"...But pilgrims together."
There's a song that people in L'Arche sing that starts with those lyrics. And it's absolutely true. It's amazing how close I grew to my fellow pilgrims even when we didn't speak the same language, didn't know each other's name, and only said "hola" and "buen camino" in passing. But there's still a deep connection there because we've walked the same journey, we have the same pains, and we're tired. So let's go drink some wine, eat some food, and (if possible) talk about it! (The two biggest topics of conversation among pilgrims: the weather and your feet.)
I was told that I'd meet some great people, and I expected to, but I didn't think the other pilgrims would be so wonderful! During the first two weeks, I would sometimes walk with and always have dinner with the same three people: Holly (an American living in Berlin), Jacqui (an Australian living in Berlin), and Hans. Hans is a 65-year-old Swiss man with unrivaled energy and enthusiasm. He's loud, fun, and fearless. Most of the time, we'd walk alone, but we'd always meet up for dinner (with wine of course). It was such an odd grouping, but it was wonderful.
Sadly, after two weeks, Holly and Jacqui went back to Berlin, and Hans walked farther or shorter than me one day, and I never saw him again. I was sad to lose my two musketeers and our D'Artagnan, but then I met a really lovely British couple (Joan and Chris), who became my new dinner companions. I think I ate alone for a grand total of 3 nights, and that was great, too. During my last few days, I met a few Americans that were my age, and we ate and hung out together. (BTW, out of the 100s of people I met or came across, I met only 7 Americans. I've met a total of 15 during all of my travels since February. Only 15! Of course, I love Americans, but it's nice to get a break, you know?)
And then there were other people that I met and saw everyday. I learned the names of some, but not all. Here's a brief list...
-Ulrika- the German version of Nancy Archer (a former L'Arche assistant). A little intense, but very friendly.
-Johannes- A German guy that walked the camino to figure some things out...after walking halfway, he figured everything out and left immediately to take care of it!
-Sonja- A German living in Ireland, running a pottery workshop for people with disabilities, including some core members from L'Arche Kilkenny! She had some gnarly blisters.
-Sebastien- Friendly Belgian guy. He walked really fast.
-Diego & Pedro- Two Spanish guys that Holly, Jacqui, and I spent quite a bit of time with. They definitely knew how to have a good time...
-The Spaniards- A group of older men that also knew how to have a good time. Maybe too good of a time. The most infamous was Eduardo, who was very, very fresh...in a bad way. He looked like Pat Toohey (another L'Arche person) without a goatee.
-Low Blood Sugar Lady- She didn't eat enough the first day, and she felt too faint to climb the Pyrenees, so she got a lift from a nice French man. She didn't speak English, so I never got her name. So for the rest of the camino, Holly, Jacqui, and I called her L.B.S.L. instead. The camino is definitely not a race, but we didn't like it when L.B.S.L. passed us.
-Dreads guy with the dog- French guy that camped out with his dog every night. He could have been a model.
-Rainbow umbrella lady- French lady that I thought was stupid for carrying a giant umbrella with her. And then it hailed and rained buckets, and I definitely broke the ninth commandment. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house...or giant rainbow umbrella.
-Beautiful blond German girl that lived in "the bubble"- All of the male pilgrims were fawning over her. Watch the 30 Rock episode called "The Bubble" to see what I mean.
It was just really nice that no matter how far I walked, no matter who I started the day with, I always had some companions on the journey, figuratively and literally. I never felt lonely. I really felt taken care of. Just as in life, no one is alone, truly.