Through a field of stars

Through a field of stars

Through a Field of Stars

Brian John Skillen, is a professional filmmaker, author, and international dance instructor. His many adventures around the world have strongly influenced his life, but nothing has affected him more than his pilgrimages along the Camino de Santiago. He was first inspired to write the Through a Field of Stars trilogy on his pilgrimage in 2017, where he was told about the clues the Knights Templar left behind on the Camino de Santiago.

Since 2017 he has walked over 1,000 miles across Spain doing research for the trilogy. He has walked the miles his characters have walked and learned the lessons they have learned. All of the characters in the novel that aren’t based on historical people are based on pilgrims Brian met on his Camino. Brian’s goal with the trilogy is to inspire one million people to take a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.

He tells us more about in this guest post. Over to Brian!

Flecha azul

 

 

Have you ever seen something so amazing it changed your life in an instant?

In 2017, I took an epic pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. I saw many amazing things, but when I first saw the Arc of San Anton, I knew my life would never be the same. To me, it looked like something that could only exist in a movie or a novel. Stepping through the Arc was like stepping into another world. Something about me and my life changed as I emerged on the other side.

 

I didn’t know it then, but that was a defining moment for me as a person. I didn’t know that after stepping through the Arc of San Anton, I would  hang up my dance shoes and trade them in for a story. I didn’t know that I would face one of my biggest fears and achieve something that I thought was impossible… 

 

Just past the Arc of San Anton is the city of Castrojeriz—a hilled city with the ruins of a castle on top. Once again my breath was taken away. When I first saw the city, I thought, My God, someone has to write a book about this place! Little did I know I was going to be that someone.

 

Every Camino is like a lifetime—you begin as one person and end up leaving as someone completely different. 

The Knights Templar

At the albergue (pilgrims Shelter), I looked at my credencial (pilgrims passport) and noticed that the stamp for the city was the cross of Jerusalem. After seeing some Knights Templar symbology at the Arc of San Anton and in the city, I made a comment about the Templars. The hospitalero (person who runs the hostel) raised an eyebrow and asked, “What do you know about the Knights Templar?”

This question led to a long discussion about the importance of the Templars on the Camino de Santiago and in Castrojeriz. The hospitalero told me that there used to be several Templar commanderies in the city, and that the entire hill was hollowed out with tunnels that the Templars had used for rituals and to store their treasure. As we were finishing, he lowered his voice and told me to look for the clues that the Templars had left behind on the Camino.

The next morning I woke up with the hospitalero’s stories still in my head. As I was leaving the town, I did something significant that has changed my life. I took my most valuable possession—my dance shoes—from my backpack and left them at a second-hand store. I said to the world, “I will trade these in for a story.” This may not seem like such a big deal, but for someone who has been a professional dancer for the past twenty years, it was huge. This was my symbolic gesture of stepping into a new time in my life.

Every day after I made that declaration, the people I met and the experiences I had, all came together to form The Way: Through a Field of Stars. 

There was only one problem though, I grew up with dyslexia and a third-grade reading and spelling level in highschool—who was I to write a book?

 

Writing the story

However, once it has been unleashed, nothing can stop inspiration. On the Camino, I woke up every morning before the sun and walked under the stars. As I hiked, The Way: Through  Field of Stars played like a movie in my head, and I dictated exactly what I was seeing into my phone. 

By the end of my Camino, I had the entire story outlined in an audio format. Now, I had to face my biggest fear, actually writing the book down on paper.

I mix up letters in words, and I didn’t learn the rules of grammar—so writing a book was something I never thought I would do. As I returned home, I committed to writing 2,000 words a day no matter what. At first it was incredibly hard and took a very long time—as I had to teach myself the rules of grammar. But, I stayed committed—and within three months, I had finished the first draft of my novel. I thought it was perfect, however as most of you know, the Camino doesn’t always provide what you want, but exactly what you need to fulfill your life’s purpose.

When I showed the book to my girlfriend (who is now my wife), she answered honestly and said it needed some work. After learning more about editing and publishing, we reached out to fifty agents and all we got in return were two rejection letters and forty-eight other agents that didn’t even bother to write back.

