one lovely day in venice 

Well, I finally made it to the beautiful city (and island) known for its water, canals, carnivals, film festivals, multi-colored houses, sparkling masks, and abundant tourists.  Yes, if you have not yet guessed it, I made a visit to Venice.  Before making my way to the water-filled city, I heard diverse opinions on the place.  I heard from some that it was “beautiful” while others claimed “Venice is too touristy and not worth all the hype.”  Well, nonetheless, I wanted to travel to the city and form my own opinions on the iconic Italian city.  



This trip, I decided would provide me with some alone, me and God time, so I headed towards Venice solo.  My trip to Venice allowed me to recharge, relax and be refreshed.  I only spent one day in Venice, which for me, was the perfect amount of time.  After traveling through various cities throughout Europe this year and attempting to see everything in each one, I have learned to travel in quite a different way.   I have learned that my favorite travel experiences have not been filled with museum or monument visits but instead with relaxing strolls, pretty weather and no pressure.  So, I went into my trip to Venice without many assumptions, plans or expectations.    



I arrived in Venice around 10:30am.  I then purchased an unlimited day-pass for the water taxi boat service (which came in handy).  I first visited the beautiful San Marco church, which was wonderful. 



Afterwards, I got lost wandering through the maze-like side streets and marveling at the sweet, romantic, vine filled, bricked alleyways, bridges and sparkling blue water filled canals. I then headed to two out lying islands near the main Island of Venice.  I first traveled to Murano, which is an island about 40 minutes away from Venice (by boat).  



Murano is a sweet little island that is filled with adorable canals (if you could not have already guessed this), cute houses and is known for their special glass-making trade.



When I arrived at the island, I began to explore and found a small glass factory.  I watched a glass making demonstration which was both fantastic and fascinating and I even bought a cute (Murano made) glass necklace (a gift for a friend).  





I then walked along the canals and enjoyed the blue skied, sunny, and breezy mid 50s weather.   I found a quiet part of the island and then sat along one of the canals where I wrote, thought, and took in my scenic surroundings.  





After window shopping for a bit, I headed back to the water boat taxi stop and headed for Burano.  Burano is less touristy, more quiet, and about twenty minutes from Murano.  Burano is known for their lacemaking trade, multi-colored, bright houses (they reminded me of Cinque Terre) and had sweet charm and beauty. 



What I loved most about Burano were all the sweet little children that ran and played throughout the bright, lively island.  Burano was filled with families and sweet people.  While in Burano I walked around and marveled the adorable, bright houses.  





I felt like I was in Portugal or a different country, it was a surreal and exciting experience.  I followed the canal to a quiet, residential part of the island where I wrote, took in the presentness of the moment, and relaxed.  While walking through the canals lined with yellow, purple, green, blue, and pink homes I felt like I had stepped into the world of Crayola!  







I passed an adorable elementary school and it warmed my soul to see all the sweet children running and playing in an adorable court yard during their recess.  I window shopped for a bit and looked at the quaint lace shops and enjoyed seeing all the adorable residents of Burano walking about.  After Burano, I took a boat back to Venice where I got lost in the old, winding, narrow, stone streets and my mind for about two hours. 







I loved seeing the black and white striped shirt men in the gondolas as they quietly glided through the canals, the small houses with flower pots filled window boxes and I was thrilled to find a non-touristy area of the city.  I did not pay 80 euro for a gondola ride, so let’s put this down in the book: a traveler went to Venice without going on one of the famous (though very touristy) gondola rides. 



Despite the touristy aspects, the city is marvelous and a traveler must-see in my book.  During my water taxi ride back to the train station, I met a sweet German woman who was studying Italian (yet knew no english).  She spoke in broken Italian to me and we enjoyed each other’s company, it was so funny that we were both from different countries yet were speaking Italian to each other!  During my train ride back to Florence, I then met a wonderful Italian university student who is currently studying in Venice.  Her name is Carlotta and she studies architecture, we had a great conversation about traveling and studying!  As I have said before, I live to meet people, explore and to seek adventure, so my time in Venice was definitely a memorable experience.  Stay true, live justly, and always travel on.  Peace and love.                           

