Conversation Can Be Overrated

infj-head

One of the things I’m going to enjoy most about The Camino is the chance to not have to talk that much. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, and I enjoy exchanging ideas with folks I meet. However, I’m also an introvert, and too much social interaction is emotionally and physically draining for me.

Tonight, for instance, I went to dinner with some clients whom I also consider friends. They’re fun to hang out with, and we had a great time talking about both business and personal matters over steaming bowls of pho at our favorite local Vietnamese place. But the strain of adopting a chatty, extroverted nature for a client meeting is really hard on me. I can do it; in fact, a decent subset of my acquaintances know me as a pretty outgoing person. It’s just that it takes every ounce of energy I have to be that kind of girl, and the aftereffects are sometimes major.

After dinner, my energy levels took a nosedive. I had plans to go out to a concert, but by the time I got home I knew that there was no way that could happen. I was exhausted. All that talking had worn me out for the night. The most I could do was put on pajamas and curl up on the couch.

On my walk, I’ll have hours of quiet every day, but also (hopefully, anyway) plenty of opportunities to meet new people and get to know their stories. I won’t have to pretend I’m anything other than what I am – a traveler enjoying the scenery, thinking about life, and looking forward to the next albergue. Ah, I’m feeling more relaxed already. G’nite folks!

Various Negative Reactions To My Decision To Walk To Santiago De Compostela

When writing the story of your life, don't let anyone else hold the pen.

Hand-drawn Typography by Carrie Chang. Click thru to visit her Behance page.

With my excitement, it was easy to forget that other people might not have the same amount of faith in my proposed journey as I have. That’s one of the reasons I needed to start this blog – the real life reactions were beginning to get disheartening. Since coming to terms with the fact that this trip was definitely happening, I’ve gotten a lot of confused stares, a few politely-worded questions to the basic tune of, “Why on earth would anyone want to do that?” and only a small handful of genuine expressions of interest out of everyone I’ve told.

The interested folks: my three best girlfriends, a friend’s mom, a couple of other friends, and a coworker.

The disinterested folks: my parents, the rest of my coworkers.

The people who think I’m wasting time / wasting money / otherwise making a stupid mistake / am just strange or insane: my significant other, the rest of my family, a decent chunk of friends, pretty much everyone else that I’ve told in passing.

A lot of my friends think that walking 800km is kind of crazy. I get it. Some people just don’t like being that physically active. I’m comfortable with people liking to be inactive, so why can’t they be comfortable with the alternative? I’ll probably never get it.

A couple of folks have asked me what I think I’ll accomplish. They hear “pilgrimage” and think that I’ve gone soft in the head, like I’m going to start wearing a hair shirt and toting a life-sized cross around. I wouldn’t get that reaction if I said I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail, even though plenty of people hike the Trail to find themselves and enjoy their surroundings, which is exactly what I’ll be doing. If pilgrimage is a quest to to pay homage, why can’t one use it to pay homage to the world, and in doing so, find his or her place in that world? True, I go with some religious questions in mind, but I also go to meet other seekers, to explore medieval architecture, to pit my weak body against the much stronger terrain, and to have a story to tell. Shouldn’t one of these things be enough? Why is it that I can go through the whole list without seeing a single sparkle in the other person’s eye? It’s heartbreaking to know there are people out there with such small imaginations.

A number of people are treating this like I’m talking about taking an extra-long vacation, and see me as somehow selfish for making these plans. Americans typically get two paid vacation weeks a year, compared to four weeks in most European countries. Many Americans – in the past, myself included – take their work with them on vacation, and don’t take their full vacation time each year. We’re workaholics, and it’s killing us. There’s no upside. And technically, even though I’m working 40 hours a week at an agency, I’m a freelancer, so I should be able to dictate my own work schedule. I’ve given up a higher paycheck and health insurance in order to have a job that gives me some choice in my life. Even so, there’s a good chance that I might come back to find I have no job waiting for me. But really, if they can’t hold my desk, is it really a job I want to keep?

