One day i decided i had enough of my working in IT (web design and some frontend programming) and i quit my job.
I packed up a small 20 liters backpack and a week later i was on a train headed towards Paris, then Bayonne and finally Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France.
I needed to escape from everything and focus on my breathing, being alone with my thoughts and see what i really wanted to do with my life.
I am not a religious person, but the idea of a pilgrimage always fascinated me: there is something that always captivated me about monastic life, i think it's the constant dedication and mindfullness; or maybe i just needed some peace of mind after having worked too much when i I was living in Amsterdam.
I did not bring any guide with me, the way is only one and it's well marked and hard to miss.
Moreover, everyone i met on the camino had plenty of books, maps and guides and asking for tips on the next stop and what to see in different cities was a great opportunity to meet new people, make friends with freaks, practice my languages and get laid.
While on the train from Bayonne to SJPdP i have met a guy from my own country: we both were tired and very late compared to most pilgrims (the last train from Bayonne is a mess, i suggest reaching Saint Jean early in afternoon so you can check what are the cheaper options to sleep), so we ended up accepting an overpriced place on the floor where to sleep, offered by the kind basque ladies running the camino housing system.
This lady also sold us the compostela, a piece of paper where you are supposed to collect the stamps to prove that you've walked the whole Way of St. James.
I discovered too late that, contrary to what most hostelers want you to believe, the compostela is not an official document, let alone something you should buy; once i ran out of space on my first compostela i used my notebook and nobody, apart from two galician hosteleras cared about not using the official compostela; i suggest you make your own and sign it with your name, if you're religious you can also use a Bible or a prayer book that you like. Don't fall for this scam.
The next day we woke up very early and started our walk, i was completely untrained (not as in "i did some walk to prepare for my camino", i mean as in "been sitting in front of a computer for the last 6 months") and after a while i started feeling a very strong pressure to walk as fast as i could, passing in front of most of the people.
Everyone was telling me to take it easy amigo, the road is long and hard; i perfectly knew that but something inside me was begging me to push as hard as possible and leave everything behind, everything: my choices, the endless amount of work i had lately, the fucking computers i used to love and learned to hate, the coldness of people and their petty problems, even the poor guy that i met the previous day who couldn't speak a word of the local languages. I just needed to leave everything behind and reset my life.
After about one hour or two the Pyrenees won against my stubbornness, and i started feeling dizzy as we approached the top of the chain. As i walked i tried never to look up, it's the first thing you learn when you hike mountains in ordet to avoid the disappointment of walking for hours and confirming you're still very, very far from the top; but as I sat down to have some water and sugar, feeling really weak, i saw one eagle flying in the sky; then another one in the very same spot; then another, always there - cool, i'm hallucinating.
Turns out that there were 3 different eagles flying around the same spot, but the scare made me reconsider my speed and i rested some more in the sun; this way i also learned a nice trick to protect my body from the spanish heat: wetting my keffiyeh with water and putting it around my neck and head effectively cooled down my body, a trick that is also used by soldiers and nomads in the desert.
As me and the other pilgrims crossed the top of the chain, the explosion of a thousand texts saying Bienvenido a España from all the mobiles in the backpacks around me announced that we crossed the border between France and Spain, and that the hardest part of the first day was supposedly over; I managed not to break an ankle on the way down to Roncisvalles on the other side and reached the beautiful monastery.
This concludes the first part of my story, if you would like to read how it continues write me a quick tweet by clicking here; this will help me avoiding procrastination while i am busy exploring the world.