Busted Halo

Rebecca Gallo is walking the 480-mile pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago despite, or maybe because of, the doubts she has about faith. Journey with her along this ancient path.

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June 7th, 2012

A Down Day


A Sunday morning in Leon, Spain.

Walking the Camino, like walking any other path in life, can sometimes have its “down” days. Today was one of those days. I just didn’t feel like walking anymore. I opened my pedometer to see I’d only walked 200 steps since last I checked it. The route was descending steeply and full of rocks. It took not only physical but mental energy as I had to focus on each individual step. I walked with others, but even their company didn’t help — I was just ready to be finished. For the day. Or with the Camino? I wasn’t sure.

I wondered what caused this down mood and why I couldn’t get out of it. Was it because I didn’t go through my morning ritual of stretching and writing, instead leaving earlier than usual to see a sunrise? Was it because the sunrise I got up to see was disappointing — filled with clouds instead of light? Was it because when I reached the Cruz de Ferro — the place where I was to leave my rock of fears, burdens, and expectations — I found it to be littered and not at all the sacred experience I had hoped it would be?

I finally decided to find a rock to sit upon and start my day over — to write those three pages I hadn’t written this morning. I poured my thoughts and tears onto those pages. I stopped sometimes and listened to the pilgrims walking by behind me, to the bees buzzing around me. I stared at the lush green of the mountain in front of me. Then, I wrote some more. I wrote down all of the things I was ready to be finished with: the tiny showers with not enough hooks on which to hang my clothes, the camp towel I have that only dries half my body before becoming too wet to be of much use, the daily hand-washing of my laundry, the lack of variety in food choices for vegetarians in Spain. It feels silly to write of it all now — such minor things. But those things coupled with the early morning walk to see a non-existent sunrise at a site marred by litter were just pushing on me at that moment.

Rebecca visits Cruz de Ferro.

When I was finished, I dried my eyes and pulled my pack onto my back. I fastened the waist belt, tightened the shoulder straps and stepped back onto the path. I looked up to see Mona and Julie — two women I’d met two nights ago — coming toward me on the trail. Their faces lit up upon seeing me. They asked how I was, and my tears erupted again. They hugged me and listened as I told them of my earlier disappointments.

After a few minutes of spilling out my feelings and my frustrations I felt better. “Okay — I’m done complaining now,” I declared. “Thank you for listening.” They assured me we all have days like this along The Way. We walked and talked together into the next town, my spirit lighter.

As we crossed the bridge into Molinaseca, we stopped to stare at the main road. It was straight out of another time. The cobbled street was lined with stone buildings, their second floor balconies hung with flowers. Restaurants and bars had tables and chairs set out in the afternoon sun. We were still four miles from our intended destination, but our bodies asked us for a reprieve.

Julie and Mona decided to stop here for the night. It took me a little longer, but I finally listened to my intuition and my body and opted to join them. We “upgraded” for the night opting to stay in a private albergue or hostel instead of the municipal one. Instead of 30 people in a room full of bunk beds sharing two showers, the three of us are sharing a bright and airy room with actual single beds. We don’t have to pull out our sleeping bags as private albergues have beds with sheets on them. We also get full-size towels, which means I don’t have to use the camp towel I mentioned earlier. It’s little things like sheets and towels that can really turn the day around for a pilgrim along the Camino.

I was reminded today of something I’ve learned before: that when a day isn’t turning out so well, it’s okay just to stop, to give in, to let the feelings take you over. Then to continue on, facing whatever is next, knowing that something (or someone) will come along to help you through. And if not, just go get a good night’s sleep and all will look better in the morning.

The Author : Rebecca Gallo
Since 2012, Rebecca Gallo has walked the Camino de Santiago three times -- twice on a strict budget, and a third time traveling a little more luxuriously (private rooms with sheets instead of hostels with a sleeping bag). She enjoyed sharing her first journey and subsequent reflections with Busted Halo readers. Other tales of her adventures can be found at RenaissanceRebecca.com.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Darcie

    Rebecca, loved this entry. I refuse to believe that we all suffer and struggle alone. We can’t always fix each other’s problems, but we all cry just like you. When u r down, know that we are here suffering with you. We share the good moments and the tough ones. Peace!

  • tjmarquez


  • Rebecca Gallo

    Hello all-
    Your loving words bring tears to my eyes. Thank you all for taking the time out of your day to not only read my blog but to also post comments.