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freedom found in ireland

To travel. To live. To experience. To be freed from everyday life, to let go.
I hope and pray each of you know you deserve those liberties.
This life is so short. I long to live every second of it. I am tired of leading a life that is restricted.
I am free. You are free.
This semester I have truly learned the importance of freedom.
In the city I am captive. To society, to the constant restraints that goes along with living out of my element. Despite this I have found my way, my secret places of joy and peace. I have found my nature in a cold, dark city. To me, all cities are dark for they are devoid of the freedom that nature brings. As wonderful as cities can be, eventually they all blend together. At the core all cities are the same. Though I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have had to travel and explore Europe, my home is in the wilderness, where I am free, where I am connected to God, earth, and to myself. The last six days have been my escape, my freedom, my revival, as I have been in the nature filled country of Ireland. Last semester my university group and I had an educational field trip in Sicily which I previously wrote about. This semester, our educational trip was going to be to Turkey. However, by some twist of fate the trip was changed to a visit to Ireland.

I have always longed to visit Ireland and to see her beautiful untouched green landscapes. I did not, however, know how much this trip would impact me.
From the moment I stepped off of the airplane, I was in love with Ireland.
I became enthralled with the true untouched beauty of the earth in the country.
Though I had quite a busy itinerary, I feel more at peace than I have in months.
Being in the city (Florence) has drained me of life and health in many ways. I have been struggling with various health issues this entire year I have been abroad. Yet, when in nature my spirit is given life and a sunny, peaceful glow. My trip to Ireland has been so special since I have been able to ground myself and allow nature to heal me.

While in Ireland I explored Dublin, Clonmacnoise, the Athlone Castle, the Connemara region, the Kylemore Abbey, the Glenloe Abbey, the Cliffs of Moher (Burren region), and Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains. We also visited Trinity College and this morning I took a trip to the Guinness beer factory here in Dublin. I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to have all of these special experiences and I will not take this gift for granted.
My favorite moments in Ireland were the simple ones.
Like climbing a tree and taking the freshness of the wooded region that surrounded the Kylemore Abbey. Or sharing a deep, meaningful conversation with my sweet friend Julia as we hiked around the Cliffs of Moher as a rainbow kissed the beautiful, cool, damp sky. Visiting the cliffs was so special as well. The beauty was overwhelming and fantastic. Everything just seemed right and the earth seemed so happy which gave my soul so much peace. Another memory I will cherish was the stunning hike in Glendalough with Jaqueline and Julia. I am so thankful for my sweet friends, they are so precious to me. I am also thankful for the beautiful drives we took through the countryside, especially through the rocky, untouched Burren region. With green, uneven, rocky lands grazing sheep, costal views and soft sunlight, I was in constant awe as we drove through the majestic land towards the Cliffs of Moher.
The beauty I beheld as I looked out at the countryside as we drove by rolling hills, sweet grazing sheep and small, quaint homes was something I will remember and cherish forever.

There is something about Ireland, something special. It’s not the cities or lights that makes Ireland so special, instead it’s her simplicity.
It’s the sweet countryside, the adorable cobblestone streets of Dublin, the fun, lively pubs, the loving people, the great culture, all of it come together and make the country such a wonderful place. I am determined to return to Ireland someday and live there for a time in my life. For it would be a dream to live in a country that seems so untouched, wild and free.
The beauty of the country does not end at the scenic landscapes but reveals itself in the hearts of the people here as well. The love that is so freely given here is so unique and unlike anything I have ever experienced.
What I love the most about Ireland is that the Irish people are not only kind to other people but also compassionate and loving towards animals. The driver of the coach bus that my group was transported in throughout this trip even spoke to me about his love and respect for animals. He (John) told me about a sweet donkey sanctuary in Cork and he claimed that ‘nearly everyone in Cork is a vegetarian’. This high value for animal life is refreshing and it warms my soul. Who knows maybe someday I will volunteer at the sanctuary with the sweet donkeys. I sure hope I will be given the opportunity to do so at some point in time.
My time in Ireland was a dream. A happy, lovely dream.
Though I didn’t find a leprechaun, I did find my freedom and so much overflowing joy. I hope you too can find the freedom that I feel and I hope that you too can experience the beauty that Ireland has to offer.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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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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galicia

Galicia was the last region I walked through in Spain and was a beautiful place. Here is a brief history of the area.
Galicia is an autonomous community known for its many rivers, delicious seafood, beautiful coastal spots, and its gorgeous, lush, green mountainous area. Galicia is located in the northwestern region of Spain, is bordered by Portugal in the south and by Asturias, a celtic region, in the east. This region is very diverse geographically, having mountains inland, gorgeous cliffside beaches, islands, lagoons, and is known for the beautiful fishing villages that surround the area. Galicia’s beautiful geography has attracted the attention of many and Galicia is often referred to as the “land of one thousand rivers.”

