It All Started with a Donkey

One of the most interesting gift when traveling is, in my opinion, meeting amazing individuals. I would like to share a story of how a donkey started some amazing friendships. In 2010 I was still working in the corporate environment and decided that I need to plan my departure from that intense, crazy and rewarding world.

Less than one month after my leaving the corporate world, I stood, with my feet on the ground,  my knees shaking, and my rational mind asking me just what was I doing with a backpack on my back, and the guidebook for the Camino de Santiago. I started my unbelievable adventure,  my first ever Camino journey. Midway through the walk, I chanced upon an albergue (a place to sleep, and often eat) and was drawn by the backyard that had an abundance of grass. Later that afternoon, I washed my clothes by hand and headed out to the backyard. Much to my surprise, there was a donkey! I had seen this donkey and a group of people walking behind me. The owner approached me and handed me a piece of bread, as he pointed to the donkey. I fed the donkey, and we both walked back into the albergue. Volunteer pilgrims pitch in and help with any tasks, from setting the table, help cook or clean up after the meal. I joined in and met one of those who would become amazing friends. The conversation divided into smaller pilgrim groups, and I discovered that my new friends came from France. We were, historically, very distant cousins!

The next morning, I met the owners of the donkey and their group who were headed to the next stop. I asked if I could walk with them, having found the previous evening a great source of joy. Those of you who are reading this and have not had the opportunity or want to do a journey like the Camino (with multiple roads and options, but all of the roads leading to Santiago de Compostela) may find the next paragraph challenging to believe. I would have thought likewise before I undertook the Camino adventure.

Walking with Nestor

For the next 3 weeks, we walked together, as a united group, as sub-groups, as one-to-one, and of course, with Nestor the donkey. The Camino de Santiago has existed for centuries. It served both as a personal pilgrimage and personal penitence. Millions of pilgrims walked the known roads leading to what is believed to be the remains of St James the Greater, one of the disciples of Jesus. Pilgrims undertake this personal journey for a variety of reasons. Mine was and still is, difficult to describe. The journey was a spiritual one but also one of a renewed focus on understanding how I now could serve.

During the last 3 weeks, Team Nestor (with Nestor at the helm). We bonded in ways that under standard circumstances would take years to accomplish. On the Camino, ones is more apt to share personal experiences with others. We are all on the same level – pilgrims who are headed in the direction of Santiago.

Part of a definition of friendship states “enjoyment of each other’s company; trust; and the ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings, and make mistakes without fear of judgment from the friend.” I can assure you that the bonds we formed during those brief weeks has been growing ever since the beginning. After more than 6 years as friends, I have traveled to France twice and spent time with ALL of Team Nestor (including Nestor). All Team Nestor friends have visited me in my home in Ottawa, Canada. I’ve been proud and happy to share my city and surroundings with my Camino friends.

Three Camino Friends

I understand Nestor doesn’t like to fly, so I plan my summer travels to include visits to my friends and Nestor. The last set of friends arrived this past October and we spent 22 days together, exploring the wonders of Ontario and Quebec, enjoying the various events around the nation’s capital, reminiscing and planning our next Team Nestor trip.

 

All this to say, when you are traveling, keep your heart and your mind open to others. One never knows who we may meet, and one of the great gifts that travel offers is the meeting of minds, of smiles, of interests and the development of amazing friendships.

And to think, my wonderful relationship with all the members of Team Nestor… started, with a donkey!

Nestor and I. Camino de Santiago, Camino

 

apptraveler

Retired exec consultant who traveled for more than 4 decades, both corporate and leisure. I appreciate my travel experience and want to share tips, photos and stories with readers! I live in Ottawa Canada and have traveled to 31 countries.

34 thoughts on “It All Started with a Donkey

    • November 8, 2017 at 6:32 am
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      Hi Shari, thanks for your comments. If I am traveling, I’m pretty much always happy!

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  • November 7, 2017 at 2:32 pm
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    Loved your story Sylvie. You need to frame the picture of you and Nestor!

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    • November 8, 2017 at 6:32 am
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      Thanks for your comments Mary. I have quite a few favorite pictures of Nestor and I, I should make a poster or a photo book!

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  • November 8, 2017 at 3:16 pm
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    This sounds like such an amazing journey! I love the people that you meet while traveling, I met some wonderful fun people when we were in Dublin and London in 2008 and Hawaii in 2009.

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    • November 8, 2017 at 3:28 pm
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      Hi Stephanie, Thanks for your comments. Are you still in touch with some of the people you met on your trips?