In 2020, we realized the book was as far as we could take it ourselves so we ran a Kickstarter to hire professional editors, formatters, designers, etc. We raised $10,000 in presells on Kickstarter and since publishing The Way: Through a Field of Stars, it has won an Eric Hoffer Award in the Spiritual Fiction category and has also reached the #1 Amazon Bestseller spot in several categories.

 

My wife and I are currently launching the second book in the series Back: Through a Field of Stars on Kickstarter until July 9, 2021. Follow our Kickstarter link to get both books and support the creation of a new novel. Also, if you are interested in how we launch books on Kickstarter, you can join our free group on Facebook—Kickstarter to Amazon Best Seller. We believe in a life of contribution and are happy to share some of the things we have learned along the way.

 

My wife and I returned to the Camino in 2019 and my favorite phrase to say was Soy escritor. I declared that “I am a writer” in Spanish, long before I did in English. I hope your Caminos bring you as much growth, inspiration, and love as mine did—Buen Camino!

 

Some of our favorite Spanish words and phrases we use on the Camino

Zumo de naranja – Fresh squeezed orange juice

Tortilla – an egg dish they serve at breakfast

Leche de soja  – Soy milk

¿Dónde está el albergue municipal? – Where is the state run hostel (these are usually the most cost efficient)

¿Cuándo es la misa?  When is the Mass?

Through a field of stars

For more on Brian and his novels, follow this link.

 

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of credencial, check ¿Cómo vas a hacer el Camino?

For the pronunciation of albergue, check ¿Dónde vas a dormir?

For the pronunciation of hospitalero, check El albergue.

 

 

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¡Buen Camino!

8 ways to incorporate Spanish into your daily life

8 ways to incorporate Spanish into your daily life

Incorporate Spanish into your daily life |

You believe there are good reasons to learn Spanish before your next Camino de Santiago. You have the best intentions to learn some. Maybe you’ve even started, very enthusiastically… only to give up a few days later.

I’m demasiado viejo (too old). Or muy cansada (very tired). Or muy ocupado (very busy). Or muy… you can add any adjectives you like in there. Deep down, you know it’s just an excuse. I know. I’ve used them all! OK, maybe not the ‘too old’ one, but definitely all the others.

 

It could also be that you have the wrong ideas about learning a new language:

Maybe you believe you have to study for at least 1 hour every day in order to make any progress.

Or you think you must take traditional lessons, full of complex grammar explanations and repetitive exercises.

And then you start feeling overwhelmed, bored, stressed… And that’s why you give up. I know, I’ve done that too, not following the advice I give my own students.

 

You know the phrase ‘It’s your Camino’, right? You can apply this to learning Spanish too: there is no right or wrong way to learn Spanish (or any other language); you just have to find what works for you.

A tiny bit of grammar and a couple of exercises won’t do you any harm. But learning a language should be an enjoyable experience. You’re more likely to remember new words if you learn them while doing something you enjoy. If you enjoy doing grammar exercises, go for it! But there are other things you could be doing too.

You don’t need to take my word for it; this has been researched (an example). It has also been researched that consistency is quite important.

 

What does this mean?

 

Let’s say you spend 1h per week on your Spanish. In the long term, you will learn more if you spread that hour throughout the week (let’s say 10 minutes per day), than if you spend that hour on one day and then you don’t have any exposure to Spanish for the rest of the week.

So, to sum up, it’s OK to have fun while learning Spanish. In fact, it’s not just OK. This is what you should do.

And it’s also OK not to spend hours on it daily. It’s good to get as much exposure to the language as possible, but this doesn’t mean you should spend hours doing exercises that don’t bring you any joy. You can have Spanish in the background while you’re doing other things (here’s the Spanish for the Camino playlist on Spotify), you can watch Spanish TV for as long as you like… but remember to spend 10-15 minutes really focusing on the language.

 

Listening to music and watching TV are quite obvious, but there are many other things you could do to incorporate Spanish into your daily life and boost your learning.

