A 550-Mile Journey
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Standing on the cliffs at the end of the world, the sun glittering off beads of freezing ocean spray, I will end one journey and begin another. The Spanish coastal city of Finisterre is called the end of the world because of the vast expanse of sea that stretches out from its rocky shore. Finisterre, the end of the world and the final destination on my Camino de Santiago. The Camino is an ancient pilgrimage from the border of France to the Coast of Spain which I learned about in my Spanish class sophomore year. Studying the Camino planted a spark in my heart that has only grown with time. Each passing day brings me closer to the commencement of the 550-mile journey I will one day complete.
Nothing would be more fulfilling than kneeling at the steps of the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Kneeling in awe on the stone worn smooth from the pauses of countless generations of pilgrims, and looking up in amazement at its towering grace. The satisfaction that would come from knowing I had reached the end of the Camino would be overwhelming. Despite the imagined gravity of this moment, it is not the ending of the journey that I am interested in. The Camino is famous for its transformative abilities and spiritual significance. I want to meet strangers and fall in love with them, to fall in love with the beauty of mankind that is so often tainted by our fears of reaching out. The pilgrims that walk the Camino have a unique bond that brings them together from all walks of life, all corners of the Earth. I want to walk the Camino to learn other people’s stories and to build unforgettable relationships with individuals I may never see again. I will not walk the Camino to restore my faith in God, but to grow in my faith in the universe, in humans and our power to change each other’s lives.
I want to begin the Camino in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, with a tingling in my fingers and toes, with butterflies in my stomach and a smile on my face. I want to walk with a stone in my hand that I will place beneath the massive cross at Cruz de Ferro, along with the thousands of others that have been set there before mine. Standing on the small mountain of stone hinged wishes, I’ll be remembering a teacher who changed my life. My 7th grade Geography teacher, who encouraged my love of adventure and opened my eyes to the world. Knowing that I’ll have met my goals and made him proud, I will walk away with a much lighter heart and a more open mind as I continue my journey.
I want to hike the great Camino de Santiago to feel the rush of rebirth and new beginnings. For once in my life, I want to be one of the Chris McCandless’ of the world – bold and determined to change my life. On my Camino, I will not be afraid of stepping out into the world and letting go of my worries. I will dust off my anxieties and follow my passion without hesitation. I want to finish and feel transformed by my journey.
Someday, I will be standing in an airport with a ticket in my hand, boarding a plane to Europe. Someday, I will feel the cold mist of the ocean at Finesterre, the satisfaction of kneeling at Santiago de Compostela, and the stones at Cruz de Ferro shifting beneath my boots. The pins and needles in my feet at St. Jean Pied de Port will remind me of my anticipation of a new life, and I will begin my 550-mile journey with a single step.