Finding Love on the Camino de Santiago

Love was the last thing I expected to find on the Camino de Santiago. But I did and twelve years later our son is nearly three years old. Therefore I thought this would be a good time for this post.

Thomas James

I set out expecting a journey with few people, and I expected those few to be a bit odd, or older religious types – well it was a pilgrimage, not your usual holiday. Expectations are interesting phenomena, I don’t know about you, but my expectations of future events are usually completely wrong.

I have been thinking of writing this post for some time, however, I wanted to wait until I had entered the next chapter. While thinking, I was composing in my head; the title would be more descriptive if it was “Finding Love, Pain, Change, Tolerance, Patience, Flexibility, and Frustration on the Camino de Santiago” – not quite as catchy; however, these are the changes required by me in all good relationships.

The Freedom of Walking Alone

Walking the Camino on my own is where it began, I didn’t expect to meet people and walk with them. However one of the wonderful things about walking on my own was caring less what others thought of me – at home, I would not leave the house in the morning without showering, on the Camino I showered the evening before, so most of the time I was smelly from walking all day.

I would walk with someone or a few people and then move on or they did. I like people, the most fun and enjoyment in life comes in the company of others, however, I am not great at spending a full day with one person. The Camino gave me the opportunity to meet lots of people, walk with them, or meet in the evening to eat together.

Losing Freedom and Gaining Friendship

Leslie Anna 13km from SantiagoThen I met Anna. We had passed a hello and Buen Camino before we started chatting. Then one night in an albergue we were sat opposite each other at a communal meal and got talking. I found her hugely attractive and as usual, that made the conversation more difficult for me.

During the next few days, we met more often and talk more. From Ponferrada, we walked together all day chatting. One of the first things I noticed was becoming conscious of my appearance. The second was arranging and discussing where we would stop each night. We had quickly become inseparable, sometimes much to the disgust of Nora, Anna’s friend.

Then one night we kissed. That was it; we walked the last ten days or so to Santiago hand in hand. It was all very easy, as it is at the start of any romantic relationships.

I had driven to the Camino and left my car in Roncesvalles, so four of us hired a car and drove there, one left at that point for a flight and we three drove to Prague.

Different Cultures and Language

At that time I was living in Vienna and Anna in Prague. So it was fairly easy to commute at the weekends. However, I had to go back to Dublin the following May. Around February, six months after meeting, I proposed and asked if she would come to Dublin with me. I think it was in that order, and that month – interesting how I remember the date we met on the Camino and not the date I proposed… years later we are still engaged, at some point, we will get around to the formalities.

After the Camino is when the pain, tolerance, flexibility, and the need to change started. Relationships need work, different first languages, cultures, and expectations appear to need a bit more work. Just a couple of examples: Czechs take their shoes off when entering their own house or even when visiting others; this took a bit of getting used to. But now when back in Scotland or Ireland and people walk around the house in outdoor shoes I find it uncomfortable – interesting how I changed with this one. I am Scottish, from Glasgow, and we are fairly direct in speech. This can take a lot of getting used to in any relationship; over the years I have learned some moderation in my directness, which has made life in general easier.

If you meet someone on the Camino it is unlikely that they will live just down the street or even in the same city or country, therefore these end up being long-distance relationship with all that entails. Holidays are often used visiting family in either country.

Ten Years Later

After nearly eight years together, seven living in Dublin, we moved back to Prague. The way of life in the Czech Republic can be a bit more relaxed, and with the intention of having a child, we wanted to live in a place where both parents didn’t have to work full time to just pay the bills. (and Anna’s family and friends are here)

Just over three years ago Thomas James was born, (Dec 1st). Thomas because it’s a name we like, and James because we met on the Camino, and the Camino has remained a big part of our life.

It’s not the end, though I do like happy endings. It’s just another chapter: just like meeting, getting engaged, living in Ireland, moving to Prague.

That day slogging up the hill from St Jean I was wondering what I had let myself in for – I really had no idea.

Pyrenees-23-road-in-mountains

33 Comments

  1. Kat Davis on December 12, 2014 at 10:52 am

    What a lovely story, congratulations to you both!

    • Leslie on December 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Kat.

  2. fiona on December 12, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Really lovely story and congratulations and best wishes to you both on the birth of your son.

    • Leslie on December 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Fiona.

