Conversation with Kelli |
Kelli and her husband Jeff moved to Spain in Spring of 2018, after she had walked the Camino Francés from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela. In her blog Viva España you’ll find everything they went through to get their visas, make the move and set up house as well as their new life in Spain. It’s very informative, especially if you are thinking of making a similar move; and… it’s so much fun too! If you’d like to know more about Kelli’s experience… keep reading our conversation!
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I live in Valencia Spain with my husband. We moved here after walking the Camino Francés. I’m in the editing of my first novel and am learning what it means to live in a country where everything from the language, customs, traffic laws, food and bureaucracy is so different from my own. But we are loving it more and more every day.
When did you first hear about the Camino? When did you decide to do it?
Before I decided to walk the Camino, I was a Director for a larger retailer in the US. I had a big job and I was miserable. At 50, I was sure there was something else out there for me. So when I quit my job my husband immediately asked if I was ‘going to take that walk in Spain’ that I had always talked about. I had read Paulo Coelho’s book ‘The Pilgrimage’ 20 years before and I was inspired, but family, career, a mortgage got in the way.
So I decided on a spur of the moment that I would go and I would take my 15 year old daughter with me. I waited until school was out, we bought our stuff, and we flew to Spain. Then we got up in the morning in St. Jean and started walking. We were clueless – if I’m honest.
Did you prepare either physically or mentally? How?
Preparation is a relative term. I did walk a lot but we were living in Phoenix, Arizona at the time, so it was pretty flat. I did no pack training and wasn’t in great shape, honestly, to go walk 800km. I read a lot of blogs, joined closed FB groups and bought some books. But nothing could prepare me for what it would be like. I left my guidebook in Zabaldika on the 4th day. After that I just let the Camino take me where it wanted.
Tell us about your Camino. How was your experience?
My Camino was the most amazing experience of my life. It changed me in ways I can’t describe or fully comprehend myself. It made me fearless. I’m stronger because of it and I am willing to take risks I would not have taken before.
I think one thing that really made a difference for me was how it changed my relationship with my teenage daughter. On the Camino, she barely spoke to me. She was sullen and surly. They called me ‘The American whose daughter walks ahead’. I wish I was kidding. It was very hard. But now, she talks about it all the time and reminds me ‘Mom, remember when this thing happened on the Camino’? And I’m so happy we went together. We’re doing the Portuguese Way from Lisbon next summer.
It also changed my relationship with my husband. We didn’t speak for the first two weeks I was walking. When in Hornillos we talked by phone and had the-phone-call-to-end-all-phone calls. It was the best talk of our marriage and the best $100 I have ever spent. After that he wrote me letters each night while I was asleep and sent them to me to read in the morning. The Camino is a magical experience – it’s indescribable.
Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino?
I do wish I had learned more Spanish for a couple of reasons. I think it would have been much more respectful and frankly, easier, if I spoke to people (as much as possible) in Spanish. I think it would have been easier to interact with locals and more of the Spanish pilgrims themselves. There were alot of Spanish people I couldn’t speak to other than, ‘Buenos Días’ or ‘Café con leche’. Looking back, this was a mistake.
Do you think not knowing Spanish had any impact on your Camino?
Yes, I think knowing Spanish is a HUGE benefit. When I think of the experience of being in churches or sitting in cafés or walking into a local festival, knowing Spanish and being able to speak to people, to understand what is going on would have profoundly changed the experience for me.
There were days I felt lonely, and sometimes isolated, as I was in a village and there was no one else there but locals and I couldn’t communicate. I found Google Translate isn’t your friend. It’s like a twisted cousin who can cause you more harm than good.
This is a photo of me when I arrived in Santiago. Everyone says it’s the happiest they have ever seen me, and they’re right – so I like this photo.