October 18, 2015
San Vicente de la Barquera to Buelna 11.5 miles
Today was our first day alone after four days of having hiking partners. We missed them very much, but I suppose it was good to get back into a routine and re-focus on reaching Santiago. We had a good start this morning; both of us felt strong and we moved fast, tearing up the trail. The hike was a beautiful one along the coast. The terrain was rocky, giving the coast a wild feel.
That afternoon we stopped at a private albergue in Buelna for the night. We roomed with three friends we’d made earlier in the week, Sylvie from Canada, who was hiking solo, and Michel from France, hiking with his brother-in-law Eric. We also met some new people, including a German couple who started in Santander and were doing a combination of hiking and bussing to Santiago on their two-week vacation, and three younger folks, an Australian, a German, and a Dutchman.
The man from the Netherlands had recently graduated from law school and was hiking the Camino before starting to look for a job. He told me that he had lived in rural Minnesota for a year as a foreign exchange student, and it opened his eyes to what “real” Americans are. From talking to people throughout our hike, we saw that much of the world sees Americans a certain way, and the stereotype is not an entirely positive one. The young man (I wish I could remember his name–it was something very complicated and foreign to my ears) said that he gained a sincere respect for Americans by living amongst working-class Midwesterners, and he felt that you can’t really understand or judge any country until you’ve spent some time there.
We agreed wholeheartedly. That’s one of the reasons that we’re traveling–to move beyond the surface and the stereotypes and come to a better understanding about the world beyond our home borders. We also hope that we can be good ambassadors for our country and show Europeans how awesome “real” Americans are! 🙂