Katie Terrell’s pilgrimage from Spain’s eastern border to the Atlantic Ocean on the west took longer than she planned.
Early on, she recognized she needed to slow down in order to build relations with the people she met along the way.
“I needed to take time to linger over lunch, to get to know the hosts and hostesses, and stop at a café for a snack and hear about other pilgrimages people had taken, or sit with someone having a hard time,” said Terrell.
A 1998 East Clinton graduate, Terrell first heard about the walk some five years ago and it stuck in the back of her mind as something on her bucket list of things to do. Tradition says the apostle James was the first one to take the walk, traveling as far west in the known world as he could to preach the gospel.
The journey, called in Spanish el Camino de Santiago, has been made by people for centuries. The walk “kind of revived” in the 1960s and ’70s and has drawn more participants since, she said.
A couple years ago after returning to her Lees Creek home from Indiana, Terrell went to an event where a Cincinnati woman related her experiences from el Camino de Santiago. A man there asked her when she was going and that led her to ask herself the same question, she said.
“I need to put it on the calendar. Why not now? I’m back home, I have the finances, I’m young and my body can handle it. It came to my heart that Lent would be a wonderful time to do it,” said Terrell, a Quaker.
Lent this year was from March 5 to April 20 which is 47 days, “More than enough time to make the journey,” Terrell thought, mistakenly as it worked out.
Despite taking time to do a lot more walking than normal and despite training with her brother last summer for a triathlon, she ended up getting stress fractures in her feet on the journey in Spain, slowing her down. In fact, she was on crutches when she reached the end destination, and needed to ride a bus and taxi for 65 of the walk’s 790 kilometers (a distance of about 500 miles altogether).
She thinks the stress fractures might have resulted, in part anyway, from her walking faster and for longer stretches because she was running out of time to make her flight home. She ended up extending her stay an extra 10 days and catching another flight.
Nonetheless, she made it to the Atlantic Ocean and, as is the custom, watched the sun go down and burned her boots.
But though she is disappointed she didn’t walk the entire 790 kilometers, she doesn’t regret her decision early on to slow down to get to know people better.
“The people definitely make the journey,” said Terrell.
In the evenings, travelers are hosted at hostels.
“We are dirty and smelly and tired and the love they show to you helps encourage you. Plus, other walkers you meet are from all different countries and backgrounds. Everyone has different reasons for walking and different stories,” she said.
A fellow traveler needed to go to the hospital at one point and the woman didn’t speak Spanish. Thanks to Spanish language classes and trips to Cuba, Mexico and Honduras, Terrell could speak some Spanish and took the time out to accompany her.
A writer and editor by trade, Terrell kept a blog of her pilgrimage.
Day 59: “We were ecstatic to see the Santiago sign and stand under the archway that countless pilgrims before us have stood beneath. But to be honest, by the time we made the long trek across town, the cathedral itself was a bit anticlimactic. Granted, it was dark and we were exhausted. But more so, I think we realized it was not ‘where’ we journeyed to that was important. It was ‘who’ we walked with that made the Camino.”
Visit http://walkwithkatie.blogspot.com/ to read more from her blog.