Our "authentic" story of the Camino de Santiago
Many of you reading this post have walked the Camino de Santiago, and some of you have walked with Authentic Journeys. Others of you may have it on your “bucket list” and are thinking about going one day. There are countless stories and movies about pilgrims – why they walk, the experiences they have along the Way, and what they take home from their journey. Each story is unique and inspiring, and each person’s experience as a pilgrim is an intensely personal one.
I find, however, that there is not a lot written about why the people who work along the Path to care for pilgrims do what they do. For example, many of the towns along the Way are populated by people who have spent their entire lives caring for pilgrims: being called upon from time to time to share a meal, bandage a wound, or provide comfort of some sort to the strangers who pass by on the Camino every day. There are others who support Friends of the Camino and come to Spain on their vacation time to volunteer in a refugio to care for people they have never met. For the most part, their stories are the little known and untold stories of the Path.
With that in mind, we thought we would tell you our story about how we came to start Authentic Journeys and why we have chosen to bring people to the Camino as a way of life.
When we met in Madrid in 1995, Juan Carlos had just returned from walking the Camino and was full of enthusiasm about it. I had never even heard of the Camino, and it sounded very intriguing to me.
A few years later, shortly after we married, we walked the Camino together for the first time. Back then, we walked 17 miles a day with 20 pounds on our backs, blisters on our feet, and slept in refugios for five euros a night. Over the years, we decided physical suffering really wasn’t enhancing our walking experience, and started walking with more “creature comforts” each year. Not being distracted by aches and pains or being woken up in the night by a fellow pilgrim in the bunk bed next to us made for a clearer mind and perspective when walking each day.
In 2013, we went to the Camino to spread the ashes of our beloved dogs along our favorite places on the Path. Juan Carlos had decided that he really could not continue to coach soccer for much longer as it was taking a toll on his knee and his back, which had taken a beating during the years that he played professional soccer. We talked about what else he might like to do. What would bring him joy? And the next morning as we started walking he said, “What if I bring people to the Path to make them happy like me?” I thought it was a brilliant idea, and Authentic Journeys was born that day on the Camino.
Starting Authentic Journeys was a big undertaking. We are not travel agents, and while we had the traveled the world, we had not really done so on organized tours. But we decided to go for it because, at heart, we are “Camino People”. We know the Camino so well, and we truly know what it is to be on a journey, to be a pilgrim, and how important it is to feel supported and cared for along the Way. Equally important, we understand how much you can get out of your walk in this magical place if you are not worried about where you are sleeping or whether you will be able to get to your destination safely. Plus, we really like sharing the extraordinary food and wine of Spain with our clients.
We are still pilgrims, but we are also now among that privileged group who get to live on the Camino part of the year and share important moments in other peoples’ lives. We have the honor of witnessing the beauty and grace that so often touches a person when they put on the mantle of “pilgrim” and set out to discover things about life, nature, and themselves.
Our hearts are filled with gratitude for all of you who have made that possible for us.
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