Travel is always enlightening. It is also occasionally disappointing and tiring, and, if you are traveling alone, lonely. Sometimes it is more than all of this. Sometimes you find a “thin place.” A thin place is where the distance between heaven and earth seems shorter, and reveals something deeper. Yesterday, I rode the train from Bilbao to Madrid and found a thin place.
About two hours into my train ride, a young woman with a backpack and hiking poles boarded in Burgos. Burgos is on the path of the Camino de Santiago — the 500 mile trek from St. Jean, France to Santiago de Campostela, Spain. I’m planning to hike (the shorter version of) the Camino this year so, after the woman settled into her seat, I asked her whether she had been walking the Camino. She had. Later, we talked a little more and realized we had many connections — our work with refugees and our love of horses. Her Camino hiking partner is Mexican and lives near my second home of San Miguel de Allende. She is German and lives near my adopted refugee family in Berlin. Our conversation was short but felt long. When we arrived in downtown Madrid, we hugged and promised to keep in touch. Somehow, our conversation changed everything about the three weeks I’ve been in Spain and the few days I have left here before I return home. Today, Spain seems a little deeper, a little wider, and a little closer to heaven.