a perfect ending and a new beginning

After spending two days exploring Santiago, I started to realize that my trip was ending. I felt that Santiago had been a perfect place to end my trip; I had such a wonderful time in the city, the cathedral, and at the festivities for the feast day of St. James. I could not have asked for a better ending to my trip. Yet, God had different plans. God ended my trip in the most perfect way, better than I could have imagined.

At the beginning of my trip I had hoped to change my flight so that I could stay a few extra days and walk the extra three days to the sea, to Finisterre. However, changing my flight would have been $250.00 and with other fees that would also arise, I knew that it then would not be possible to walk to Finisterre.
This did not, however, change my mind about making it to Finisterre. So, I decided to take a bus there. Three others from my group wanted to take a bus to Finisterre along with me. The bus would leave at 9am on Sunday and I insisted that we leave around 7:15am to ensure that we would get tickets. When we got to the station we luckily got tickets, I could not control my excitement. I had heard such amazing things about Finisterre, also known as The Ends of the Earth. I had heard about the large rock-bound cliffs, the lighthouse, and beautiful beaches there as well. I was not, however, prepared for the rich, overwhelming beauty of Finisterre.

My amazing friend Ashley and I sat together on the bus trip and admired the gorgeous views throughout our ride to the seaside village. It was quite strange being on a bus after walking for 5 weeks without the use of a car!
When we arrived in Finisterre, we saw our friend Niels at the bus station. Niels is from Germany and he traveled with us up until Leon. We had not seen Niels in weeks and we greeted him with much excitement. He was originally planning to leave on the next bus out of town, but he decided to stay with us, and he then became our tour guide.
First, we headed to the beach. As we walked up to the beach I became lost in the glimmering aquamarine sea, white sand, and glorious sunshine.
Ashley and I were surprised to find an abundance of seemingly untouched, perfect seashells on the beach; this was quite different from the California beaches that we are both used to!

After we spent some time gathering shells and taking a few photos, we both ran and jumped into the crystal clear sea. The extremely refreshing, cold water was tinted a perfectly blue color. I knew at that moment, when swimming around in the ocean, my trip was not meant to end at the cathedral, but instead at the ocean.
It’s amazing to see beautiful buildings like the cathedral that were constructed to honor and glorify God, and seems to try to bring the beauty of God to earth. However, there is something even more special to me; to see God’s own artful touch, God’s creation, this connects me with God in such a deep way. To me, I feel God’s presence in nature but mostly when in the ocean. The wholeness and peace that I feel when with the ocean, is indescribable. As I swam in the salty sea I felt connected to the sea, to the earth, to creation, to God.

Ashley and I embraced every moment at the beach with thankfulness. I could not have asked for a better friend to share that special moment with. I could not have asked for a better person to finish my Camino de Santiago journey with.
Ashley and I met at the beginning of my freshman year and were instant friends, kindred spirits. God definitely brought us together. I know that I will never forget the joy I felt when swimming in the sea. The moment when both Ashley and I felt clothed in God’s love and peace. After spending time at the beach we all went out to lunch at a seaside café. While at the café, we saw another friend of ours, Mario, whom we had not seen since Burgos. We had lunch with both Mario and Niels, which was so special. After our meal, we headed to the lighthouse, to the cliffs that overlook the sea, the area that was once thought to be the end of the western world, The End of The Earth.

As I sat on the gigantic cliff and looked out at the sea, I felt so small, so insignificant; yet, another part of me felt more significant than ever before. I felt as though I was apart of something greater than I could ever comprehend, something exquisite. While there, I imagined that my friends Thalia and Brenda were enjoying the extraordinary view along with me. I made it to the end for them. I left two small shells on the top of a high cliff in honor of their arrival. I know that they too completed their journey, they both made it to the end, to the vast ocean, to God.
I wrote in my journal and I was overcome with thought for quite some time.
I reflected about the end of my Camino. And, at that precise moment, when I was sitting on the cliff and admiring the majestic sea, I felt more ready than ever to begin a new chapter in my life. The time seemed to slip away while Ashley and I were sitting on the breezy cliff. After about an hour, I had to say goodbye to the sea, to the ocean, to Brenda and Thalia, to the person I used to be. I was not sad about these goodbyes; instead, I felt an inner sense of peace and joy.