 

8 ways to incorporate Spanish into your daily life

 

Flecha azulStill on music and TV

Listening to Spanish música in the background is OK, and so is watching Spanish films and series. But there are things you can do to maximise the experience:

  • Find the lyrics to your favourite songs and sing along, out loud (you’re more likely to remember things if you say them out loud, according to research).

 

  • Keep pen and paper cerca (nearby) and write down any words you recognise. You can later check in a dictionary if you got them right. There are many free online dictionaries. I like to use WordReference.

 

  • Take a very short clip of your favourite show and use it as a dictation exercise: listen as many times as you need and try to write everything down. Check with the Spanish subtitles how well you did.

Yep! Writing things down helps with your memory too.

 

Flecha azulUse your hobbies

Cocinar (cooking), deportes (sports), crafts, fishing… or the Camino. It doesn’t matter what your hobby is. Find a website on your chosen topic in Spanish. Or a YouTube channel. Or a book… whatever you prefer. Games, such as la Oca, are great too. And enjoy!

 

Flecha azulUse everyday stuff

  • Are you going to do your grocery shopping? Try writing your shopping list in Spanish. Does any of the items you bought have Spanish on their label? Read it and compare it to the English version.
  • How many times a day do you check your phone? You can use it to your advantage. Go to your móvil‘s settings and change the language into Spanish. Every little helps.

 

Flecha azulGet creative

  • Do you keep a diary or do journaling? Do some of it in Spanish. You don’t have to write long texts or complicated sentences. Start with a few words; it could be as simple as a list of things you did that day, such as ‘trabajo (work), compra (shopping), paseo (walk), cena (dinner)’. As you learn more, you can start creating your own simple sentences. Remember: they can be as long or short as you like and they don’t have to be perfect.

 

  • Are you the creative type? Try things like blackout poetry or collage in Spanish. Blackout poetry (or found poetry) is a form of poetry where you select words that catch your attention from any printed text. To ‘get rid’ of the words you don’t want, you normally use a black marker, hence the name blackout poetry. I’ve only recently started doing this, as part of my Italian learning efforts and I am amazed by how much I’m learning. All you need is a page of text in Spanish, a marker and your creativity.
incorporate Spanish into your daily life - collage

A couple of examples of blackout poetry and collage, so you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

How many of these are you going to try? You know what they say: the more the merrier. So, go on! Try them all and see which one suits you best. Or come up with your own ideas and share them with us in a comment. You never know who you might inspire.

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

For the pronunciation of cena, check Where did you stay?

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¡Buen Camino!

A Conversation with Leigh

A Conversation with Leigh

A Conversation with Leigh |

The Camino de Santiago helped Leigh find new meaning in her life after a painful and difficult period. In the past year, she has co-founded The Camino Café, which serves the Camino de Santiago community with video interviews, podcasts, virtual happy hours… and Spanish lessons, among other things.

In this conversation, we’ll find out how the Camino has transformed Leigh’s life.

 

Please tell us a bit about yourself

Leigh Brennan

Hello, my name is Leigh Brennan. I currently live on Bainbridge Island in Washington. I am a Mom to an amazing 21 year old Daughter, Kiley, currently at University for Architecture and to a cute new Labradoodle puppy, Cooper. By vocation, I am a yoga teacher, a co-founder of Sacred Compass Journeys, a Yoga + Camino retreat company, and co-founder of The Camino Cafe Podcast, Zoomcast, and Facebook Community. In my spare time I love to walk, practice yoga, learn about the Camino, and interview Camino Pilgrims. 

When did you first hear about the Camino de Santiago? When or why did you decide to do it?

I first heard about the Camino several years ago while watching the Movie, The Way. A few years later, someone I knew went on a Camino Pilgrimage and when she returned, I was inspired by her transformation. I thought it would be something I would do many years from now during retirement with my husband. However, an unexpected divorce led me to take the Pilgrimage in 2019 to begin the process of healing my broken heart. 

