The decision to walk the Camino de Santiago was realized during a 2 week European jaunt with my nieces in April. Coming from a long-term volunteer stay in Nepal, I arrived in Copenhagen on a one-way ticket. My nieces met me midpoint home. Technically I was a free agent without the chokehold of a homeward bound ticket.
The Camino had been summoning ever since a friend shared that it was great for reflection and transitions in life. What better case in point, than traveling, after 5 months in rural Nepal, back to life in the USA? Reverse culture shock would most definitely be felt on re-entry. The economic disparity between Nepal and the US is unsettling, as well as the definition of luxury versus necessity. Finding a cushion between these extremes might ease that transition. Thus, ticket-less and within close proximity of the Camino, the time was auspicious to start walking.
My ill-prepared Camino plans left me scurrying around Paris on my last day looking for a pair of walking shoes. Rule #1 for ANY trekking expedition is to have well broken-in shoes. Rule # 2 is to travel light. Both of these rules were breached. My old lovable 16-year-old backpack was not the slick, lightweight versions that are out on the market today. Despite the extra kilos to haul, I chose to take it. How could one abandon a faithful rucksack after all these years?
On our departure day, my nieces headed to Charles de Gaulle, while I boarded the speedy TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) southward bound to Bayonne, the rail connection closest to the start of Camino Frances. The train was delayed a few hours en route, thus not living up to it's turbo-like name.
The late arrival into Bayonne provoked me to 'stalk' an Italian couple out of the station. I pegged them as Camino Pilgrims with their walking sticks and small backpacks. I had landed without a room reservation. Perhaps they were headed to a Pilgrim's refuge to stay? Within a few steps, they turned and asked where I was staying, as they were in the same predicament. Busted!
The day ended laughing, with us all sharing a room together. My Camino had unofficially started.