So, here I am, now finished with my journey on the Camino de Santiago.
I am now walking on my never-ending path towards deeper growth, healing, knowledge, and faith. I know that I am not who I was yesterday or who I will be tomorrow; I am simply the person I am in this present moment.
I bring no past baggage into the new chapter in my life; it is a fresh start for me on every possible level. Too many people take life far too seriously; I used to be one of them. Life is so beautiful and exciting. I want my new chapter to be one filled with joy, hope, and simplicity. I will take the time to smell the flowers, to smile at a stranger, to embrace relationships, to love others, to love myself, to stand up for justice, to kiss a cow, to comfort a hurting child, to embrace life.
In one short month I leave to study my sophomore year in Florence, Italy. Living in Europe for an entire year will be a whole new set of adventures, which is exciting.
So, here’s to a new chapter in my life, a new page, one of mystery and experience.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.

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a special day

This week has definitely had many ups and downs. At times, my days went by quickly, while other days seemed to drag on and became mentally difficult. I will talk about my challenging days in another post, this post is about a special, wonderful day. Two days ago we set out for the city of Astorga from Villar de Mazarife, this travel day may have been my favorite day on the Camino so far!

I walked most of the day with my wonderful friend Hannah, who is sarcastic, quiet, and extremely easy to talk to. Our journey of around 18 miles began around 7:15am. As we were walking up the interstate, I noticed a skinny, stray dog was following us. Every time I tried to walk towards him, he would run away, but he always came back. We decided to name our new friend Rigoletto, it seemed fitting to both Hannah and I. He followed us past San Martin del Camino, the first town we passed, then ran away before we entered the town Hospital De Orbigo.

As we entered Hospital De Orbigo, a small cat began to follow us and she allowed me to pick her up, we named her Posie. As we were having our breakfast in the picturesque city of Hospital De Orbigo, Rigoletto came running up to us at the restaurant! As we continued on towards Astorga, Rigoletto began to follow other pilgrims, and he then disappeared again.

As Hannah and I walked onward we passed a beautiful sunflower field. We then came to a small farming area, where we saw baby cows! I actually got in the fenced in area with one of the cows and the sweet little cow kissed me, it was such an adorable moment. After spending time with the baby cows we headed off, with much excitement and energy since we were having such a wonderful day. When we were about 5K outside of the city, we came upon this adorable little food stand and hut, we decided to stop by. The donation based stand happened to have fresh juice, tahini, peanut butter, soy yogurt, and other vegan treats! It was a dream come true! As a vegan on the Camino I have been mainly eating salads and fruit, so this stand full of other food I could eat, was so exciting to me!

I met one of the people who ran the food stand, his name was Andre. Andre told me that over three years ago when he did the Camino he came upon the stand and he fell in love with the place. He ended up quitting his job, selling everything he had, and moved to this remote area outside of Astorga. Andre, 28 at most, explained to me that he chose to move to a place with no electricity or running water. He leads a simple life, meeting pilgrims, spreading love and living in the small hut (which is pictured below). After over an hour of talking with Andre, we decided to head out to the city. I can’t wait to lead a life similar to Andre’s: simple, full of freedom and joy, always helping and reaching out to others.

On arriving to the city, none other than Rigoletto met me there! This friendly stray now found a new home in this city, a safe area where he will definitely be fed. I hope and pray that someone falls in love with him just as I did and decides to adopt him.

After we checked into a large municipal albergue, Hannah and I ventured off into the city. We stopped by a market and got gazpacho and lentils for lunch. As we were sitting outside the market, our friends Eva from Quebec and Andrew from Germany came and visited with us for some time. An elderly man discovered that we were pilgrims and took out his guitar and played us a song he wrote about his time on the Camino. That moment was so precious. After lunch, Hannah and I went to explore the city.

We came upon two amazing buildings, first the Bishop’s Palace Palacio Episcopal and then the beautiful Cathedral. Though both buildings were closed since it was Monday, we definitely enjoyed seeing the beautiful architecture of each building. I also found a small church near the cathedral that was open, it was stunning, pictures are below. We explored the town and I fell in love with the small, quaint city. My journey to Astorga and the time I spent there will always be special to me. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.20140716-213354-77634568.jpg

