As you can probably tell, these first few weeks on the Camino were bittersweet – on one hand, we made great friends and enjoyed their company immensely, but on the other, physical pain really took its toll on our enjoyment of walking. Perhaps the biggest disappointment for me on the Camino happened during this week, when we made the very difficult decision to stay behind a day while our friends carried on. I actually felt quite devastated about this, because I thought we would never see them again, especially Steven and Manou, with whom we had become quite close. Little did we know that the Camino would have us meet them again. I also felt really lame for having to stop and recuperate so soon into the walk, when the rest of our friends were not suffering from anything. But, through this difficult time for us, we learned some important lessons. I think it is a bit strange to give lots of advice to people who are about to walk the Camino, because everyone’s Camino is different, but I would definitely impart these two lessons that we learned during this stage of the walk:

1) Take care of yourself before things get out of hand. I probably should have stopped for a rest sooner than we did, but we didn’t because we wanted to keep up with our friends. I think that made my situation worse in the long run. It also put a strain on our relationship, as Kyle had to learn to care for me at a whole new level. And remember, just because you suffer from a physical ailment and have to stop for a while, it does not mean that you are weak (an important lesson I had to learn). It will likely happen to everyone. In fact, two weeks or so later, we heard that several of the people in our original group of friends were having physical problems, and that most of them split up soon after they left us.

2) Know that you will always find new friends on the Camino. If you only walk with the same group the whole time, you may miss out on opportunities to meet new, amazing people. The day of walkers behind you may have people from your home country, people with the same interests as you, who can be just as good friends as those you bade farewell. This was an important lesson for us to learn. The period between losing our first group of friends and finding some new ones also gave us an opportunity to focus on each other, which I think is important if you are walking with your spouse. Also, like I mentioned above, you never know when you are going to meet up with old friends again. Our friends who went on before us never seemed that far away, especially when we could track their progress by finding their names in pilgrim guest books at churches and gites. And if you are keen enough to spot it, they may even leave messages for you on the trail – I unfortunately missed one from Steven, but his message got to me in the end via another pilgrim who saw it on the trail. The Camino has a way of keeping friends together, even when you are apart!

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