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  • November 8, 2017 at 5:42 pm
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    It’s amazing how one thing like a donkey can start a whole bunch of wonderful happenings – good for you!

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    • November 10, 2017 at 3:28 am
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      Thanks Andrea for your comments. Little did I know what amazing relationships awaited me when I approached Nestor for the first time!

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  • November 8, 2017 at 7:50 pm
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    This is, hands down, one of the sweetest stories! I’m inspired by your adventure and sweet Nestor!

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    • November 10, 2017 at 3:27 am
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      Hi Mia, thanks for your comments. Nestor is by far one of my favorite animals. At times I actually felt he knew how we were (tired, happy, frustrated) and he reacted to us just like a dog would. I think, deep inside, he thought he was one of us! I get to see him again next spring as the group undertakes a new adventure together!

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  • November 8, 2017 at 10:26 pm
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    It sounds like you were more than ready for a life changing event, but wow did that take courage! I loved reading your story of inspiration.

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    • November 10, 2017 at 3:25 am
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      Thanks Jen for your kind comments. I was truly ready for a chance, and it is one that I haven’t regretted at all!

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  • November 9, 2017 at 3:08 am
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    This is such a beautiful story. I have met so many wonderful people on my travels but none quite as special as you were able to make on this pilgrimage.

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    • November 10, 2017 at 3:25 am
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      Thanks Jessica for your comments. The bonds we made while on the Camino are like none other. I really think that the magic of walking across Spain added the element of “extra” to the relationship. I would recommend the Camino to everyone!

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  • November 9, 2017 at 1:46 pm
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    that sounds like such a fun adventure! And I love that adorable donkey too!

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    • November 10, 2017 at 3:23 am
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      Hi Dennis, thanks for your comments. I have to say that I had so many misconceptions about donkeys, and after spending lots of time traveling with Nestor, I’d have a donkey in a heartbeat – IF I had a place big enough!

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  • November 9, 2017 at 2:34 pm
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    I would say the best part about traveling is meeting new friends along the way and they don’t have to be people all the time. It’s so nice that you got to experience this journey, it’s fulfilling and refreshing and I’d love to do it someday.

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    • November 10, 2017 at 3:22 am
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      Hi Carol, Thanks for your comments. I truly enjoy meeting the people and the beasts as well! Although I think Nestor thinks he is a person!

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  • November 9, 2017 at 3:16 pm
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    What a wonderful experience you had! It makes me think of my own days of travel and all the fun memories of all the characters I met along the way.

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    • November 10, 2017 at 3:21 am
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      Hi Mary, thanks for your comments. I really find the people is what makes a place!

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  • November 10, 2017 at 6:52 am
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    Love this story! Being friends with an animal is a wonderful thing! They don’t judge and they take you for who you are! I am of Spanish descent and raised as a Catholic (not practising anymore) so was wondering who on earth was St. James; I had to google it just to know it is Santiago indeed! Funny how names change so much from language to language!

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    • November 11, 2017 at 3:41 am
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      Thanks Cynthia for your thoughtful comments. Since you are of Spanish descent, have you had the chance to visit Spain? Yes, Santiago has many names! I use the French, English and Spanish depending on what I am writing!

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  • November 10, 2017 at 8:35 am
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    This is such a wonderful feel good story. It makes me smile that it started with a donkey.

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    • November 11, 2017 at 3:39 am
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      Hi Jill, Thanks for your comments. It all started with sweet Nestor! My favorite donkey in the entire world!

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  • November 10, 2017 at 3:17 pm
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    This is such a wonderful story and an amazing journey. Oh i am so envy right now. lol!

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    • November 11, 2017 at 3:38 am
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      Thanks Jack for your comments. It was truly an amazing journey. In fact, most of the trips I took have been great journeys overall.

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  • November 10, 2017 at 6:29 pm
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    This post is so heart warming. I really enjoyed all of the photos.

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    • November 11, 2017 at 3:38 am
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      Hi Brandi, thanks for your comments. I am glad you enjoyed the photos!

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  • November 11, 2017 at 12:59 am
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    Awe this is such a beautiful story. Travel experiences are truly priceless!!

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    • November 11, 2017 at 3:37 am
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      Thanks Kim for your comments. Even the not as good as expected trips are priceless – we learn what to avoid, or not do, the next time around!

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  • November 11, 2017 at 1:27 am
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    A lovely story! You needed that breather and so happy that trip earned you friendships you treasure and , a renewed understanding on life 😊

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    • November 11, 2017 at 3:36 am
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      Hi Stephanie, Thanks for your comments. You are so right, I certainly found a renewed understanding of life during my Caminos!

      Reply

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