Some people believe that the ancient Galicians traveled by boat to Ireland, where they spread their Celtic roots, various legends go along with this belief as well. By 5th century B.C., individuals of the Celtic decent made up a large portion of Galicia’s population. There are various remnants of the Celtic villages that were once spread across this area, the Celtic ruins of Castro de Santa Tegra, are a good example of these Celtic remnants. Galicia was colonized in the 6th century by the Visigoths, 500 years after this colonization, Muslims took over the land for a short period of time. The economy of Galicia began to fall after the Spanish Civil War causing many citizens to emigrate. Because of Galicia’s past economic problems, Galicia has been viewed in the past as one of Spain’s poorest regions. Nowadays the economy survives off of its abundant, agricultural land and seafood. Many of the residents of this region speak the Galician language, Gallego, which was not recognized as an official literary language until the mid-1800s. This Romance language has Latin roots, from which it is said to have evolved from. This language that has been described as being similar to the Portuguese language, separates the Galicians from the other Spaniards.

There are a few major cities in this region, but many villages that are spread throughout Galicia are extremely rural which definitely has an impact on the culture of the region. Galicians are known for their delicious white wine and seafood rich diet. There are various festivals that are celebrated by the Galician people, most of them being religious or Celtic festivals. One well known celebration is the festival in honor of Saint James, which I actually attended this year, on July 25 in Santiago de Compostela. Galicia’s celebrations are typically in honor of various patron saints, are filled with excitement, fresh seafood, and often have firework shows. So, one may clearly see that the Galician people, who have deep Celtic and religious roots, display their heritage throughout their culture.

Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, is the end to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and one of the most famous cities in the region. The name Santiago de Compostela is believed by many to come from the Latin words campus stellae, which means “field of stars.” When Pelayo, a hermit, claimed to have seen a vision of bright lights in a forest in 815, the area where the vision occurred was dug into. In the ground where the vision occurred, a Roman-era tomb was unearthed, this was said to contain the body of Saint James the apostle. A church was soon built where the tomb was found, as was commanded by Theodomir, the bishop of a village near to the excavation site. A city soon began to form and grow around this monumental site and church, that city being Santiago de Compostela.

Many people would travel to see the site and by the 11th and 12th centuries over 500,000 pilgrims would journey to see the said relics of Saint James every year. Pope Calixtus II gave Santiago various city privileges in 1122 and offered indulgences to any individuals who would walk the Camino de Santiago, this began to attract even more pilgrims to the site. The city’s population grew as a result of various new constructed buildings including the grand cathedral. Various surrounding leaders throughout Galicia helped build many roads, bridges, hospitals, and places of lodging for the Camino’s travelers. These structures increased not only the population in Santiago, but also the number of pilgrims who journeyed to the cathedral. The Camino de Santiago was and still is viewed as a spiritual journey by many, one that helps an individual grow closer to God. Some pilgrims today travel solely for cultural and historical purposes. Nonetheless, this monumental path, The Way of Saint James, remains as one of the most well traveled religious pilgrimages in the world and will continue to attract thousands of pilgrims in the future, whatever their motives may be.

The locals throughout this region are quite different than in the others I traveled through. The smaller mountain villages I traveled through seemed to be completely empty with hardly anyone outside, other than at the bars. Sometimes I would pass old men throughout Galicia, ones that were sitting on benches staring off into the sky. I often wondered what the lives of those older locals would be like in such a small village. When in the more mid size cities like Sarria and Palas De Rei, the locals seem less interested and encouraging towards pilgrims. Understandably so, as there are notably more pilgrims in this region. This is because if a pilgrim walks the last 100 kilometers they will get credentials, since the last 100 kilometers of the Camino begins in Sarria, a city in Galicia, there were far more people on the trail during the end of my journey.

