Those who know why they are on the road.


Life is wonderful. Just the way you’d wanted it to be when you were a child. Your work is as you’d always dreamed it would be. You’ve managed to provide a home. Your family is big and you live in peace. What more could a person ask for?

If only that misfortune hadn’t happened two and a half years ago. It was so hard – you were devastated. You promised you would do something if everything turned out all right. To put yourself on the line, even. Of course you haven’t forgotten. The unrest comes to you from time to time in your sleep. You know it’s time to do it. You are a man of your word and the promises you have made.

You know about The Road to Santiago. Of course. You read about it somewhere; the road that hundreds of people walk every year. You already knew that you were expected to walk the road.


It is still dark. You feel how everyone else around you is gathering their backpacks and, one by one, they are heading outside. You do that too. It’s unfamiliar and you don’t know what is awaiting you. сутрин спалноThe only thing you are sure about is that you have to follow them. The dawn has not yet broken when you find yourself upon a narrow trail outside of town. You don’t know where it’s going to lead you, but you feel calm and safe. You are not alone. You hear the first greetings in French, English, and Spanish. And, even from the first day, you hear that one greeting you will say hundreds of times: “Buen Camino”.

You should have listened to the advice you read on the Internet – about the unnecessary things in your backpack. You begin to make a list in your mind of the things you can do without. Of course, the first thing that evening, you will give away half of the nuts you are carrying in your backpack. Well, do you need a second pair of shoes? They probably weigh over a kilogram. Can you allow yourself to throw out the book you took with you? Hard decisions and every single step is making the backpack heavier.

The trail leads steeply uphill. At times, it narrows from the bushes; at other times, little sunny meadows appear. Uphill. How much more? You’re fatigued, but you order your mind to suppress the feeling. You tell yourself that, once you’ve turned left, there will be just around twenty steps more and then the steepness will end. път нагореJust a little more and you will reach the top of the hill. Most likely, the sun will be shining and you will stop for a rest. A little more.  Oops, wrong! The steep hill doesn’t end here. About fifty metres ahead, you see three men. You thought they were already far ahead of you. A tree had been concealing them from your sight. Probably the couple – the man and the woman who are around fifty – are close behind you. Probably, if you stop, they will catch up with you in a minute. You continue ahead with determination. You don’t stop. You are at the beginning of the road. There is no time for relaxing. Some seven hundred and sixty five more kilometres are awaiting you. That was written on that large stone that you passed about ten minutes ago. You have planned your time and now you have to make your body obey you.

How many steps is one kilometre? Probably a thousand or maybe one thousand, two hundred. What does it matter?

When is a person truly happy? Oh, yes. You have an answer. You were extremely tense when the doctor called you into his office. For eight days, no one was willing to predict what the end result of all that would be. You felt the way the nurses cast their eyes down when they walked past you. You felt that everyone around you wanted to give you hope, but they didn’t dare. You began to think that, if this is the end, then this is the end for both of you. Your bond was that strong. They did not let you into the room. You could only see her through the window from the hall. You wanted to be next to her. You did not part from her in your thoughts. You felt her, felt her breath, the beating of her heart. In your thoughts.

The road teaches you. Teaches you patience. You are learning not to let thoughts fool you with empty hopes. You already know you will reach the albergue. There is no need to torment your mind. It’s the fifth day that you’ve been on the road. You let your gaze enjoy the trees, the first rays of the sun dispelling the darkness, the green hills or the little villages left back below you. You feel happiness, calmness, security, and you begin to create new ideas and plans for your life. Your shared life together. You know that, sometimes, you were wrong. Stubbornly turned down the advice. You considered your rightness the only one. Now the road is helping you realise and seek balance in your relationship. You understand that your life together is more important than your own personal goals.

The pain in your feet becomes unbearable. You reduce your movements, slow down the pace. You thought that after you passed the period with blisters – and you have already taped five Band-Aids on your toes – everything would be over. ХиромиThe pain is yet to come. You assess it now. You ask yourself if this is the end. Are you able to continue? Sheer willpower and the promise to put yourself on the line are keeping you going. You are a man who always stands by his word. You go on. The slow pace temporarily recovers the muscles in your legs and you go on. You strive to send your thoughts somewhere else, to suppress the feeling of pain. There are only three kilometres left. You walk them.

