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A couple of months ago, I met Giuseppe di Benedetto – an Italian man who had recently moved to Bulgaria, a man with a huge smile, a positive outlook, looking astonishingly constantly happy. He told me his story about the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage route which he walked last summer – a story that moved me deeply. It reflected spiritual wisdom, it reflected an understanding of life and its values that are held very dear by all of us in GLOBI. So I invited him to share with us some of his experiences.
Giuseppe, thank you for your consent to share your very personal experience with the GLOBI readers! Let us start with the very beginning – what made you decide to go on this journey?
There is a moment in everyone’s life when you know you need to take a walk, to breath fresh air and clear your mind. So, I wanted to take a walk free from all mental conditioning. And to think. I had heard about the pilgrimage to Santiago before and when a friend of mine proposed me to do it, I immediately bought a ticket to the South of France.
Photo: © Google Images
What was the greatest challenge for you?
Initially, it was the length of the road. Before starting the journey, I had studied the map of Spain on google and the idea to cross the country from the Pyrenees to the ocean seemed daunting. I quickly learned that the Camino was not about kilometers or numbers, but about the inner journey – it is immeasurable.
I quickly learned that the Camino was not about kilometers or numbers, but about the inner journey.
What kind of people did you meet on the way?
I met wonderful people from all over the world, dreamers of different age, light warriors armed with their smiles, adventurous knights, prospectors, modern pioneers, prophets of every religion, romantic poets, saints and hermits. Everyone with their own personal motivation and no one asking about yours. The reason of your journey is of no relevance, it is important just to walk. The Camino does not need a reason, neither a rational explanation.
The reason of your journey is of no relevance, it is important just to walk.
What were the local people like?
Spanish people living along the road are special, they are Camino’s inhabitants and they have this special kind of citizenship which they share with pilgrims. It is a symbiotic relationship. You can touch their spirit of hospitality; they have been used to coexisting with pilgrims for centuries. It has been called “The Spirit of St. James”. Even children, since they were babies, have been taught to recognize travelers. Pilgrims are part of the landscape – everyday they have different faces, but in the end they are all the same.
In some villages or cities I came through, I had the impression I had lived there before. If you sit on a bench in the main street for more than twenty minutes, you become a local, and you can expect everything – from apples to taking part in wedding celebrations. Spanish people living along the road are simple and special at the same time, and you learn to love them quickly.
Photo: © Giuseppe di Benedetto
In spite of the various possible reasons to embark on this journey, was there anything that united you all?
Pilgrims, regardless of race, nationality, ethnic group are brothers and sisters. They share the path, the same pain and the same joy. They are a big family. They are like the extended family you never knew you had, but meet for the first time. You clearly feel the sense of belonging. Every pilgrim belongs to you, and you belong to the same family.
How did your perception of yourself and your connection with other human beings and the world change as you were progressing along the way?
For everyone the Camino is a very personal experience. It is intimate because the journey is internal. But it is also shared. Even though your journey is very unique, you are sharing your road with the others and they are not indifferent to you. They are like you. They face the same up-hill challenges, suffering under the same sun and drinking from the same spring. During the pilgrimage, I met a man who wrote a very beautiful book about his experience. The title of the book captured the feeling very well, “The Camino is a Shared Loneliness”.
The Camino is a Shared Loneliness
What is Camino’s message to humanity, which is so often divided by religious, economic, political differences?
The Camino gave me the idea that similarities are greater than differences in the world. The Camino is the greatest metaphor of life, because life is a great journey and we are all walking on the same road. Everyone has the baggage on their shoulders and everyone is walking on their own two feet. I met people with different motivations, from different walks of life, on the route we are all Earthlings. The Camino is a proof that a different world is possible. A world where we are not afraid of differences but we know more about each other and feel enriched.
A world where we are not afraid of differences but we know more about each other and feel enriched.
The Camino gave me the idea of a nation where everyone has the right of citizenship – the Human Nation. The linguist Chomsky claimed that if aliens visited us on Earth they wouldn’t be able to distinguish the difference between our languages, for example between Italian and Japanese. For them they would sound the same or at least small variations of the same Human language. The Camino makes you feel a little bit like this alien would see you – whether Japanese or Italian, everybody looks alike and is part of the same culture and of the same Human family.
Photo: © Giuseppe di Benedetto
GLOBI is a platform encouraging inclusive practices. We are trying to give a voice to different individuals to share their personal vision of what inclusion is or should look like. What is inclusion for you?
Inclusion is to give the tired pilgrim space on the same bench, at the same table, under the same roof. Inclusion is to share a place, it is when mine and yours becomes ours, it is when we understand that we are the others and the others are part of us. There is an African concept of Ubuntu: I am because you are.
Inclusion is to share a place, it is when mine and yours becomes ours.
Thank you very much for the inspiration!
[Head photo: © Kethpp]
Blagovesta Troeva works at the Department of English at New Bulgarian University, Sofia. She obtained her first Master’s degree in British and American Studies at Sofia University, Bulgaria. While her career develops in the field of foreign language teaching, she also has profound interests in human rights, anti-discrimination, inclusion and learning difficulties. She has completed the Erasmus Mundus Special and Inclusive Education – a joined Master’s programme of the University of Roehampton, London, Oslo University, and Charles University, Prague.