Story by Christopher Mahir, Dialogue of Civilizations | Photos by Courtney Seeley
The day began with hail dropping to the floor with a specific ferocity. In fact, this was the first time that it had hailed in Spain in almost a decade. I was not very optimistic to walk 20 miles, especially with the abysmal weather. Nevertheless, we took the bus out to the trail and started our journey.
For some background, the Camino de Santiago is typically a religious or spiritual journey where people come from all parts of the world to embark on a 500-mile walking journey, and during our Dialogue of Civilizations to Spain, we were given the opportunity to walk a small portion of the trail.
The trip started with very low morale. No one was excited to have a vigorous workout in the worst weather Spain had seen in years. Everyone was wearing oversized ponchos for the rain, which we had recently purchased in bulk from a convenience store on the side of the road. Upon starting the walk, we were able to see many locals walking the trail, as well as many tourists who had come to partake in this journey. As we passed by towns, we saw hostels that housed the walkers, as well as little shops where people convened at the end of arduous days of walking. We talked with many people along the Camino and asked them about their lives and their impetus for making this trip. Whereas for many of us, this trip was a chance to see more of the region and bond with others on the trip, these people had traveled from all over the world for their own spiritual and self-growth reasons.
When we reached the halfway point, it was time to eat the lunches which we had packed from La Campana, our residence halls. After lunch, it seemed that everything started going our way, and optimism inundated our group. The hail started to dissipate and slowly started to turn into a beautiful, sunny day. The ponchos could now be taken off, and everyone was laughing, talking and having a great time. Some of us were even dancing! It was almost as if the change in weather was directly reflected in our moods. Then we got to the last stop and our professor asked if we wanted to walk the rest or take the bus. I was pleasantly surprised when the group elected to finish off the walk. Spirits were high.
Upon returning to Northeastern and remembering all the moments on my Dialogue, the one that stood out to me the most was El Camino. More than anything, I think this trip gave us all a fresh perspective, and one that was, incidentally, more global. Sometimes at college, we are in a sort of bubble and it is hard to understand other people’s experiences. This subsequently becomes an issue, because it is detrimental to society when there is a lack of empathy or understanding between people who are socialized in different environments. On this trip, however, just seeing everyone walking and talking to tourists and locals gave perspective as to why individuals undertake this journey. It also allowed us to come together as a group. At the same time, it allowed me to be very introspective and gave me the time to think about things that I do not necessarily have the time to ponder while in classes or on co-op. You would be surprised just how long a walk like this takes, and during this time, how much you find out about yourself and others. I can only imagine how it would be to do the full Camino and I hope that one day, I am able to go back to Spain and walk the full 500 miles. Until then, I can only look back at this experience with a unique fondness and a new appreciation for self-reflection.