It was a foggy, rainy, cold morning the day we walked from Orisson to Roncesvalles. It was pretty tough going, and our group was exhausted. It was only our second day on the trail; our team was just getting used to life on the Camino, and several were already struggling.
However, as we crested the Pyrenees, we climbed through the thick mist and into bright sunlight. Instinctively, we stopped in our tracks and marveled at the full, white clouds and lush forests below us. In this moment, one of many, I felt the unique joy and blessing of being a pilgrim without limits.
Not only was the landscape breathtakingly beautiful, the whole experience came to symbolize for me both my ability to rise above my own physical limitations and the incredible power of friendship…
I was born in Durham, North Carolina and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when only 18 months old. This condition limited my ability to balance myself, to walk independently, to use my right arm and hand, and to speak with ease–just to mention a few of my ongoing issues.
Growing up with a loving mom and dad provided wonderful emotional, physical, and spiritual support, though the burden in raising me and my sister fell on my mom, when my dad died of cancer only a few months before my tenth birthday.
As someone growing up with cerebral palsy, I was unable to enjoy many of the outdoor adventures of a typical kid. Over the years I acquired a fair amount of adaptive gear that helped get me around, but even still there was only so much I could do. I had inherited my father’s sense of adventure and desire to travel the world, but this was going to be a challenge for me.
A few years ago I saw a documentary about the ancient pilgrimage route across Spain, called The Camino de Santiago. The title of the film was Footprints, the Path of Your Life, and it convinced me that somehow I just had to make the pilgrimage myself.
I had planned to tell one of my teachers, who had done the Camino before, the next day about how I wanted to make this journey and believed that with the help of others I could actually do it. However, before I even made it to his desk that next morning, I saw him walking in the hallway and told him of my plans. Without a moment’s hesitation, and with a big smile on his face, he said, “We’ll make it happen!”
And with the help of many friends and family we did! So far we’ve covered 200 miles of the Camino and plan to return this summer for 150 more.
After this summer we will have only around 150 more miles to reach Santiago de Compostela, and I am sure we will make it; however, that is not the end of my dream. My hope for the future is to empower other people with mobility deficits to complete the Camino and other such journeys. I want to share that same experience of rising above misty clouds and walking into limitless sunlight!