This is our first day on the Camino, leaving from Saint Jean Pied du Port. Left to right, Brad Genereux, Tyler, Jean Baptiste.
I want to take a few minutes to write about the first official Veterans on the Camino journey. After much thought and consideration about how best to describe the effects of the Camino on Tyler, I decided to ask the friends we met along the way to describe the changes they witnessed:
Andreas from Germany –
Thank you again for an amazing time together! I will never forget our journey and I am looking forward to seeing you again!
You are also more than just a friend… same I wrote about Tyler… amazing how we connected on Camino!
My Camino with Tyler –
I started my Camino the same time as Tyler. I saw him on my first couple of days but didn’t talk to him. It seemed like he didn´t want to speak that much.
The first time I had a conversation with him was in Puente la Reine in the evening. We were at the same albergue. He just replied “hi” after I said “hello” and not much more. After that evening, all I knew was that he came from the USA with Brad to walk the Camino. I thought they were simply friends walking the Camino together. I hadn’t learned about Veterans on Camino yet. Tyler was very closed and I noticed that he didn´t really want to speak… He was very closed off. The next time I saw him was about 6 days later in Estella. I was in another albergue but I visited some friends where he was staying. He saw me and mentioned that we had seen each other some days before. It was the first time he really talked to me. I was a bit surprised because before I thought he didn’t want to talk… This is when he told me about Brad and Veterans on Camino and about his family, his three children, his wife and his dogs. It was very nice to talk to him while we enjoyed a beer… After that evening we didn’t each other for a couple of days because I injured my knee and fell behind. But I started thinking about the Veterans on the Camino program and about Tyler and I determined that this is a great thing! I noticed how the Camino affected me and I realized that the Camino is working on Tyler as well. I thought about how he wouldn’t talk to me when we first met but after a short while he had opened up, I felt this was a very interesting manifestation of how the Camino was making a difference in Tyler. When we met up again there were more emotions and good feelings… both of us were happy to see each other again. And from this meeting we ended up walking the rest of the way to Finisterre together… It was amazing how he opened up and also how he listened to me and my problems and thoughts… he was also able to share and talk about his military / combat time. We laughed a lot, we sang while walking and so on… We had a really amazing time and we connected like very good friends; even like brothers. It was amazing to follow and to watch him change during our way! I also was able to talk to Brad during this time about Veterans on Camino and about Tyler. It was amazing how Brad and I had noticed Tyler change on the Camino.
I am still in contact with Tyler, we write each other and transfer pictures via Facebook. I am looking forward to following his journey after the Camino. I am also looking forward to seeing him again when he will do a European trip and visit Germany with his wife. I am also looking forward to visiting him in the USA when I am able.
Tyler is a special person to me and I am very happy and proud that we are friends! It was an honor to share the way with him!
I wish you all the best brother! Keep walking!
Tommo from Belgium –
I met Tyler for the first time at Puente la Reina, a few days after Roncevalles. I wasn’t feeling good when I was close to him, because of his nervous tics and because he lit a cigarrette every 10 seconds. He didn’t talk a lot. I felt like he was someone too stressed for me.
I started to walk with a group of pilgrims who walked with Tyler too. So, I saw him every day after Estella/Lizarra. I didn’t want to talk to him. I just said “hello” or “good night.”
A few days later, I saw him walking and talking with other pilgrims and this time he was a little more smiling. I remember we discussed a little that day. Just few words but it was nice.
One day on the way to Burgos, I was walking with him and a couple of other pilgrims. That day, we sang together some Queen songs and other things like that. And we laughed together. He seemed… Happier? Or much less stressed. It was a very nice day!
Day after day, he was looking more self-confident (or something like that) and comfortable with the other pilgrims that our group met on the Camino. And I didn’t notice any more nervous tics! We had a lot of beautiful moments together, we had some days we laughed so hard. It was amazing!
The day he left the Camino to go back to USA, he took me and the other members of the Camino family in his arms many times. And he told us he was going to miss us. So many emotions that day!
In summary, I know there’s a big difference between the Tyler I first met and the Tyler who left at Finisterre. The Tyler who left from Finisterre was smiling and laughing a lot with other people. He didn’t have any nervous tics, was able to hug other people, looked so much more comfortable with himself, with life and everything.
