“In early 2015, my girlfriend Nicole and I felt we needed a change, so we decided to leave our homes in Australia. Our plan was pretty simple – move halfway around the world to London, find jobs, earn some money, and settle down. I had no real reason to do the Camino, but we thought it would be nice to spend some time with each other, especially before life got too busy to be able to do such a long trip. We didn’t have any spiritual or deep reason though, we just thought it would be enjoyable. So on May 15, 2014, we set out from St. Jean Pied de Port towards Santiago.
We had a tight budget and so we had a tight plan. We wanted to make it to Santiago in just about 4 weeks, so that we could also do the Camino Finisterre and the Camino Muxía. Most people take 31 days to get from St. Jean to Santiago and about 4-5 more after, but we did it all in about 33, with only one “rest day” the whole time. That took its toll on us in the beginning and middle of the trip. As people often say about the Camino, the first third is a physical challenge, the middle third is a mental test, and the last third is one where some real spiritual discoveries begin. The first time I heard that I thought it was a little cliché, but it really turned out to be true. I wouldn’t say that I’m an experienced hiker but I ended up carrying a pretty heavy backpack – about 15 kilograms – with plenty of stuff I could definitely have done without. During the first week or so, I could feel every one of those 15 kilos on my back and in my feet. Then by the second and third weeks as we crossed the Meseta, we had some really long days, especially since we had to extend the ‘recommended’ days in the guidebooks to reach Santiago in our 4-week goal and on our budget. But eventually we got it together, became stronger, began to cruise, and really had a great time.
One reason we had such a great time is the people we met. In the early going, we ran into Greg and David, who we kept in touch with by text even after we pushed forward ahead of them. We even saw Greg on the last day of our trip, which was nice. And of course, we’ve kept in touch with Señor Vino, who asked me to share my story for this site. We met so many nice and interesting people and had great, lively conversations with them. We also saw a lot of really interesting characters. There was this one guy we saw several times who just LOVED going to the bathroom out in the open. It seemed like every time we passed a perfect photo spot, this guy was standing with his legs spread wide and a huge smile, just peeing away. We never actually met the guy – that might have been a weird conversation to start up! It was a great experience but if I were to do it again, I would take 50 days and go much slower, and really take everything in.
During the ‘spiritual’ part of our Camino, we learned to trust our feet and our instincts. The Camino gave me the – forgive the word – balls to go after my dreams. I’ve always told my teachers and family since I was young that I wanted to be an actor, and I remember often being laughed at. The Camino built a strength in me that allowed me to quit my day job as a barista and really go after my acting goal. In just over a year I’ve been in a few commercials, a few music videos, I’m working on a startup film, and I do a whole lot of voiceover work. We’re going fully unconventional now, even deciding to move out of our flat and putting a deposit down on a canal houseboat!
It’s hard work to keep auditioning and applying for acting jobs, but I love it. I somehow just have no interest in a 9-to-5 office job. This keeps me going though. I’m doing what I need to to do build my career, and the Camino showed me that all you have to do to reach a faraway and tough goal is to keep taking steps toward it.”
Justin Groves, Australia