Throughout this immensely spiritual journey I have met various pilgrims. I never expected to have conversations that were as deep and enlightening as those that I have had with the other pilgrims. At first, it was difficult for me to talk with individuals as there are sometimes obvious language barriers. After the first few days on our journey, however, I began to meet many pilgrims whom I could fully communicate with in English. Though I’ve met many pilgrims, two in particular stick out in my mind.
The first pilgrim that stands out in my mind is Erin, a teacher from Charleston, South Carolina. I met Erin in Roncesvalles at our hostel, but I did not get to know her well until my journey from Estella to Los Arcos. As I was walking I saw she was sitting and resting, as I approached she offered me a granola bar. This act of kindness immediately revealed to me that Erin had a generous heart. When walking we talked about our passions, I told her about Pepperdine, and she began to tell me about her job. Erin explained to me that she has been teaching art at a failing elementary school in Charleston for 3 years. She explained that when she first entered the school she was motivated and excited to make a difference, but over time she realized how difficult the job truly was. I not only loved and embraced her vulnerability, but I appreciated her honesty. It’s people like Erin, those who strive to make a difference and withstand difficult daily trials without seeing any tangible positive results, who are modern day superheroes. I learned so much from Erin, especially since I want to work with distressed and hurt children in the future, just as she does. Her story revealed to me that helping others and trying to make a difference will be emotionally draining and more difficult than I can imagine at this point. But, I know Christ will pull me through, just as He has pulled Erin through.
I realized too, in my conversation with Erin and other pilgrims, how similar we all are. I loved hearing all the different reasons that people decided to embark on the Camino. Our path may be the same, but everyone has a different journey with different motivational factors and a different purpose. For Erin, she explained that she decided to walk on the Camino to think about a career change, yet what she found so far was different than what she thought. She realized that her Camino, her way, was similar to her job with the impoverished, abused children. Everyday is difficult, but when you press on and work hard, you will make it to the next city, to a place of rest that will prepare you for tomorrow. She believed the Camino was revealing to her that she should continue her work with the failing elementary school. When I think about my conversation with Erin I think about how Christ-like she seemed, to jump into such a difficult situation and push forward with perseverance, is definitely powered by God. I will remember Erin in my thoughts and prayers during my Camino. It’s people like Erin, who push on through difficult situations in life and press on, that will make a difference in the world. I truly cherished our conversation together.
Another pilgrim that I have gotten to know is Elida, a 23 year old girl from Croatia. I met Elida on the path from Cizur Menor to Puenta La Reina. Elida and I have become dear friends. Though we have grown up in different areas and have had different experiences, we are extremely similar. Elida loves plants and animals, just like me and alike with me she has been vegetarian since she was a child. Elida and I talked about various subjects, one conversation that sticks out to me though is about the different stereotypes that she has heard about americans, it was so interesting. Elida also opened up and shared her background with me, she explained that after she was born she and her family moved to Austria, where she grew up. She told me about the challenges she faced as a Croatian growing up in Austria, her vulnerability was so beautiful. I am so blessed to have made such a beautiful, kind, hilarious friend.
Elida and I visited a church in Estella together, it was so beautiful walking through the church and admiring the beauty of the building. We then attended mass together, it was so interesting attending a spanish mass with a friend from Croatia. Throughout my time with Elida I’ve learned about new perspectives on the world and I’ve found a person with a similar spirit to my own, it is definitely a friendship that was orchestrated by God.
Elida and I are planning to get together in Italy when I study in Florence later this year, which is so exciting. I am blessed in meeting such a kind soul like Elida. One thing I truly cherish is that we can both talk about our families, our beliefs, and values together. The Camino truly unites and connects people, I will forever be grateful for my new friend.
I cannot wait to meet other pilgrims and see how they too, alike with Erin and Elida, will influence me, broaden my perspective on the world, and help me grow in my faith. This pilgrimage has already impacted me in such amazing ways. I cannot wait to continue to learn about the world as I meet and converse with other pilgrims.