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What I Learned from Walking Alone

stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sep-Oct 2015, Camino Portuguese in Sep-Oct 2019. I might have one more Camino in me.
While out walking in my neighborhood the other day, I thought about the question: “What did you bring home from the Camino?” On that day I answered the question this way: I am much more comfortable being alone now.

I walked the Camino Frances alone in Sep/Oct of 2015. My wife had no interest and actually, after 40 years of marriage, we were both looking forward to some alone time. My nature is to be introverted and I knew that the walk could be very lonely if I let be that way. Before I left, I was comfortable with that possibility. However, I also was looking forward to meeting new people from all over the world as I knew I would from everything I had read about the trail. However, I was determined to be more outgoing than usual.

While walking the Camino I took my time. I took 44 days to get from Pamplona to Santiago. I ate dinner alone only 4 of those nights and they were mostly by choice. I soon found that Peregrinos were easy to spot at dinner and I would politely ask if I could join their table. I was never turned down and got to meet some most interesting folks.

I know: no one is alone on the Camino, and I lived that, but what I found from choosing to be “alone” that much I became very comfortable walking and eating by myself. I got to think things through with few interruptions. Eating alone was something I had avoided all my life. On the trail, I found that it allowed me to concentrate on the food I was eating much more. I would still rather have a meal with someone to talk to, but I am happy to say that I no longer dread eating alone if it happens.

After 40 years of marriage, I was not sure who I was and where I stopped off and my wife began. Could I get through a day without her help, corrections, criticisms, and advice? Walking alone allowed me to rediscover who I am. I am glad to say that I am pretty happy about how I turned out. My self-confidence soared from this experience.

Before the Camino, I sometimes felt a little guilty about spending a lot of time alone. Now I admit I prefer it most of the time. This self-discovery would never have happened without walking the Camino, alone.
 
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Rick Chollett

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Spring of 2018.
I walked "alone" in 2018 after my divorce (29 years married). I got in touch with myself and met so many people. I am very comfortable being alone but still enjoy time with the kids and grandchildren. But I cherish my alone time and self reflection.
 

longwalker60

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
09/2018
While out walking in my neighborhood the other day, I thought about the question: “What did you bring home from the Camino?” On that day I answered the question this way: I am much more comfortable being alone now.

I walked the Camino Frances alone in Sep/Oct of 2015. My wife had no interest and actually, after 40 years of marriage, we were both looking forward to some alone time. My nature is to be introverted and I knew that the walk could be very lonely if I let be that way. Before I left, I was comfortable with that possibility. However, I also was looking forward to meeting new people from all over the world as I knew I would from everything I had read about the trail. However, I was determined to be more outgoing than usual.

While walking the Camino I took my time. I took 44 days to get from Pamplona to Santiago. I ate dinner alone only 4 of those nights and they were mostly by choice. I soon found that Peregrinos were easy to spot at dinner and I would politely ask if I could join their table. I was never turned down and got to meet some most interesting folks.

I know: no one is alone on the Camino, and I lived that, but what I found from choosing to be “alone” that much I became very comfortable walking and eating by myself. I got to think things through with few interruptions. Eating alone was something I had avoided all my life. On the trail, I found that it allowed me to concentrate on the food I was eating much more. I would still rather have a meal with someone to talk to, but I am happy to say that I no longer dread eating alone if it happens.

After 40 years of marriage, I was not sure who I was and where I stopped off and my wife began. Could I get through a day without her help, corrections, criticisms, and advice? Walking alone allowed me to rediscover who I am. I am glad to say that I am pretty happy about how I turned out. My self-confidence soared from this experience.

Before the Camino, I sometimes felt a little guilty about spending a lot of time alone. Now I admit I prefer it most of the time. This self-discovery would never have happened without walking the Camino, alone.
I to walked alone. Surprisingly, several people told me I was "lucky". I could go at my own pace, go where I wanted to go, leave when I wanted to. I was not "tied down" to another's schedule. Like you said, I walked alone (maybe 50% of the time), but I was never alone. Almost everyone I met, it was nice to walk with, but I always had the option, to go at my pace and meet whoever, whenever. The funny thing, about half the time, I ended up running into the same people all throughout the journey. Miss those days. Buen Camino.
 

