Friday, January 27, 2012

Route 66, California, Camino - A Pilgrim's Epilogue

The summer of 2011 was my summer of pilgrimage.  For ten weeks I walked and rode along roads, both old and ancient.  On pilgrimages like these, people are often looking for something.  I wasn't looking for anything in particular except adventure.  I found a desire to change.

The Camino de Santiago took me to a world of  of unstructured routine.  A world of few worries and carefree wandering.  A world of new places to explore and new friends (whom soon became old friends).  Time faded into the distance as one day became like all others.  It was surprisingly comfortable.  In Santiago de Compostela the feelings of friendship and camaraderie reached a crescendo as we celebrated our accomplishments and exchanged hugs and tearful goodbyes as we all scattered back to our homes, wherever they may be.  It was not the end for me - my pilgrimage didn't stop in Santiago de Compostela  - it just changed modes of transportation.

My pilgrimage continued along Route 66.  Few minutes passed by on the route where I didn't think about the Camino, it still so fresh in my mind.  Reminders of my Camino were everywhere.  I'd walk into a restaurant and there would be a sign welcoming the pilgrims of Route 66.  Everywhere I drove I saw the shell sign reminding me of the shell of Saint James.  The long quiet stretches of the route gave you time for your mind to wander just like the dusty roads of the Spanish Meseta.

California, all of the places we visited there, felt like Santiago de Compostela.  Both were the end of the road.  They were a place to visit with friends and to reminisce on the times we'd shared and the places we'd visited.  They marked the end of the journey ... and time to go home, to return to the real world.

These journeys will stay with me for a long time.  They will stay with me in many ways.  I'm still recovering from the aches and pains developed over 513 miles of walking with a pack and sitting in a car for a few thousand miles more.  My right leg ached all the way along Route 66.  I'm still recovering from the Topa Topa hike.  My knee makes noise and aches more than ever.  These things will persist for a while but with time, and physical therapy, they will fade.

The memories of the road, the way, the pilgrims, the people, the places, the monuments to our past, the yellow arrows and the route markers, they will persist for a while but they too will inevitably fade with time and age.

They say that the Camino changes you.  So does Route 66 to some extent.  I think any adventure, done properly with abandon, will alter your perception ... of the world around you, the people you interact with, and ultimately, of yourself.  I have changed or, more correctly, I have developed the desire to change.  A desire to improve myself, broaden my horizons, improve my self-image, and become more positive.

These desires aren't new - they have been there all along - they just have a new sense of urgency.  Peru, Jordan, Camino, Route 66 - Each adventure makes me thirst for more.  They make me relish that carefree, no worries world.  That world that, along with the aches, pains, people, places, and memories, persists for only so long.  I embrace them, keep them with me wanting to never let them go, until they too become immaterial and fade, slipping through my fingers ... leaving only the real world.

8 comments:

  1. Lovely post. You don't have to be looking for something while doing the Camino but what you didn't know you were looking for always finds a way to reveal itself to you, I think.

    Gv

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  2. Have to agree with Gv...went, sort of in search of a "thing". What I found, well, that was totally and completely unexpected. O Happy Day!! :-)

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  3. That is very neat piece of writing, I have to say. A nice homage to your travels.

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