It’s the middle of the night, in a deserted train station in southern France, in a town on the Bay of Biscay, just a short ride from the Spanish border. A young man arrived late. Not wanting to spend 60 Euros for a pension for a few hours, he headed for the train station, planning on taking an early train into Spain. For a while, he was alone at Gare de Bayonne, until another train came in. A young woman disembarked, arriving later than she planned, and she also made the decision to wait for an early train rather than take a hotel.
Two strangers in a train station, so far from home; many lines leading to the same point.
Zach grew up on a 25-acre farm in Stouffville, Ontario, just outside Toronto, one of six children. His father is a veterinarian. A competitive hockey player, Zach helped his father with the gardens at the hobby farm growing up. He studied food and wine across Canada and around the world. He worked the front and back of the house in restaurants while customizing his culinary diplomas. He would work, save, travel, repeat.
Luhana grew up in Salvador, Brazil, an ethnically diverse city in the coastal region. It has a large Afro-Brazilian population integrated for generations with the Portuguese. “There is a lot of mixed culture, and it shows in the cuisine,” noted Luhana, in her charmingly accented perfect English, one of several languages she has mastered fluently. One of three children, her parents still live in the city. Luhana has fond memories of visiting her father’s citrus groves in the countryside as a child.
After earning a degree in International Relations, with a long-range goal of politics, social projects, and diplomacy, Luhana moved to Brussels. She worked with a Non-Government Organization (NGO) for five years, specializing in social projects. She was rewarded by seeing the impact of the NGO’s work. She pursued a master’s degree in Micro-Finance, and again saw the difference a small investment could make. “Putting that power, that instrument in their hands is life-changing.”
With encouragement from her father, who had also walked the Camino, Luhana decided to treat herself after her master’s degree, and embarked on her personal journey. She registered, she had her scallop shell.
Two young professionals from separate American hemispheres, sitting alone in a train station in the south of France, each about to embark on a very personal, very spiritual journey, days of walking, reflecting, alone with their thoughts.
Except there were only two of them, and one was from a small Ontario town.
“It was his Canadian politeness,” laughed Luhana.
“I’m Canadian,” smiled Zach. “There are two people in a train station
in the middle of the night. How could I not say hello? I walked up to her and noticed the scallop shell. We didn’t know it, but that’s when our journey started together.”
Luhana disagrees. “He introduced himself, and when he shook my hand, I felt something special.”
Two scallops and a handshake started a 34-day walk on the Camino de Santiago, and both speak of the highly personal experience.
“The Camino is a very special journey – it’s very magical in how you meet and connect. People are there for a reason. It’s a mind, body, and soul experience. You’re walking every day with your thoughts, it makes you live in the present.”
“We spoke of our dreams and found they were so similar,” Luhana remembered. “We spoke of Littlejohn Farm, and by the time we were finished the Camino, we had so many details finalized. It just flowed naturally.”
by Catherine Stutt