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the house of light

When I traveled to León earlier this week I made sure to stop by the León Cathedral, known as The House of Light or Pulchra Leonina. This magnificent cathedral took my breath away and gave me a sense of peace in the best of ways.
As I came upon the building, I was awe struck. I tried to take in every detail of the building, the amazing flying buttresses, the grandness of the French-styled gothic building that stood before me.
I payed 4€ to enter the Cathedral, this price included an audio tour, which was fantastic. I loved hearing the history of the majestic building. On stepping into the cathedral I was taken aback by the beautiful stained glass masterpieces that cover more than 1,800 square meters of the church. Many claim the stained glass windows within León’s Cathedral are the finest in Spain and some even believe these are among best in the world.
As I walked through the grand building I viewed the many paintings, sculptures, the various side chapels, choir area, and the intricate gold altar. I noticed that every detail seemed to work together harmoniously, making the building feel nothing short of heavenly.
The history of this fantastic architectural jewel is very interesting.
The cathedral was built from the 13th to the 16th century. The building contains over 1,500 art pieces. I viewed these historic pieces carefully and walked through the building twice. At one point during my visit, I decided to sit in a pew, where I could take in the beauty that surrounded me. I felt an amazing sense of peace. I sat in the pew for quite some time. I sat thinking, writing, praying.
Whether you’re religious or not, I definitely suggest visiting the León Cathedral. I believe that the architecture and historic artwork throughout the building could touch the hearts of people whether religious or not.
If you are traveling to León’s Cathedral, I would definitely suggest that you visit in the afternoon, during this time the sun streams through the windows in such a beautiful way.
I will always remember my visit to this particular Cathedral, because it touched my heart and soothed my soul. I can only imagine how wonderful and emotional it will be when I step through the grand doors of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. For now, I will hold all of these special moments in my heart and continue to walk on.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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images from today

Today we walked more than 19 miles from Terradillo de Los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero. The walk was great, but the last five miles were mentally rough. Me and my friend Hannah both pulled each other through and we made it to the city by around 2:30pm. We’re staying at an adorable albergue called El Nogal. I made a salad with fresh veggies, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, white asparagus, and tomatoes for a few friends and I for dinner, it was so refreshing after a somewhat mentally strenuous day. I’m really starting to get to know and love all of the group members from my university that I’ve been traveling with, each person adds something extremely special to this group. Though this is an individual journey, it’s so amazing to experience all of this together. I wouldn’t want to change one thing. Tomorrow we have a shorter hiking day, 12 miles. Then on Thursday we head to Leon, for two rest days. I’m excited for Leon because some of my pilgrim friends are waiting for my group in Leon and we’ll all be together again on Thursday. I love my Camino family, I love my Camino. A few pictures from my travels today are below. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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stopping to smell the flowers and pick some cherries

Stopping to smell the flowers and pick some cherries.
That’s how I’ve decided to do the Camino. At first, without knowing it, I raced through my days on the Camino. Within the first week, however, I realized that I should walk slower and take time to enjoy good conversation, stop for coffee along the way, and learn to relax.
I am a very high strong, over active, individual. I am not good at relaxing or thinking simply whatsoever.
I have learned how to relax on this trip and to indulge in the richness of every moment as I take in the beautiful scenery around me. Some of my favorite moments on the Camino have been when I have visited various churches along the way. Every church, I have noticed, is so unique and beautiful. Most churches are adorned with gold alters and molding and have gorgeous stained glass; without stopping this would all go unnoticed to me.
I think the same goes for life. Let’s all take the time to pick some cherries, enjoy our scenic routes, and engage in meaningful conversations.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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la rioja

La Rioja, a northern province of Spain, is an autonomous community known for high quality wine and natural beauty. This region is made up of rolling hills, quiet countrysides, and agrarian landscapes. This small area has a population just over 320,000 individuals and Logroño is La Rioja’s capital. Logroño with a population around 150,000, is quite small, yet is this region’s largest city. Most of the villages and cities of La Rioja are each comprised of at most 200 residents. Alike with Navarra and other surrounding areas, this region was historically inhabited by pre-Roman tribes. When governed by Rome this area was in the Hispania Taraconensis region and the governing tribes utilized the fertile lands of La Rioja for winemaking. The winemaking throughout the region later became the La Rioja’s main economic resource. When the Moors took over the area in the eighth century, the region’s wine industry briefly plummeted. The Crusades in the 11th century, however, brought in Medieval Christianity; this led to the reestablishment of the area’s trade and winemaking began again. During this time, the Benedictine monks of Cluny in Burgundy, constructed three monasteries throughout the region as well.

La Rioja was apart of the Kingdom of Pamplona in the 10th century after the muslims recaptured the area. However, less than two centuries later La Rioja was made apart of Castile. In 1822 the region’s boundaries were set, but the area was not named La Rioja officially until years later. The northern region of La Rioja is bordered by Basque Country, the northeast border is Navarra, and Castile-León borders the west and southern areas of the providence. This small area is fertile, green, and has various valleys, and is argued to be Spain’s wine heartland. The residents of La Rioja typically have a high value for tradition as they have many harvests and festivals. The economy still greatly relies on winemaking currently, as it did throughout history. The people throughout La Rioja take pride in and are known for their high quality wine and delicious food.

