The pitch of youthful voices is one of the enduring sounds of the Camino. Sharing in hundreds of these conversations has been both a privilege and an eye opener. The very nature of these dialogues not only gifted me with the views of these spirited pilgrims; but also provided me with a mirror of my own perspectives. As the weeks progressed, I began to realize that I had unconsciously programmed my thinking with media-driven, stereotypical messages in terms of how our youth of today are embracing the world’s pressurized environment. As the season came to an end, it became clear that the views expressed by this coming of age generation run counter to the main stream media reports of their dismal future outlook, their restricted aspirations due to destabilized economics, and their resulting apathy associated with elections and conventional politics.
Early on I came to understand that the young people with whom we were conversing did not respond, nor express their views of what the future would hold in terms of “good” or “bad”; “positive” or “negative”; “optimistic” or “pessimistic”. Rather than falling into the fixed polarized lenses held by previous generations, these young people preferred to define and convey their future in terms of its “reality”. Even in the context of a projected poor economy, low youth employment, and the disintegrating environment, their perspective did not fall prey to the type of schism that causes people to distort their thinking and decision making with judgmental filters. They were decidedly indifferent to the debate of good or bad; better or worse. Rather, their focus was on finding out what they needed to do to pursue the lifestyle that would be the most realistic in these unpredictable times.
Our young pilgrims described their respective realities with clarity and a type of mindfulness that illustrated their desire to take it on – whatever that would mean. There were few statements that conveyed victim-like behaviour – i.e. the “disenfranchised” and “unfortunate” circumstances that they had inherited, but rather a straightforward commentary of the options that were in front of them and the decisions that they would need to make. They appeared to “own” the life that appealed to their beliefs and was visible within their grasp.
Many of our walkers were students, some on their gap year, while others were traveling between terms.There were those who were either employed, or seeking employment upon their return. A significant number were living in, or moving to countries other than their homeland. And, as with the nature of the Camino, a small percentage was simply walking – with no particular destination or future plan in mind.
We were immediately intrigued by the mobility of this group. We experienced a freedom in their attitude and plans for the future that did not restrict them to a particular location or established expectations. Even those who were in graduate and post-graduate programs, including the most often identified fields of medicine, advanced communications technology, agriculture, architecture, and social (international) development spoke of alternative avenues that were available to them should their primary choice not sustain their interest. National boundaries, language and already acquired experience did not appear to restrict their views of what the world could hold for them.
They were neither naïve, nor arrogant. They simply believed that they could carve out a life that met their needs amidst the realities of this world.
Of course, politics was a subject that presented a wide range of alternative perspectives. One wouldn’t expect anything less with the captivating mixture of eastern, western, northern and southern worldviews. Such impassioned dialogue would momentarily pivot on global affairs and the governmental giants – moving more often than not to the area of influence where these young people felt they had real impact – to their communities of interest – geographic, professional, or interest based.
Without question, we experienced a generation who are committed to civic responsibility; not in the traditional sense of political parties or voting, but in the role each of them want to play in making a difference for their current and future families. For some, their voices are heard through demonstrations and petitions. For others, their commitment to sustainable living is evident in the cooperative communities in which they live and work. The universal appeal; however, appears to be one of civic collaboration, working towards a more tolerant, sustainable and fair society.
I certainly do not want to leave you with a Pollyanna taste in your mouth. You may be thinking that I was wearing rose coloured glasses throughout the past several months. Of course, there were many views stated that have not been represented in this blog. There were significant fears and vulnerabilities expressed, as well as momentary anger and anxiety. They were however, the tip of the iceberg – the stepping-stones into a deeper pool of thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Below this surface, it seemed that reality, freedom, ownership and civic responsibility prevailed.
Stay tuned to our next blog “A Pictorial Essay of Wellington Boot”. It is sure to be a hum dinger as we explore the life and times of the Camino’s Canine Hospitalier.