The journey from Grado to Salas…new friends and new perspectives

Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela

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Buenos Días, amigos! Como estas? (Okay that is about it for my Spanish… learning more every day though!)

Actually, I have been using Google translate to have some pretty decent conversations with people on the Camino, albeit it is a bit awkward to walk and type at the same time! 🙂 But I do have to share with you this wonderful new app I found that allows me to speak into the iPhone and in near-realtime it translates to the language of choice. It is amazing! I have used it to have conversations in Spanish, Italian and Portugese, and it has really opened up the communications channels between pilgrims. People are passing the phone back and forth, speaking into it in their native tongue, and it translates into the language of the other person the are talking to. It’s brilliant! Check it out: Speak & Translate, it is an absolutely brilliant tool! Now back to the journey…

Grado to Salas

Despite a fitful night listening to dogs barking on the streets of Grado, I woke up fairly early and went down for a quick breakfast, cup of coffee and a few chats with the other pilgrims. The breakfast room was full of people and conversation and laughter, and there were no empty tables available. So I asked a young woman sitting by herself if I could sit in one the empty chairs at her table. She replied “yes” in English (!) and in between quick gulps of food and sips of coffee we chatted and I learned that she was from Toronto, Canada and on her first Camino. The conversation was brief as we both wanted to get on our way…so we said “Buen Camino” and went on our way. More on this young woman a little later…

The hike out of Grado was pretty steep as the trail rose over 1000 feet in a relatively short time. While I was climbing I was treated to a stunning sunrise as the sun worked its way through the mist over the sleepy, agrarian countryside:

As the sun broke through, the outlines and shapes of this beautiful land started to sharpen and life started its day (or maybe I just started to see it):

This was such a stunning start to my morning that I didn’t notice I had already climbed 1,000 feet and was starting to level out onto a beautiful country lane lined with a stunning hydrangea wall:

What a glorious morning! I loved waking up to the world this way and feeling I was waking up with it, truly happy to be alive and on the Camino.

As I walked up the mountain and by the rolling farmland, I was presented with a grand vista of the valley on the other side:

As I started my descent down into the valley, a couple of young men caught up with me on the trail. They were laughing and smiling and talking, and stopped at a bridge to take a photo. They were speaking English, so I asked them if they would like me to take a photo of them together. They said yes and I took their picture — here they are (I asked if I could share their photo and stories in my blog post and they said yes):

After taking the photo we just naturally started walking together. No one said a thing, no one asked, it just happened naturally and the conversation just flowed. Their names are Ken and Kyle and they are brothers, originally hailing from Portland, Oregon. They were hiking the Camino with their father who had left the aubergue a few hours earlier to get on the trail (he’s an early morning guy, they are not — sounds familiar:)) The older brother Ken went to Carleton College in Minnesota (wonderful liberal arts college…my bias), and when I asked Kyle where he went to school he simply said, “Carleton…my brother really liked it so I went too.” It was clear that that these two brothers really liked hanging out together, a sight to warm a dad’s heart. I asked them where they were living now and found out they both live and work in San Francisco, Ken at Blend and Kyle at Air BnB, and they both just love to be outside. They were bright and thoughtful lads, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with them. But I soon saw that they were ready to motor to try and catch their dad, so I bid them farewell, and soon they disappeared in front of me. Buen Camino, Ken and Kyle.

As I continued my walk to Salas, through the small and lovely towns of Doriga and Cornellana, I continued to be touched by the beauty of Asturias:

Beautiful, no? I walked alone for the next couple of hours, enjoying the peace and quiet, lost in thoughts of my own sons and how much I thought all three of them would love the Camino. One day.

Around noon I crossed the Nonaya river, meandered through the cute yet bustling town of Cornellana, and started to climb again on a path up the hillside, just past the Monastery of San Salvador, a ~1,000 year old monastery still in operation.

I enjoyed the shade of the trees while climbing the hillside as it was starting to get hot. After a bit of hard walking, I saw two people on the trail ahead of me, and as I approached them I saw that it was Christine from breakfast and her friend Adrienne. I offered to take a photo of them as they didn’t have one from this section of the Camino, and the said yes. As with Ken and Kyle, I asked if I could present their photo and stories in my post and they also said yes:

