By Alex M. Eduque
This will be my third and final piece about my Camino experience. While I could go on forever, and do not wish for all my realizations, and everyday applications of my learnings to end, it is time to move on to other things. That is not to say that the impact of that unforgettable ten-day trip will soon be forgotten; in fact, it is quite the opposite. The more I get back into the daily groove of things, the more reason I have to consciously remind myself to pause, and breathe when things get a bit overwhelming. And though I no longer have the pleasure of doing so amongst the forest and mountains of Galicia, it is a reminder to constantly be grateful – for the opportunity to embark on such an insightful and enlightening journey of sorts.
If I were to choose and identify a single word to describe the entire experience, it would have to be surreal. Defined by Merriam-Webster as “Marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; also: unbelievable, fantastic.” I personally feel it is the most apt description to encapsulate every aspect. In my mom’s words, “Never in my life did I think I would get on a plane, unpack, just to pack every other day, and go on a trip to literally walk a hundred kilometers.” Yet we did. And the most serendipitous part of it all is how schedules aligned, and mindsets synced so that we could all embark on this adventure as a family. Despite the fact that on some days (especially the first few), we were all wondering what we got ourselves into, looking back, it was in fact the much-needed intense bonding experience that we all needed, that did not only bring us closer together, but re-affirmed everything about us as a family – albeit a bit nutty and quirky at times, fiercely loving, loyal, and definitely like no other.
As if the decision to walk every day for seven hours a day on a “vacation” was not surreal enough, the culmination of the 100 kilometers was perhaps the most surreal part of it all. As the group reached the end of the rural landscape down a winding hill that led to a highway, a part of me (though admittedly the city girl in me was undeniably ecstatic to finally be entering civilization once again) was crushed – I was leaving behind what seemed like nine days of dreams, somewhat detached from the reality of it all (as we know it) and quite literally walking back into the familiar rhythm of daily programming. The moment we entered the city of Santiago, it was then that it dawned on every single one of us that we had in fact, for the very first time, entered a new place by means of foot. And that was most definitely a surreal first for all of us.
Surreality – in my words, or as I know it today — will always mean to me that fleeting moment when dreams and reality collide. Though we may not enter that state as often as we’d like, we underestimate its power on our sanity and well-being. At the end of the day, as human beings, it is more of a need for us to reboot, and escape to rejuvenate, than it is a privilege. And it is solely in how we choose to do so that defines and differentiates our preferences. In the state of surreality, regardless of what one chooses to do, one is unknowingly in his/her element. And it is that unconscious element of the moment in and of itself that makes it surreal – that turns it into a memory, and makes it such a pleasure to look, and always check back on.