Day 10: To Madrid!

Last night we all had dinner for the last time together, unless somehow we all end up on the trail together again. At the same restaurant there was a group of Brazilians we keep running into, they were disappointed to find out all of us were taking breaks of some sort. They tell us “you are too young to take breaks! People walk in more pain than you do!” Yesterday at the hostel Aoife and I were given a hard time because we hadn’t taken a break yet, by a mildly irritated American man who started before us and asked “are you even enjoying the cities you stop in?”  Every single day someone tells Aoife how to treat her terrible blisters on the back of her feet. Everyone on the Camino has an opinion. Mostly, it’s from a good place, people here are genuinely kind and really do want to help, and everyone is quick to give anyway whatever they have if it’ll help someone else. And yet, there are so many opinions on every aspect of this hike in a way I never anticipated. Which to me is funny since there are so many ways people walk this. Staying at a hotel last night we met a whole different group. This morning at the bus station I met the most injured and tired. I’m not sure how people can have opinions on the best way to walk when it’s an intensely personal thing and a lot can impact your hike and health.

The Camino is incredible, but it is painful, and sometimes the people are a bit intense. But it is unlike anything I’ve ever done. It is not, for me, a vacation (unless you find daily aches and pains to be enjoyable), and yet we’re all voluntarily here. And despite the difficulty, in general, I’m having a damn good time. I love it out here. For some, it’s a life dream. It’s an odd place, a wonderful, overwhelming place. And going to Madrid feels like perfect timing. Though it’s only been a week, it feels a bit like I’ve lived a lifetime here, and forget that regular life exists! That is one of the best parts of travel like this, though. Life is condensed into small increments of time. A week here feels like months or more in regular life, it is what for me is so addictive. I feel like I get more life out of every day.

It took 20 minutes on the bus for what would take me a day to walk. As we sailed towards Madrid I watched as we passed pilgrims, many of whom I knew. I felt a pang of loss. Though, as the wind and rain picked up, I felt more content with my choice to hop over to dry, warm central Spain.

During the ride I had time to reflect on the first part of this journey. And sleep. I’ve been tired for a week and my body is letting me know it needs a break. Mostly, I’m just thankful for the opportunity and freedom to persue this. And I’ve been reminded again how important travel, or more specifically, experiential travel is to me. It fills my life with such an incredible energy, and I can’t imagine not having that. Thankfully I have a fantastic partner who craves the same sort of pursuits.

Once in Madrid it was a quick walk to the hotel, I realized I’ll likely only walk 5km or so today, and my legs feel like they’re itching to move, uncertain what to do with stillness.

Thanks to some last minute deals,  we’re staying in a five star hotel in a posh neighborhood of Madrid. We use kiwi collection to book a lot of our hotels, partially for the perks. So, once inside the hotel the head of guest relations came to greet me and offer an upgrade, all the while I’m in my less than clean trekking clothes with my dirty backpack, wondering what they’re thinking. Or if I smell like boots (which I sealed away in my backpack). I don’t offer any explanation of course. It is still hands down my favorite way to check into highend hotels. It greatly amuses me every time.

I think this hotel is nice, though like with food my standards have been altered a bit. But it feels incredibly luxe and I don’t want to leave. Everything feels so clean and soft. After doing my laundry in the shower (and having a good laugh at the laundry price list) I’ve sorted my things and intend on spending the entire evening until Alex arrives in a pillow fort.


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