By Theresa Krupka
Buen Camino. These words became as familiar to us as the steady rhythm of our boots crunching step after step along the path.
Buen Camino. We weren’t even sure what it meant exactly. A husband and wife sat on a bench with their backpacks by their feet and their lunch strewn over their laps. They smiled up at us as they bit into their sandwiches and watched us pass. They were resting; we were walking. “Buen Camino!” they would say.
The three of us walked behind an old man. His pack clung to his body as if it had always been there, but as we approached, even his determined pace could not disguise the trouble he was having with his knee. “Buen Camino!” we said as we passed him. He met our eyes. “Buen Camino.”
The way was not always easy. And that much everyone understood, because we all were walking it. We lugged a bag of our belongings hundreds of kilometers across Northern Spain. We traced the legendary footsteps of the apostle Saint James. We hiked through forests, along highways, across rivers, and over mountains.
Our destination was the city of Santiago de Compostella near the Atlantic coast. But the point was not to see that city. After all, we could have flown there. Instead of flying, we walked. We walked in the same manner that our ancestors would have walked. We did not take a vacation. We took a journey. In English we call this journey the Way of St. James. The Spanish call it the Camino. In normal life, I’ve gotten used to feeling like I need the things I want. On the Camino, I discovered the joy of wanting the things I need.
It’s so human to hunger and to thirst, and so to want food, drink, sleep, and showers, and to finally receive them, led me to experience life in a new way. We never knew what the Camino would bring. Some days the sun boiled overhead, and some days the sky would open up and it would rain. Sometimes, in an albergue, a pilgrim hostel, the lights would turn off in the middle of a shower. You just continued.
Pilgrims passed whom we would never see again, but they walked the same roads that we walked. New pilgrims met us whom we had never seen before, but their packs carried weight just as ours did.
“Buen Camino!” we said. Roughly translated it means, “Good Way.” From my lips, it meant, “We’re both on a difficult journey. We’ve both gotten this far. Keep going. Find what you are looking for.”
As human beings, we carry our history, burdens, and dreams in the journeys of our lives. We can find joy in the little surprises of every day. Sometimes, we might forget that the people we pass on the street are walking the same way we are. But we won’t forget today. We may not be walking towards Santiago, but we are all striving for the Kingdom of God.
May your way be easy and your burden light. Buen Camino.