Arriving in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port felt like being a popped champaign cork that flew between a buzzed crowd at the Pyrenean foothills.

As the taxi driver pealed into town, I felt anxiety like I’d never have before. All my plans for the trip had officially run out. This was where my feet had no choice, but to hit the ground and move. No Albergue reservations, no idea what an Albergue would be like, no clue where dinner would come from, and no idea which direction to even begin walking.

“I can already tell this is going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life…internal spiritual discomfort is one thing, but being a pilgrim on foreign lands, with language and cultural barriers is something else… I’m realizing I will have no choice but to learn to receive the help & kindness of strangers,” I wrote in my fresh moleskin journal.

Oh, how I love that those journal pages are no longer stiff and ridged like they were that day, but now worn in, and heavily written upon.

My friend Suzy and I paced up and down cobblestone roads, racing the setting sun, desperate to find an Albergue with beds available, and as we rolled into our last option, we were greeted by the most eclectic Albergue owner I met on the Camino.

With a grander smile and a hint of crazy eyes, this kind older man said, “No need to be anxious my dears, welcome to the Camino, there is room for you here! Expect nothing, and take everything!” My eyes watered up, but I wasn’t sure if it was because there were beds available, or because he spoke English, or because I was tired, but it didn’t matter- we were doing the damn thing.

Weary from jet lag and emotional exhaustion, we bypassed the shower, ate a quick meal, and crawled into beds that felt like one of those dryer sheets you can use in the states.

I was given a top bunk, right above a chatty French man, who despite knowing I couldn’t understand French, continued to talk to me as though I could. I just smiled and nodded my head because that’s universal, right?

I rolled over to face the cracked window that allowed the noises of those celebrating (what I think was) the Feast of Assumption to blow in, and the tears began to fall.

The crippling thoughts I’ve battled my whole life began to creep in just like the noises outside, “You can’t do this, you’ll never arrive. You can’t even speak Spanish, Sarah, what makes you think you can find your way here? You’re not going to find anything here, you’re too small and too incompetent.”

I put my headphones in and listened to the Psalms on my Dwell App.

I breathed in for a count of four, and breathed out to the count of four (recommended breathing technique courtesy of my yogi mom) “Tears may fall in the night, but joy will come in the morning,” is the last thing I remember hearing as fireworks began to burst somewhere in the distance of that dark night.

I let my eyes roll back- I had no choice but to trust that God’s word was true.

Little did I know, that on that same night, in those exact moments, in different Albergues, were people I would meet along that way that would change my whole life… Mein zukünftiger Ehemann (my future husband) included. We are never as alone as we think we are…

  • August 15th, 2019

To be continued…