Mónica doesn’t let herself be left behind, and when she is invited to lunch (or to the Way to Santiago), she accepts immediately. Between blisters on her feet, bad fingernails and the tiredness of someone who’s just starting out, our walker managed to overcome all the challenges that the millennial route had to offer, making us grow as people. Come and discover this adventure between Viana do Castelo and the capital of Galicia, always by the sea.
Why did you make the Way to Santiago?
Mónica: I went to accompany my brothers-in-law. They are dentists and went on a volunteering mission to São Tomé. And before starting this 3-month adventure, followed by a year of traveling around the world, they wanted to start the journey on the right foot, by walking the Way. At a family lunch they invited us and I thought: Why not?
What stages did you complete?
Mónica: I did the Portuguese Way of the Coast. I started in Viana do Castelo.
How did you prepare physically for the journey?
Mónica: I did a 10kms walk, only once. I don’t consider it physical preparation. But actually I was more concerned with studying how to avoid blisters, possible pain from my old injuries, what would be the best footwear… I talked to a lot of people who did the Way to try to go as prepared as possible.
What surprised you the most about the journey?
Mónica: I walked through incredible places, but what surprised me the most happened inside of me. With each step I took I was surprised at how the path touched me, conquered me, and taught me.
Did you have many blisters on your feet, or did you not even remember they existed?
Mónica: I think I had 3 between my fingers. But I didn’t feel them. They were the kind that didn’t burst and went on their way with me without giving me pain. On the other hand, I came back with 2 black toenails. I bought shoes one size bigger, as I had been told, but I think that somehow, in my way of walking, it hurt the nails. However, I didn’t feel them hurt either.
What was the most difficult moment?
Mónica: I had three particularly difficult and therefore remarkable moments.
The first moment was on the second day of the hike. When I started to feel tired both physically and mentally. We had walked a lot on the first day and about to reach the end of the second day, I started to feel incapable. Regretful for being there. Angry. Thinking I wouldn’t be able to finish the path. I was walking in silence and with tears falling from my eyes. When I reached the hostel, I lost myself in sobs and tears. “How am I going to finish this?”. I spent the night reading about the Way to Santiago. Trying to learn more about its history. Trying to read something that would give me motivation. Looking for a reason. But I couldn’t find one.
However, the next day, despite being scared of yet another stage I discovered that I was stronger than I thought. And from stage to stage I got stronger. I remember saying “The road didn’t get easier. I got stronger”. And so it was. And every day the path taught me something. Every day I saw something of my life reflected in the path and I learned. I began to enjoy walking.
The second difficult moment came in the meantime, two days before arriving in Santiago. In conversation with my brothers-in-law we were talking about my family. And I suddenly remembered that my father had passed away seven years ago this month. I texted my sister, while walking, “What day did dad die?” And she told me what day it was he passed away. I found out that the day my father passed away was the day I was arriving in Santiago. I discovered my purpose. I share with you something I wrote about this day:
“I hope now that my efforts will bring rest to his soul. Something I have always felt he would not yet have. When he gets there he will know that I am strong and he needs not to worry. May all the energy around the walk make him free. There are 2 days left to go and now I know who I am walking for, no matter what it takes. May your strength never fail me.”
Finally, the last most difficult moment was the last day. I am not religious but I went to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. I went in and sat down to talk to my father. I ended up crying but I came out lighter.
I feel that the path called me and I am grateful that I did it.
If you could walk the path with someone famous, who would it be with?
Mónica: I cannot think of anyone. The path is a very personal thing and I prefer to do it with my own people. But I would certainly send many politicians on the path. They might come from there more enlightened.
Being a freelancer, were you able to “unplug” and make the trek without the distractions of work?
Mónica: Yes, completely. I’m lucky enough to have amazing clients who knew I was on the trail and were very respectful of that moment. I always made it a point to work, but I felt like I was purposely “nagged” less.
If you could only give one tip to people who are thinking about walking the path, what would it be?
Monica: Trust. The path knows what it’s doing.
How does it feel to arrive in Santiago?
Mónica: Very good! I felt very grateful. But in fact the best part of the journey, for me, is the way. Not the arrival. I confess that I already miss it!