A Single Step

Where my Camino began

My time is fast approaching. Tonight I am in Samos, 130 km before Santiago de Compostela. Despite the rain—the one constant feature of rugged, green Galicia—I will probably be there within the next week. When I first started the Camino from Vezelay, on August 18, the end was simply too far away to envision, like the Sahara to an Eskimo.

The closer I get to Santiago, the less I seem to walk each day. Yesterday I covered only 9 km to O Cebreio—that after a grueling 30 km through a much less-traveled alternative route that climbed three small mountains, but for someone who has already gone nearly 1,000 miles on foot, nothing fazes me anymore.

Maybe I should reconsider that statement: the purely physical demands of the Camino de Santiago have long ago fallen away. It is the mental aspect which I struggle with, especially as I grow closer to the day when I wake up and realize I have nowhere to walk to. Part of me thinks I will lock myself in a hotel for a week, relishing the sterilized solitude, the lack of needing to reach the next stage, the complete void of human contact. On the other side of things, I wonder if I will start going for extremely long walks, unable to shake the nomadic way of life.

When I take my last step and cross the threshold of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, I will have completed a journey that literally eclipsed one thousand miles. as Lao Tzu famously said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and as such it must end with one. After days of suffering, of pondering, of asking questions and receiving answers, I think it is fitting that I close the circle with the simplest of gestures. The last step I take on the Camino de Santiago carries the crushing weight of a thousand miles behind it, but it also contains a feather-light multitude of wisdom gained from those same miles walked. Maybe afterwards, when I lock myself away from humanity for a while, or pace through the waning November light in Dublin (spoiler alert) for hours on end, will I have the means and the will to put these answers together into something coherent. For now, I still have the road at my feet, and many steps to go.

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17 thoughts on “A Single Step

  1. Strange to say that I found entering Santiago was almost anti climatic, I was amazed that it was all over and there was nothing left to to tomorrow.
    Some continue onto Cape Finisterre

    1. I can definitely see Santiago being anticlimactic, but things are anticlimactic because life, unlike movies or books, usually continues on despite such lofty goals being reached. I will probably not go to Finisterre, but this is more to do with avoiding eclipsing 90 days in mainland Europe. I’m headed to Ireland next–if you’ve been, let me know what I should do/where I should go!

  2. Fall of 2012 I walked CF from SJPDP to Santiago. I then walked to Finisterre and still finding plenty of time before my flight home I walked part of the Camino Portuguese. This summer I walked the Camino Norte from Irun to Santiago then walked part of the Vezelay ending my CV where I began last Fall in SJPDP. My point in telling you all of this is a fear the Camino bug may have infected you as much as it has me and surely this is not your last long walk 🙂

    I have re-blogged your post several times and look forward to each new post. Buen Camino dear pilgrim and thank you for letting me follow your journey.

    1. Hey Bobbie, I have noticed you reblogging my posts. I really appreciate your respect for the Camino, and it’s great that you share it with the world. I don’t see myself doing the Camino for a while though, simply because the rest of Europe remains to be explored.

      1. Oh no that is what I said at the end of my first Camino. Actually, I have traveled Europe for many years and will continue to do so as my bucket list is never ending. Buen Camino!

  3. Reblogged this on My Camino de Santiago and commented:
    One of my very favorite Camino Pilgrims shares his latest update. This young man quit his job in the USA and bought a 1-way ticket to Europe. He has already walked the Vezelay trail and now near completion of the Camino Frances. Whew, he will have 1000 miles completed in one go! Nathan is a gifted writer, who has shared his pilgrimage in such thoughtful detail and with soul-searching depth that I find myself eagerly awaiting his next post.

  4. Nathan, it must seem like an eternity that you have been on the road, but for us who follow you, it seems like you left Vézelay only yesterday. Looking forward to the Dublin adventures.

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