Again without a word, we starting walking and talking together on the Camino. These young women were also very bright, engaging and articulate, both having graduated from college in Canada with undergraduate and graduate degrees, and both working hard to make their way in the world. Christine works for the Canadian government in an agency chartered with supporting families that are victims of violence, and was very well-versed and clear spoken in her role in creating or running programs to help these families. We was passionate about her work and it came through in what she shared. Adrienne had just finished her masters degree and was working as a graphic/digital artist for a firm that creates teaching aids, tools and apps. She was excited about her new role and new company (just started in June), but she also shared a very insightful comment that this was a tough transition. When I asked her to say a bit more, she said that transitioning from college to “real life” is hard; you have been in school your whole life — elementary, junior high, high school, undergrad, maybe graduate school — and then it’s over. The event is celebrated but then it’s time to start work, earn money, pay bills and the only structure there is is just that…and that it is a bit unsettling and takes time to get in a rhythm that works. Wow! That comment really hit me because I have been talking (selfishly) about my transition and how “unsettling” it is, when my wonderful, recently graduated college daughter Natalie, has probably been experiencing some of the same things that Adrienne described. Further, maybe this transition home has been hard on Jill or the other family members. Man, I really need to get out of my own “deal” and learn to be more empathetic… the first lesson of the Camino. After this wonderfully enlightening talk, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Buen Camino, Christine and Adrienne.

By this time it was late afternoon and I was close to Salas, the beautiful medieval town of Salas. What a place! I felt like I had gone back in time:

As I walked into town this young woman approached me in front of the little grocery store and asked in perfect English if I had a place to stay yet or if I was hungry. I said yes, I had already booked Hotel Castillo de Valdes, but I had no plans for lunch. She asked if I could come up for lunch at her and her husband’s new hotel/albergue/restaurant. She said her husband made the best paella and that I would not be disappointed. I said yes, I would go after I checked in and dropped everything off in my room.

Around 4 pm I walked to their place, located right on the Camino but at the far end of town…5 minutes walk, but after all of the other aubergues and hotels. When I saw it I was stunned – it was brand new and beautiful! So tastefully done and with views to spare – check it out:

I especially loved the all-wood finishes and the painting of the Camino Primitivo under the bar. Patricia and her husband came over to the table, he introduced himself, and then asked me what I would like to eat. He asked if the “pilgrim menu” was okay and I said yes. I am not sure pilgrims could eat any better!

Sorry about this last picture, I took a bite before I took the photo! 🙂

Actually, it was this Brazilian dessert that brought the story of Casa Sueno to me. Patricia told me that she was from Brazil and came to Spain to walk the Camino Frances. She was a lawyer in a very large firm in São Paulo, doing mergers and acquisitions for large corporate clients in Brazil (explains her proficiency with english). Well…on the Camino Frances she met her husband and she said it was “love at first sight.” She was very stressed at that point in her life and decided to marry her husband, leave Brazil, and build a place on the Camino. Now she and her husband are the proud owners Case Sueno (Dream House), and working hard to get the business going (only opened for 3 months). I gave her several suggestions and she wrote them all down, including getting into the Camino guidebooks (I showed her several popular ones), the Camino apps that have embedded booking tools (e.g., Wise Pilgrim), and also thinking about demand gen using social media. It was a fairly intense conversation as she knows all of this but has very little time, as she also has a 15-month old baby! But I saw in this little family a passion and drive to make their dream (house) work. I told her I would do everything I could to help them be successful, including connecting her to my dear friend from Stanford, Raphael Silva, as he is also Brazilian, also worked for big corporate in Brazil (Bank Itau), but now he is moving over to to run a private albergue on the Camino Frances in Vega de Valcarce. She was both excited and grateful to have these conversations, and said we would keep in touch, and of course she wished me a Buen Camino.

Dear friends, the reason I spent so much time introducing you to these wonderful people and sharing their stories, is that it hit me that the Camino is a metaphor for life. People come into our lives, sometimes for a brief moment sometimes longer, for reasons we don’t know and maybe won’t know unless we open up a little and share a bit of our life journey with them, ask them questions, and sincerely care about their answers. All of these people you briefly met today — Ken, Kyle, Christine, Adrienne and Patricia — all have different stories and different perspectives, yet all of them influenced my journey on the Camino. I only shared a sliver of what we talked about, but hopefully it gave you some insight into life on the Camino if you are open to it. And my learning — other than the clarion call to continue my journey in developing true empathy on a deeper level with my family and friends — is to appreciate what different people bring to the table, their perspectives, their wisdom, and their stories. I think it’s a lesson for us all to welcome more people into our lives.

Lesson #3 of the Camino.

Buen Camino,

Brian

9 thoughts on “The journey from Grado to Salas…new friends and new perspectives”

  1. Ah, the things we can tune into when blessed with the time to do so! Enjoy this opportunity to discover the “little things” in life.

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  2. Hey Brian I feel like I’m walking this with you – it’s that vivid. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Also – do you have a Strava or Runkeeper type of app? I personally find myself going to your very first post where you show the map and I try to visually place your start and end points each time. If you don’t mind, can you try to show a visual map start/end with the path walked in each of your posts if it ain’t too much to ask.

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    1. Brian- Thanks so much for sharing such insightful and touching moments.We are all learning through you. Enjoy the journey and please keep writing.

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  3. I had the privilege of walking with Patricia on her Camino. She was a joy and a breath of fresh air. Someday I hope to return to be in her presence in her new life.

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