Saturday, March 22, 2014: After seventeen days of being abroad, it was finally time for me to return to Toronto. I was excited to go home, but at the same time I felt a deep sense of sadness knowing I had to say goodbye.
Santiago represented a milestone in my life. Actually, the city of Santiago de Compostela and the Camino that winds its way to the city, represent a conglomerate of major milestones for me.
This was my first solo, international trip. I never would have had the balls to do something like this on my own when I was still married. In fact, my ex-husband was supposed to come with me. I even had two sets of hiking poles I had gotten for us as Christmas presents one year. No date was ever set, but it was one of those things we were going to do as a couple; it was something I wanted to do, but I was too scared to do it on my own, so I turned it into “our” trip. Then we separated and I fell into a routine of always delaying my Camino, saying “maybe next year”, then “maybe never”. Then one day I found myself in a pissy mood because I had gotten into a fight with the horrible person I was dating at the time (funny enough, it was over travelling — he didn’t want to travel with me, the jerk), so I said “fuck it” and declared my intentions of going to Spain, ON MY OWN. Within a week my flights were booked and I was writing about it. It took a lot of courage for me to do this.
Another milestone from this trip is the fact that I turned thirty within Santiago’s ancient quarter — I ushered in a new decade of my life within a few hundred yards of the tomb of St. James. This birthday celebration is going to be hard to beat in years to come.
Lastly — and this one is probably a first for me — I actually completed one of the lofty goals I had set for myself. Hiking the Camino was the #1 item on my bucket list. I used to always refer to it using “if” and “when”. Now that I’ve actually done it, it’s become a diving board for me to use to launch myself into the other goals I’ve come up with — not just for travel but for all aspects of my life. For example, I’ve always wanted a motorcycle but was too scared to go through the steps to get my license. One day, a few months after my Camino, I spontaneously decided I was going to finally do it. The next morning I found myself walking out of the drive centre after successfully passing the written test, and within the next two months I will be taking a course to get my full license. I even have a savings plan in place so I can get my first bike next year (a Suzuki TU 250X). I also have plans to take up boxing within the next month, as well as go back to school at night for things I’m passionate about — writing and baking. I can see the me I’ve always wanted to be, and now I know she’s on the horizon, patiently waiting for me to reach her. My time in Spain is what put all of this in motion.
But now, my time in this beautiful and life-changing country had come to an end and I found myself in a miserable mood, sharing a cab with Dany and Richard as we drove to Santiago de Compostela International Airport in the early pre-dawn hours.
The three of us all had flights leaving within an hour or so of each other, which I found funny seeing how we were going to three different destinations and never planned for it to happen this way. Nevertheless, I’m happy we got that little extra time together before we went our separate ways.
If there’s one thing I’ve still not gotten used to, it’s saying goodbye to the new friends I meet while travelling. Over the past two years I’ve had to go through some incredibly hard goodbyes, and this one was no different.
My gate was directly beside Richie’s, and Dany was the last to depart, so she waited with us to see us off before she found where she had to be. When Richard’s flight was called to board, it felt like I’d been punched in the gut. You know those airport scenes in movies where one person is getting on the plane and another person is watching them, frantically waving and crying as their friend/family member/lover leaves? That’s what it was like to watch my friend Richie board his plane home to Austria. It was terrible. I already looked like shit because I didn’t feel like looking pretty on a nine-hour flight home, and now I had tear-stained cheeks to add to my hot mess of a self. I hate goodbyes!
Dany, the mature lady that she is, knew how to better handle the situation. Once Richie had left she told me to stop crying, she gathered her things, gave me a hug goodbye, and made a graceful exit before I could start blubbering again.
And then there was one…
Getting on that plane was hard, but because travel is never permanent and I had responsibilities and a “life” back home, it had to be done. Once my flight was called I walked up to the gate, with hiking boots on my feet and a bright purple “Camino de Santiago” sweatshirt on my back. Despite me being by myself I started to cry again because a thought crossed my mind:
I entered Spain as a broken woman. I got on the plane in Toronto unhappy, terribly confused, stuck in a relationship I didn’t want to be in, and pessimistic about my future. Now, I was leaving Spain mended, full of courage, and optimistic. I wasn’t entirely fixed (I’ve been through a lot since the separation), but the healing process had begun.
I will forever be in debt to the Camino, Spain, and my new pilgrim friends — because of them I’m starting to put myself back together and fucking eh, it feels so good.