Camino Conversation is a kind of art in itself. I´m aware of how important it is. The way is long, the sun is hot -- and conversation breaks the monotony. More than that, conversation offers the kind of encouragement that keeps tired feet moving. Camino Conversation helped me understand what "encouragement" means, how important it becomes, and what a lost art it is.
After all, everyone has common ground -- quite literally. Where did you stay last night? How far are you going today? How are your feet? Did you run into the five-day fiesta in Belorado?? Questions like these suddenly seem more urgent than the usual others. Where are you from? What do you do -- when you´re not walking the Camino?
We´ve been sneaking in our question: what brings you to the Camino? We had a great answer today from an American couple. Newly retired and recently relocated from California to New Mexico, they said to each of us independently: "We´re in Stage 3. And we need to think about what that means for us." Lisa had been walking with Chris, I was walking with Gil.
Stage 3. They'd grown up, raised kids, tended careers. They weren´t ready to hang it all up. There was life after retirement -- and the Camino was part of it. Chris mentioned that life without service is not really life at all. But she wasn´t sure where she´d serve. This was an interlude to try and figure that out.
Later, we entered Burgos with another couple, this one from Holland. She was a financial planner taking an unpaid sabbatical from her firm to do the Camino. In the aftermath of recession, her company was happy to have her off the payroll for five months. She was happy to be gone. She admitted it had been a pretty rough year for financial planners: "People don´t have money -- rather, it has them!" They were anxious, unhappy, under siege. She´d had enough.
She had interviewed for another job before she left. Had it panned out, she´d have left her firm for good. But she would have had to foreshorten the Camino trip to a week or two. Now, she had five months. She and her husband were doing the whole thing.
I asked if she thought she´d go back to her old job after the Camino -- whether she had a new job or not. She´d thought about this: she´d love not to, she said, but there was a mortgage to pay. Definitely she´d go back in a different way, this time working to live, not living to work.
We left them in front of the municipal albuergue. I´m sure they could have stayed at the finest hotel in the city.
But she sounded like someone who knew exactly what money could buy -- and what it couldn´t.