October 25, 2015
Luarca to La Caridad, 17.5 miles
Today was a long but relatively unremarkable day. Tomorrow will be our last day in Asturias; when we cross the border into Galicia, we will be entering our last Spanish region and the one where the city of Santiago de Compostela sits. We are getting closer, a fact that is finally starting to feel real.
We arrived at the albergue in the late afternoon and were joined by several of the peregrinos that we had met in Luarca yesterday, including Hannah, a beautiful young German woman whom we’d seen on and off for the past week. She mostly keeps to herself but is friendly when you engage her in conversation. We also saw Pepe and Tony, a father and son team from Valencia, Spain, who are taking a week to section-hike the Camino to the border of Asturias. Language was a barrier, but they were both friendly, and we have stayed in the same albergue as them for the past three nights.
We had dinner with two other peregrinos, Detlef, from Germany, and Markus, from Switzerland. Detlef’s work enables him to set his own schedule and take off for several months at a time, and when he’s not working, he’s hiking the Camino or traveling. This is his fifth Camino, and when he reaches Santiago next week, he’s going to hop on a bus and go to Porto, where he’ll start the Portuguese Camino. Markus, on the other hand, was doing the Camino for the first time. He is married and has three children, and after recently quitting his job, he decided to take three weeks to walk a part of Camino del Norte. We met plenty of people like Markus on the Camino, people, like ourselves, in transition and trying to figure out what to do next with their lives. The Camino allows plenty of time to think about such things.
Detlef demonstrated a youthful enthusiasm for everything we discussed at dinner. He was especially curious about the fact that Dale and I had gotten rid of most of our belongings before coming to Europe. Detlef described us as minimalists, and I guess that’s what we are; we no longer have a home or furniture or a car, and most of our stuff fits into a single closet. And yet now, after living out of a backpack since August, it seems bizarre to think of the boxes full of clothes, shoes, and household items that are currently scattered amongst a few friends in Seattle and the rest stored in the closet of my childhood room. As my mother can attest, we could definitely get rid of more of our belongings.
Part of the conversation at dinner centered around how to go about doing just that. We all agreed that it’s not an easy thing to do. Detlef is still in the early stages of getting rid of belongings, and I think it’s fairly easy in this stage to see what items are superfluous and which ones you should keep. What Dale and I have left, on the other hand, are the items we either love the most or still find useful, or they’re things that we had a hard time letting go of back in June. It won’t be fun to go through the process again when we get back to Texas.
Dale recommended that Detlef read a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, whose principles we used when we went through the process of leaving Seattle. One of the main principles is, “Does it bring me joy?” Kondo’s assertion is that you should ask yourself this question about each item, and if it doesn’t move you, then you should get rid of it. There’s much, much more to this book than just that basic principle, and I don’t want to oversimplify her concepts, but it’s a good place to start. Deflef did purchase The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up later that evening, and he listened to the entire book over the next few days of hiking. It would become a frequent topic of conversation over the next week.
We intend to go through the process of all over again when we get back to Texas in December; we will attack those storage boxes. I doubt that I’ll get rid of so much that I survive with just a single backpack for all of my belongings; I have shoes and clothes and books that I love too much to say goodbye to. But still, there is much that can be culled. And the mental health benefits of removing material from your life are palpable. With each item gone, it’s like a tiny weight has been removed from my chest and I can breathe a little bit more freely. Try it. Get rid of something big or small, and see if it doesn’t make you feel just a little bit more free.