One will be lost: Reflections on the first 100 miles

Between Los Arcos and Logroño, I passed the 100-mile mark on my Camino.  I’m officially at 110.4 miles.  That feels good.  If I can do this much, I think I can do the entire thing.  

As I’ve been walking, I’ve thought quite a bit about Christopher Idle’s Epiphany hymn, mentioned in my previous post.  In it he predicts that one will be lost on a pilgrimage.

Between the various online apps that are available with satellite imagery and the abundant signage, you’d have to be pretty absent minded to get physically lost on the Camino. (I know I’m tempting fate here.) All you really need to do is follow the human trail of pilgrims spread out across Spain like ants on the march.

However, my first pilgrim experience was, in fact, of being lost.

No sooner had I landed at the Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) Airport last Monday morning than I was lost in the strange labyrinth of immigration, security and transferring flights.  

It didn’t help that I had, by then, spent two nights on redeyes, but honestly CDG has to be among the most user-unfriendly airports of the modern era.  I’ve traveled in and out and through CDG on multiple occasions, most recently less than a month ago, and it never fails to disorient and confuse me.

First, there was the mystery of identifying the terminal and gate for my next flight.  The designation of terminals and gates at CDG follows a mysterious numeric-alphabetic format understood only by those who designed it. 

Then there was the confusion over passing through immigration.  First, through the automated gate system (which only worked one out of three times).  And second, presenting oneself before a supremely disinterested immigration officer.  Why two immigration checkpoints?  

Next, there was an aggressive security rigamarole that would put TSA to shame. 

Finally, there was the uncertainty of how to get to the next terminal and gate. It ended up being a combination of trains and buses, none of which explicitly led to the designated terminal.  One needed to intuit the right combination, no small feat at six in the morning after no meaningful sleep for two nights. 

By the time I made it to the departure lounge for my connecting flight, I was well and truly flummoxed because there was no gate posted.  Air France assured me that I was indeed in the correct terminal and a gate would eventually be posted, but no more than 30 mins before departure.  And so, I waited.  Finally, a gate was announced, setting off a stampede to board the plane.

By comparison, walking the Camino is a piece of cake.  

Idle probably wasn’t only referring to being physically lost, however.  

Over the first one hundred miles, I’ve been impressed by the motivations of many of my fellow pilgrims.  Many are indeed lost, or at least on a quest.  

Some are trying to discern their next professional direction.  I met a Spanish language teacher from New Jersey who, post-Covid, needed to take a break to reassess his vocation.  Another young man has left a high-paying legal career to transition to becoming a high-school teacher himself.  One gentleman was sent here by his wife to find himself.  He cheerfully engages anyone who will talk to tell them about his quest.

I feel a bit of a fraud, as I don’t really feel as if I’m on a quest in any profound or spiritual sense.  Mostly I just want to prove to myself that I can do this.  There is something about the physical challenge of walking 500 miles that has captured my imagination.  Perhaps I need to think more deeply about my motivation and what it signifies.

One part of my motivation is to raise money for Episcopal Relief & Development’s programs that support children, especially Moments That Matter, our integrated early childhood development program. So far over 135 of you have supported the fundraising aspect of my Camino.  THANK YOU!  If you haven’t already given, I hope you will consider doing so.  Every gift will be matched up to $75,000 (yielding $150,000) and we’re currently $12,800 from the goal.  To make a gift go to my fundraising page.

I’ll write again once I’ve crossed the 200-mile mark.  Buen Camino!

Editor’s Note (from Eva!): If you’d like more frequent updates, my dad is posting daily summaries on his Instagram. You’ll be able to track his milage totals and take a peek at some of the sights he’s seen on his journey as a way to stay in the loop between blog posts.

Thank you to everyone who has generously supported my walk with a gift to Episcopal Relief & Development.  If you haven’t yet done so and would like to make a donation, you can do so by clicking “Support my Journey!”

Progress bars showing fundraising at $62,200/$75,000 and walking at 110.4/500 mi

Published by Rob Radtke

President & CEO, Episcopal Relief & Development, husband, father, friend, traveler, reader, New Yorker.

One thought on “One will be lost: Reflections on the first 100 miles

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