In La Rioja I have conversed with various locals throughout my Camino journey. I have realized that the people here are extremely kind and friendly. When at a bed and breakfast in La Rioja, I met a kind woman named Lola, who on greeting me kissed both of my cheeks and gave me a large hug. Though I was not able to fully understand her as she spoke spanish, I could tell that she had a kind heart and was a caring woman. The host and the cooks at the bed and breakfast were all so loving. As my friend Ashley and I left they kissed both of us as we thanked them for their hospitality. To some Americans, hugging and kissing individuals when greeting one another may seem strange or like a violation of personal space but I don’t believe it is at all. I thought it was amazing to see the different love languages throughout Spain and La Rioja.

Navarra and La Rioja are similar in some ways but share many differences. When in Navarra the cities we journeyed through were very large and the region very mountainous. In contrast, La Rioja has various cities and villages that are much smaller than the cities in Navarra. The regions that I walked through in La Rioja seem much flatter than when in Navarra as well. La Rioja has rolling hills and many vineyards and Navarra seems to have more grasslands, prairies, and grazing animals. The cities throughout La Rioja have such few people many of them do not even have a supermarket or bar. However, while in Navarra, the large cities typically had various markets and restaurants. Both regions are extremely beautiful and unique, each new experience and region I have welcomed with excitement. I cannot wait to travel through more of this beautiful, unique country.

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i walk, i walk on

Last night I stayed at a hostel in San Juan de Ortega. Though I was in bed, I could not fall asleep, so what did I do? I wrote a poem, of course. About the Camino, about life. I think the title should be “I walk, I walk on” because this poem is about carrying on through our life journeys. It is about choosing to continue on when life gets hard, asking questions, better understanding our actions, and moving forward with purpose as we observe the world around us.

I walk, I walk on.

Seconds, minutes, hours, and days. I walk.
Thousands of thoughts flood in
The sun shines brighter
Shoulders, legs, and feet
They cringe longing for rest
I walk, I walk on.

Reminiscence
Memories hold my hand
As I walk along these fields and plaines
Ones of old and new, of sorrow and renew
I walk, I walk on.

Butterflies, crickets, beetles, and snails
Even they’ve found purpose
While I walk and search
Contemplating the irreverent
Longing for truth
I walk, I walk on.

Beliefs from all ends
Different paths, identical trails
To comprehend the mountains and trees
I walk, I walk on.

Walking with baggage
Is such removable by this church?
With gold molding, the mouthwatering glutton’s dream
The one constructed with a greater intention
I walk, I walk on.

Water can’t quench this thirst
The one that grows continuously
Consciousness. Existence.
They too are worn, like my dirt covered shoes
I walk, I walk on.

Philosophers, they too desire more
For time, it never seems enough
To explain, explore
This world, these paths
I walk, I walk on.

Villages, buildings, lives quickly passed
As many wander with forgetfulness
Of meaning and significance
All explained in a simple stamp
I walk, I walk on.

156 behind me, many lie ahead
Formable people, shells on their backs
Representing what they do not know
History, legend, or whatever deemed to be
I walk, I walk on.

Arriving. Yesterday, today, last week.
Each unexplainable, as they’ve combined
Not captured in worldly terms, but the spirit knows
I walk, I walk on.

The destination unknown, the end incomprehensible
The vitality of prescience
When life is simple
My mind races on in search of enlightenment
I walk, I walk on.

Days end too swiftly
Hours pass away
Minutes seem to perish as the seconds tick away
Whether in silence or tears and through my anger and fears
I walk, I walk on.

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hammocking in Logroño

Two days ago my group took a rest day in Logroño, a beautiful city on the Camino. When there, my friend Ashley and I decided to adventure around the city in search of a place to hammock (yes, I did use hammock as a verb). After attempting to hammock in the city and getting asked to leave by the police, we searched for a park! We found a perfect little park. We set up our hammocks as curious locals watched in awe, as many of them had never seen ENO hammocks before. Shortly after relaxing in the sunlight, four curious little boys between the ages 8-11 approached us. We let them try out our hammocks of course and I even played soccer with one of the little boys for awhile.
It was such a special, wonderful time. It’s moments like those that I am truly thankful for, the simple moments. Hammocking. Meeting locals. I will strive to embrace all of these precious, beautiful moments.
Every part of this trip has been amazing, I couldn’t be more thankful already and I’m only about 150 miles in! More stories to come. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.

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