My Big Fat Camino Family
In the beginning of the camino Katie and I hopped around who we would spend our days with. We’d go about 3 days with a group and then flow into a different group. And that’s normal on the camino, people walk at different paces, some people have to leave the camino early for work or various other reasons. People come together and fall apart all the time. And that’s part of the beauty in it, you never know how long these people will be with you so you cherish every moment.
After about two weeks though, we established a pretty solid camino family, the center of which had been us and the Florida girls we met early on, then two guys we met in Burgos, and a few other friends who would come in and leave along the way. And these are the people who made this experience.
I’ve explained to people that life was just a different thing on the camino, walking was my job, this crazy hodge podge of people was my family. And being back I miss them all so much, so I wanted to pay a little tribute and brag about each of them :]
The Florida Girls
We met these girls on day 3. Like everyone else, you think you’ll just cross paths here and there and that’ll be that. Little did we realize by week 2 we would end up practically inseparable. I love these ladies so much. They started as 3 but Kayla had to leave about 2 weeks in to prepare for grad school in London. She was super great and an awesome part of the group, I wish we could’ve had more time with her, and sadly the day she left was the day the rest of the family was formed.
Brittany's friendship with us all started with Katie burping, she seemed to find it pretty charming (straight out of a romance novel, I know). Brittany is 26 and previously found herself in the landscape architecture world but realized that there's something bigger waiting for her in life, and I couldn't agree more :] Brittany is the type of person who is so full of love it's impossible to contain in. She loves life, all it's made up of and all of the people in it. She gets so excited about beauty in nature and connecting with others. She loves to see other people laugh and smile, she wants to see a world filled with love so that is exactly what she contributes to it. She will listen to whatever you have to say and supply you with anything you might need, even if that means she has to go without.
Throughout the weeks knowing her, Brittany has surprised me in amazing ways. She someone who is strong in her personal beliefs and foundation yet she is open to all stories and is willing to talk about literally everything. With Brittany you can openly share differing opinions without fear of anger or judgment. Early on she found for herself that even the people who seem the most different actually are more the same than anything else. I love her for that :]
No matter who you are or where you come from, Brittany is a warm heart that you can’t help but love.
Lauren and I’s first conversation began with a Boy Meets World reference, I knew we were destined for love ;]
Lauren is 22 and has focused her life on working internationally, which really couldn’t be more perfect for her. She was the youngest of the group but was quickly dubbed “captain”. She was the one who mapped out each day, she set the alarm, she would make sure all the ducks were in a row, but always with a chill air and a go with the flow attitude (which I loved). She was always open to what other people had to say and was cool with adjusting and adapting. Really without her direct yet low drama leadership, I’m not sure we would’ve made it to Santiago ;] On top of that, she could make friends with literally ANYBODY. Good luck walking more than two feet in a big town without some random person you’ve never seen before pulling Lauren aside to give her a big hug and share an inside joke they had formed in some parallel universe, because seriously HOW!? We’re with you practically all day and I’ve never seen these people before.
What I love most about Lauren is that she knows exactly who she is and loves every part, there’s never an air of judgment or competition about her because she loves her for her and she loves you for you, and I think that’s incredibly cool :]
It wouldn’t be a family without some European and male representation. These two happened to fill both :D We met these guys about two weeks in, they both started in Burgos and from then on they were part of the fam. Even when they’d go away for a day or two, we would whatsapp the heck out of them, so we were practically inseparable ;]
Vincenzo (aka Vinny) or VINN-AY as you’ll often hear me say it, is from Italy, 29, and literally just finished his PhD in some fancy bio research shenanigans, and has recently realized that there’s more to life than meets the eye. We caught him on his first day and thought it may be our last with him when he told us he was “proceeding alone” after our daily tea time. But little did he know, the more he’d try to leave us, the more he’d get pulled back in ;]
Thank goodness too. Not just because he was our quadra-lingual translator as well as our chef most nights (which WAS handy), but because of the great person he is. Vinny sees every single person as valuable, he wants to hear what you have to say, and he really listens because he wants to learn from all different perspectives. He’s open to new ideas and sitting outside of his comfort zone. He sees who people are and recognizes their intentions behind their actions. He picks the greatest qualities in people, tells them, and then loves them for those qualities. And I love him for that :]
We often call him “the worst” but secretly he’s one of the best (shhh gotta keep that ego down ;]). Vinny’s never afraid to be himself, he’ll sing (even if it’s terrible songs like Let Her Go), he’ll dance, he’ll be first to join in yoga, he’ll lead the group to crash a wedding, he doesn’t care :] and I think something we all appreciated most about him is that he’ll be the first to poke fun and give you a hard time, but behind his eyes you can always see a big sincere heart that really notices and soaks in the love of the people around him. When you can pick on some one just as much as you can talk deep with them, you know it’s gonna be a good time.
