What! You are going to walk across Spain, on your own, and then spend your evenings in a populated albergue – with other people! Other people who are highly likely to talk to you! Ask you questions! Want to share their wine with you! Do you remember that you are an introvert?!
Since I am an introvert, this was a conversation that I had with myself. It really did play on my nerves leading up to my departure. How was I going to make it through this ordeal? This ordeal that had the potential to always present itself with social occasions. Social occasions, networking, talking to other people have traditionally always sent me into yellow alert, and have always triggered my self -preservation mechanism to hide out in a bathroom or find a safe spot in a corner somewhere, where I could simply watch people, which is a favourite past-time of mine. But I had to go. So I went.
On my very first night, although the albergue was quiet, the restaurant in the albergue was quite full. I placed myself strategically in a spot where I could see everyone walking through the door and had a good view of the general layout of the space. The hospitalera was wonderful! I suppose she sees many pilgrims on their own, which is common on the Camino, and so she treated me with the care that her years of experience knew how to. Into the second course, a young man and his mother asked if they could share my table. This is normal practice on the Camino, especially in albergues where a meal is prepared for the pilgrims on the trail. That feeling that I had experienced in Madrid on my second time out hit me right in the gut! It happened so quickly, but there was a sense of peace, and I welcomed the offer of company. Strangely enough!
We shared a bottle of wine (I had around a quarter glass, since I can’t hold my liquor anymore) and introduced ourselves and spoke briefly of our plans for the next day, and what brought us to this journey. I listened with such awe as to how this young man spoke of his mother, who was in her 60’s I would think, and the blessing it was for him to spend this time with her. We shared a few laughs and then fell into silence while finishing the remainder of our meal. We watched the going-on’s and then meandered up the stairs to sleep, greeting each other with respect and a good night that we knew we would all have, having walked up Alto del Perdon earlier in the day.
There I was enjoying time with like-minded people, enjoying the time in sharing a meal, and just being who I am, with other people and not feeling like I needed to run away. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of belonging, and all I wanted to do was stay. Stay there, on the trail, with those like-minded people, who held space for me and held it with such care and love. I fell in love on that night. I have been in love before, but this was a different feeling of love. It was love for me! Love for this life, and love for what life held for me.
I am an introvert. On the Camino I am an introvert, but I am ok being with pilgrims. Ok, I am not just ok, I flourish on the Camino.