A few days ago, I wrote a post about spending the night in the small village of Villambistia, in northern Spain. In case you missed it, you can read about it here.
I mentioned that while I walked 500 miles of the camino pilgrimage route, I really missed having a front door. I missed being able to separate myself from the dozens, and even hundreds, of people around me. I missed the private space and the boundary line that a front door offers. Without one, I sometimes felt exposed and over-stimulated, especially because I shared public dormitories in hostels every day for 6 weeks.
I’ve been idly reflecting on other things I missed while I walked camino. Ordinarily, I don’t reflect on these things at all because I remember my journey with fond gratitude. Choosing to walk the camino was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Mostly, I remember the journey with humble appreciation and fond memories. I forget that there were challenges along the way. I forget that there were things that I missed.
Couches or comfortable armchairs, for a start!
I walked 400km before I saw a couch and then I exclaimed with joy.
A comfortable seat!
An orange one, with fabric and cushions and with space to stretch out! I hadn’t seen a couch or comfortable armchair in weeks and hadn’t realised how badly I missed them until I saw one right in front of me.
I missed my own bed too, and the luxury of clean sheets. The few times I stayed in a private room, the clean sheets alone nearly drove me to tears!
I missed muesli…or indeed, any breakfast food that wasn’t a baguette. I can’t emphasise this enough….I don’t think I ever saw Bran Flakes, Rice Krispies, oatmeal, or pancakes. I think I saw Corn Flakes only once, about 200km from Santiago. I don’t think I ever saw scrambled eggs or sliced fruit, yogurt or crispy bacon. There might have been omelettes but I don’t remember them at all. Every morning, I drank coffee and ate a croissant, a baguette, or both. I missed having the choice of something less bready. Eventually, I bought my own bag of muesli and shouldered the extra weight on my back, just to have a bit of variety.
I missed having a kitchen…or at very least, somewhere to prepare food. I remember being in a supermarket somewhere along the way – an expansive, white-light, modern supermarket where everything was marketed with high sheen gloss….and seeing fresh pineapples for sale. Though it was only weeks since I’d last seen one, it may as well have been years. I had walked hundreds of miles by then and I felt like a nomad. The display of fresh pineapples was nearly too much for me – they lay there with casual abandon, and my mouth watered in anticipation.
I wanted one.
But I only passed through the town that day: I didn’t plan to stop there for the night. There was no way I could carry an extra 1kg of pineapple on my backpack, on top of the 10kg I already carried.
In the meantime, I didn’t have a knife with which to cut it.
And in such a glossy, slick supermarket, I couldn’t see any member of staff who’d have a knife behind the counter. Everything about the place looked like it was for display in a fancy magazine. It didn’t look like anyone there was doing any *real* work. I couldn’t see anyone that would be likely to deviate from their job description for five minutes and chop up the sweet, fleshy fruit. Truth told, I didn’t ask anyone either, mostly because I didn’t have enough Spanish to stick my neck out. If I were walking again though, I’d stick my neck out and ask anyway – I left the supermarket without it and the thought of that pineapple haunted me all the way home!
Occasionally, I stayed in hostels that did have a self-catering kitchen, and I enjoyed the opportunity to prepare my own food. It was never anything fancy but at least I could squeeze in some extra vegetables – another thing I missed! Pity that the availability of self-catering kitchens never coincided with the availability of fresh pineapples though – otherwise, I would have taken care of that craving and wouldn’t be rambling on about it here!
What else did I miss?
I can’t remember. I’m sure other memories will come to me but honestly, I missed very little. My basic needs (shelter, food, water) were taken care of, and the walking took over my days. Out there with all that horizon and all that sky, I forgot my everyday desires. I survived comfortably on two sets of clothing and with very few possessions. I didn’t really miss very much because I felt I didn’t really need very much. That was a glorious liberation for me.
What about you? What did you miss when you walked camino or went on your own travels? What do you think you’ll miss? And is there anything you just can’t bear to be without, so you’re definitely bringing it with you? I’d love to know.