After one month in solitude in the mountains last year, Ms. Simone Zhang, an Upper School English teacher walk at the El Camino de Santiago hiking route in Europe as a different way to sightsee and a way to understand her own feelings and how her body.
“As a teacher, you talk a lot during class, but this route allowed me to be in solitude and in touch with my inner thoughts,” Ms. Zhang said.
Camino de Santiago, or the way of Saint James, is a pilgrimage route that starts in different parts of Europe and ends in Santiago, Spain. Ms. Zhang and her boyfriend walked on Camino Francés, also known as the French way, which is the most popular route. The total distance is 800 kilometers and takes about 35 days to finish. However, they did not start at the beginning but at a place 128 kilometers from Spain.
“We started near Santiago at the 125 kilometer point and took five days to finish it. I didn’t expect it to take me only five days, we walked faster than anticipated,” Ms. Zhang said.
During these five days, she woke up at 9 a.m. and walked until 5 p.m. “Most of the people woke up at 5 a.m. to start their journey. Although we woke up late, compared to other people, we just wanted to allow ourselves to sleep in and wake up with our body rhythms,” Ms. Zhang said.
The route crossed through multiple countries in Europe and has different landscape along the way. In addition to finding her inner thoughts, Ms. Zhang was able to clear her mind and focus on the scenary.
“When I am walking, I focus more on the scenes around me and remind myself to enjoy them. If you waste your time on this route daydreaming or thinking about something else that you can think of at home, you wasted your time here,” Ms. Zhang said.
One of the most interesting moments for her, was being able to walk with people that had the same motives as her, which was to enjoy solitude and cleanse their minds.
“There was a woman a few months ago from Taiwan, who was blind and used a cane when walking. She started from France and finished the entire 35 day journey to Santiago all by herself. The owner of the accommodation showed us her writing on the guest book when he [knew] that we are Taiwanese,” Ms. Zhang said while showing her fascination towards this woman who had such a strong perseverance.
For many, Camino de Santiago is a route that can help them find their true identity through solitude. Through this route, Ms. Zhang was able to find her inner thoughts and clear her mind for a fresh start to the new school year. “If I had the chance, I would do it again from the beginning,” Ms. Zhang said.