Toooooni is 36, Spanish, works as a policeman, and is probably one of the sweetest guys you’ll meet. Toni came to us through Vinny, they met almost right away and were bros from then on. He was our native Spanish tongue and our sous chef. One night all of us ladies were hanging out in the living area as the guys were cooking dinner and a lady came out of the kitchen asking “tell me your secret, how did you manage to get two attractive guys to cook dinner for you?” ;D
Toni always said his English was poor but he actually spoke and understand it very well, the best part was even though he doubted his language skills he was adamant to communicate. He always wanted to understand you and would make sure you could understand him, and his persistence and sincerity translated in all of his interactions.
This was Toni’s third time walking the end portion of the camino, this time starting in Burgos, further than the previous two times. He said the camino is a way for him to sort of refresh his mind because of the intensity of his job and how it can affect how he sees the world and the people in it. I remember telling Vinny how glad I am that there are people like Toni doing the work he does. You can tell he really cares about people, the way he talks about what he does and the way he treats the people he interacts with. He was always very protective and caring towards every single one of us, and would go out of his way for any favor you asked of him. I love him for the sincere kind hearted person he is.
These two are from our side of the sea, they joined us around the same time as Vinny and Toni but had to speed up a few days later, we found them again though in Santiago and we were complete once more :]
Kaitlyn is 23, lives in New Jersey, and is an editor for OK magazine who’s also looking for a little bit more out of life (common theme with us camino folk ;]). I just love this girl. She jived with us instantly. She was only with us a short while but she fit into our family like a glove, naturally just sliding in like she’d been there all along. I was lucky enough to walk with her the entire time one day. We talked about pretty much everything - ambitions, goals, life dreams, love, spirituality, really nothing was off limits.
My favorite thing about Kaitlyn is her raw sincerity and lack of judgment. She isn’t afraid to be her, she wears her heart on her sleeve and has a passion for life that’s obvious in her excitement to photograph it and all its unexpected beauty. And when it comes to other people, she wants nothing more than to be there for them and let them experience life in whatever way they need to. Everyone has their path and their way they need to go, and she recognizes and fully embraces that, which I think is so cool :]
Frank (short for Francois) is our (previously dreadlocked) Canadian friend. He came here on a whim, literally bought his plane ticket to Paris while drunk one night and later thought, hey, why not do the camino? I first met Frank on the path, I had stopped to deal with a serious blister and he and Paul (a 50 year old guy from New Zealand), walked by, stopped in front of me, and checked to make sure everything was okay. That in itself will give you a taste of the kind of guy Frank is. I remember walking with Paul at one point a few days later and him saying how he really admired Frank, he loved his friendliness and ability to treat everyone like a long lost friend. I couldn’t agree more :] Frank has a big heart and a big smile to match. He isn’t afraid to make friends with anyone, he can talk to everyone, and he’s always himself. It’s rare to find people who are unafraid of life and are as open to just take things as they come, like Frank is. Even though our time with him was limited, I loved the person he was when he was around.
One of the most unique things about Frank was the fact that he has had a tattoo on his back for the past 5 years and has never yet seen or nor knows what it is. I can’t decide if he has crazy self control or if he’s just plain crazy ;]
So there you have it. Our hodge podge crew of a family. There were times when we thought we should split, because that’s what we thought you were supposed to do on the camino, spread the love and not get too sucked into attachment. But then we started to realize that it was more work to force ourselves apart, so maybe we were actually supposed to be together. And I actually think that was the case. Life is all about listening to when you need to go as well as when you need to stay. And this was something special that I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on. It’s rare to be a part of an entire group of people who care and love for each other down to their heart and soul, where everyone can talk to everyone, where you feel like you actually really know everyone, and they really know you, where not a single person is left on the outskirts, and in such a short period of time.
Life brought us here together. If any one of us had made different plans, if our flight was shifted a day, if we had decided to walk slower or faster, this little community wouldn’t have existed the way it did. It’s one of those things that makes you look back and think wow, I never would’ve expected this yet I can’t imagine my life happening any differently. I’m so incredibly lucky that these people came into my life, even if our time as a group was limited. Every single one of them has affected me, and I love them all. When people come into your life they change you, and in that way they are with you forever :]
Love you <3