One of the great things about taking A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago was meeting incredible people. That path was filled with every color, shape, and age from every corner of the world. We all have a gift to share and there is no better arena than the magic dirt in Spain.
May 27 began with perfect weather on my way to Carrion de los Condes. As the morning sun began to bake my head, I was in need of my wide brimmed hat. It was attached to the back of my pack and my laziness allowed Vita to become part of the story. This stunningly gorgeous young lady from Lithuania gladly relocated my tilley hat to protect my shiny head. She had a very free spirit and was contemplating a year long stay in Spain. One thing is for sure, she was not going back to her home. I had no idea where she was going but was sure it was in the right direction.
After walking for about 15 minutes, we passed a very unique albergue. I was immediately drawn to the three donkeys roaming around a football sized field of bright red poppies. Vita was not ready for a break so I said goodbye and entered the oasis. While waiting in line for some coffee, she tugged on the back of my shirt with an obvious change of mind. Reggae music provided a unique beat inside the graffiti covered walls. A colorful Che Guevara portrait was the largest covering at least four square feet. A mamma hen with three scurrying chicks wandered across the courtyard. While Vita was young, her insight was incredible. During our break she matter-of-factly said, “If a person can only travel to one place on this planet, it should be the Camino because the world travels to you.” We both started in the same city and had only walked about 5KM to get to this point. After about 30 minutes of rest and conversation, I asked if she was ready to go. She smiled and said, “This place is just too cool. I am staying overnight.”
One day later, I checked into the very quiet Albergue Laganares. One of the men in my room was Ermin from Slovakia. He was the splitting image of an aging Al Bundy. His English was very poor, but exceedingly better than my Slovak. Something was off with Ermin as his balance and speech were both hampered by a physical ailment. He grabbed a pen and began to draw his story. Eight years ago, a tree fell on his head. He parted his hair to expose the gruesome scars. Then he thrust both hands forward like a man in a wheelchair. He wrote “6 months” on the paper. Next, he pushed both hands toward the ground and stopped by his waist to emulate a walker. He wrote “3 years” on the paper. I was in total awe as he limped towards the shower. An amazing man.
Several days later, I was lucky to cross paths with Colin and Chris from Boston. Our friendship began at a random stop where I offered them the remainder of my chorizo bocadillo. Their strong British accents have survived 40 years in the United States. This loving couple was on the four year plan to cover the 500 mile walk. When Colin spilled the beans on his 71 year age, I said, “Thats awesome!”
He shook his head and dryly responded, “Not really.”
The next morning, I crossed the famous bridge at Puente de Orbigo and once again found myself in the company of Chris and Colin. This time, they were clad in matching bright orange rain jackets. The coats were gifts from volunteering at the 2015 Boston Marathon. Chris told me about her love of surfing and gleefully shared a story about one of her many adventures where she drove across the US to drop off a car for her superstar swimming son. He signed a deal with Nike and needed a car in Portland. It seemed so obvious for her to just hop in, drive across the country, and deliver it from Boston.
We began an interesting discussion about the use of time. Chris does not work and I retired young. People are often asking about how we fill our days. Like me, Chris is always busy and has the luxury of deciding which project to devote her endless energies. In 2007, she was so enamored with the Senator from Illinois, that she hopped in her car, drove to Iowa, and volunteered. My favorite story was an amazing one about her support of dying friends. Chris has been at the bedside during the death of seven of her dearest friends. When I expressed my amazement, she replied, “No one else made the time.” Wow.
In today’s world, people look up to Kim Kardashian for having ass implants or Wiz Kalifa for his amazing ability to smoke pot all day. I think the world would be a much better place if we honored the superheros that walk by our sides every single day.