Last week our Pilgrim in Residence, David Fulton, left us as he reached his pilgrim destination, but his journey was far from over. In this final post of the Pilgrim in Residence series, David shares what it was like to end his season of walking, and how his time on the Camino still reverberates in his life at home. After reading David’s account of walking the Camino and how it’s impacted his life, I’m looking forward to my own journey more than ever (read a bit about it here). I’m sure he has you dreaming, too. -Lacy
Words. One of the most popular ways in which we communicate.
And yet, sitting in front of the cathedral in Santiago I had no words. In fact, the flood of emotion I expected to feel did not overtake me. I felt blank. I had arrived but somehow was disconnected.
At first I began to judge myself as to why I would feel such apathy. I thought after a month and a half on the trail I would well up with tears upon arriving. I thought the hugs and congratulations would fill the charming air around the cathedral. While I did feel a sense of accomplishment, the bigger question hit me as I sat staring–What do I do now?
The Camino was over. No more walking; no more waking up at 6am, packing your gear and heading off to a coffee with the people you have come to love. The lovely rhythm and rituals we created everyday were coming to an end. Then, as I sat there, I felt something I did not expect: sadness.
I don’t do sadness well. I don’t do endings well either. I tend to pull away, withdraw, and isolate in order to escape the pain of ending. It is so hard to stay in the feelings of ending. Our culture doesn’t seem to do endings well either. Ending should be a time of remembering–of telling stories about what it was like to be with one another. Ending should be something we fight to stay present in, instead of withdrawing, getting angry, or borrowing from the future to alleviate the pain of the present.
“Ending should be a time of remembering–
of telling stories about what it was like to be with one another.”
I do the latter all the time. “We will stay in touch;” “I will email you;” “We will see each other in a few months.” We take an event from the future that hasn’t occurred and place it in the context of saying goodbye to soothe the pain of ending. Armed with this insight, I committed to myself I would try my hardest to stay in the ending of the Camino–to say what each person I met along the way meant to me, and to honor our time together with words, stories and emotions. This would require risk, vulnerability, and courage.
To Lindsay, thank you for your friendship and sarcasm. To Romona, thank you for your motherly care. To Caroline, thank you for the laughs and fun. To Gary and Scott, thank you for pushing me forward on days that were hard to walk. To Brent and Gabby, thank you for being so authentic and full of life. To Konrad, thank you for the good talks and stories. And to the countless others I walked with for one day or even one kilometer: thank you. I left the Camino a changed man.
I am still being impacted by the Camino 5 months after sitting in front of that cathedral. I returned home and my Camino plan of slowing down spilled over into other areas of my life. I went from three jobs at a grueling pace to one job, my private practice. I’ve even kept up with walking. When I arrived home, I walked 7 miles a day for the first few weeks. And even though those numbers have gone down a bit recently, I frequently can be spotted in my Camino hiking boots. It just feels so good to put them on. Those boots are like an old friend worn with time and mileage.
“I am still being impacted by the Camino
5 months after sitting in front of that cathedral.”
While there were no tears upon arriving, the tears now come from missing the Camino. I met up with a fellow Pilgrim in San Clemente, California, a few weeks back and we both talked of how much we miss the experience. We told stories, drank beer and laughed about the good memories we had.
If you are thinking of walking the Camino de Santiago, don’t be too busy that you never take the time to do it.You only get one life; follow your dreams today.
I will walk the Camino again. Except next time, I am bringing my father.
Buen Camino, fellow pilgrims.
What has David’s journey inspired within you?