“My Sister died from Cancer at Christmas time 2021. Because of Covid restrictions, very few people were allowed to attend the funeral. Even though I fully understood the reasons for this, it was hard to accept that someone could pass away and their life not be celebrated. She meant the world to me. My sister was the eldest, and she always stood by me. I was not the easiest of brothers to have growing up. I had plenty of issues in my life, and when I needed her, she was always there. Especially after my marriage broke down. I can’t go any deeper here, but I will say that it was a tough period in my life, and I knew I could always rely on her. I wanted to do something in her memory and try and help the Irish Cancer Society at the same time.
Because of Covid, I got into hiking. The Camino is something I wanted to do. Since I read a book by Paulo Coelho titled The Pilgrimage, I have become familiar with the Way. Also, there have been a lot of recent movies on the Camino. So, the idea of blending my love of hiking and the memory of my sister along with the Camino was born.
I started the walk from my home in Portlaoise in Ireland. The route took me to Dublin Port, where I got the ferry to Holyhead in Wales. I picked up the Cambrian Way, a mountain walk in Snowdonia National Park. I continued on the Two moors way to Plymouth in the Southwest of the UK. From there, I got the ferry to France. The Irish, Welsh and English legs took 4 weeks. From Saint-Pol-de-Leon in France, the camino is signposted. It led me from Nantes to Bordeaux and Irun, across the border in Spain. The French leg took about 6 weeks.
From Irun I used Camino Del Norte to get to Santiago de Compostela. It is a challenging walk that brings pilgrims through mountains and by the coast. But it is stunning. I’m not a religious person, but I am a spiritual person. Being out in nature is thrilling for me. Especially morning time as the world wakes up and the birds start to sing, animals are on the move, that is the best time of the day for me. After three and a half months on the road covering over 2500 km, I still got a buzz early in the morning.
The Camino does have a special meaning for me. Things happen on the Way that do not occur elsewhere in my life. It is hard to put into words, only to say that I had more luck with problems than in life in general. So many things went wrong along the Way, even after all the planning. But there was always a solution, and it always involved other people. So many people came to my rescue on the Way. For example, my right leg was hurting in Wales, and I was going to hire a taxi to bring my heavy bag to the end of the next stage. I was staying in a pub called the Penrhos Arms in Cemmaes. From there, I had called the taxi and had agreed on a price. When I told Rhys, the manager, about the taxi, he told me to cancel it. He would bring my bag for free. At the end of that same day, I was camping outside Dylife Hostel, chatting to the owner when I was charging my phone. I told him why the bag had been dropped. He then told me he would do the same the next day. I got help with my heavy bag two days in a row! My leg had healed by the third day, and I could carry my heavy bag again.
There are countless other examples, like free accommodation in Naas, and free food in Bangor. One time, I left my charger behind somewhere in France, and someone dropped it off at the next place I was staying. I could keep going on. I’m not a lucky person. Those types of things do not happen in my life. I’m an Engineer, and the odds just didn’t add up. I have heard from other pilgrims about the luck of the Camino, but I didn’t believe it until it kept happening to me. I don’t understand why or how, as I’m not a superstitious person. Still, something happens when people walk the Way, and I heard lots of stories from other pilgrims that they believe it as well.
I walked through five countries and many cities and towns. I saw beautiful mountains, stunning countryside, and stunning coastlines. But the people from all over that I interacted with made the Camino so special. I realized that we are all trying to get through life. We work, look after our young, try to put them through education, and keep the lights on. We are the SAME.
I walked Camino Del Norte with Cecelia, Arno, and Dave. We still keep in contact with each other, and I know we will be lifelong friends. We are entirely different people; if not for the Way, we would not be friends. I don’t mean this because of the different parts of the world that we live in. I mean that we would never travel in each other’s social circles, as we are very different people. The Way pushed us together, and we got on really well. I loved every minute of it, and there was sadness when I had to return to life, but it will remain with me. I started the camino because I lost my sister, but now I have new people in my life, and I know they will be lifelong friends.”
Help Eamon raise money for the Irish Cancer Society in memory of his sister Alice McCann. 250 supporters already donated over 18.000 Euros. The fundraiser is done through the website Just Giving. It is still open, and 100% of the donations go to the Irish Cancer Society directly from the Website: Eamonn Culliton is fundraising for Irish Cancer Society (justgiving.com). The website survives on donations, but you can give as much or none to the website as you wish. It will not affect the donation.
*Many charities use Just Giving as a fundraiser platform. Eamonn has no access to the funds raised.
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