    I especially want to thank Rick for his response. He has been a wonderful person to have along this Way with me and has seen my tears more than once. I so appreciate that on this down day we were able to share our disappointments and, too, that when I needed some time alone to write that he understood. Thank you Rick for being there and for moving on when I needed some time to myself.

    Thank you all for your insights as always.

  • Joe

    Rebecca: The down days are normal. I walked the Camino Ingles three years ago. It is only 110km (from Ferrol) but I felt like my emotions per hour were clocking ahead. I felt happy, sad, invigorated, bored, pain, thirst, satisfaction. Jane is absolutely right in being a metaphor for life. God bless :)

  • Bonnie

    May His Light be a beacon to your feet Rebecca & may His Spirit enlighten your heart & mind as you continue to travel the road that will bring you home…..Peace be with you & “Buen Camino”! :)

  • Dawn

    Sending hugs your way!

  • Liam Condon

    Rebecca: Thanks for your comments on your journey, and your thoughts and feelings about many things I’m feeling as well. Keep going and finish strong! Blessings

  • Rick Shaw

    I was with Rebecca on her “down” day and reluctantly left her to write and sort through her feelings. We both experienced an unexpected disappointment at Crux de Ferro as many pilgrims did not take the moment as seriously as we thought it deserved. I have learned from getting to know Rebecca on the Camino that she is very strong and works through issues by reflecting, shedding a few tears, writing and then moving on. It’s tough to leave a friend who’s hurting, but I have become familiar with what she needs to get through the many ups and downs we experience on this Camino journey. Maybe I have learned also as a “chronic” problem solver that a friend listens and encourages but does not impose our own methods of dealing with disappointments. The Camino seems to be teaching all of us “life lessons ” even when least expect it.

  • Elizabeth Anne DiPippo

    “False fatigue” my kindergarten teacher friend said; she continued: “I did not believe it when I first read about it, but now I have experienced it almost every day. ” The children begin the day with energy, enthusiasm, and excitement. They work wonderfully for about an hour and a half or two hours; then suddenly, it seems, the room is in chaos, noisy, distracted children everywhere; and then almost as suddenly, each one is working again, engaged, involved in a project , and the atmosphere is calm… ” A “Down Day”, down moments, down time…part of each day, each week, each life?
    Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing the before, during, and after of your “down day”!

  • Deanne Smith

    We are with you! Enjoy the posts. What a wonderful spirit you have.
    Looking forward to seeing you in July.

  • Garnette Arledge

    I woke up two days ago wondering how you are doing. ‘The heart knows no distance’ my husband used to say: which I learned deeply when he died,seemingly. Beautiful authentic piece you wrote at the Cruz de Ferro. Somehow that the Cross of Fear was littered seems just right to me: our fears are our litter. Washing them away with tears, at times, sure works. Thank you for crying for the fears of the world. And for friends, and clean sheets, and letting us share your burden, which in the old days (meaning MEDIEVAL)meant a musical refrain. Now there’s a metaphor, go with it in Divine Love. Thank you. Garnette

  • Mary Ann

    Greetings Rebecca and thank you for this blog. After seeing the movie “The Way” twice, i was wondering when your road would lead you to the “sigh and cry” leg of your journey! Aren’t we lucky to be women and able to let the tears out? Its cleansing and cathartic. Please know you have many people praying for your camino. Keep going-keep writing-be courageous! You’re almost home!

  • Patricia

    Rebecca, Thank you for your honesty, it would be easy to keep these thoughts out of your blog. As Jane said it is a testamony that your journey like life has it’s ups and downs. May you be rejuvenated by your rest and may God’s peace be with you always. Pat

  • Rémy

    The Cruz de Ferro (1504m) is a difficult leg. It’s normal to have “un coup de blues”; but Galicia and Santiago ar now very close. You are on you way to succeed.

  • Jane K

    A wonderful account of your down day…it is further testamony that your camino is actually a great metaphor for life. There are parts of our journeys that are bright and beautiful and easy to bear…and parts that are tiring, disappointing and sad. You are right that sometimes we must give in…and just know that tomorrow is a new day and things will likely look better in the morning. Keep going…and thanks for sharing your journey with those of us that are following you on The Way. :-) Peace, Jane

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