The testimony of a young Argentinian woman who traveled the famous European way and discovered more of herself during the trajectory
When I was a child at the age of four or so, I remember a scene that always came in to my head and it was that I would take a backpack, pack my favourite toys and tell my parents that I was leaving home to travel the world on my own. Twenty years later, it became real and I realized that I would never travel “alone”. After some time wondering if it would be best to go solo or to go with other people, I realized that I was looking for an opportunity to develop self-awareness and the answer came very easily: it’s impossible to learn anything alone.
The never ending search for meaning and the constant modern anxiety makes us walk through life without realizing the importance and the legacy of those who follow their steps side by side with us. Without paying attention to the contemporary beauty, life passes by showing us that only the present is real. Just like Guimarães Rosa said “Reality is not at departure or on the arrival – it is comes to us in the middle of the crossing”. Perhaps that’s why the word “pilgrim”, from the Latin per – agrare, “that which crosses the fields”, translates to our theme today with so much intensity.
Sometimes moved by faith or by the direct contact with nature, the path to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain is, since the 9th century and one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. It’s the incredible landscapes, the opportunity for self-knowledge and spirituality that makes tens and hundreds of thousands of people choose their routes every year. There are several routes between Galicia, Spain and France. The French Route is the most popular and it enters Spain in the area of Pamplona (Roncesvalles) joins the others in Puente la Reina and follows to the north of Spain. The classic starting point is in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, and in total they add almost 800 km to Santiago de Compostela making up the famous route that can be crossed in just over 30 days.
The Path is usually done on foot but anyone who wants to do it by bike, horse or donkey is also welcome. Wanderers who follow at least 100 km on foot or 200 km by bike are entitled to win the Compostela which is a certificate for those who made the Camino de Santiago. One of the people who share the Compostela with great joy is the Argentinian woman, Fanny Braun (31), who graduated in Communication and Media and guarantees to have paid attention and learned enough with everyone that crossed her journey. After four years of wishing to live this experience, she found the opportunity to spend 31 days in the path that would result in endless exchanges no matter where she went. We talked to Fanny about details of this unique experience. Do you want to know what this was like? Come and let us tell you on the way!
Hat on the head, backpack ready so… here we go!
I never asked Fanny if she also wanted to put her backpack on and tell her parents that she was leaving to travel the world but she told me that she has always been a collector of places and of personal experiences. The young woman from Patagonia, southern Argentina, lives in Germany today and said that ever since her friends told her about the path that had an exuberant nature, there was no turning back – Fanny had to put the Camino de Santiago in her bucket list!
“I really wanted to make the journey a few years ago and when I realized that I would have two months available on my schedule, I just started planning and everything just flowed really well.”
She has completed the 31 days of the traditional route and reports that it was one of the best seasons she’s had over the last few years of her life!
According to Fanny, some tips are very important for those who want to go through the routes, such as checking the weather forecast and arranging for the Pilgrim’s Credential (it could be found at tourist offices for an approximate price of €2 ). It’s important to try to not take too much but there are some things that we always need to have inside the backpack which includes muscle relaxant, ointments or sprays for injuries as well as sunscreen, hat, raincoat, hiking socks and waterproof shoes – try not to debut accessories that come up on the way and always have a stick on the hand too. (It’s not worth putting toys in the backpack for those who have always wanted to travel since they were a child. In this case, talk to your therapist.) Once you have prepared everything, the rest flows like the wind and the path leads you!
No one learns alone – the importance of the other’s contribution
Fanny said she started on the way north, in San Sebastian, in the Basque country. “After 400 km to the north I followed the traditional route which is in the middle of the forest”. Okay, you may be asking if she was camping all those days in the woods. No, for the joy of those who do not like camping, there are several hostels accredited for a few euros throughout the whole trip and they offer full support to the hikers. So basically, the cost of making the trip is distributed between accommodation and food – hostels cost around €6 and food can be prepared in the hostel kitchen and shared with other wanderers.
“They welcome you very well and also guide you on what to take, the places to go as well as explaining different things such as routes you should not follow and so on. It was very good, I really felt at home”, said the Argentinian woman.
Franny reports that meeting new and enlightened people was undoubtedly a great positive part to make her experience even more enriching. “I really like sharing things with people from different places. There were people from all over the world and I was never alone. I mean, if you want to be alone, it’s your choice but along the way you can exchange ideas with other people is very important for you, during that moment, to be with people like that, willing to help and to share”, she explains.
The young woman remembers that it was these people who helped her in the delicate moment.
“For two whole days I was simply not able to walk. Imagine you walking 25 to 30 km in 10, 15 days in a row – because that’s the average you walk a day when you make the way. In just only one day I did 43 km and that was insane! But because I ended up choosing a wrong route, I had to go back and so I walked twice, and then, after that day my knee was not well. My luck is that, as I said, the people I met along the way have always been very supportive and offered me ointments and they were always checking my blood pressure and so on. People are always there if you need anything and they end up becoming a family”, Fanny remembers.
When asked if she was afraid of anything during the 31 days, Fanny reports an unusual episode. “There was a singular moment that I was very scared. Yes, I was walking alone when I saw three big dogs, I was afraid to go through them so I turned around when one of the animals came after me and bit my elbow. I had nothing to defend myself and I stood there, terrified, just waiting. Luckily, they kept on moving along. This was the scariest moment of my life, I actually have a picture of the wound and I’ll never forget it” , she tells us over some giggles. Apart from this episode, Fanny says that she was not afraid of anything nor of anyone because everyone that was there was interested in observing the nature around and meditating.
“The road is something that you really enjoy because you are with yourself, listening to your inner voice, people there were traveling for a reason and they were all in a very good vibe”.
The Camino de Santiago reveals a lot of inner wisdom and it’s legacy is for life. “If you can’t do it during a whole all month or if you only have a short period of time, do it anyway because you’ll meet wonderful people, incredible human beings. It’s not easy to walk 25, 30 km per day and not very simple to wake up at 6 am every morning with no exceptions. But when you sleep in hostels, for example, breakfast is at 7 am and after that people start walking together, or you can walk alone if you prefer.
“This becomes a very pleasant daily habit and then we want to repeat it all the time. That’s when you’ll miss it for sure” she recalls, smiling.
Maybe that’s when we get to know ourselves better, when we can see how we deal with other people, how we interact, our readiness to help, the awakening of empathy and the opportunity to share, to learn from each other’s stories and experiences. As a brotherhood, one to another, this is the great thing in going out into the world “alone”: meeting people that has things in common with you on the other side of the world, and seeing that there is love and unity wherever we go. Maybe that`s what Fanny was looking for when she decided to do the Camino de Santiago. Maybe that`s what I`d been wanting to do ever since I was still a little girl, waiting by the locked front gate from home with my backpack on my back. Unconsciously I wondered if I would find love wherever I went. Today I see that the answer is “yes”. Love is within us – like attracts like.