“You might think this pic looks a little like a first day of kindergarten pic which is ok because that is kind of how I feel leaving to take on the Camino del Norte right now. A little nervous and anxious but excited to make new friends, learn and grow. I hope I don’t pee my pants on my first day”
That’s what I posted on Facebook the day I left for the Camino a little less than 3 months ago from Granada, Spain. I knew nothing. The experience was beyond anything I could ever imagine.
Rewinding about 2 months before, I was sitting on my bed in my cool, dark room in Granada, my laptop on my lap. I was researching the Camino de Santiago del Norte as I had been for a month already.. So much planning and decision-making. Finally, it came to the point where I needed to crack down and just do it… was I really going to do this? I had never been backpacking before, nor had I really traveled alone. Long story short, I pretty much forced myself to book the flight. I was nervous but knew I needed to push myself… I guess simply living in Spain for a year wasn’t enough.
My plan was to start in Irun and take about 20 days, skipping some parts by bus, and make it to Santiago by June 23rd. After that, I would go on a two week long trip to some popular cities in northern Europe.
“Day 1: Arrival in Irun
Well I had a pretty terrible flight from Malaga to Barcelona. I had a pounding headache, cramps, my back hurt and I was bloated (PMS, obviously). My flight was delayed by almost an hour and I had less than an hour to make it to my next flight to San Sebastian. Which of course took off from a different terminal which was 10 mins away. On top of that I was having the worst PMS symptoms I think I have ever had. When I got to the terminal to check in, the worker said the flight had been closed. I immediately began to panic. Waterworks. I couldn’t help it. So many emotions and hormones going on. The man looked at me pathetically and checked his computer again. Nonchalantly, he notified me that finally the flight was delayed and to go to desk 464 for last minute check ins. So I rush to find desk 464 and I tell this lady what her coworker had said in my broken Spanish. She checks her computer and tells me no, it has been closed. I start crying again (I literally couldn’t help it). I was panicking. And the lady looked at me with no sympathy or urgency. What would I do if I missed this flight? Would I go back to Granada? Maybe this really wasn’t meant to be after all. Finally after being on the phone for a few minutes and clicking a few buttons she confirms that it is indeed delayed and they are boarding now. I am so relieved.
She hands me my boarding pass and I quickly go through security skipping the line and run all the way to my gate with my backpack heavily bouncing with every stride. I get there at 4:45pm and of course the screen says boarding at 5:10. I had plenty of time. So here I am a sweaty mess with my giant backpack and grocery bag of food. I go to the bathroom to rinse my face, change my clothes, and drink some water. Better. But still a pounding headache. I take vitamins and ibuprofen as soon as I sit down. I try to eat an orange. I can’t. Nausea. It’s going to be ok. I’m sitting on the floor with my backpack on so I lean back onto it and shut my eyes. Better. People are probably staring at me because I can’t hide my misery at this point but I really do not care.
By the time I get on the plane the meds are pretty much kicked in but I was beginning to think this was a bad idea after all. I sit next to a young French guy whose passport was stolen in Ibiza over the weekend. He’s pretty sad about it but still nice. His friend is picking him up at the airport to take him back to France and he offers to give me a ride to Irun. I gladly accept. His friend speaks no English and I don’t speak any French and also don’t really know where to go. It’s fine. I use my data to look up directions to Irun and hand him the phone. It’s maybe 7 mins away from the airport. They drop me off at a spot that seemed ok for me and it ended up being less than 5 mins away from the albergue. What luck. Bad day turned out better.
I arrived at the albergue and instantly feel comfortable. They are so nice. I walk in at the same time as this Hungarian guy and the workers think we are traveling together. We are not, but it’s ok and we both embrace it. They don’t have rooms left in the main albergue. The lady with super thick glasses and crooked teeth shows us this basement type room that they have more or less turned into a hostel room. It’s pretty funny. I laugh when I walk in. I like it. It feels like the real deal. Like I’m really out here. And it’s free and clean. Free breakfast too. Oh yeah, I also get my credential thing and write down my info on it and on another paper which the old guy who works there copies down in a binder. It’s so old school and awesome. The lady is extremely cheerful and loves her job. The man is nice and is used to people not being able to speak Spanish.
The Hungarian dude, David, doesn’t speak really any Spanish. So I help him. He’s really tall, probably like 6’7”, and has long blonde hair in a ponytail. We walk around to find a charger for his phone. We talk about camino plans and worries, our lives, and so on. I help him ask the albergue workers if he can have his backpack sent there because it got lost on the airplane. I only help when he asks me because he previously asked me not to translate everything for him because he wants to figure it out on his own. Pretty inspiring. We came back here (only 1 key between the 2 of us) and he took a shower. It kind of smells like mildew but I don’t mind. I have to go find wifi somewhere to FaceTime mom. I feel really cool”.
So that was my first day’s account of the Camino del Norte. I didn’t take many pictures so sorry about that. I hadn’t even started to walk and I already felt like this experience would be incredible. I still had no idea what I was doing. What time I should leave, where to go, how much to eat and drink, and if I would be ok walking alone. I was nervous for the next day but was taking in every moment openly. Let me also say that I did not go into this thinking that it would change my life. I went into it thinking it would be an experience that would hopefully be great and I would learn a thing or two along the way.
Stay tuned for my next post!!!!