The Hidden Benefit of a Late Start

Rebecca Gallo on the Camino.
I am due to arrive in Santiago on Saturday — a full three days ahead of schedule. I’m eager to get to my destination, but more excited about my early arrival because it means I can spend two nights at Casa do Raposito — a place of reflection for pilgrims who have just finished their Camino.

When I started the Camino 35 days ago, I didn’t know such a place even existed. I heard about it only thanks to someone I met on what I thought would be a terrible day.

I had stayed the previous night at a parish hostel in Berciamos. Sixty people sat at a long line of tables to share a community meal. After dinner, pilgrims from each country sang a song from their homeland. This took nearly an hour as we had 14 countries represented. Twenty pilgrims opted to join in the blessing and prayer offered in the meditation room before we went to bed. While there, we passed around a candle that had been through the hands of thousands of pilgrims before us. When it came to us, we could say whatever we wanted in whatever language, or say something only in the silence of our hearts. I thanked God for my journey thus far and asked for blessings on all those who asked that I pray for them and all who have touched my life. After watching the sunset (around 10:30 p.m. here in Spain), we all went to bed.

Dinner for 60 in Berciamos.
The next morning I looked down from my perch on the top bunk in the corner of the room. Panic set in as I saw that all 11 pilgrims who had been my roommates the night before were now gone. I looked at my cell phone: 7:15 a.m. This was the latest I had ever woken up on my Camino. My ear plugs — normally used to combat the snorers in the room — had helped me to not hear a single thing as 11 other people rolled out of bed, packed their sleeping bags, stuffed their clothes into plastic bags, zippered their packs, and heaved them on their shoulders to head out onto the Camino. It was going to be near 90 degrees that day and most other pilgrims decided to get on the road early in the morning so as to be at their destination before the heat set in. I, due to my late wake up time, would now be walking most of the day in that heat.

I tried to go through my morning routine of stretching and writing, but was too anxious about being so delayed. Instead, I packed up and headed downstairs to have some breakfast trying to calm my nerves by telling myself that there was certainly some reason I was meant to leave later.

I went into the kitchen to fill my water bottle. It was there that I got to chat with one of the hospitalerios. Hopitalerios are people who, after having completed at least one Camino, come back to volunteer at places such as this for two weeks. In this case, the hospitalerio was from Canada. She and I talked about my anxiety about my late start, about the road ahead, and about what life was like post-Camino. It was then that she told me about Casa do Raposito. I Googled it a few days later. It sounded idyllic. A place to relax, reflect, write, read, fish, or whatever else I wanted to do. I could stay in a bed with sheets — and I could stay in the same bed for more than one night. The owner is a therapist, and I can even use her services if I choose to. And she offers all of this donativo meaning you pay what you can.

I spoke with the owner today and reserved my spot. I’m not sure why it is that I’m more excited about my stay there than about my arrival in Santiago. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a fan of big cities. Or because I’ve heard about the lines to get into the noon mass, the lines to get my credential, the hordes of tourists in Santiago. I’m doing my best to remember to just take each moment as it comes. I will arrive in Santiago and have my experience there — whatever it will be. Then, on Sunday, I will head to Casa do Raposito to reflect on all that has happened in the last 38 days.