How was your experience on the Camino? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

I am so grateful that I went on a Camino Pilgrimage. I walked in the Fall of 2019 with a group of women I just met who were walking to help process various life challenges. Our group was led by a therapist which very positively added to our experience. Although we went as a group, I walked solo most days with an hour or so mixed in walking with folks in my group and/or with Pilgrims I met along the way.

The Camino helped me find new meaning in my life again and helped me to see that I could still experience moments of joy despite the breakup of my long-term relationship. Upon my return, I decided to focus my life and work around the Camino. I plan to move to Spain once the world normalizes. 

The first anecdote I want to share is the advice a fellow Pilgrim gave me on day one.  He told me to keep in mind that “the Camino doesn’t give you what you want. It gives you what you need.” This advice helped me to let go of my expectations and to open up to what unfolded during my Pilgrimage. In the end, he was correct. The Camino provided me way more than I could have even dreamed. 

Conversation with Leigh

Another anecdote is one that a veteran Pilgrim and Albergue owner gave me a few days before arriving in Santiago. He told me that the “The Camino doesn’t end in Santiago, it begins.” I didn’t understand this quote until I got home. He was so accurate. My Camino has continued far beyond Santiago in so many ways. I consider myself a lifelong Pilgrim now and I can’t wait to walk again. 

You have plans to go back to the Camino…

Yes, I hope to walk the Camino Francés with my best friend and business partner in Fall 2021 and the Portuguese in Spring 2022 with my Dad, as well as, co-lead several Yoga + Camino tours for small groups in 2022. 

Conversation with Leigh

 Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Do you think it had any impact on your experience? 

No, I did not learn any Spanish beforehand and once I arrived, I felt very inept by not knowing Spanish. On the first day meeting-up with my group, I was involved in trying to coordinate transportation to get us to our starting point. I greatly frustrated a busy cafe owner trying to get help with arranging a taxi. It was a powerful lesson.  I felt bad for not showing more respect by learning some Spanish before my Pilgrimage.

I found that in the smaller villages, very few people spoke English and even in the larger cities, I found it difficult ordering meals and communicating with albergue owners in several instances. I knew when I came back to the US that I needed to improve my Spanish speaking skills before returning.  I am so happy that I am now studying with Maria to help me in this endeavor.

Any words or phrases you wish you had known?

I wish I had known how to read menus and place orders more proficiently. Other things that would have been useful:

I want… – Quería…

I need… – Necesito…  (for items at the albergue like towels, etc check El albergue & La mochila).

Where can I buy/get… – ¿Dónde puedo comprar / conseguir…? 

What time do you open/close? – ¿A qué hora abren / cierran?

Would you help me get a taxi? – ¿Me puede ayudar a llamar un taxi?

Where is the train/bus station? – ¿Dónde está la estación de tren / de autobuses?

Do you have any yoga mats we can borrow? – ¿Tiene alguna esterilla de yoga que me pueda prestar?

Is there a space here where we can practice yoga? – ¿Hay algún sitio donde podamos hacer yoga?

May I get the bill/check? – ¿Me trae la cuenta, por favor?

May I get a diet coke with lemon and ice? – ¿Me pone una Coca cola light con limón y hielo?

What is your local wine/beer/cheese? – ¿Cuál es el vino / la cerveza / el queso local?

The Camino Café is on Youtube as well as on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can also follow Leigh on Instagram and don’t forget to check Sacred Compass Journeys too.

 

Today’s Spanish words & phrases

¿Dónde está la estación de tren / de autobuses?

 

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¡Buen Camino!

The Camino in times of pandemic

The Camino in times of pandemic

The Camino in times of pandemic |

Right after Spain came out of the estado de alarma (state of emergency) in June 2020 I wrote a post about the new measures that were introduced as the country slowly re-opened and started receiving visitors. It was mostly about the effects of the restrictions on the albergues, although some other general issues were also discussed. We thought then these measures would be temporary but 9 months later, we’re still not out of the pandemia.

The restrictions keep changing as the situation evolves. And it’s hard to keep up with all of them, as they also vary from one region to another. But I’ll try to summarise the situation as it currently is and add a few more Spanish words that have become part of our daily routines.

