A letter to… stressed older Americans

Dear Alarmed Americans (50+ years old),
I was once where you are. Too plugged into cable news and hyper vigilant of too many political posts from various friends. What the hell is going on with our country? Whether you lean left or right, news from media and friends alike can stir some type of angst inside you.

I had those feelings. But in 2013 I walked my first Camino de Santiago via the Frances route. Thirty-two consecutive days of walking reduces that angst to, “Can I make it to the next village?” Oh, many of us can walk 17 miles with a 20-pound backpack. But doing it day after day has a cumulative effect on our 50+ bodies. It breaks down our worries to our most basic needs of food, air and water.

Along the Way you will meet many pilgrims who are also trying to make it to Santiago de Compostela. They, too, are wondering, “Can I keep going?” They will be from Spain, Australia, Austria, Norway, Germany and many other countries. The absolute LAST thing on their mind is American politics. They want to know, “Why are you doing the pilgrimage? Where are you from?”

I can truly say I have never met a bad person on the Camino. Various reasons brought us here but we all have a single goal: Make it to Santiago de Compostela! 

Those evenings at indoor and outdoor cafes laughing over the loud snorers from the night before, comparing blisters, wondering if our wash has dried and basically exploring the human spirit with my fellow pilgrims was the highlight of every day for me. That’s really it. That human spirit that unites us all. The great thing is, the next night I get to have the same great experience with a whole new group of pilgrims I met that day. I made friends whom I still communicate with today. 

I’ve noticed I don’t get so worked up about cable news anymore, or friends’ political views. As a matter of fact, I don’t watch a lot of news anymore. When stress does come calling, I resort to memories on the Camino with interesting people from all corners of the globe telling me, “C’mon Tom, you can make it to the next village.”

Sincerely,

A Pilgrim

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