Origins are fascinating for the very mystery of it. There is difficulty in uncovering when it all began and even more difficult to be certain that it would be the truth. I can never truly tell you when it was that I knew for sure that there was nothing in the world that I desired more than to see as much of it as I could.
I can tell you that after the excitement of finding the first arrow had died down and that there was no longer any doubt that my friend and I were finally on the path of El Camino de Santiago I realized that there was no greater happiness than marching to your own beat towards absolute certainty that you have no idea what lies ahead.
We arrived by bus in Pamplona hours before dawn. The streets were quiet, the lights dim, the city still in slumber. We had no map and had no clue, but as it was said before that when you want something, the universe conspires in your favor. I can still remember clearly the moment we saw the first scallop, the symbol and guide of this ancient tradition. It was simple and subtle, no different than an average traffic sign in a modern city. That moment was when it all came together. We saw more signs, we followed the pilgrims, and we found the road.
El Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage that can begin from anywhere in Europe and ends in the city of Santiago de Compostela. Some even go farther to Finisterre, or the end of the world, as what was believed by the pilgrims a millennium or two ago.
Day after day we walked and did nothing else. We ate when we were hungry, we rested when we were tired, we sought shelter when the night came. It was a liberating experience and unlike anything I had ever done up to that point and even until now. We walked up hills, through fields, and towards cities. The beauty of the world around us was clear.
Life was down to its simplest form. There was no time for excess, no space for the unimportant. The heavy backpack got lighter as I threw away things I thought I needed but never did. Each night we were somewhere new, we found ourselves in the company of new friends. Life was at its fullest.
It is painful for me every time I recount this story because at the end of it all, I never finished the El Camino. There were reasons, real ones, that prevented me from going on. Although now, they all seem to be feeble excuses that could never justify the fact that I abandoned a dream I was already living.
As I rode the bus to Madrid where my flight back was waiting for me, I was consumed by regret. Every moment that the bus slowed down or stopped, I fought the urge to jump out and make my way back to El Camino. Four hours of solitude on a bus with nothing but thoughts of regret and I was surprised I survived in the end. I returned to life as usual, but I had changed. The road has never stopped calling me since. Each time it did, I answered.