 

Spain in times of pandemic

  • Spain is under a new estado de alarma (state of emergency) until May 9. What will happen then is impossible to predict. It will depend on what the situation is at the time.

 

  • One of the restrictions implemented under the state of emergency is the toque de queda (curfew). The times vary between regions but it can start from 10:00pm (the earliest) and finish by 7:00am (the latest). In Galicia, it starts at 10:00pm and finishes at 6:00am.

 

  • Cierre perimetral is another term you’ll hear a lot. It means perimeter lockdown and right now most Spanish regions have their borders closed. That means you can’t get in or out of the region unless you have a valid reason, such as work. Walking the Camino does not qualify as a valid reason.

 

  • There may also be local confinamientos (lockdowns), if an area experiences a surge in the number of infections. Noncompliance with these movement restrictions can result in una multa (a fine) of €200 or more (depending on the region and other circumstances).

 

In terms of the Camino, that means that right now you can only walk to Santiago if you live in Galicia. And even that is not easy, with many accommodations still closed. Otherwise, you can walk within your region but not cross on to the next one. There’s no specific date for these perimeter lockdowns to be lifted. As of today, the one in Castilla y León, for instance, is set to remain in place until May 9… but it could be extended if the authorities deem it necessary at the time.

 

The vaccination process is going slower than planned, mainly due to the shortage of vacunas. There has been talk about a European pasaporte de vacunación (vaccination passport), but nothing specific has been decided yet. So, it’s hard to know how that will affect travel. Right now, those allowed to enter Spain must present a PCR with a negative result, carried out in the 72 hours prior to their arrival in Spain.

*Update: the EU Digital Covid certificate will come into force on July 1. From June 7, visitors from foreign countries can enter Spain with proof they’ve been fully vaccinated. If you don’t have that, you will need a negative PCR or proof that you’ve recovered from covid.

More info here.

 

That’s about moving around. But what is the situation of bars, albergues and other businesses?

 

Shops and the hospitality sector in times of pandemic

In general, shops, bars, restaurants and accommodations are open. But nothing is straightforward these days, so there are several things you need to be aware of.

in times of pandemic

Mascarillas are compulsory

restrictions in times of pandemic

Measures, measures, measures…

aforo in times of pandemic

Limited capacity everywhere

Aforo (maximum capacity). You will see notices outside most businesses stating their aforo or maximum number of customers allowed inside at the same time. If this number has been reached, you must wait outside… keeping your distancia, of course.

The use of mascarillas is compulsory and you will also find gel hidroalcohólico at the entrance of business (or sometimes inside, on the counter).

 

In the case of bars and restaurants, you also need to be aware of their closing times. In Galicia, for instance, up to a couple of weeks ago, they were allowed to open until 5:00pm only. Right now, closing time is 9:00pm, which means that dining out is still not an option. Not to mention that restrictions could become stricter any time. It’s important to stay informed and use reliable sources.

 

Accommodations are open or, at least, they’re allowed to be open (with restrictions, of course). The Xunta albergues, for instance, were allowed to re-open on March 12, but that doesn’t mean they’re all open. Some have decided to remain closed for the moment, since the number of pilgrims right now is very limited: only those living in Galicia.

 

Many Caminos have been postponed or cancelled since last year and everyone is impatient to go back. People keep asking when it will be possible to walk the Camino again. The answer will depend on many factors, like your country of residence or the restrictions in place at any given time.

The Camino has been there for over 1000 years and it’s still going to be there when the pandemia is over. Now is the time to be patient and remember that’s it’s not only about us and what we want but also about the people we come in contact with.

 

¡Paciencia! (patience)

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

 

For the pronunciation of vacuna, mascarilla and gel hidroalcohólico, check The Camino and the new normal.

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¡Buen Camino!

Conversation on the Camino

Conversation on the Camino

Conversation on the Camino

I met Kate Fisher in person while she was walking the Camino Portugués in October 2018. We had known each other online for a while and this was the perfect opportunity to connect.

Kate has recently published a book recounting her experience of walking the Camino de Santiago after recovering from anxiety and depression.

