Day 21: Quiet Time on the Camino

Today was met with much anticipation. Halting breaths taken. Moments of self–doubt. Questions concerning how exactly this was going to work.

Today was the long-awaited two–hour vow of silence day. The Honors DOC has known about this since we first learned about the Dialogue, but somehow it still seemed to sneak up on all of us. Since we started the Camino we have been encouraged to meet other pilgrims, strike up conversations, and if we can figure out their motives for doing this pilgrimage. Then, after just starting to become accustomed to the “Buen Camino” conversations that characterize each day, we had to spend two consecutive hours in complete silence.

Clearly, this posed a challenge, especially for those of us who usually struggle to stop talking.

I was nervous to go for so long without talking for a few reasons. One, I am not usually very good at it. But besides that, I also really enjoy talking to other pilgrims. There is a sense of community on the Camino even though we are all strangers to each other. Somehow, as you walk along next to someone you find common ground. You start with the “Buen Camino” and end with a piece of someone’s story. It is really incredible, and is proving to be one of my favorite aspects of the trip.

So why are we suddenly forced to keep quiet? How can we benefit from such silence? I had my doubts about the exercise up until the two-hour mark started.

It turns out, there is something special about walking alone. I ended up walking the Camino completely alone, with only my thoughts and the “way” stretched out before me. I can’t remember a time where I was ever in a similar situation. I admit, it was sort of scary. Suddenly I didn’t have my friends, my guide, or even another pilgrim to help me find my way and follow the Camino. Yet somehow, every time I questioned where I was going, a happy yellow arrow would appear to help me. We have read about this sort of miraculous guidance, so well timed. It was something else to actually experience it.

When we all met up at a local café I was a little shell-shocked. I had almost forgotten on my walk that I was on a group trip and I was meeting them all later. I had really become convinced I was walking the Camino solo. It was such an off feeling that it was a relief to talk to others on the trip and hear they felt the same way. The two hours of silence had clearly had an effect on all of us, and once again we started to feel more and more like “authentic” pilgrims. I think we are all wondering what tomorrow will bring along the “way.”

Larissa Witte – International Affairs