Home > Books, The Camino > The Year We Seized the Day, by Elizabeth Best & Colin Bowles

The Year We Seized the Day, by Elizabeth Best & Colin Bowles

This book is based on the experience that two Australian authors had when then walked on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. It was published in 2007, so things may have changed since they walked it. I admit that since my Mom and I did not stay in refugios (in 2012), except for two of the nights, when we walked the Camino, I am not confident in my impression of refugios. I mention this point, only because the authors spend a large amount of time talking about the bad state of refugios. However, the last book I read about the Camino and blogged about, was also pretty negative regarding refugios, so I think there is a trend. As for my experience, my Mom decided she could not put up with the snoring that occurs in large rooms with multiple bunk beds and exhausted walkers, so we chose private albergues where sometimes we were able to get private rooms to ourselves but at most we shared with about 6-8 people, which can make a big difference. There is a price differential, though, so it’s a big consideration.

Back to this book. So pretty early on, I realized that something was going on with these authors. They made the decision to walk the Camino on the spur of the moment, with only about 2 week’s notice. As the story progresses, so too do their personal stories. Not only is their experience on the Camino very intense, but what they are going through on a personal level and in their relationship is also intense. I’m not going to give away any details of their personal lives here. That would ruin it. But I will say that one has to be prepared for some fairly heavy reading.

Also, something that really struck me was the level of physical suffering that these two experienced. At no point, did they ever seem to be without serious injuries. This just shows how important some kind of training regime is. When my Mom and I walked it, we trained for 6 months prior to the walk and still my Mom had tendinitis in her foot and I had trouble with my knee (previously injured in a skiing accident).

I don’t have a bunch of quotes to add to this blog because it wasn’t that kind of a book. But there is one thing I did want to repeat in this blog, it’s something that Best repeats from a Swedish man she meets in Finisterre (which is further on from Santiago and was once considered the end of the world) when he’s talking about why he left Sweden and decided to stay in Spain and then she ruminates on what he says:

‘I go home to an office job in a call center with a boss who gets paid to stand over my shoulder and make me feel like mud. He doesn’t even know my name. But still, I must answer to him and he must answer to the company and the company must answer to the government, who I pay tax to. It is all around and about in circles going nowhere,’ he says. I tell him I understand. Life here is a far cry from the rat race of cities everywhere. Bills, mobile phones, Sex and the City, nine-to-five working days and the general dog-eat-dog mentality of everyday life are rendered inconsequential when each day is stripped to its essentials. Priorities change.

What I appreciate most about Camino life, however, is time. Time to think, to breathe, to talk, to ponder, to explore, to learn, to interact and grow, to enjoy food and wine and moments and views. Time to give thanks for what you have, identify what you don’t have  and work on things you need. Time. And as much of it as you like. I’m going to miss it and I know, in time, I will miss the person I am with it.

Perhaps this is why people return to the Camino, because it has something we cannot get in our ordinary lives…in the nothingness, there is a richness of life. The meaning of status, money and possessions drop away and you are left with yourself, nature, and the relationships you make along the way.

NB: A refugio and an albergue both refer to overnight facilities available to walking or cycling pilgrims who have authenticated pilgrim credentials. They are interchangeable.

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Categories: Books, The Camino
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