I’m so glad I met the Tyler of Puente la Reina and saw him slowly becoming the Tyler of Finisterre, while we walked the Camino. The same guy, but more in peace. And such a beautiful friend!
Jean Baptiste from France –
I met Tyler in Saint Jean Pied du Port while meeting with my friend Brad again. My first encounter with Tyler was very nice, I could feel he already heard about me and respected me as a peregrino, as a musician, and as a human. I discovered someone who was very excited about going on the Camino. He always asked a lot of questions about a “normal” day of walking, the organization, the rhythm and the difficulties that he could encounter walking this challenging path.
Then we began to walk. The first day was kind of difficult, walking up hill for 5 hours and then three hours more downhill on stony paths. Sometimes we walked side by side and exchanged views about our lives. He wasn’t really sure about his position. In a way, he wanted to walk with Brad who he considered as a Friend, and a fellow Veteran. On the other side, he also felt like walking alone to his own rhythm. I told him just to listen to his body and heart and do as he wanted. This way was for him.
Arriving first in Roncesvalles, Tyler already took his place in the albergue, like a “Camino veteran”. I was able to see that this guy knew how to walk, how to organize his day and how to take care of himself. Sometimes that is more difficult than taking care of others. However, he was able to let people come close to him and exchange a little bit with them.
Day after day, I could feel his need of exchange growing, he asked me more and more about my life and at one point he asked me to give him a guitar lesson. It lasted one hour and he tried hard. I could feel he was enjoying this and I enjoyed it as well.
One thing I remember is how Tyler was able to adapt to a situation. After three days of walking, he decided to cook for dinner with three other peregrinos. We all decided to go to buy some food, in order to prepare a good meal. I have Gluten issues and Tyler’s first idea of cooking spaghetti bolognese couldn’t work. After talking about it we all decided to cook rice with vegetables. We all ended up buying different foods that we liked and Tyler’s project became a group project. I could feel this guy knows some things about leadership and letting everyone assets being part of a bigger blossom.
I only walked 15 days with Brad and Tyler on their 500 miles path but I could feel something was working. As I went back home, Tyler and I shared a friendship without expectations but with many surprises. He was walking with a group of peregrinos that I didn’t really know. But through him I could encounter them, discover them. We had a lot of discussions about our lives and important experiences that we needed to unravel.
I didn’t expect much about this way. I only wanted to help Brad in this wonderful, meaningful project. After all, I’m very happy and proud to have been part of it even if just a little piece of the puzzle, very very proud.
I hope this project will go on and other veteran’s will be able to enjoy this powerful path.
I know it is never an easy thing to rebuild everything new, enjoying the present without being invaded by past or future. I also know, particularly in these trying times we all need someone who we can trust in. I could feel Tyler’s trust in Brad, I could also see the devotion that Brad has in this project. Always taking time to think about everything, trying hard to take the best position in order to let Tyler live his own Camino. I also know all the trust Brad had in Tyler. Brad often talked with me about that, how he chose Tyler and not another candidate because of the trust he had in him.
I look forward to being a part of future Veteran on the Camino projects!
Vince Marasco from Canada –
I was fortunate to have met Tyler on the first day of our walk (6 K’s in). We exchanged introductions and that was it, he appeared a bit reserved. However, over the next 34 days we either walked together or finished our day in the same town at least 20 times. Initially our conversations were curt but as we saw more of each other we questioned one another and conversed about our life experiences. As we continued the walk I believe that there was a discernible change in Tyler’s confidence and comfort level. Near the end of the Camino, after everyone else had stopped walking for the day, Tyler would sometimes continue on by himself – I think he was simply enjoying being in the moment. In closing I will say that it is difficult to measure the good that Tyler might have gleaned from the walk, but I’m certain that he has grown from this experience as we all do. It was great to share this amazing journey with him.
John from Australia –
I want to reiterate what I tried to express to you both on our last night in Santiago de Compostella – I was moved by your SMILING FACES, perhaps especially Tyler’s, having met you both earlier in the Camino and shared time with you both, from a “veteran in melt-down” (your words) at Fromista (or thereabouts), where Tyler was somewhat guarded and hesitant, to those final stages of beaming smiles, open faces and warm embraces.
A picture is worth 1,000 words – I feel that these photos capture the subtle, and not so subtle transformations. Look again at the photo at the beginning and see what I mean….