One person, in particular, has made it clear that they don’t believe in my decision or ability to carry it out. Planning an expenditure of this scale when I don’t have the funds to begin with, especially knowing that I will surely suffer afterward, just makes them mad with me for being stupid and wasteful and willfully ignorant. This is probably the hardest burden for me to bear on a daily basis, that someone close to me plain doesn’t think I’m capable of achieving a beloved goal. They want me to do what they do – obsess about the future without ever living today. What they don’t, maybe can’t, understand is that I’ve looked at this from all angles. I know the hole I’m potentially digging for myself. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is having the faith that what I’ve decided will not only come to pass, but will be the right thing for me. I’ve decided to LIVE, even if they’re too afraid to make the same decision.

Out of everyone I’ve spoken to, only one person – my best friend – has looked at me with some understanding when I told her what I was planning. She might not have understood the compulsion, but she understands me. She understood, like I do, that this pilgrimage is not an option. It’s happening, one way or the other. As it turns out, she was one of the first that I told once I’d finally made the call that it was going to be this year. I’m so happy that she was the one, because it’s kind of painful trying to speak my soul to other people and having them write me off so easily. I don’t think I can be any clearer: this is of massive importance to me. If I were having a baby or getting married, people would drop everything to congratulate me for embarking on a new path. The irony is that here I am, literally embarking on a new path, and no one gets it.

One thing I’m learning through this process is that I can’t afford to take too much time to be angry or hurt. I definitely can’t try to spew irritation, disgust, or misguided language back at people who try to influence me to change my mind. I truly believe that if I just keep working at this, and putting my back into it, so to speak, only good will come out of my decision. Above all, I need to stay true to the spirit of this journey, and that means staying true to my heart, inviting only the best energy in. Kind of like karma, I guess.

One way or the other, it definitely helps that I have you, kind readers. I really appreciate you all being here, and coming back to read on as I progress in my plans. You’re giving me some of the strength I need to make this journey happen.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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So How Do I Afford This Pilgrimage?

Cute, but I’m gonna need my 10 cents back now, kitty.

Ugh. Got kicked in the face with a strong dose of reality late last night (actually very, very early this morning). I owe a LOT in taxes this year as a result of not clearly understanding the ins and outs of claiming a loss on my taxes. There’s more to the story, but it’s too tedious to explain here. Let’s just chalk it up to idiocy and move on to making a solution (then never make the same mistake again.)

Overall, I’m in OK shape. It’s not like I’m being sent to debtors’ prison or anything – I’ll pay what I can, then make monthly installments until I’m all settled up with the government. I won’t starve, though according to my calculations, I’ll have to cut my grocery bill in half, and give up my little splurges, like the gym, manicures, and waxing. Oh well, the rest of the world is doing it, so no tears allowed there. Plus, I can always look at it as training for the Camino 🙂

But where it really gets hairy (ha!) is that after paying my regular bills, putting aside current taxes, and paying my monthly invoice for 2013 taxes, I will not have anything to put aside for this pilgrimage. So it looks like it’s time to get a second job, and possibly to start another side endeavor on Etsy or Ebay.

There are two things you should know about me if you haven’t figured it out already:

  1. I’m resourceful. True, I love my creature comforts and fashion splurges now, but I grew up poor and learned from my parents how to make the most of the little things. I can always find a way to make money when I need it – so that’s what I’m going to do.
  2. I don’t take “no” for an answer. I’m a Scorpio, which is a fixed sign, meaning that once I set my intentions, not much can shake me off of the trail. One of my favorite books, Linda Goodman’s Love Signs, says that Scorpios never give up – they just change their minds about what they originally wanted. No changing my mind on this trip, though. At the very worst, I’ll have to put it off for another year – but things will have to get pretty bad before that happens.

So today I contacted some old clients to let them know my new availability, then started a new profile on oDesk, with plans to adjust my schedule a bit to make room to become a virtual assistant. I figure that if I can squeeze in at least a few hours a day of admin work, and hopefully even pick up some additional freelance marketing jobs, I’ll be able to work my way into a slightly more profitable position. I’ll need to get a lot more regimented in my daily schedule (no more sleeping in), but with some luck and a little elbow grease, I’ll get back on track.

