In March of last year, my Mum and I were watching a documentary about the Camino de Santiago – a pilgrimage in the North of Spain, with many different routes leading to Santiago de Compostela. I decided there and then, that I would do it myself that summer.
This was also around the time that I met my boyfriend. He had already completed the Primitive Route from Oviedo and I was eager to learn more about the pilgrimage. I was still suffering and threw myself into organising the Camino as a solution to my pain and an opportunity to heal. Up until that point the winter had been the most heart wrenching and traumatic time because we had never seen Mum be so unwell (Our Story).
I felt emotionally exhausted and wanted the opportunity to transfer this emotional struggle into a physical challenge that I could overcome, learn and develop from. My initial thought was that I could go on this pilgrimage with Evee, which I soon decided against because I just wanted to be Katie. An independent 23-year-old, who only had to look after herself, and the Camino was going to give me that. I wanted the simplicity of waking up and only having to put one foot in front of the other.
Mum was really enthusiastic about this idea too. She thought it was great and something she would have liked to have done also, if she had the strength. I became fixated on the Camino, it was all I could talk about, and I truly thought it would make me “better”.
At the end of May, I sprained my ankle so severely that it might as well have been broken.
I laid back on a hospital bed, too afraid to look at my purple and black ankle, wondering how I was going to get up the stairs to my bedroom when I was home. Relieved to not see a fracture on the x-ray, I asked the nurse if I would still be able to do the Camino, she looked at me with surprised eyes and scoffed – “I wouldn’t”. I wasn’t convinced though.
For the next 3 weeks, I stayed in bed unable to walk and willed my ankle to heal. In my head, my mum was still going to drive me to catch the ferry across to Santander on the 10thJune. I was going to walk alone for the first week or two and meet my boyfriend along the way to complete the Camino together. To my annoyance, my ankle was taking far longer than I expected to heal, so I kept on adjusting my plan for the Camino – I’d go in July instead.
Little did we know that that winter, when my mum had been so ill, was only the beginning of our pain in 2018.
And that short window where we thought Mum was getting better, was going to close in June, and we would have to batten down the hatches for the second half of the storm, but this time Mum wouldn’t come out the other side (As Told By Katie).
It was mid-June, and by this time I was able to walk without crutches allowing me to get up and down stairs again and drive to the hospital. I’m not really sure if I believe in God, but I remember thanking Him that I sprained my ankle so terribly; When we found out the bad news, I was meant to be in rural North Spain without phone signal or internet. I would have never forgiven myself had I not been with my mum when she needed her family the most. We knew by the 19th of June, that she was not going to get better this time and I didn’t think of the Camino again.
4 weeks ago, on Sunday I submitted my final university assignment, I had my final bereavement counselling session on the Monday, and that evening I found a really cheap one-way flight to Ibiza for the Wednesday. I didn’t want to give my decision too much thought, in case I’d change my mind. I knew that I needed time to focus on getting better within myself, without the noise and chaos of everyday living, and it wasn’t going to work at home.
I wanted to rest, to reflect on the past few years, and to take a long look at myself. I wanted to learn who I am now and what my next step will be. Initially, I found it incredibly difficult to decide how to spend my days. Where did I want to go, and what did I want to see? Once more I was putting too much pressure on myself. By the end of the first week, I simply decided to not decide. As long as I had a place to sleep that night- it was okay.
This frame of mind instantly took the pressure off, and as a result I was able to relax in the moment rather than worry about the following days. Over the past 3 weeks, I spent a lot of time walking with no destination in mind, and it didn’t take long for thoughts of the Camino to soon bubble to the surface.
I made the snap decision to finally do the Camino. By the time that this is posted, I will be in rural North Spain without phone signal or internet, learning who I am now, and what my next step will be, exactly one year on (with an ankle brace).