We have been in quarantine since about the end of March. At first it was really hard to imagine not being able to be free to leave the house. I was OK with that though. I had things in my life coming up that I was looking forward to. Little did I know that COVID-19 would ravage through my world like a tornado. Some damage will be rebuilt, but some things and people are gone forever.
This pandemic has totally caught me off guard. I had plans, contingency plans, I was ready for whatever life was going to send my way. And now all those plans are gone. No wedding to go to. No birthday party for my granddaughter. No Lady Gaga concert. No visiting my cousins in Paris and when I do go, there is only one cousin left to visit now. The thing I still have hope for is my plan to return to the Camino Frances to walk it again.
Spain will be opening it’s borders to visitors again beginning July 1st, but only visitors from other EU countries. Every day I hang on hoping that Europe will begin allowing Americans and other foreigners in to the country. I hope to visit my cousin in Paris for a few days before I make my way to St. Jean Pied de Port to start walking to Santiago. She and I will go to the gravesite of her sister where we will say our farewells because none of that was allowed at the time of her death. All my hotel and albergue reservations are made. All I need is to reserve my airline ticket. I don’t even have to pay for my ticket as I have credit from two cancelled trips, Las Vegas and Paris.
And now even the camino is gone from me. I have delayed cancelling my reservations trying to be so hopeful that travel will suddenly open up. I know there is no point in holding on to that hope as I have begun to receive emails from the hotels I have booked. They say that since foreigners from out the European Union are not permitted to enter Spain they are supposing I need to cancel my reservations. And so three days ago I sat down and one by one cancelled all my bookings. I am sad
Nonetheless I may have found a small glimmer of hope. One of my reservations is non-refundable. They have offered my the opportunity to reschedule my booking but if I insist on cancelling I will lose about $80 for the room for two nights. Every time I communicate with them I point out that it is not my fault that I need to cancel. The Spanish government will not allow me to enter the country. With each email exchange they continue to point out that I can reschedule. Maybe this is a sign that even though the Camino Frances is out of my reach for now, it will still be there next year.
So here’s my plan. I’m going to start planning my camino for next year. 2021 is a jubilee year in celebration of St. James. By then all the internal and external reservations on the cathedral will be done. If I plan my camino backwards I can arrange to arrive in Santiago on a Saturday and be refreshed and ready to attend the Pilgrims’ Mass on Sunday in the Cathedral. I can even arrange for a little deviation from the Camino to visit Bilbao, a town in the Basque region of Spain known for its art, architecture, and amazing food. OK, I’m not gonna lie I fell in love with the idea of visiting Bilbao after reading Dan Brown’s thriller Origin.
Maybe I can even still have some sort of Camino here. I know all the places I will be staying. I know the distances from door to door. I have my backpack and all my gear. Could I somehow walk my own camino here? Sure my hotel room will look the same every night. In fact it’ll look exactly like my bedroom. It’s one thing to be in Spain and know that I must get to my destination because that’s the only place for me to stay. Sure it won’t be as difficult as climbing the Pyrenees. But do I have what it takes to stick to it? I’ll admit it’s been oppressively hot here and I have not gotten out to walk. Nor have I gone to the gym because that carries a high risk of contracting the virus. But for now I can hold on to this thought and I can still plan. Hope is not completely gone