So…anyone looking for a virtual assistant?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Thawing inch by inch | Never Stationary
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  3. Home | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  4. It wasn’t even a nokia | Casually Short
  5. Dale And The Surreal | The Jittery Goat
  6. A Memory from the Kitchen Years | AS I PLEASE
  7. Second Chance | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
  8. The Affair: Daily Prompt | alienorajt
  9. Things I regret | muffinscout
  10. Into the Forest I Wish I Went | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  11. DP Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way | Sabethville
  12. in your mother tongue, | y
  13. Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way | Incidents of a Dysfunctional Spraffer
  14. Climbing the Stick — Redux | Exploratorius
  15. Hindsight, the Road not Taken and a Conversation with a Man Named Nicodemus | meanderedwanderings
  16. Wish Upon A Star | marjanitalarosa
  17. Daily Post: Bye, Bye Paris | Willow Blackbird
  18. Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way | The Wandering Poet
  19. Equivocation | La Gatita Oscura
  20. It’s time to complain (Again) | Phelio a Random Post a Day
  21. No regrets | A mom’s blog
  22. Redo from Start! | L5GN
  23. His plan for me (pantoum) | peacefulblessedstar
  24. While I’m Away From You My Son | Raising Jed
  25. Too Much… | Tommia’s Tablet
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  28. No Regrets Here | The Shotgun Girls
  29. Major Alert | Wanderlein
  30. OmG … Noodles Grow On My Head | So Not Simple
  31. Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way « Mama Bear Musings
  32. re-set | sarahscapes
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  34. Regrets In My Heart | Flowers and Breezes
  35. Daily Prompt: February 11 | A Balmy Life
  36. Iteration – photo | alienorajt
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Spanish Lessons For The Road

Image via Brahmaloka or Bust.

Click through to read “The Yoga of Learning a Language” on Brahmaloka Or Bust.

Here’s a dirty little secret – I don’t speak a second language. It’s a shameful thing to admit, but thus far it hasn’t terribly affected my ability to travel and explore other countries on my own. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in places where people don’t speak English, and aside from a few rough moments (like trying to get my hair styled in a tiny Croatian town, or trying to find the nearest train station in Bratislava), I’ve been pretty lucky. There was the run-in with the knife-wielding, potentially deranged guy in Paris, but that was less about not speaking French than not spotting the nuances of insanity right off the bat.

This moderate success at travel in the past is probably why I’m being kind of lazy about learning Spanish in preparation for my pilgrimage. Well, that and the knowledge that lots of other pilgrims travel without a great command of Spanish and live to tell the tale. There will be thousands (or at least hundreds) of other people on The Camino when I walk it, after all, and I’m bound to meet other people who speak English. There’s a saying that The Camino will provide; I’m just hoping it provides me with a translator.

But therein lies the rub. If I fail to learn at least a little bit of some other language (aside from the minimal German I currently own, which mostly boils down to ordering beer and saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” – all extremely useful, but not so much in Spain), I’m going to be just one more jerk American who can’t be bothered to be a world citizen. I really don’t want to be that person. That person sucks.

I’ve just never been that good at languages, though. I took Spanish all through high school and have no recollection of more than the very basics like “water” and “bathroom” (as well as, oddly, how to order fish at a restaurant). In college, I took Latin and all but failed out every semester. The primary reason that I didn’t move further with my studies in medieval history after undergrad was that I’d have to learn Italian, German, and French to even apply to grad school, which for me, both then and now, is a completely incomprehensible goal.

I will admit that the one language I’d desperately love to learn is Italian. I adore Italy. It’s not a romantic thing – though it is an undeniably romantic place. It’s the fashion, the architecture, the lifestyle, and those beautiful Italian men, so quick to flirt, so deliciously unreliable. (OK, so maybe it’s just a little bit about the romance.) Since I plan to make a quick pit stop in Umbria before heading off to Spain, maybe I should learn Italian, too…

In all seriousness, though, I’ve been studying a little bit of Spanish and German over the last couple of months using a great free website/app called Duolingo. If you haven’t tried it out yet, I’d definitely recommend signing up now. It’s a fun way to pick up some vocabulary and test out your skill in both reading and speaking other languages. But I’m not convinced that I’ll become adept at conversational Spanish with solo online study, so I’ll probably end up joining a Meetup group to chat en español over coffee.

