Name: Jane Christmas
Route: Camino Francés
Started in: St. Jean Pied de Port
Finished in: Santiago de Compostela
When I walked: May 1 to May 24, 2004
Miles traveled to get from your home to starting point: 3,447 miles
Favorite albergue and why? A place in Hontanas, the first village you reach after the meseta, was run by a young family who had converted part of their home into a pilgrim refugio/restaurant in order to pay for the renovations. That evening, I sat at a table with five other women who I had never met, all of them from different non-English-speaking countries. Despite the language barrier we totally understood one another. I even remember the menu: chicken, salad, macaroni, wine and yogurt. For seven euros!
What drew you to the Camino?
I had never heard of the Camino until, during a flight to Vancouver, a steward (he was kind enough not to bust me for drinking a small bottle of wine I had brought on the plane) noticed the small cross I was wearing and started telling me about the Camino, which he and his wife had recently completed. Oddly enough, when I had boarded the plane I had made a deal with myself that by the end of the flight I had to have come up with a brilliant way to mark my 50th birthday the following year. (I am very goal-oriented). When the steward started telling me about the Camino I got a huge rush of goosebumps and I knew then that walking the Camino was how I would mark my 50th. My life until then had been so insular that I wasn’t sure I could have pointed Spain out on a map, and I hated camping and hiking, but suddenly none of that seemed to matter.
Did anything unexpected happened?
I met amazing people on the Camino (as everyone is bound to do), and a couple of them have become treasured friends, one of whom I married.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned on the Camino? How did life change post-Camino?
As mentioned, I am a goal-oriented gal, and for me getting to Santiago was the be-all and end-all. But as every pilgrim ruefully discovers, the cliché is totally true: it really is the journey and not the destination that matters. My life changed immeasurably after the Camino: I wrote a best-selling book about the experience (What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim), and I married my Camino mate and moved to England to live with him.