  3. Suz on December 12, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Too Sweet! Truly the Universe is in “Perfect Order!” Thank you for sharing your beautiful l

  4. Bill Anlyan on December 12, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Camino story. I wish you and your family a long, healthy and happy life. Merry Christmas!

  5. joynessgirl42 on December 12, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    You both were where you were meant to be on the Camino. Congratulations and blessings for the future.

  6. Kathy Dahm on December 12, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    What a great story! Thanks so much for sharing it. It would make a wonderful movie!

  7. Carl on December 12, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks Leslie for sharing your story. So great how this worked out for the two of you.

  8. Kevin on December 12, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Truly life changing!! The Camino helps to break down normal social barriers. So glad for the 3 of you!

  9. CaminoCurtis on December 13, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Thanks for sharing your joy, I am walking the Camino Frances in June 2015. My friend Kurt -who is walking for the second time in May 2015 – tells me – the Camino provides whatever you need. It seems to be true for everyone. Welcome to the show Thomas James!!!

  10. Mairèad on December 13, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Thank you for sharing wishing you both and baby Thomas lots of joy and many blessings.

  11. Sometimes She Travels on December 14, 2014 at 12:44 am

    What a beautiful and inspiring story of your journey, both on the Camino and off. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby boy!

  12. martin glynn on January 8, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Congratulations on the birth of your son.Thanks for this wonderfull
    website.Just booked my Camino Frances for the 1st may 2015

    • Leslie on January 8, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks. I hope you have a great time.

      • Elsie on January 8, 2015 at 10:23 pm

        Congratulations Leslie on the birth…….. Enjoy as I enjoy these forums

  13. Mairead on January 8, 2015 at 8:40 am

    Nice story and congratulations on the birth of Thomas James – wondering what happened to Nora?

    • Leslie on January 8, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Nora is doing well, and was here babysitting last night…

      The three of us have stayed friends, not bad at all after so many years.

  14. Edith on January 8, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    I love happy endings and exciting new beginnings. Eggishedgadra to all and I hope I make it one day.

  15. Judi Venten on January 9, 2015 at 4:47 am

    That is just lovely. Congrads and thanks for sharing this lovely chapter with us.

  16. Ros Nielsen on January 10, 2015 at 3:32 am

    Congratuations of the birth of your son – so lovely you found happiness on the Camino, I walked the Camino in Sept 2011 for my 60th birthday, so it has special memories for me as well

  17. kate on January 15, 2015 at 1:05 am

    I loved that story and wish you all well in this part of your journey. I also am Scottish and am in a relationship with someone from another country, in my case, Catalunya. And this spring I will be walking the Camino – wondering what it will bring me? Have enjoyed your posts – thank you. Kate

    • Leslie on January 15, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Thanks Kate

      • meredith downey on December 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm

        congratulations on your loves…enjoy them always…will be on the camino sept 2016 starting in st. jean

        • the catalan way on December 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm

          My partner and I are planning to finish the Camino in September so we might see you there. I stopped in Astorga last May due to tendinitis and so there are two wonderful weeks left to do and my partner said he would come with me. Look out for a Catalan man and a Scottish woman (and perhaps our German friend!) Kate

  18. Denise on January 9, 2016 at 12:16 am

    How cool
    ❤️ on the Camino
    I love your story
    Thank You for sharing

  19. Yvonne on August 4, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Wonderful story! When you let go, things happens!

  20. Laura Pendergrass on October 31, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    You history gave me hope…that love ❤️ finds us wherever we are…
    May the Lord bless you always… en todos los caminos

  21. Donald Bowes on October 31, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing this personal side of your experiences. Wishing your family all the best blessings! Donald

  22. Christopher on October 31, 2017 at 11:55 pm

    A wonderful story. Best wishes to the three of you.

  23. Nadia on November 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

    God bless you and your family. St James played a role in your encounter.

  24. Bruce on February 12, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story of love between you and Anna. Finding that one soul with whom you can share your life, your dreams and your hopes is a wonderful thing. May life bring you joy and happiness.

  25. Melanie on May 25, 2018 at 2:11 am

    Thanks for sharing your story! I just came back from my 1st camino 1.5 weeks ago and I met someone in the last week of my camino. I am from Canada and he is from Denmark! I have never done long distance before, and we are giving it a shot, but for me it is very difficult to figure out how we can make this work. All I can say is that I loved the way my camino experience ended, and we’ll see if the “magic” continues 🙂

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