Did you walk the Camino without learning Spanish first? Weigh in here on how it worked out for you!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Daily Post: Take That, Rosetta! | Basically Beyond Basic
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  3. Let’s talk in verse | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  4. Teachable Moments Are The Last Refuge Of Tyrants | The Jittery Goat
  5. Concrete Navy | Exploratorius
  6. Daily Prompt: Take That Rosetta | Incidents of a Dysfunctional Spraffer
  7. Lovely language of love and lust – Daily Prompt | alienorajt
  8. Cat Tongues are rough | Purple Rosemary
  9. Daily Prompt: Take That, Rosetta! | Under the Monkey Tree
  10. Daily Post: Take That, Rosetta! | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  11. Screaming in Unheard Tongues | 365 days of defiance
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  14. Daily Prompt: Take That, Rosetta! | Step It Up
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  17. Arena de Verona – Bucket List | My Little Avalon
  18. Daily prompt : Take That Rosetta | La chica de la burbuja
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Pilgrim, Who Is Calling You? (Poem from the Camino de Santiago)

A poem by Eugenio Garibay Baños, written on a wall along the Camino between Navarrete and Najera. Translation by Google & Camino de Santiago Forum member Vigdis. Click through for more info.

I
Polvo, barro sol y lluvia
es Camino de Santiago
Millares de peregrines
y mas de un millar de años

Peregrino, puien te llama?
Que fuerza oculta te atrae?
Ni el Campo de las Estrellas
ni las grandes catedrales

No es la bravura Navarra,
ni el vino de los riojanos
ni los mariscos gallegos
ni los campos castellanos

II
Peregrino, Quien te llama?
Que fuerza oculta te atrae?
Ni las gentes del Camino
Ni las costrumbes rurales

No es la historia y la cultura
ni el gallo de La Calzada
ni el palacio de Gaudi,
ni el Castillo Ponferrada

III
Codo lo veo al pasar,
y es un gozo verlo todo,
mas la voz que a mi me llama
la siento mucho mas hondo.

La fuerza que a mi me empuja
la fuerza que a mi me atrae,
no se explicarla ni yo
Solo el de Arriba lo sabe!

E.G.B.

And with Google translator (not correctly, but we all understand it):

I
Dust, mud, sun and rain
Camino de Santiago is
Thousands of pilgrims
and more than a thousand years

Pilgrim who is calling you?
What hidden force attracts you?
Neither the Field of Stars
or the great cathedrals

It is not the bravery of Navarre
or the wine of La Rioja,
neither Galician seafood nor
the Castillian countryside

II
Pilgrim, who calls you?
What hidden force attracts you?
Neither the people of the Way
Nor their rural customs.

Not the history and culture
or the Rooster’s Causeway
or the Palace of Gaudi
or Castillo Ponferrada

III
It is a joy to see everything in passing
but the voice that calls me
I feel much more deeply.

The force that pushes me
force that attracts me,
I cannot explain,
Only the One above knows!

Your Backpack Is A Portable Laundry Line: Washing Clothes on the Camino

CroatianLaundry

Laundry on a line in Split, Croatia; photo by Anna Harris (2012).

One of the things I’ll have to get used to while walking the Camino is wearing the same thing, day after day. It’s advised that your pack only be about 10% of your body weight, which currently puts my pack’s ideal weight at about 15 lbs. I plan on hiking as lightly as possible, which should mean two changes of clothes, max.

