The following is a step by step guide on how to get ditched by your friends in Spain:
1. Plan a trip to Spain with friends
2. Plan to hike the Camino de Santiago with friends.
3. Set out on your hike of the Camino with friends.
This is the recipe for getting ditched. As you have read previously in my blog, Tony Molli and I parted ways after Astorga. I never elaborated further as I was trying to make heads or tails of it.
Several days before Leon, Molli had an injury and then an illness. The two of them had been hopping from town to town via cab. We were still meeting up in towns as prescribed by the guidebook.
The morning I arrived in Leon we all met up once again. We had made reservations at the Parador as a celebration. When we booked the room, we knew Martin Sheen had stayed there when they filmed “The Way”. It seemed like a good place to splurge a little.
We met up and checked in. It was then that T&M gave me the news they weren’t going to follow the guidebook in the coming days. Not at least until Molli recovered and was able to hike again.
Their next planned stop was Astorga, two hiking days ahead. As you know, the next day I hiked my first 31 miles. This put me in Astorga a day ahead of schedule. About two hours from Astorga I sent a text message asking if they wouldn’t mind reserving a room for me at the hotel they were in. They confirmed I was all set. Great I thought, my own room and I still get to see my friends this evening.
I arrived in Astorga and checked in. Understandably I was exhausted. I showered and laid down for a few minutes. Upon arriving I had sent T&M a text letting them know I had made it.
Having partaken in the spa, they let me know it was amazing and I should check it out. A few hours later I received a text from them indicating they were heading out to the chocolate museum. I asked they stop by and I would head down to the lobby with them. I wanted to get a bite to eat.
They arrived on my floor and we made our way to the elevator. Everything seemed fine, until we got into the elevator. The vibe was seriously amiss. I was thoroughly confused. The elevator ride was a short one. Molli stopped by the front desk to get a map. I followed Tony outside. I looked at Tony and asked ,”Is Molli mad or me or something.”
I received a curt response, “Dude, she’s not mad at you. You two need to get on the same page. We just wanted some alone time.”
I was perplexed. Why hadn’t they told me in Leon they wanted a few days alone? I would have happily obliged.
I immediately shut down and went into my head. I don’t recall much of the rest of the conversation as I was pretty hurt. I said goodbye and they headed out.
Shortly after, I sent a message saying I was sorry for intruding and if they wanted alone time all they had to do was ask. I had a beer and they returned to the hotel and joined me for dinner. They made light of my concerns and “formally requested” alone time.
In retrospect I understand why they handled it the way they did. The thought never crossed their mind that I would end up in Astorga that night. They would have had their time without having to say anything.
From Astorga to Santiago we only met up a few times. Either they were a day behind or a day ahead. We had dinner a few times but I carried a bit of resentment and feeling as if I had done something wrong.
I carried resentment because they had invited me to join their journey through Spain. Not once, but twice. I declined the first time they offered. They knew I came home from the PCT because I didn’t want to hike alone. I wanted to hike with friends or family. And here it is, my family had ditched me. Molli had lamented three weeks earlier I was like a brother to her. And I consider her a sister. But here I am, two weeks from finishing and alone on another hike. I struggled with this a lot.
I set about the remaining days of my hike, meeting and chatting with new people. I made friends with Michael, the Irishman. We had many a good pint and shared stories.
The more people I met, the more stories I heard of groups breaking up. Michael had come with a roommate and they had separated. Randomly I chatted with a woman from Boston and she told story of two best friends that only walked together 3 days before splitting up. I heard these stories frequently. Great. I can reconcile we split up. But one question remained. What did I do wrong?
Coming into this trip, I automatically looked at myself as a third wheel. They never once made me feel as such but this trip was a celebratory trip of Tony turning 50 and Molli turning 40. It was the trip of a lifetime. Realizing this, I made it a point to be a “yes man.” Wherever they wanted to stay or eat, my answer was yes. If they were looking for recommendations I would happily provide them, but I went out of my way to be agreeable.
There is only one instance in the entire trip that I said “no” to anything of substance. The muddy road less traveled. Certainly, Molli wasn’t holding on to that I thought.
Over the next two weeks, I met people. I shared lively conversation. I shared meals. At a lunch of 10 people one afternoon, I realized 8 different countries were represented. Highly diversified culture, values, and political views were shared. At this same lunch, I also realized I was the oldest at the table. Eek! I was 4 years older than the next oldest (Michael). And the rest were in their early to late 20s!
In those two weeks, I could say I “made the best of it.” But that would be disingenuous. I had an amazing time. The day-to-day worked out perfectly to suit my personality. Friends and conversation when I wanted it, and solitude when I didn’t.
I let go of my resentment for being ditched in Spain. After all I generally believe things happen for a reason. Only one question remained.
I completed the Camino on July 1st. Tony and Molli completed on July 2nd. I met them in the square within 5 minutes of them finishing. We all celebrated. I showed them where the pilgrims office to get their completion certificate. From there we went to lunch.
We caught up on the last several days of hiking. Then I had to know. I blurted out, “Did I do something wrong?”
Primarily directed toward Molli. She looked rather baffled. I went on, “I’ve been struggling with this since Astorga. If you guys wanted to be alone that’s fine, but I’m afraid I offended you guys or didn’t do something I needed to.”
I became emotional. Finishing the Camino was emotional. And now I’m confronting Tony and Molli about what I may have done. Tears in my eyes, Molli reaches out and takes my hand. She says, “You did nothing wrong. We were having two entirely different experiences, and I just couldn’t be around you.”
That summed it up for me. I understood it completely. While I may not agree with how they handled the separation, I can understand the need to have their own experience.
The Camino is hard. It’s hard emotionally, physically and spiritually. There are many days you don’t know what you’re doing here and question your sanity. Add to that, injury, illness, and a distaste for the food and you have a recipe for the desire for solitude. I don’t care how close of friends or family you are. 30 days traveling in a foreign country with someone whom is not your spouse is asking for issue.
My advice if you plan to come with friends, be flexible and communicate your desires. There may be days in which you or they want to go it alone for a day or two. Try not to take their desire for alone time personally. They may be struggling in a variety of areas.
I carry home no resentment or hard feelings toward T&M. We each had a tough journey. We were each here for our own reason and purpose.
(When in doubt, walk!)