I have learned that the Camino is a different experience for everyone. Many people find that what they take away from it impacts them to their core to the point that it changed the trajectory of their lives. Yet others find it not as existentially challenging and inspiring. Yet, everyone comes away form the the Camino with stories. I promise not to share all (or even half) of my stories, but I can’t help but share the story of our first day.
After a long travel day, my brother-in-law, W, and I arrived in Southern France. Only then did we realize that on Sunday in Spain (and parts of France) all of the public transportation we thought we could rely on (and had planned on relying on) was greatly limited and pared down. That would have been a helpful tip that you would think would have been in at least one of the many guidebooks we consulted. Instead of waiting 6 hours in the airport for the next bus to get to the train to our destination, we approached 3 guys who looked like they were also doing the hike. After chatting with them, we convinced a taxi driver to take the five of us 60km to our destination. Instead of 8 hours of waiting and travel, we made the journey in just over 30 minutes. We were so grateful to have cut all of that time off of the journey and to make some new friends we would see throughout the week! It was an added bonus that it only cost us €5 more than the train and bus. After arriving to St Jean, we quickly realized that the grocery store and market we were planning on using to purchase food for the next day was closed. Again, it was Sunday. To be honest, at this point, I was taking it all in, enjoying the uncertainty of everything. The not knowing how we would acquire the food we needed just added to the adventure of it all.
After getting our Pilgrim Passports, which we would need at every hostel we would stay in along the Camino, we began the search for a hostel. That search started with a language barrier moment that W and I have laughed about ever since. The man helping us get our Pilgrim Passport asked if we had a hostel. At least that was what we thought he was trying to communicate. We had already considered a couple of options we wanted to investigate, so we said, “yes.” After giving us our passport he led us to the building next door where he called to an older woman and then left us. It took us about 2 seconds after he left to realize that he was trying to help us secure a hostel for the night. After asking the price, and seeing that it was double than the rest of those around it, we politely declined and left. Walking out of the woman’s door, we took a moment to gather our thoughts and make a plan of action for finding food and lodging. In the 15 seconds it took for us to do that, the woman opened her window and began to hiss and shoo us away. Even as we abided by her wishes and stepped away from her property, she continued to call after us and wave us away. Honestly, I was stunned. Maybe disbelief is a better word. Neither of us had a response ready for this, so we did what anyone would do- W and I snickered to one another and walked away with the woman continuing to shoo at us down the street. And that was our first 5 minutes on the Camino. This was going to be fun.