DAY SEVEN: Everyone Is Equal On The Camino de Santiago
While walking yesterday morning, we met a beautifully hearted man from France named Antione.
Eight years ago, Antione walked the entire Camino de Santiago alone. While on his journey, he found a large branch that he used as a walking stick and has kept it closely by his side these past several years. You could tell Antione put a lot of love and time into that stick. It looked like he had been sanding it once a day, the top even finer from his hand gliding up and down its surface.
Please stay with me here. Wink, wink.
Antione went out of his way to talk to Luc and I, which meant a lot to me considering I had also walked alone years ago. When you are a couple on the Camino, not many people take the time to engage in conversation. And I get that; I’m assuming most couples are here to experience the Camino together. I know we are. Nevertheless, this guy was special. He told us about how the Camino changed his life, and that after he returned home, he left his high paying job that had a lot of ego attached, for a modest one as a teacher. He had no regrets; living a simple life was a lot more satisfying.
Like the old and cliché saying goes, money doesn’t buy happiness.
I personally believe this to be true. Yes, money can make your life easier in some ways, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy. And in the end, isn’t that all that matters—happiness?
I’ve told Luc for years, I’d rather live in a modest apartment; married to a gas station attendant (who aspired to own the gas station one day that is), than in a large and ostentatious house; fully draped in Chanel and Gucci by the poolside; unhappy and dreadfully lonely.
No freaking thank you.
I’ll take hiking to the top of a mountain for an evening picnic and watching the beauty of the sun go down any day over a night out at Mastro’s.
So, yesterday, Antione graced our morning, then walked off into the morning haze, as Luc and I continued to make our way down the sometimes-rocky dirt path of the Camino de Santiago.
And today has been one of our most physically challenging days so far, having to make it all the way to the city of Logroño. And let me tell you, we were beyond exhausted when we arrived. Not to mention, starving for some nutritious food.
Luc and I both eat a plant-based only diet back in L.A. (not that Luc fully understands what that means), which most call vegan—I myself don’t love the term. But for the record, let’s just call it vegan.
Eating vegan on the Camino de Santiago: entirely impossible—that is if you want to stay healthy and continue walking.
In saying that, we have quickly learned to call ourselves vegetarians here—something most Spaniards understand—which is also not easy, but highly doable with some effort.
So tonight, after living on loaves of breads, slabs of cheese, and bananas, we made a reservation at an upscale restaurant—and they went out of their way to cook us one of the most incredible vegetarian meals we’ve ever had.
Did I mention how inexpensive the wine is here?
Within the 16th century building, we were seated in one of the many private rooms separated by a curtain and old brick walls.
I had to pinch myself.
We laughed and talked, and at times felt like we wanted to crawl on the floor and retire for the night.
Here’s where I get back to Antione.
Luc grew quiet at the end of our dinner like there was something on his mind, eventually saying, “Do you remember the French guy we met yesterday?”
“Yes,” he said.
“What about him?” I asked.
“Well he really made me think. It was weird Stacia—he looked right through me.”
“You mean into you?”
“Yeah, into me. It was strange. At first I assumed he recognized me, but soon I realized he was just a nice guy saying hi—that he didn’t want anything from me. I don’t know, it just really made me think and I’m processing it.”
In the twenty-eight years I have known Luc, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard him say he was processing something. In my heart, I felt secretly happy. I press Luc for almost everything, but this time I stayed quiet; realizing whatever he was feeling, was part of what he needed to go through here; independently of me. Luc has lived in a fishbowl most of his life, looked at and up to for his accomplishments on and off the ice.
But not on the Camino de Santiago.
This is equal playing ground.
I will add, Luc is the most humble human being I’ve ever known.
But all he knows is what he has been surrounded by.
That goes for all of us.
We can all take a deeper look in order to grow.
We are not our titles, or our accomplishments. We are not our possessions.
We are beautiful and equal beings.
We just forget that.
We are too busy either trying to be something we’re not, or playing the role that we have chosen.
That’s what I love about the Camino de Santiago. It grounds you and makes you see everything differently, and everyone equally.
In the end, after a bottle of local wine, we laughed as we made our way to bed.
Luc is now asleep, but I’m certain Antione will come up in the coming days.
If not, I will press him. ;)