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Thursday
Oct252018

* * Ron Angert is getting out of ‘Dodge’

Ron Angert recently had an experience that seems destined to alter the trajectory for the rest of his life. Ron walked the famous pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago in Spain. That five week walk was a profound event for him. “I am moved by spiritual content, and it was a spiritual experience. So my wife Ann and I are planning to move to Spain.

 “I’ve always been focused on loving people. I saw the movie The Way a few years ago. It’s about a man who walked the Camino to deal with the death of his son who had attempted the same walk. Ten minutes into the movie, I knew I needed to do it myself before my 70th birthday. I knew I needed to be retired first as I could never go back to work.”

In the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, is the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great, where his remains are thought to be buried.

“For many who walk, it is a challenge like hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s 500 miles and the physical part affects everybody. Foot pain. Back pain. Leg pain. But you get over that. It’s not as challenging as the AT because at the end of the day, you stay indoors, you may choose to get a nice meal with great wine, and you get a shower and a warm bed. But it’s still hard.

“Then there’s the emotional aspect. For months before I went, I got online and read people’s accounts of their experiences. Some were homesick. Early in the trip, every day at around 11 a.m., I gave up. I decided I couldn’t do it, but I further decided nobody could do it. I thought it was a lie, that it was impossible, to get to the end. Yet 270,000 people do it every year. Pilgrims have been doing this walk for 1000 years!

“The third aspect is spiritual. Not all, but many hikers realize a more profound relationship with creation, that they never understood before.”

I asked about the seed of that spiritual transformation.

Ron said, “I can only speak for myself. I fell in love with hundreds of people, including many with whom I shared no common language. Eventually all the walkers naturally build relationships with others. I called mine my ‘Camino family.’ For example, I met Stephanie, who became my Camino daughter and her aunt Janice who were walking together. We met one day leaving a hostel early in the morning, in the dark. We walked along on a mountain trail while she had told me about two suitors who wanted to marry her, about their pros and cons, and her feelings for them. As the sun rose, she asked for my advice on her decision, to which I responded, ‘I have a wife and a daughter and I’ve never had this intimate a conversation with either of them,’ and at that point I didn’t even know her name.

“I became bonded to this group of people. It was middle-school, gushy, love, inappropriate love. I loved them so much.”

It’s fair to say that everybody who walks the Camino is changed is some ways by the experience. But Ron and Ann are planning to go to the next step. Their home in Newport is on the market and they’re planning to move to the town of Astorga, on the Camino.

“There are many reasons,” Ron said. “I’m devoted to health, and the food is amazing there. We have introduced the concept of ‘Farm to table,’ where food is grown locally. That’s the norm there. Many restaurants have their own gardens producing the vegetables they serve.

“Second, we Americans are hyper-competitive. Fastest! Best! Tallest! Over there, it doesn’t matter. (On the Camino), you walk every day, but at your own pace. Every day is new sights, people, towns, and experiences. It’s very healthy.

“I see lots of hatred in this country, and that really bothers me. We have elevated lots of hateful people. In business. In government. Even in grade school, with the bullying. You don’t have to be ashamed of being hateful it seems. You can brag about it.

“Still, I’m not so much moving away from something but to something. Our friends have expressed that it’s an outlandish thing to do. But for us it makes sense.

“In the community we’re moving, people spend time together at cafes, reading the paper, sipping tea and coffee. They’re not too busy and not competitive. We want that.

“I encourage everyone to live in another culture, either as a volunteer or worker. Getting out of ‘Dodge’ is a really mind expanding thing,” he smiled.

 

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