A stranger walking into a new town stopped a farmer working in the fields on the outskirts and asked: “Tell me, what are the people of the next town like?”
I have been asked a question this week, it’s one I get asked often:
“I have heard quite a lot of bad things about the walk! That a lot of it is along main roads, and it’s very crowded etc? So I just wanted to get a first hand view, is that true?”
I have thought of many answers to your question, ranging from practical advice to detailed descriptions, but really there is only one answer.
It’s a simple one; I am reminded of a parable I heard a while ago, of a stranger walking into a new town who stopped a local farmer working in the fields on the outskirts and asked: “Tell me, what are the people of the next town like?”
The farmer asked in return, “What are the people like in your home town?” The stranger replied they were lovely, as good and kind a people as any man could wish for. The farmer told the stranger he would find the people of his town were like that too.
A few hours later another stranger passed on the road into the town for the first time and stopped the farmer in his toil to ask the same question, “What are the people of the next town like?”
Again, the farmer asked him how he found the people in his home town, and the second stranger said, “Oh they are mean spirited and unfriendly, as big a bunch of crooks and moaners as you can imagine.”
The farmer replied: “You will find the people of this town to be much the same.”
What I am trying to say is that you take yourself on the walk, it’s about you and how you handle any challenges. The Camino does go along main roads, and train tracks and under pylons, and past cement factories and industrial outskirts; a lot of it isn’t pretty, or even inspiring.
One day we were on a particularly stony and endless path on the way to Nájera, it runs along a busy road for much of the day and that can wear you down. We decided to reach out to the passing cars and trucks, and began the game of waving at them. The amount of bright smiles, and surprised and enthusiastic waves, we got back made the road lighter on our feet, and the hooting horns made us giddy with a silly joy.
A lot of the way is short on comfort and it can get very crowded. Isn’t life like that? Life asks us to walk tough roads at times, it’s very crowded, it is not comfortable all the time. It isn’t how the road is that matters, it’s how we respond that counts.
It is precisely the ability to keep going when its tough and uncomfortable that makes the difference.
A pilgrimage is not about rest and recuperation it is about throwing a challenge down to your life and yourself; it will show you what kind of person are, or give you the space to be the person you want to be.