A Follow-Up Interview with Sue Kenney and Her Documentary on the Camino de Santiago: A Pilgrim Continues Her Journey

5. Please tell us about the beginning of your most recent walk on the Camino. You also had an interesting experience in a place called the Valle del Silencio.

I drove a 7 passenger van from Madrid to the Valley of Silence about 15kms outside of Ponferrada. We had to drive on very narrow roads that were cut into the edge of a mountain. The van barely fit and often we had to stop and back up to find enough space to let another vehicle pass. I was very nervous about being responsible for all the people in the van on these dangerous roads, although I somehow trusted the Camino would take care of us. When we finally reached the valley, we parked the car. It was dark and we began to look for the refugio. We soon found out it was closed for the winter. We were told there was no where to sleep. There was no way that I was going to drive back down the mountain in the dark. We walked the streets asking people along the way for their help. We were turned down by everyone. Finally, we approached a women with a number of kids around her. She said there was a lady named Generosa who lived down the road and might have a place for us. We went to her home and knocked on the door. She came to the window on the second floor and called out to us. We pleaded with her for a place to sleep. She agreed it would be 20 euro for the night. She came downstairs and took us across the narrow road, up some old wooden stairs into a barn. We looked around, there was one mattress and a piece of foam. We were all so tired we didn’t care. We had bought a bottle of locally made liguor called Herjabo (I think). We passed the bottle around and told stories. Then we rolled out our sleeping bags on the wooden planks and fell asleep. It was very cold in the night, well below zero and it was very uncomfortable. This certainly put us all into a pilgrim mode.

(c) Pasha Patriki

6. Please tell us about the progression of your trip. What was your daily routine? Where did you stay? What did you eat? How did your co-pilgrims adjust to the Camino?

We stayed in hostels for pilgrims. Each day started with daily impressions spoken into the camera we set up outside the hostel.Throughout the day we would walk alone at times and as a group. We always spent dinner together and stayed in the same hostel. We supported each other through conversation and offering assistance. Some of the pilgrims got blisters and this required special treatment.

7. One of the days provided for a 33 km long walk, a rather monstrous physical challenge. Please tell us about that day and why no footage exists of this unique day.

The day we walked 35kms, the camera man had an injury. He pulled his achilles tendant and had to take a taxi part of the way. Then when the pilgrims arrived at the destination, they were so exhausted, he helped them by carrying their packs for the last 500 meters. That night we had dinner together, but very little footage was captured. I thought it would be the highlight of the documentary, but I assumed that the Camino wanted to show the world something different.

(c) Pasha Patriki

8. What was it like to be a tour leader, pilgrim and documentary creator at the same time?

It was a difficult challenge. Often I had to be a pilgrim, a leader, a director/producer, a travel guide, first aid, a mom and a friend all at the same time. I had to juggle different roles and also walk and carry my own backpack. But most of all, I was a leader. I tried to remain as aware and present as possible and trust that everything would work out. I struggled with a leader style. I wanted to be out front guiding the pilgrims, but that wasn’t were I ended up. I came to the conclusion that I would allow the pilgrims to experience their own journey, and try to guide them towards Santiago, allowing them a chance to discover things for themselves. This was a discipline. Part way through the journey, I was given a walking stick by a villager who stopped me along the way. The stick was very short, ornately carved and crooked in shape. The villager asked me to take it to Santiago and pray for him and his wife when I got there. I was committed to using the stick as I walked but it was too short. It took a lot of patience and persistence to use it, but I had promised the man. One day I was walking in a small village and noticed a shepherd with some sheep. He was herding them into a fenced in area. I noticed that he stood at the back of the flock, tapping the sheep who tried to separate or head in the wrong direction. From this experience, I learned that I wanted to be like that shepherd and guide the pilgrims on their way. Besides, I realized it would be useless to stand in front of them and try to get them to follow me. It was a fabulous lesson in leadership for me.

(c) Pasha Patriki

9. Please comment on the group dynamics among the pilgrims that joined you.

This group was very supportive of each other.They were open to each other and very accepting. I think even more so than any situation at home. The Camino teaches humility and openess. The more one opens up to the Camino, the more one receives.

10. Please tell us about your arrival in Santiago de Compostela and your experiences at the end of the trip.

The arrival in Santiago was a bit of a let down, as usual. It’s the end of the journey, and the beginning of something new. It’s so interesting to meet people on the path and have the time to walk alone that it’s a little dissappointing when it’s over. We were blessed with the swinging of the botafumero, a giant insense censor, on the two days we were in the city. We have amazing footage for the documentary. Each person went through the rituals of hugging the statue of the Apostle and joined in the pilgrims mass where our names were announced. There are many rituals and customs that have carried on making us feel a part of something quite special.

11. What lies ahead for you now in completing this documentary?

We have completed a demo reel (5 mins) of the documentary and now will try to get a broadcast licence or ideally, a deal with the National Film Board. There is a distributor who is interested in taking the demo to Cannes in the spring and hopefully that will be a reality. I truly believe the Camino will find a way into the heart of those who want to experience it. My role is to tell a story to inspire people to be on a journey, whether it’s here or in Spain.

(c) Pasha Patriki

12. What is next on the agenda on the Camino of Life for Sue Kenney?

My purpose in life is to inspire people on their life journey to live from a place of love through stories. I live the Camino in everything I do. I believe that intention and all the experiences of my life, will take me to places I never dreamed of being. My mother always told me I can be anything I want to be and I believe that to be true for anyone. Not long ago I remember a radio interviewer asked me if I ever thought I would be interviewed on the radio as an author of a book, and what did I think of that now. I told her, “It’s like a dream I never thought I had, came true.”

As always, Sue, you have been doing some very interesting things. Thank you for filling us in on all the new developments in your life and all the best for completing your documentary! Keep in touch….

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