As you might imagine, wearing the same thing every day is not only boring, but also potentially stinky, especially when you’re walking between 15 and 20 miles per day. From what I’ve been reading, there are opportunities to wash and dry clothing in machines once a week or so. In some cases, it’s even possible to have your laundry done for you. However, it seems that many people end up hand washing essential pieces in the afternoon after a day’s walk, then hanging them out to dry on a laundry line at their alburgue (a type of hostel along the Camino). Another option is to hang smaller wet clothes, like socks, on the back of your backpack as you walk the next day.

I hate washing clothes. Even with the modern convenience of a washer and dryer in my apartment, I still put off washing clothes until I’ve run out of all of my favorite t-shirts. More than just washing clothes, I especially hate hand washing clothes. I like soaping and rinsing them, but I really dislike wringing them out. When I was a girl, still living at home, one of my chores was to do all of the laundry, even when our washing machine died and this meant washing everyone’s clothes by hand. It’s just not something I ever want to do again, and I try to avoid buying delicate clothing as a result.

As lame as it may sound, I think this might be a small issue on the trip. Will I just deal with it, and hand wash when needed? Probably. Or will I hold out until the last minute, desperately hoping to run into a washing machine in the next town over? Well, there’s a good chance I might do this for awhile, too. One way or the other, it’s sure to be an adventure.

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Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words

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Contemplation, by Sheri Lucas Rowlands.

This week’s writing challenge begins with an image (“Contemplation,” above). As it happens, today’s post was going to be about a spot on the map that seems to naturally reel in those in need of serious contemplation. I’m talking about Finisterre, on the western coast of Spain.

There are many routes a pilgrim can take to Santiago de Compostela. The most popular (and the route that I’ll be taking, at least this first time around) is the Camino Frances, which starts in St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in France, and crosses the Pyrenees into the Basque region of Spain, then through the Meseta region and on to Galicia and Santiago de Compostela. It’s a little less than 800km, typically covered on foot, but also tackled on bicycle and horseback.

Even though St. Jean is one of the traditional starting points for the journey, peregrinos can start out just about anywhere. In the middle ages, the pilgrimage started from your front door, and some people still do leave their homes and walk all the way to Santiago. No matter where a person kicks off their trip, the recognized end point is Santiago, where pilgrims who have teken on the last 100k by foot, horse, or bicycle receive their Compostela, the official document signifying completion of the journey.

A simple Compostela, via www.caminosantiagocompostela.com.

Not all pilgrims end their walk at Santiago, however. A tradition dating from pre-Christian times encourages pilgrims to to keep walking about 80km further down the road, to a place called Finisterre, once thought to be the literal end of the earth. When the pilgrimage was first established in the 8th century, pilgrims visited Finisterre to pick up a scallop shell for proof that they’d completed the journey. Today, some pilgrims-turned-celebrants burn their possessions and jump naked into the sea to be cleansed and reborn. Others just sit and have a long, quiet reflection on the last month of blisters, mud, and newly established friendships.

After careful thought, I believe that once I reach Santiago, I’ll take a break for a day or two, then continue on to Finisterre. There are positives and negatives to this decision. I’m sure I’ll be bone tired. I’ll be really annoyed with wearing the same two outfits for a month. If other accounts are to be believed, my boots might be wearing out. Unless something drastic happens to help my back and hips get in better shape over the next few months, both will be screaming in agony, and possibly preventing a good night’s sleep.

Finisterre

Contemplating life at the end of the world.

On the other hand, for me, seeing the sea is always – always – a positive. I’ve heard that reaching Santiago can be somewhat of a letdown; after so many days of walking, you get to expect that the proverbial finish line will be home to a choir of angels, or at least some fireworks. Then you arrive and find that it’s just a place, like any other. A beautiful city and an imposing cathedral, yes, but still just a city. I’m pretty sure that my heart will be breaking as I say goodbye to my new friends and have to start thinking seriously about returning to the “real world.” I will need the ocean to hold me up while I put the pieces back together. Maybe I, too, will be burn my possessions and jump naked into the ocean, to be reborn in the waters off of Finisterre.

Gee, I hope they have a clothing store nearby…

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One Step Closer to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port!

