So how did this trip all come to be?
[quote_right]A year in which I would not care about anything superficial[/quote_right]
Well, before I went to Paris I was living in Barcelona. I had a job, friends, a good life. Living like everyone else. But i was distracted with life and forgot about my soul, my spirit or however you want to call it. So little by little it started to itch to do something for my soul and spirit. I wanted to dedicate some time just for that. To become a better person, stronger, wise and learn important things, like the meaning of life. So more and more this idea started growing to take one spiritual year off. A year in which I would not care about anything superficial.
I also wanted to test myself, prepare myself for whatever may happen next. Because anything can happen in life. You can have an accident and lose your arms, legs, or sight. A crisis starts and you are left without money. How will you survive? And more important: Will you stay the same? Could you be happy? Or does life end there?
These kind of questions I was thinking about the years before the big step. Finally during that winter, my job contract finished and I had already money saved up. I thought that this was the right time to do this and my heard was telling me that this was my path.
Camino de Santiago
And so you left for Paris?
Well not immediately. What i did was 4 years ago. I went on the Camino de Santiago, or the Route of Santiago de Compostela in the winter (during which I was lost in the Pyrenees for two days, sleeping in the snow and eating snow for water and I almost died) with a 23 kilo heavy backpack. I made this trip because I was afraid. My heart was asking me to go to Paris and do this thing but my mind was terrified. I didn’t know if I would survive.
Editors note: Route of Santiago de Compostela is the name of any of the pilgrimage routes , most commonly the Camino Francés or French route, to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many take up this route as a form of spiritual path or retreat, for their spiritual growth. Important note: this route was actually a pilgrim path long before Christians adopted it. It was a druids pilgrimage for thousands of years ago. The main pilgrimage route to Santiago follows an earlier Roman trade route, which continues to the Atlantic coast of Galicia, ending at Cape Finisterre (Finisterrae literally means the end of the world or Land’s End in Latin). The way to Finisterre, the end of the (known) world, was simbolising the death of the person after which he/she would return as reborn, a purified one. The ancient druids were making this path to “die” and be reborn purified.
Why Santiago de Compostela?
This trip was my preparation for my own pilgrimage that I would do later in Paris. In the days before I made the route, I saw a documentary about the Camino de Santiago called “Ẅithin the Way Without” I can recommend for people thinking of going on this trip. It’s about 4 different persons doing the route in the four different seasons.
I thought the best preparation for Paris would be to make the Camino in the winter. I would take the same backpack that I would use in Paris with more than 20 kilos inside, basically everything I would need in Paris for a year) and do the Camino in order to strengthen my body and spirit.
It would be like this test. If I could finish the Camino successfully, afterwards I would go to Paris. If not, it would mean I wasn’t ready yet and I would have to postpone it.
The Camino is a walk of almost 800 kilometers, 900 if you actually go all the way to Finisterre. How someone does the Camino is the way that someone lives his life. In the Camino you can always take the real, difficult path across roads, mud, snow, rivers and mountains or take the easy way. It’s up to you and how you deal with the obstacles on your route. It’s also about finding your own pace. Every person has his or her own rhythm and many people decide to travel together. The thing here is that let’s say in a couple, the man has a quicker rhythm so he wants to go faster, while the woman prefers to go slower. If the man decides to go slower he will feel bored and feel awful, while if the woman tries to keep up with her boyfriend she will end up hurting her body and legs. This could actually mean they were never meant to stay together in the first place.
[quote_right]Getting lost in the Pyrenees was actually one of the best things that could happen to me[/quote_right]
The first few days of the Camino, I got lost in the Pyrenees mountains and I almost died out there in the snow, which looking back at it was very important. Because after I got past that, I was no longer afraid of the Winter in Paris. I mean, what could be worse than sleeping two nights in the snow, without food and water and being sick? So I think that getting lost in the Pyrenees was actually one of the best things that could happen to me.
When I finished the Camino and arrived in Finisterre in early March, having reached the Atlantic at Costa da Morte, my body ached so much that even though I knew the water would be ice-cold, I took off my clothes and swam. I was alone there so I swam naked. It really felt like a baptism of some sorts. A sense of purification.
It had always been a dream of mine to live in Paris. So I did. I made my dream come true and in the end only spend 1060 euros.
So when I finished the Route of Santiago de Compostela, I went to Paris with a goal. My goal was to live one year with 3 euros a day. 2 euros for food and 1 euro for cleaning (soap shampoo , washing machine) for one whole year. In the streets. Not live in something that can be called a room.
I was expecting to live a year in hell, but I would become stronger and learn a lot of things. But I thought that it would be like going to a prison. What surprised me was that I was actually happy during all this.
So did you make it?
I completed my year successfully and during this year I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. After I found the cheapest supermarkets, found toilets and where I could shower I decided to do more difficult, interesting or weird stuff.
[quote_right]I didn’t speak for one month and I tried to learn sign language[/quote_right]
So one month I said to myself I was going to not speak and try to imagine the life of deaf-mute people. I found some books about sign language and its history. I didn’t speak for one month and I tried to learn sign language, something which was actually a very interesting experience. This was the “month of silence¨.
The next month I decided to give fasting a go. I wanted to figure out how long I can go without eating, only drinking water. That’s it.
My plan was to make it to 10 days and If I was able to manage I would continue to 20. And if I could handle that, I would try to reach 30. I passed the 10 days, but on the 18th day I decided to stop after 20 days. I lost 20 kilos in 20 days, 20 days without going for a shit.
The next month I wanted to experience how it is to be blind. I found a wooden stick, wrote down the steps from the place I was sleeping at to the supermarket and from there on to the place I showered and the toilets were, followed by the route to a library for blind people.
I then memorised these steps and started with simply closing my eyes and trying to make my route. Not long after I learned how to tie something in front of my eyes (something which is a totally different experience compared to just closing your eyes). My goal was to spend one month like this, experiencing how it’s like to be blind and live one month as a totally blind person.
But in the meantime I understood that it was very pretentious from me to believe that I can do in one month what blind people cannot do. Which is living as a blind person in the streets of Paris.
I only did it for a day after I decided to stop. During this month, I was going to this library for the blind and I learned braille and how to read books.
Oh yeah, I also did not do anything sexual for one whole year. Not even masturbation.
The Winter was hard and cold but also interesting.
By the way I was reading in your mushroom experience about the soundtrack of “Into the Wild“. The funny thing is that the first time i saw Into the Wild I was in Paris. There was an open cinema in an area in Paris called “City of Science” where there is a park, where they put up a screen like an open cinema. And it was very beautiful, the whole thing. It really touched me as that same day I would have to find a place to sleep inside that same park. I was able to really identify with many things that are in the movie.
Anyways, after this year and after completing my goal of living on 3 euros for one year, I thought it would be difficult to reintegrate in normal society. My friends also believed I would have changed. But when I returned to Barcelona, It was like I had never left. In my year in Paris I learned a lot, but little by little this wiseness and concentration started fading. I found a job and I’m still here after 4 years, but I still miss the life in Paris many times.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us!