The phone rang on three lines at the same time, and his Bluetooth became a constant drone of noise. He swiveled from computer to computer working on anything and everything. He could barely hear the beep of the email saying he had new messages because the computers were working just as hard as he was and putting out a lot of sound. Though this wasn’t a bad financial year, he found himself working harder than he had used to, without seeing any change in the mountains of work that appeared everywhere he looked. Time was moving too fast, the deadlines running full speed instead of creeping closer. He couldn’t seem to find enough time in his workdays, so he always brought work home. He missed countless family events, his daughter’s amusement park birthday, his son’s championship game, his wife’s art show. His family was falling apart while all he thought about was the fiscal reports for next year.
Bleep! Another email. For the last two weeks since his wife signed him up for a couple health forums, he has received spam mail nonstop. He usually just glances at them, and then puts them in the trash folder, but this one caught his eye at its sheer ridiculousness. The Camino de Santiago was a path across most of Spain, starting at different spots in Europe, and converging to make one path in France at the Pyrenees. It ended in Santiago, where the bones of Saint James are buried. People just dropped everything and walked the 700 kilometers, living simply and healthily. “What a crazy idea!” he thought. He’d liked hiking as a kid, but as he got older and more mature he lost interest in wandering around on trails. He just knew his wife would hound him about doing this, she would say how good it would be to get back to his childhood, and nonsense like that.
He learned about it and reluctantly prepared to go. He had decided, or rather his wife had decided, that he would go, and start in St. Jean Pied-de-Port. At first he was vehemently opposed to the idea, but he gradually changed his mind. He thought of what kind of a father he’d been, always working. He thought of his 60-hour work week, most of it self-imposed, and made up his mind. He bought all new hiking stuff, quick dry shirts and lightweight sleeping bags. He flew into France, and spent a night in a hotel before starting.
The next day, he got up early, and started walking. The sun wasn’t up yet, so he used his ultra-Brite LiteTek headlamp. The light reflected off his state of the art hiking boots, brand new, with aeration spots and gel pad cushions, “engineered for a premium walking experience”. He didn’t want to exhaust himself on the first day, but he had to get over the Pyrenees to keep up with his schedule. His first day went by rather uneventfully, and he thought to spend the night in a small town, halfway down on his descent. He had planned to sleep in hotels or hostals for their privacy, instead of sleeping in a large room full of bunk beds, with a number of strangers as happens in an albergue, or inn.
He got to the town and realized that it only had an albergue, and no other places to sleep. He wanted to press on to find a more comfortable bed, but he was starting to get blisters, and knew that blisters can make everything extremely unpleasant. He settled on a private room in the albergue. He checked in, dropped his backpack in the room, and left for dinner.
He had forgotten to lock the door, and realized this half way through his meal, in a restaurant on the other side of the village. As he ate, he thought of all the “thieves” he had seen coming in, and how expensive his things were. He hurried to finish his meal, and left without leaving a tip. He got back to the albergue, saw the door to his room open, and he moved more quickly towards his room. He flung open the door, seeing his pack wasn’t on the bed where he had left it. As he surveyed his room, he noticed there was a man sitting next to his backpack, seeming perfectly peaceful and in place. Giving him a quizzical look, the man replied, “There were two teenagers rummaging through your stuff, but I scared them away, and made sure no one took anything.” He tried to offer him money for his act of kindness, but the man said “No, I won’t take your money, just think of this as a favor to pass on to someone else, and you’ll truly experience the Camino de Santiago”.