In the post that follows, Kate writes about the conversations that take place on the Camino, both with others and with ourselves. She also gives us some tips on how to improve those conversations.

 

Conversation on the Camino

by Kate Fisher 

(includes excerpts from her book Beyond Expectations: 6 Days on the Camino Portugués and her guide, “Calm Your Brain: 7 Tips to Connect and Communicate”)

 

My very first day on the Camino Portugués began in the dark. The day before, I had flown from Madrid to Vigo and then taken a taxi to a hotel north of Tui. I arranged for the hotel van to transport me to the Camino at 7:30 am without checking the time of sunrise. The van driver spoke no English and already I wished I had spent more time studying Spanish!

 

I was the only passenger in the van and when he dropped me off at a dimly lit and empty parking lot behind a small church, I felt foolish. It was early October and it would be another 45 minutes before dawn. I also felt disoriented. Which way was north, toward Santiago? What if the pilgrims were walking south toward Fátima? I took a deep breath and said a little prayer for safety.

 

Then I saw it, a large yellow arrow painted on a crumbling concrete wall, pointing the way. Fátima arrows were blue, I remembered. This yellow arrow was the only bright spot in a shroud of darkness. Should I follow it now or wait as I’d been instructed? I decided to do a walking meditation around the parking lot until daybreak.

 

Before long, my attention was caught by three small lights bobbing up and down in the distance. They seemed to draw closer and I recognized them as headlamps on three people walking in rhythm down the sidewalk in front of the church. I ran toward the yellow arrow and through the driveway to catch up with them. As I approached, I slowed down and joined the line of pilgrims, barely visible by the light on their foreheads. Not one of them made a sound. It felt a bit strange, and yet I was relieved. I was walking on the Camino!

 

When I thought about the fact that these walkers had also started in the dark, I relaxed a bit. Maybe I knew what I was doing, after all. The line of pilgrims spaced out into small groups, everyone walking at their own pace, still in complete silence. 

 

I sensed someone behind me and turned to look. A small woman carrying a large backpack smiled at me. I smiled back and whispered, “Is it against the rules to talk?”

“If it is, I guess we are breaking the rules,” she said wryly, and thus began a conversation with my walking companion for the day.

 

Walking and Talking

If you ask me, I will tell you that “walking and talking” is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I enjoy walking alone, to be sure, but there is a special connection to be made between people who enjoy a good conversation while walking.

 

Maybe it’s the fresh air. Or the freedom from a schedule and interruptions. I have had some of my very best conversations while walking with a friend and I found that to be true on the Camino, too.

 

Small talk guidelines are generally to avoid talking about politics, religion, and personal health. Perhaps because we were mostly strangers and may never see each other again, these small talk rules did not seem to apply. Most of my conversations were about politics, religion, and mental or physical health.

A German man told me about his liver transplant. A young man from Israel was eager to talk about religion and his Polish grandfather, who had lived through the Holocaust. When people found out that I was from the US, they asked me what happened to cause the outcome of the 2016 election. They were baffled. My explanation was that 2016 was The Year of the Rooster on the Chinese calendar, and it was most definitely a wake-up call.

Conversation on the Camino

Some people dedicate their walk to someone or something. Grateful for my own recovery, I dedicated my walk to those who struggle with depression and anxiety.

It just so happened that at the time I was preparing to walk on the Camino, I discovered that Project Happiness was promoting The Race For Wellness Project to raise money for mental wellness resources for youth. 

 

The project also aimed to raise awareness and help remove the stigma that prevents people of all ages from getting help. All I needed to do was pledge to walk at least 50 miles (approximately 80.5 kilometers) and invite friends and family to be sponsors.

Every day I had opportunities to talk about mental health and share my story. On some days, I would share it as my reason for walking. Fellow pilgrims were eager to talk about their own depression or their concern for a friend or family member. Because of the stigma, hardly anyone talks about it in day-to-day life. Here on the Camino, it felt like the most natural conversation in the world. 

 

Meeting Maria

Not every conversation was serious. Some were observations like “blisters are my sisters.” Or talking about a 90-year-old pilgrim who seemed to have more energy than all of us. 

