A Joyful Walker
The sun is falling fast in the horizon, but she can only sense its descent behind the dark gray sack of clouds. She’s leaning against the outside window frame of the refuge, perched on a wooden bench with her feet up. Her petite frame dressed lightly in a flowered jersey dress and V-neck jumper, face glowing from her first day on the trail, she welcomes gusts of wind as they pour in from the Mediterranean, over the cliff’s edge, into her face and through her hair.
A deep sigh releases the physical exhaustion, the cluttered thoughts, the stresses of her week, her year, her life.
This is Catalina’s extended time off. She came to Mallorca to meet a friend in the south of the island: “My friend, you know, she likes the beach, and this…” she comically mimes lying in the sun, mouth agape, eyes rolling back. “So if I want to trek, well then I have to do it before.”
She is walking on her own on the GR221, the Dry Stone Route that takes hikers through painstakingly cobbled pilgrims’ paths and abandoned olive groves, monasteries tucked in valleys and castles atop mountains, all along the spine of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range. Today Catalina walked from Deià to La Muleta, just outside Port de Sóller.
This isn’t her first time tackling long-distance trekking solo: she spent a few weeks walking a portion of the Camino de Santiago and has experienced many other walking routes across the continent.
“The Camino was great, but too many people. One day I couldn’t find a place to sleep, so I ended up walking twice as far as I wanted to.”
Her low, resonant voice easily cuts through the wind and calling seagulls. It’s unquestionably a singer’s voice. Back home, she sings alto in a choir during her spare time. Catalina lives on her own north of Munich and works for an automotive engineering company.
“I don’t really like cars much though,” she bursts into uncontrollable laughter. Little spaces between her front teeth show through her huge, expressive smile. Bright red in the face and still chuckling, she explains that she studied linguistics and initially got into the car industry to help build interfaces for communications systems. Music and linguistics have given her a good ear, and eventually she ended up in the engineering side of the company where she now works on sound dampening systems.
“You see?” More laughter. “There’s the connection—sound, less sound. It’s all still sound!” She affirms a relevance between herself and her work that she doesn’t fully believe in, but she finds hilarity and comfort in the purpose she has created.
Catalina has an uncanny, innate ability to wholeheartedly laugh at herself and not take things too seriously. She finds it immensely important to prioritise and carve out time for herself to laugh, to recharge, to let herself be changed.
She takes a moment to stare silently at the sunset hidden behind the clouds—the sunset that wasn’t. To her, it’s perfect.
On trips like this, the everyday occupations of life—work, study, nest egg-building, community, even leisure activities—give way to a gratefulness for individual survival, the immediacy of being alive.