parking lot with trucks and cars

It’s only for one night

It felt like a gamble, but the price was right and truth be told, there weren’t many (any) other options in the area. So, I booked a room at the truck stop hostal.

The name was nice enough, “El Chocolatero”, which I translated in my head as The Chocolate. As in, you had me at chocolate. (I looked it up – it actually means The Chocolatier.)

My expectations were low when I walked into the bar to check in, maneuvering around the Spanish men who were taking a food or café con leche break from driving the large trucks we pilgrims see zipping past us on some sections of the Camino Francés route.

Talk about zippy, the woman behind the bar had me checked in and oriented in a minute, and she even thoughtfully selected a room for me in the back of the hostal, away from the noisy motorway out front. Tranquillo, I thought.

Up one flight of stairs, easy, down the dark hall – Where is the light switch? Sheesh this is dark and it’s daytime, I thought.

Key in the door . . . knob, not a proper lock or a deadbolt, but the kind of door-knob lock you could pick with a paperclip. You know, like when your kid defiantly locks himself in the bathroom and you need to pop open the lock. (Not really, but it felt that flimsy.)

And then, the room. My (ahem) beautiful, unbelievably small room, about the size of a cama matrimonio (that’s a double bed in US terms), completely filled with a cama matrimonio, with a view of . . . the back parking lot, which is filled with semis (very large trucks; see photo above).

The room smelled faintly of the days when smoking was allowed inside buildings in Spain, pre-2010, so I immediately opened the windows, noticing they didn’t lock. And look! There’s a ledge right there with easy access to my window.

Then the one of the trucks fired up its engine to pull back out onto the open road. With that – I’m not kidding – I could feel my eardrums vibrating. So much for tranquillo.

And is that bug a bed bug??? Oh, phew, it flies. Not a bed bug.

It’s only for one night.

I was hot and sweaty from the trail, so my next move was to get a shower and not worry about the view or the noise just then. Uh . . . oh ick, there are a couple of hairs in the shower. (My least favorite housekeeping blunder.)

And then, my focus shifts

Oh my goodness, the water pressure! And all that hot water just for me! (Flip flops on. You can’t get me, icky hair.)

All clean and sparkly, I head downstairs by way of the dark hallway, reflecting on my good fortune to be traveling with a pair of flip flops and enough money to pay for a private room. As I round the corner and approach the stairs, I acknowledge in my mind the probable future success of the double set of windows to keep the truck noise away during my lights-out hours.

And then I see this:

dark hallway with stained glass window

The light from this beautiful stained-glass window guided me down the dark hallway, down the stairs, and out into the parking lot. Interesting how coming at something from a different angle changes everything.

You see, I have a gift for finding the silver lining in just about any situation.

I got that from walking the Camino. I used to be an inconsolable cranky-pants peregrina, never satisfied and often grumbly (usually in my own mind but sometimes out loud.) Mostly what set me off was sleeping in the shared dorms in the albergues. I don’t sleep well when there are others in the room, and I can’t sleep at all if someone is snoring. And of course, if there was someone snoring, he or she would be next to, above, or below me.

It’s only for one night, I would tell myself.

And it’s all relative, isn’t it?

Imagine if you were staying mostly in shared dorm rooms in the albergues and you booked a night at the truck stop hostal. My room would seem glorious . . . palatial . . . I dare say luxurious.

My own bathroom! All alone with no one snoring next to me! Total privacy! And I’m in charge of opening and closing the windows! WOW WOW WOW.

But if you got this truck stop hostal room after a night at The Stone Boat guesthouse in Rabanal del Camino (which is what happened in my story), then all you would notice is the tiny room, the hair in the shower, the dismal view, and the noise. Relative.

When I share my story of sleeping at the truck stop hostal, I know I am privileged to have a private room. I know these aren’t actually harsh conditions. And I know it’s only for one night.

Why do I share this with you? To illustrate that no matter the circumstances, there is always something good. Dark hallways, flimsy locks, vibrating eardrums (and walls), hairy showers – these are temporary and merely the backdrop for what really matters: the journey within where peace and joy are found.

It’s only because of the dark that we know and understand the light.