Tuesday, December 6, 2011
As night began to fall, we arrived at the spa hotel in the Banyul’s of southern France. This marked the beginning of a trip that would eventually lead me over the next three weeks, to walk the famous Camino Way pilgrimage. I spent months reading extraordinary stories about people’s individual transformations from their journeys along the Santiago de Compostela and hopeful, that I too would discover answers to my life’s questions. The legend goes that if you keep an open mind, and listen to your intuition, gut feeling, or the voice inside you (whatever you wish to call it), you will find answers to what you seek. Now ready for a life changing experience, this proposition could not have come at a better time.
As we entered the lobby hotel a sobering moment occurred when the receptionist informed us we did not have a confirmed reservation. My heart skipped a beat as my dear sibling and I, found ourselves now homeless for a week. A young man overheard our conversation and said, “follow the road along the coast to the town of Collioure, there you will find a place to stay. However, you should hasten since the road is narrow and extremely dangerous in the dark.” With not a minute to waste we hurried away and hoped that the steep cliff that led to the ocean below would not crumble under our reckless driving.
As we approached the seaside town, relief quickly dissolved as we saw store fronts boarded up, shops and restaurants closed and no sign of life anywhere. Finally, at the edge of town appeared a small dimly lit boutique hotel which had a vacancy sign out front. After settling in and warming up by the fireside, the manager directed us to town for dinner. Bundled in our warmest clothes, we walked the narrow wet streets until we spotted a lantern glowing in the distance. As we raced towards the light to get in out of the cold damp air, we found ourselves in a bar with a handful of locals.
Trying to regain a sense of control from our earlier misfortune, I pulled a road map of France from my bag and we began searching for an alternative route. In a matter of moments, we noticed two men circling our table, then three, then four. One man asked with a heavy French accent, “Where are you trying to go?” We explained our quest to drive through the Pyrenees to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port where we would begin the pilgrimage to Santiago. A look of disbelief flashed on their faces followed with a quick response of, “that’s impossible the roads through the Pyrenees are closed this time of year due to the snow. You will have to go around the mountains if you intend to make this journey.” We asked if they could show us the way and with one endearing reply we heard, but of course Ma Cheri!
They immediately got to work re-marking the map and though produced a perfect plan, cautioned us to ask for help along the way since the weather conditions could change without warning. Within the hour six complete strangers earned our trust, gave us new roads to travel, and invited us to join them for dinner. The kitchen prepared a large terraine of hardy beef stew, platters of crusty homemade bread, and a delicious red wine served straight from the tap. No label, no cork just a blend of grapes from the local region that served as the perfect elixer for getting acquainted with these new fun-loving souls.
That night was a turning point for me as I lay in bed realizing the “Camino” had already begun. I now saw the mix-up at the spa as a blessing and knew that personal growth would unfold not by focusing on reaching the destination of Santiago but through all the twist and turns this trip would undoubtedly throw in my path.
Because of the terrible weather conditions and the fact that half of France and Spain appeared closed, we ended up driving somewhat parallel to the Camino by following the signs instead of walking the trail to Santiago. It was the best road trip and personal growth experience of my life and I cherish the memories of the kind and generous people who befriended us along the way.
In preparing for the new year that is just weeks away, I encourage you to set goals for bringing in the life you want, but take from the lesson I learned, if things don’t happen the way you imagine, sometimes what you get has a better benefit than what you envisioned.
Happy New Year everyone!
Posted by Vickie at 3:02 PM