You entered the doctor’s office. You didn’t dare sit. You were ready to replace her. To take the burden of the disease upon yourself to protect her. The doctor looked at you and smiled. You heard those long awaited words, “She is going to be all right.” No other part of the conversation was left in your mind. “She will be all right” was everything that, in the past eight days, you wanted, needed, longed to hear. The joy you felt cannot be described. That joy had to be lived through. You talked for a few minutes but your mind was with her. You were embracing her in your thoughts. Kissing her. They let you into her room for a while. You squeezed her hand. Gave her strength and hope. Gave to her from your energy and love. It was time to put yourself on the line.

Your feet are swelling. They advise you to stop for three days. You can’t stop. You know that what has to happen is going to happen. You have never stopped. You go on. You travel shorter distances. You give yourself two fifteen minute breaks a day. You don’t stop. The time for back pain comes. When you think about one, you forget about the other. Your mind is playing with them.  You move and progress. Days are passing by. The kilometres decrease. You feel joy and pride that you are fulfilling your promise to walk the road.

хора по пътяYou are not alone on the road. You already know a few fellow travellers who, just like you, have made a vow to walk it. To walk the road to show gratitude for a happy resolution. To walk it out of hope for the health of a loved one. You talk with each other. Support each other. You believe, and this faith creates the energy that is needed for each one of you so you can continue to live in happiness. The pain is forgotten. It goes away and, in its place, comes the joy of the roads we have already travelled and lived.

They discharged her from the hospital. After the eighteenth day, you went back home. For a long time, you just stood holding each other and didn’t speak. Both of you felt the energy of love. Of being next to the person you love. The unhappiness was already in the past.

Time was passing. Your life filled with sense again. You are a man that creates sense. You successfully take care of your family and your everyday things. Looking back, you knew that there wasn’t anything in life to regret. Looking forward, you didn’t forget that it was time to do the thing you had vowed to do. You’d made a deal and it was already time to honour your promise. You shared that at home. They understood you and supported you. They helped you to get ready. The road was waiting for you.

The road. Little remained until the end. Your fellow travellers changed. Some fell behind, others hurried ahead. More and more new contacts were made. The landscapes also changed. The little villages along the road held their own charm, each one different in itself. Some names you remembered, others you forgot. You felt the rhythm of life in them. Rhythm filled with time. Time was in abundance and didn’t bother anyone. There was plenty of it for everything and everybody on the road.

The sun began to rise later in the day. The weather tried to serve cold surprises. During all those days, you were changing. You changed physically. Your body was grateful that you gifted it with so much movement, and it got stronger. The aches went away and, in their place, the ease of movement appeared. Your thinking changed. The perception of the world around you was not only through the eyes of the city man. You understood that the moral and physical values could be equally important. You learned to be helpful to yourself and the people around you.

You meet the sunrise there, on the road. You don’t see other people near you, but you know they are there. Some of them stride, secluded in their deep thoughts. Others in groups exchange a word or two. You hear the chirping of the birds. Probably seeking one another, greeting one another or maybe greeting the dawn, just like you. It is a joy to be here. To forget about time. To forget there is yesterday, today and tomorrow. The road is in the present.

You saw him half-lying near the road. You passed him for a few steps. It was the man who, two days ago, had given up the only bed left in the albergue to the woman with the swollen feet. лежи на пътяHe gave up the bed, despite knowing that he had to walk four kilometres to the next albergue. Why was he lying down? It was early, and he had only just started. You walked back and asked him if everything was all right. No. No, it wasn’t all right, but he would manage by himself. You told him, “You have a big heart and I want to help you”. There were nearly three kilometres before the next village. You took his backpack and the two of you took the road slowly. A sudden fit had taken his strength. You didn’t care about the reasons. It was important to support him. You did what was needed. You were needed exactly there and in that moment. You gave unconditionally.

The end of the road is coming. In just a day, you have to arrive in Santiago. You feel doubly satisfied: that you fulfilled the vow to put yourself on the line and at the happiness of returning to the people you love. You sense that the others around you are filled with those feelings too. You are happy.

The flight was short. That evening, all of you were together. There was a lot to tell. There was also a lot that could not be told. You know that it could only be lived through.

“Buen Camino” to all those people around us, who are on their way to change their life for the better.

Sarria  27.9.2015


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