One of my favorite conversations was with Maria. We had met online in the Opted Out Community of language teachers and I’d been learning about Spain and the Camino through her blog articles, workbooks, and courses. I was delighted to walk through Pontevedra and have the opportunity to meet her at the end of my third day. 

 

Conversation on the Camino

Conversation with food or wine

Maria and I enjoyed our conversation over a glass of wine and then she needed to return to her family so I had dinner around 9 pm. At home, this would have been very late. Since this was my second week in Spain, I was beginning to get used to the different times of eating. 

 

Breakfast was usually light, consisting of café con leche, toasted baguette with jam, and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. I usually started walking on an empty stomach and stopped at a café sometime mid-morning. Conversations were light, too, and often involved the cafe proprietor who was happy to stamp our credencial or passport and send us on our way with the ubiquitous greeting, Buen Camino!

 

The midday meal was also later than I normally eat. Instead of noon, we often ate around 2 pm, and even pilgrims liked to linger at the table afterward for conversation. I learned that there is actually a word for this time of conversation, sobremesa

 

Conversation starters

If you want to have an interesting conversation on the Camino, I recommend asking open-ended questions. In other words, questions that can’t be answered with yes, no, or simply one word, Here’s an example that does not promote conversation. Question: Where did you start your Camino? Answer: Porto. 

Open-ended questions usually begin with “what” or “how” and invite people to elaborate and share their opinions, views, and personal stories. Start with something that is not too personal or specific.

Some examples:

What brings you to the Camino? – ¿Qué te trae al Camino?

How do you use hiking poles/GPS/your guidebook? – ¿Cómo usas los bastones / el GPS / tu guía?

What has been your experience at the albergues? – ¿Cómo ha sido tu experiencia en los albergues?

How do you like this part of the Camino? – ¿Qué te parece esta parte del Camino?

How do you like Spanish cuisine? – ¿Qué te parece la cocina española?

What do you recommend for a vegetarian? – ¿Qué recomiendas para un vegetariano?

Has anything surprised you about Spanish culture or customs? – ¿Te ha sorprendido algo de la cultura o las costumbres españolas?

 

Follow up with another open-ended question or “That’s interesting. Tell me more.”

 

Conversation with myself

Because the Camino Portugués was not crowded, I experienced a lovely balance of inner conversations with myself while walking alone and meaningful conversations with other pilgrims while walking or enjoying a meal or cafe con leche in a cafe.

 

I think that many people come to the Camino to sort out things in their life and these inner and outer conversations are one way to do it. It’s almost as if pilgrims hold up a mirror for one another, listening to each other’s stories and reflecting back what each person needs to see or hear.

All in all, 6 Days on the Camino Portugués gave me the perfect opportunity to think about my own life and have conversations with people from Spain and at least a dozen other countries around the world. If you can’t be away for more than a week, I highly recommend walking from Tui to Santiago. And if you have any questions for me, I’d be happy to have a conversation. You can find me at www.conversationswithkate.net

For more info on Kate’s book and workbook, click on the picture.

Beyond expectations

You can listen to some of our Conversations about the Camino on Kate’s podcast. You will find a link to those conversation on my About page.

Today’s Spanish phrases

¿Te ha sorprendido algo de la cultura o las costumbres españolas?

Conversations with Kate

Kate is a hiker and language enthusiast from the US who has dabbled in German, French, Spanish, and Polish at different times in her life. Through volunteer work in Poland and Spain, she discovered a passion for helping business professionals develop confidence speaking in English and began teaching online at Conversations with Kate. She is a certified Neurolanguage Coach®, hosts a podcast, and recently published her first book for English Language Learners and anyone interested in walking six days on the Camino. She’s grateful to Maria for helping her with Spanish for her walk and for the book. : )

You can connect with Kate on Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud via her website, www.conversationswithkate.net.

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¡Buen Camino!

Holy Year 2021

Holy Year 2021

Año Santo. Holy Year. How many times have you heard these 2 words in recents weeks? Months even?

