Everybody a bit especially, every writer has a trip that changed their life. Do you have a trip that changed your life?
Yeah. About 20 years ago? Now, no, not less… eighteen, yeah, around eighteen years ago. I was in… I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. That changed my life. Yeah. I was in a bookstore waiting for my girlfriend at the time. I just sort of picked up some book, you know, and it was some guy who walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I just sort of went…that’s kind of weird. I bought it and then it sat on my bookshelf for months, and then I got on a plane, was getting on a plane, I was looking for something to read and I just grabbed it, read it on the plane and when I landed, I said: “I’m going to do that”. So I went, two weeks, I guess… I… I but I’d no, then there was no internet or anything to find out anything and I didn’t know, I’d never heard of the Camino de Santiago, which is this old pilgrim’s route across the north of Spain, that started in the eight century, you know, the Crusades and reconquests of Spain from the Moors, and so I… it was written by a guy named Jack Hitt who… I didn’t know, I don’t know anyone who wrote books, and so… I… It said he wrote for, I think Harper’s magazine, or something. Anyway, I called up whatever magazine it was and I said: “Hi. I’m looking for Jack Hitt.”” hold on.” And the guy: “Yeah. Jack Hitt.” Hi. Kack. My name is Andrew McCarthy. I read your book. It was so cool.” And he was like : “You read my book?”. And so I said: “Yeah.”, you know, so I said: “I want to go do that. How do I do it?” And so he started to tell me and then he sort of told me and then I… “Thanks a lot” and “Bye”, and I had some more questions and the next day, I called him up again. And he goes: “I can’t talk. Call me at home later.” Well, that was a mistake. So he gave me his home phone number, so I called him that night and I go, “listen, how do… so how do… I need a backpack. So anyway, I called him pretty much every day for… and finally his wife started answering the phone and: “Jack’s not in. Jack’s not in.” So I went to Spain and I walked across Spain for a month. and it was… yeah… it was just a transformative experience for me. I found it terrifying and I was lonely and miserable for most of it, and then something happened and I had, sort of, one of those experiences that you have and it’s just… I went there to see if I could take care of myself, in a certain way, thought I didn’t know that at the time. But then I sort of, I just discovered that I was taken care of, in a certain way. I mean, it wasn’t a religious experience, but it was some kind of experience that I had where I felt… Unafraid in the world for the first time, on a deep level for the first time. I had the experience of being unafraid and I didn’t… I was…carried so much fear with me in the world all the time that I didn’t even know that I carried it until it was suddenly absent for short time. And that changed my life. And that started me traveling, that experience. Yeah.
It was great. Yeah. I’d love to do it again someday. With my son if he wants to do it or my daughter, but… but it’s one of those things: Do you really want to go do those things again? You know. I don’t know. But it was good. Yeah, it changed my life.
How long did it take?
And you’re staying in little inns?
You’re staying in little… little refugios, little sort of pilgrim hostels. Which, you know, truth be told, at a certain point I was a gold-card pilgrim. I just said: “I can’t take this.” You know? Where’s the Pensione? You know, I mean… and then I justified this by “I want to meet the locals.” I don’t want to meet the Germans walking. I want to meet, you know, the people who live here, and I want to have that experience.” And so, yeah, half the time I slept with the sweaty pilgrims in, you know, with my backpack rolled out on the bunkbeds, and half the time, I checked into little inns. You know.
It was great, it was great. I much preferred sleeping at the inns. Yeah.
transcription by Y.Muriel
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