BrierlyGuide&FrancisBook

Today a very special package arrived in the mail, made even more exciting by the fact that I thought it would be a few more days before these particular goodies would arrive. Enclosed in the unassuming Amazon packaging were two books that come highly recommended – The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, by John Brierley, and Francis of Assisi: The life and afterlife of a medieval saint, by Andre Vauchez.

Almost every modern pilgrim’s account that I’ve read includes reference to Brierley’s guide, which seems to be the gold standard in Camino guidebooks for English-speakers. Likewise, though there are many, many biographies of St. Francis of Assisi, Vauchez’s 2012 work is highly acclaimed. The Englewood Review of Books says of Francis of Assisi, “One comes away from [this] book not only with a new understanding of Francis, but also with a renewed appreciation for the relationship between sanctity and authentic humanity.” I sincerely hope that this applies in my case.

The Camino Plan

After some serious thought, I’ve realized that my (greatly) varied interests can’t all be reflected properly on Compass & Quill. Sometimes it can be hard for me to see where one pastime or interest ends and another begins – I get sucked into wanting to talk about it all here, but it ends up watering me – or at least the me that you see – down. I’m trying to figure out how to get more focused, and part of that’s going to be breaking my thoughts down and putting them in the appropriate places.

To that end, I’ve started a new blog that will focus only on my upcoming pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, including thoughts on St. Francis, charity, travel, spiritual growth, practical concerns, book reviews, and any related research. If you’re interested in following along, you can find me at The Camino Plan, or click “The Camino Plan” in the menu, above. I hope you will.

Book Review: In Movement There Is Peace – Stumbling 500 Miles Along The Way To The Spirit

There is no shortage of books chronicling the pilgrim’s path to Santiago de Compostela. From travel guide to personal memoir, spiritual exploration to historical documentation, there is something for every armchair pilgrim who wishes to travel the Camino by way of words. This week’s book review focuses on a book written by a pair of married peregrinos from the United States, and how their journey tested their boundaries – as a couple, alone, and as part of a larger whole.

In Movement There Is Peace

Click through to view on Amazon. Image via the authors’ website, banxietyfree.com.

In Movement There is Peace: Stumbling 500 Miles Along the Way to the Spirit was written by Dr. Elaine Foster and her husband Joe Foster. The couple decided to walk to Santiago de Compostela almost on a whim, soon after Elaine resigned from her longstanding position as psychologist with the US Air Force. After years of counseling battleworn soldiers, she knew that it was time to address her own, sometimes overpowering, issues with anxiety. When Joe, fighting some demons of his own over the unexpected death of his beloved father, suggested it was time for a vacation, neither expected that they’d soon be boarding a plane to Spain to spend the next month navigating the ancient Camino Frances.

Constructed as both travel memoir and a series of daily lessons in overcoming anxiety, In Movement There is Peace explores a variety of topics relevant to both pilgrimage and everyday life. From learning to try new things, to coming to terms with sharing thoughts of disappointments or sorrow, to discovering what it means to truly give in and trust your life partner, the book examines how the simplest of actions – putting one foot in front of the other – can spark some of the greatest life shifts.

Clocking in at 308 pages, the book is organized in chapters loosely reflecting each day’s journey along The Camino, with Elaine and Joe each providing separate written descriptions of the day’s events. This allows the reader to not only see the journey from two points of view, but to also explore how very differently two people – even two people who spend every waking moment together – can see the same events. Travel enthusiasts will enjoy Joe’s descriptions of Spanish landscapes and history, as well as his ruminations on death, adventure and the mysterious ways of his life partner. Elaine’s bravery in discussing her own issues with social anxiety, trust following divorce, a somewhat shaky spiritual life, and the incredible physical pain she faced every day of the pilgrimage somehow only makes the trip seem even more worth its costs. Along the way, the couple meet a lively cast of characters who share their journey, peppering the story with laughter and tears as they all make their way to Santiago de Compostela.

For those thinking of taking to The Camino with a traveling companion should definitely read In Movement There is Peace before setting out on the journey, but that doesn’t mean that lone pilgrims should put this one aside. This is an excellent addition to the shelves of any would-be peregrino or peregrina.