As quickly as my trip began, it came to a close. The last few days of walking I was dreaming of the sea, and the journey was surreal. The last few hours were even more dream-like.
I had shut off my mind, as much as I could, to plod quietly alongside my faithful companion for the four day journey to the ocean. The man that accompanied me day and night for the duration of the walk was an amazing 66 year old Frenchman who was ending his month-long trek from France to the tip of Spain.
We didn’t speak much, only commenting on the up-then-down-then-up-again of the terrain, made tougher by the knowledge that the sea was a few hours away, calling. Although my blisters had turned into mile-toughened calluses, the repetition of the rolling hills and slight boredom that ensued led my thoughts down to my feet, feeling each stone I crunched over.
But then, halfway through our day, we rose up a hill talking about the ever-present wind mills (which, the Frenchman insisted, were not mills at all). We were struck by the sight of a bright green sign post. It exclaimed “to the end.”
Puzzled, I brought my eyes up away from the road and couldn’t believe what I saw: the sea! Stretching out for miles until there was no more, I felt like I was heading home for the first time. It wasn’t the Pacific and definitely wasn’t the Sound, but I could practically taste the wet woods, smiling friends, and Avry’s bear hug that awaited me in Seattle.
The next 15 km inched away, but we made it, tired and hot, to the very end of the world: Finisterre. Once, not too long ago, pilgrims standing at the very place I did, looking into the limitless ocean, believed that this was the furthest place they could get on land. The world simply didn’t exist past the horizon.
Although Santiago and Madrid still remained for me to explore (making new friends along the way), the trip to the ocean was a fitting end to my month long trip. Watching the waves crash over the rocks as the tide crept in around me gave me more of a sense of unity with that which is bigger than me than any man-made cathedral or gold-soaked saint could (although hugging the bedazzled statue of Saint James in Santiago was a thrill).
And, sitting listening to the lullaby of the drifting sea, it was impossible not to take stock — to weight the reality of before and after. After some pondering, I realized that what I learned was simple:
The world is far wider, far more accessible, and far more welcoming than I ever imagined.
On this journey I met people from all corners of the world and seen traces of humans living thousands of years ago. I’ve seen things I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams, tried to decipher customs that were simply incomprehensible to me, and found that most people were willing to help a stranger like me along the way.
As I write this blog I’m already listing the million next adventures I’d like to embark on, some as distant as the highest mountains on earth and some as close as the climbing gym at home.
But what I know now is that with a little planning, a little saving, and a big smile, the possibilities are endless. So there’s really nothing holding any of us back (except ourselves).