2021 is a Holy Year. People have been talking about it for months, either planning their Camino to coincide with it or postponing it for a “regular” year. Then, on December 31, we learned that the Holy Year will be extended until the end of 2022. But do you know what that means? And more importantly, how does that affect the Camino de Santiago?

Next, I’ll try to explain a few basic ideas regarding the Holy Year. And, as usual, you’ll be able to learn some Spanish vocabulary. Let’s start from the beginning. 

 

What is a Holy Year?

Un Año Santo or Jubileo (Jubilee) is a special year in the Catholic Church. During these special years, an indulgence (indulgencia) is granted to those who fulfill certain criteria.

To differentiate it from other Holy Years, the one in Santiago can be referred to as jacobeo (of St. James) or compostelano (from Compostela). You may also see the Galician word Xacobeo to refer to it.

We have an Año Santo Jacobeo or Año Santo Compostelano when July 25, feast of St. James, falls on a Sunday. So, we have a Holy Year in Santiago every 6 (seis), 5 (cinco), 6 and 11 (once) years. The last Holy Year before 2021 was in 2010.

Some sources date the first Año Santo Compostelano in the 12th century but research has shown this to be false. The first documented Holy Year took place in 1424.

 

El Jubileo

In order to obtain the Jubilee or indulgence during Holy Years you must:

  • visit the tomb of St. James and say a prayer for the Pope.
  • confess, 15 days before or after your visit to Santiago.
  • receive holy communion

 

It’s worth noting that getting a jubilee and a compostela are not connected. To get a compostela, you must walk at least the last 100km of any Camino. This will not grant your indulgence. For that, you must fulfill the requirements listed above. And you can travel to Santiago by any means.

In other words, you could drive up to Santiago, visit the tomb of the Apostle, say your prayers and receive confession and communion. You would be receiving the jubileo. But not a compostela. On the other hand, you could walk over 100km to Santiago and not do any of the others things. You could then claim your compostela, but wouldn’t be earning the indulgence.

Music, poetry, history… to celebrate the beginning of the Holy Year 2021

La Puerta Santa

To mark the beginning of a Holy Year, a special ceremony performed by the Archbishop takes place in the cathedral. This happens in the evening of December 31. During this ceremony, the Holy Door or Puerta Santa is opened.

In case you’re wondering what’s so special about a door being opened: the Puerta Santa only gets opened during Holy Years. The rest of the time, it remains closed. At the end of a Holy Year, a new ceremony takes place to close the door again. It will remain closed until the following Año Santo. So, before 2021, the last time people were able to access the cathedral through the Holy Door was in 2010.

During this year’s opening ceremony, a representative of the Pope announced the extension of this Holy Year until the end of 2022. This is due to the special circumstances brought about by the pandemic. The only time a Holy Year was extended before was in 1937-1938 due to the Spanish Civil War.

Access to the Puerta Santa is from Plaza de la Quintana.

 

What about the Camino?

It’s hard to predict what this Holy Year will be like. At the moment, travelling is not an option. Not only for international pilgrims but for those of us who live locally too. As I write this, I can’t go to Santiago. And I live less than 100km away. Both my town and Santiago have perimeter lockdowns in place. That means we can’t get in or out, unless we have a valid reason such as work or a medical appointment.There’s also a perimeter lockdown on the whole region of Galicia until the end of this month of January. The region of Castilla y León has a perimeter lockdown too… until May 9.

In summary, there are perimeter lockdowns both at regional and local level, which means you could be fined if you get caught getting in or out of one of these areas without a valid reason. And doing the Camino is not considered a valid reason.

Under normal circumstances, Holy Years are very busy on the Camino. The number of pilgrims tends to increase quite dramatically. To give you an idea, the Holy Year of 2010 saw an 85% increase in the number of pilgrims collecting their compostela, compared to the previous year. If you’re looking for a quite Camino, Holy Years are not a good idea. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind the crowds, and entering through the Holy Door holds a special significance for you, then go for it! What type are you?

In any case, we’ll have to wait for the current circumstances to change before we can go back to the Camino.

A summary of this year’s opening ceremony