims that stumbled into bunks just after curfew, loudly crashing into their packs, crinkling bags, and falling into a loud, snore-filled stupor. I raged at the levels of rudeness I witnessed at cafes and bars, and sometimes even churches. Where was my original Camino? Where was the 2009 feeling that we had “discovered” something?

I garnered more courage. “If the Camino hadn’t gotten more popular, I wouldn’t be here. And I’m not Catholic. But it has made me a better person.” I waited for his response. I had this urge to impress him—our valiant host—but I also needed to uphold the honesty of sacred drunk Camino conversations.

“But if it wasn’t for Catholicism, the Camino wouldn’t be here for you to find it.” He smiled and winked a warm wink before diving back into his meal.

I didn’t know what else to say. A pilgrimage, in its beauty and monotony, provides the mental space to process our mind’s moral contradictions, to hear the lies we tell ourselves, to recognize our own lost voice. It forces you to recognize nature as a power larger than yourself. It is a reminder that we are part of something more profound than the mundane chores and errands of our daily lives. And whether a pilgrim chooses to give this force a name—God, Allah, the Universe—it doesn’t matter, pilgrims seek something clearer, something higher than both their comfort or their pain. Do pilgrims owe something to its origins even if the road still serves its purpose?

On the other hand, our new friend had a point. I missed the reverence of the more desolate areas of the early Camino, I missed the adherence to albergue etiquette, and I even daydreamed about the less commercialized feeling of my 2009 experience. If the religious aspect of the Camino played a larger role, would all pilgrims gain more insight from the experience? Still I reminded myself that change, though confusing, is necessary and always, always inevitable.

The platitudes of The Way are a language of their own. “Everyone has their own Camino,” for example. This phrase leaves no room for judgement when someone chooses to walk their pilgrimage in a way that’s different than your own. But on this particular trip, we added a Part Two to this saying. “Everyone can have their own Camino, as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s Camino.” If you litter throughout the trail, others cannot experience the beauty of the land, for example. Or if you stay up until 2 am drinking and yelling, others may not have the energy to climb the Pyrenees the next day