On a bright June morning, somewhere in Spain, I set out from a hotel with three friends.
We followed the vague instructions of our host and wandered the streets of Sarria in search of a well worn trail.
The Camino de Santiago.
After spying a couple of bikers with seashells, we picked up our pace and walked more confidently down the road.
Then we heard someone behind us shouting some words that have become rather familiar to me in my months of long distance trail walking,
“You are going the wrong way!”
We turned around to see an enthusiastic woman waving her hands and calling out to us.
“You are looking for The Way? The Camino? Yes?”
“Si! Si!” we all shouted one of the only Spanish words we knew.
She pointed the opposite direction at yellow arrows across the road.
But somehow instead of just turning around and taking the right road, we ended up inside Marcela’s newly refurbished Albergue (Pilgrims’ Hostel), hearing the story of how she and her husband left their busy lives to buy a house that would host pilgrims on The Way. They had walked the Camino de Santiago themselves and fallen in love with the trail. Or in Marcela’s words, “We have love of The Way!”
This year is their first season to be open and she told us how a priest had come and blessed their Albergue. Someone had a guitar and several groups of pilgrims had filled the house with singing.
Before we left, Marcella kissed our cheeks and blessed our journey with these words,
“Be sure to Live The Way. Just take your time. Do not be in a hurry. Smell it. Taste it. Breathe it. Experience it. Yes? You understand? Live the way.”
We all nodded and ahummed our gratitude. Yes we would do just that. Live The Way.
“Yes, good,” she said, “Buen Camino!”
To say that we took Marcella’s advice would be understatement.
We spoke her words back to each other all week long.
Some days we stopped so much that I am a little surprised we made it to our lodging every night.
We stopped to smell roses, to photograph windows and doors, to meet new friends, to try new foods, to shop at roadside stands, to say prayers inside of chapels and churches and of course, to rest.
One day we hope to return to Marcela’s Albergue and tell her that she gave us our theme for the week. Live The Way.