On the 8th of June back in 2012, I walked to The End of the Earth and found my bravery along the way. The end of the earth (also called Finnisterre) sits on the end of Cape Finnisterre, a rocky peninsula just beyond the town of Fisterra in the North West corner of Spain. In 2012, I had walked eight hundred kilometers across Spain to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino de Santiago. The day after I arrived in Santiago, I set out for Finnisterre, eighty-seven kilometers away.
On the morning of the 8th, I woke up on the top bunk of a rickety metal bunk bed in an alburgue in Olveiroa. A dozen pilgrims were still sleeping in the room. I had a bad uncomfortable sleep, so at first light, I climbed down from the bunk and got to a toilet before a line formed. After dressing and packing, I sat down and put on my shoes as everyone else started moving. Some pilgrims asked me questions, and I answered them politely even though I was not awake. My mood turned grumpy in the café as pilgrim friends chatted around me, so I left with my bag on my back.
Usually, I was fine once I started walking, but that morning, I was not fine. I was angry and annoyed on a dirt road filled with happy pilgrims. I walked past a smiling woman with her bare feet in a stream. She annoyed me with her contentment. My mind became a series of curse words.
When I was in first grade, I was told by my teacher that I had a bad temper. I soon learned not only how to behave correctly, but also how to suppress my anger internally. Besides, girls weren’t supposed to feel anger. We were the everything-nice gender. For decades, I criticized my anger instead of just letting myself feel it.
On the road out of Olveiroa, I had no reason to stop the stream of anger inside me. I seethed internally about rocks on the road or the color of someone’s backpack. And the rage gave me adrenaline. And I walked faster. And I kept raging. I didn’t want to walk thirty-one kilometers to Fisterra. I was done with this stupid walking. I was done with all of it. Curse word, cursing curse word.
Then I heard another voice in my head. It was not a voice saying I was a bad person. It was not a voice telling me to calm down. It was a voice that said, okay Jen, if today is your last day of walking, then you’re going all the way to the end of the earth. You’re gonna walk thirty-one kilometers.
Once I heard that voice, I calmed down. I was okay. Instead of pushing the rage away, I had let it flow, and it brought me back to myself and what I wanted to do. I had been scared of the distance and tired from the bad sleep, and all of that became the rage. Once the rage had burned off, I only had myself left, and I could deal with myself.
So I walked and walked. I was even nice to the happy pilgrims at rest stops. In the afternoon, I started feeling tired. I started making little goals—get to the tree, get to the sign. I sang songs to keep my body moving, but my energy was low.
“Helloooo Jennifer” A familiar voice said behind me. I turned around, and there was my Camino buddy Peter. We had last seen each other in Santiago before I left. I hadn’t expected to see him on the road. He had taken the bus from Santiago with the plan to walk the last few kilometers into Fisterra where he had booked a room at a pension.
“How are you?” Peter asked.
How often did I just say fine to answer that question? I don’t like being vulnerable. However, at that point, I was so tired that I had to be honest.
“I’m exhausted.” I said. Peter nodded. He understood. We started walking single file on the road. I focused on matching his pace and listening to his stories.
We walked into Fisterra where his pension had a room for me. Later that day, we walked to the end of the earth. I looked out at the Atlantic and realized it was okay to have internal rage and it was okay to allow myself to be vulnerable. I could do anything I set my mind to if I just stayed true to who I was. Then Peter and I walked back to town and had a great dinner. I slept well that night and woke up the next day feeling good.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.