This region is quite different geographically than the other regions I have traveled through. Galicia reminds me of Navarra in that the area is mountainous, filled with rolling hills and scarcely has any completely flat regions. When walking from Triacastela to Barbadelo, I was happily surprised to find that Galicia has various beautiful streams and waterfalls, which I have not yet seen on the Camino. This region was colder and more rainy than the other regions, especially Navarra and La Roja, who both had warmer weather and less rain. I have come upon far more small farming towns throughout the region than in any other. Also, unlike the other regions that all seemed to be filled with grazing sheep, most farms in Galicia seem to have cows and chickens. Most of the large cities that I stayed at in Galicia seem to be more commercialized and less personal than the previous areas we traveled through. The food in this region was different as well, gazpacho was more difficult to find in restaurants, and I found that the pilgrim menus were filled with more seafood, as this region is so close to the sea. I enjoyed traveling through Galicia and I cannot wait to return to this gorgeous region again someday. 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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the meseta

The meseta is quite different from the other areas of Spain we have traveled through this far. The beautiful mountain, rolling hill, and vineyard filled landscapes of both Navarra and La Rioja are not at all like the shadeless, wheat filled, flat lands of the meseta. The meseta, a high central plateau that makes up around 40 percent of Spain’s land, is a fairly flat region in central Spain. The meseta ranges anywhere from 400 to 1000 meters high, and is relatively treeless. The Sierra de Guadarrama and the Sierra de Gredos split this region into northern and southern halves. In the north this region is boarded by Cordillera Cantábrica and in the south by the Sierra Morena. Throughout this region one can find many grazing sheep between the abandoned, scarcely populated towns and villages. This region is filled with various uninhabited homes, and the cities are mostly populated by an older generation as many young people left this region in the 1960s to pursue opportunities in the larger cities.
This region has played a large role in the history of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the development of Spain. When the Moors attempted to overtake the Christians, the meseta was one of the first areas the Christians were able to reconquer. When the Christians reconquered the region from the Moors, the meseta became apart of the Kingdom of Castile. This Castile region eventually became the Crown of Castile and was later known as the Kingdom of Spain. The meseta, in contemporary Spain, is apart of the Castile and León region in the northwest, while the central and southern regions of the meseta are apart of communities in Castilla-La Mancha and Madrid. The meseta is also known to be the home of the Castilian language, now known as Spanish.
The culture throughout the meseta is fairly diverse, as the region is so large. Some say the people of this region are quieter and not as friendly as other regions. I did not find this to be true, most people I encountered were kind, helpful individuals. Many of the original buildings in this region are built from mud and hay, as this area did not usually have access to stones or bricks in the past. The diet of the residents of this region is extremely meat dense and caracole soups are popular in some areas. When visiting various towns throughout the meseta, I noticed that the fruits and vegetables were more fresh than they did in other regions. Some albergues even had their own gardens which was great, there definitely are perks to traveling through this area.
Many of the people throughout this region are kind and genuine, despite what others claim about the residents of this region. I found the locals I have met to be just as kind and caring as those from the previous regions I have walked through. While in a private albergue in Hornillos, I met a kind couple, who ran the establishment. The couple was inviting and told us they wanted us to treat their albergue like “home”. This inviting couple encouraged me to practice my spanish with them which was kind of them, as my ability to speak spanish is not one of my strong points. I also met a kind man at El Nogal, an albergue in El Burgo Ranero, whose name is Christian. Christian let me play with his adorable cat and precious kitten as he talked with me about his childhood in Barcelona. Christian told me stories about his time in Spain and I also told him stories and information he wanted to know about America. I am so grateful that I met kind people like Christian and the couple in Hornillos. The locals throughout the region are extremely kind and welcoming, just as they have been throughout this entire journey.
The meseta is very different from both Navarra and La Rioja. The walks through the meseta were not as exciting as when we traveled through other regions. The flat lands, spread out towns, and not so scenic routes did provide me with time to think and reflect though, which was beneficial. When traveling through the other regions we walked on many woodland, populous city paths and we did not walk in shadeless areas or walk up busy roads very frequently. However, when in the meseta, we traveled mostly in shadeless, desolate areas and often traveled up roads and on gravel and cement rather than forest paths. The meseta was not as exciting as the other regions that we walked through, however, even though the land was flat and desolate, it was a vital part of my journey. For me, the meseta represents the times in my life where my faith will run dry, the times where I can’t feel or see God’s presence. The times that I choose to trust in God, and carry on, even when life is difficult. The meseta was just what I needed. The time we spent in the meseta provided me with time to think and reflect on my life. Though mentally and spiritually difficult at times, walking through the meseta enabled me to grow in faith and taught me how to trust in The Lord in a deeper way.
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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