Trail Day 8: What Am I Suppose to Learn?


Photo by: J W Foster

The Camino del Norte: Gernika-Lumo to Lezama, 22km

This is just a waste of time, I don’t know what I’m doing here? I was energized this morning but now just depressed. As Mary and I walked down the trail, I worried about misunderstanding her words from the other night. Was she just being genuinely open with her feelings or was it something else? Today, as she talked more about her life, she began disclosing more intimate details of her relationships. I decided that I really didn’t really want to be THAT connected to other people on the Camino.  I offered some inane platitudes and walked on.  I think she realized that I was uncomfortable with the line of discussion and I felt like crap. Opening up is what people do on the Camino, they share and I was blowing her off.

A little while latter Mary talked again about the lonliness of the del Norte and how she expected to find more people to walk with. Maybe it was her way of trying to explain how she needed to be able to share. I described to her how the Frances was more social and she’d probably enjoy the experience much more than here. I recounted some more of our experiences from last year and explained that if she jumped down to Astorga she would be able to beat the crowd of students that got started a week or two ago in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

I still don’t know why I’m here. I threw out this thought about connecting with people but the more I think about it, the more I’m just not all that interested. I’m also not interested in the history or the architecture or the churches. I love the country side and the beautiful views but I could have that in a nice cabin in the woods back home.

Maybe I’m just tired…and hungry…and sore…and lonely…I miss my wife.

We entered a quiet little town outside of Bilbao, it was overcast and cool. I’d had the foolish idea of walking all the way to Bilbao today but neglected to notice on the map another 1000 foot mountain between me and the city. I decided to wait and tackle that one in the morning. There were three Germans walking on the trail today, they were in their early 40s and spoke good English. They were saying how much easier the Norte becomes after Bilbao. I hope so.

The municipal Albergue in Lezama was brand new! It was easy to miss, Mary and I actually stood on the sidewalk outside it’s front door looking in every direction. “I know it’s around here somewhere.” I said. Then I spotted the shape of a bunkbed behind a large window in what looked like an office building next to us.  “Look! It’s right there!”

We were the first pilgrims of the day. I picked out a bunk, pulled out my sleeping bag, layed down and immediately fell asleep. An hour and a half latter I woke up. Maybe the del Norte is kicking my butt more than I realize. The albergue was still empty so I decidided to go for a walk around town. When I returned, the albergue was bursting with pilgrims. Where’d they all come from? The Frenchman was here, the German women that had fallen on the trail, the three 40 something Germans I’d met and many more. Laying on the bunk next to mine was an American! The only other one I’d met besides Mary. We started talking. He had just gotten a law degree and was taking the summer off before going back to school at Georgetown to study Govertmental Policy and Philosophy. This guy was smart; he loved to talk and I felt we could get into some deeper philosophies of life without me worrying about getting “too intimate”.  We talked for about an hour; how we got here on the Camino and what our motivations were. We talked about our favorite philosophers and our familes. That’s when he said “Yeah, my partner and I are taking a break from each other.” I wondered, “Why did he say “partner”?  Why didn’t he just say girlfriend?” Then he continued, “My parents didn’t like him anyways, he wasn’t very nice to me….”  So much for “too much information”. What lessons am I really suppose to be learning on this Camino?


Photo by: J W Foster

2 thoughts on “Trail Day 8: What Am I Suppose to Learn?

  1. Paula

    I would like to know the rest of this story. Did you finish this Camino? Did you stop?
    I don’t get the same sense of optimism and acceptance in these entries as was expressed in your Camino Frances writings. I want to know how this story ends!

    1. Joe Foster Post author

      You are very right Paula. The optimism and acceptance is missing. I’m still struggling to understand why, and to accept it. I’m home and I’m working on the posting after the fact, using my journal to dissect the events. I’m making a commitment, I’ll have another post up by the end of the day. Thanks for the push.


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