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After waking up a little hungover from the celebration the night before, I spent a little time with Chris, Tess, and Sally and said my final goodbyes. They all had planes and trains to catch to continue on their journeys while I still had a full day till my flight on the 4th. Instead of staying at another hostel, hotel, or albergue that night, I decided to take a night train from Santiago to Madrid where I was to fly out the next day. I purchased a shared room on a train with a bed so I could sleep and still make my way to Madrid, which turned out to be super convenient. It was a little pricey, but I didn’t have to pay for another place to sleep for the night, so I figured that it evened out.
So now, I’ve finished the Camino, taken a bus to Finisterre and seen the edge of the world, gone to the pilgrim’s mass, and celebrated the end of the trip with friends. Now what? Shop for souvenirs! I asked my hospitalera if I could leave my bag there and pick it up later and she was totally fine with it as long as I picked it up by a certain time. There definitely was not a shortage of shops to go to for some cheap souvenirs to. Since I packed so little for the trip in my pack, I had plenty of space to fill it up with small gifts and still have room to use my bag as a carry on. I picked up a few nick nack gifts for my family and some close friends and still had a ton of time left. Pilgrims were always walking into the main courtyard to reach the finish line, so I decided to go hang out in the courtyard and read my book some more (for the 3rd time). Hanging out for a couple of hours there, I got to see a few friends end their camino. It was worth it to just lay down in the courtyard and see them finish the way I did a day earlier.
After hanging out in the courtyard for a while, I went and sat in the cathedral and did what I had done several times during the trip, pull out my journal and write. As I sat there in one of the front pews, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed with emotion over the amazing month I had spent away from my family and my close friends. At this point, I was very ready to head home and hear people speak english, see familiar faces, and share all my stories.
I left the courtyard and went back to the hostel to pick up my stuff to start making my way to the train station. While I was there, I ran into an Australian friend that I’d met the other night. She invited me to hang out with her and some of her friends for a couple of hours till I had to go catch a train. I sat with them at their apartment trading stories back and forth and sipping on cheap wine. One last new group of friends before I head on back to reality.
Unfortunately, because of the time it took for me to walk to the train station, I was unable to make it to the bookstore to pick something up for the journey home. Thank God I still had my iPhone and a charger so I could listen to music to pass the time until the late night train arrived. Finally, the train arrived and I meandered through the halls to find my room. There were 3 men in there all speaking Spainish to one another, and then I come in. They greeted me and we tried to talk for a few minutes, but it was apparent that I understood barely anything they were saying and vice versa. I left my pack in the room and headed a few cars ahead to grab a late night decaf coffee and a quick snack. As always though, I took a small bag with me which held my passport, phone, wallet, and journal; things that were irreplaceable. I stayed long enough in the car to finish my coffee and then left because it was filled with young teenagers who were being obnoxious. I headed back to my room where I found that my roommates were already pretty much in bed asleep. I climbed into my bunk and stayed up writing and reading for a bit then turned out the light and went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning, packed my things up and began my journey to the airport, which turned out to just be a couple of train rides. I ran into a British pilgrim on the train and we both kind of helped each other navigate our way to the airport. Once again, complete strangers helping each other out, the pilgrim way. From the time I left my room on train, till the time I got on my flight was rather quick and hectic. There wasn’t really any time to sit and grab a coffee or breakfast as I recall. I was moving from train to train to check in point, and then to boarding. I hadn’t really timed it out as well as I though I did, but it all kinda worked out in the end, the way most things on this trip had. That had become the norm. I do however remember walking onto the plane repeating “Please let us have our own little t.v.’s, please let us have our own little t.v.’s.” I had already read through my book I brought with me at least 3 times if not more, listened to all my music, and read through all my mail. I needed something to keep me occupied on the long flight. I couldn’t rely on sleeping pills because I’m pretty sure I’d used those up as well. Success! Thank you British Airways! I sat down and completely zoned out. The guy sitting next to me was not so fortunate and his didn’t work, so the stewardess let him move to another seat. I had 2 seats to myself for the entire flight. You can’t ask for much more better luck than that for an overseas flight. I zoned out and watched movies, and wrote in my journal for the entire flight.
Overall, the only real upset I had for the ride home was the 6-7 hour layover in JFK airport, which was originally supposed to be a 1 hour layover. I was so happy to be back in the states, but so upset that I was so close to home now and still couldn’t get there. I remember sitting and watching netflix on my phone and texting back and forth with my friends and calling my parents and other friends to pass the time.
After a horrible layover in JFK, we finally boarded and headed for Nashville BNA. By the time we had landed, I was so excited to see my friends that I don’t think I sat down while waiting for them. I’d arranged for my buddy Van to pick me up. If I had a brother, this guy would be it. I was so happy to see him. We threw my gear in the car and he asked if I just wanted to go home. I’s seen through some texts and Facebook posts that a bunch of my friends were hanging out at one of my favorite Nashville bars, Greenhouse. I hadn’t seen any of these guys for a month and hadn’t been able to talk to most of them. So I told him that we were going straight there. It couldn’t have been timed any better to walk into Greenhouse and see a group of familiar faces and to sit down and have a drink with them. This was the homecoming I wanted.
Today is April 3, 2014. On April 3, 2013, I was waking up in Roncesvalles and starting my second day on the Camino. It has been a great year since I walked my Camino, and I have that trip to thank for it. I learned many things while on the trail but if I had to pick just one thing I learned, I would say (as cheesy as it sounds) I learned to have more faith in people. I learned it from the friends that brought me water and food and medicine when I was sick with food poisoning. I learned it from the woman who carried my shorts for three days in hopes that she would be able to return them to me. I also learned it from people who bought me a beer or a meal without expecting anything in return. I consistently observed and heard tales of strangers helping strangers who more times than not had nothing more in common than the same trail they were hiking. For more lessons I learned, stay tuned.
Distance: A long way