Flyguy

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
September2016
I loved walking alone,walk when you want to,stop when you want and stay where and when you want to. I also found it not a problem to find a bed and as some have mentioned rarely without some companionship. I liked to leave the alburgue after most had left in the morning and enjoy the open road ahead and if on occasion it got busy I would always stop and let the mob pass.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
I love walking alone and have made some pretty big life decisions during those alone times.
I left a 15 year relationship after one lone Camino and much thought.
I am pretty independent, and I like being able to stop when I want and where I want, as Flyguy expressed.
If I decide not to walk a day and just be a tourist, I don't want to have to negotiate.
Maybe I'm just old and crotchety! :😆:
 

MarcosdeParticuba

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2012), Piémont + Norte (2013), Plata + Mo(2014), Levante, Portugués (2016), Francés (2018)
From my heel to my toe is a measured space of 29.7 centimetres or 11.7 inches. This is a unit of progress and it is also a unit of thought. ‘I can only meditate when I am walking,’ wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the fourth book of his ‘Confessions’, ‘when I stop I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.’

Søren Kierkegaard speculated that the mind might function optimally at the pedestrian pace of three miles per hour, and in a journal entry describes going out for a wander and finding himself 'so overwhelmed with ideas’ that he 'could scarcely walk’.

Christopher Morley wrote of Wordsworth as 'employ[ing] his legs as an instrument of philosophy’ and Wordsworth of his own 'feeling intellect’. Nietzsche was typically absolute on the subject - 'Only those thoughts which come from 'walking’ have a value’ - and Wallace Stevens typically tentative: 'Perhaps / The truth depends on a walk around the lake.’

In all of these accounts, walking is not the action by which one arrives at knowledge; it is itself the means of knowing.

- Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
I have walked 3 caminos alone and 2 with a friend. Even with the friend I walked the majority of time each day alone. I prefer to walk alone. I can walk at my own pace with my own thoughts or walk thoughtless without having to listen or respond and just be. I still meet many people and have had relationships that will always be with me from camino. Walking alone allows me walk when i want, how I want, eat when I want and sleep where I want. It is amazing that the others who walk as I do and I became friends with pop off all the time in the same villages and albergues. I also believe you meet a far greater number of people than those who walk with a camino "family". It is not a criticism of those who walk in families, to each his own and his own choices, it is only my observation. I think those of us who choose to walk alone seek a more solitary camino or a camino that is as much as possible on our own terms and without compromise.
Having said all this i hope to walk with some of my college friends on day soon. This year was our 50th year together. I also am never more jealous than when i see a father and child walking together. What I would give to walk with one of my daughters.
 

Tvsteve

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
I walked alone (?) in 2017 from SJPP to Santiago and onto Muxia. I had done the Camino twice before with others. Walking alone is a different experience, maybe better. I met others everyday from around the world and had a terrific time. I expect to do it alone again next year, finishing on my 80th birthday.
 

Oxford Alice

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(Bits of) Camino Frances (2001)
Camino Frances (2014)
Camino Frances (2018)
Lovely thoughts, all. I'm an extrovert, but loved walking alone on two Caminos. I plan to do it again. So much of my life involves negotiation and compromise, so to be able to stop as often as I like -- or not -- to have a beer at 10:00 in the morning -- or not -- to keep going or call it a day ..... It's heaven. Like all of you, I met up with pilgrim friends in the evenings, and often saw them on the path, but allowed myself to be alone and it has been a fantastic experience. Planning to do my third next Spring. Alone.
 
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Arleene

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017
I loved walking alone,walk when you want to,stop when you want and stay where and when you want to. I also found it not a problem to find a bed and as some have mentioned rarely without some companionship. I liked to leave the alburgue after most had left in the morning and enjoy the open road ahead and if on occasion it got busy I would always stop and let the mob pass.
Agree, agree! It's so wonderful to be alone, even though you never are really alone on the camino. I walked alone for the first 400 km's and was not lonely. At Leon I walked with a friend to Santiago. We get along very well and enjoy each others company. However even though we did not necessarily walk together all day it did change the camino for me as I did not have as freedom as Flyguy stated above "walk when you want, stop when you want, stay where and when you want" . Walking alone was a wonderful "freeing" experience for me!!
 

Holly Mitchem

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2016, del Norte 2019
From my heel to my toe is a measured space of 29.7 centimetres or 11.7 inches. This is a unit of progress and it is also a unit of thought. ‘I can only meditate when I am walking,’ wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the fourth book of his ‘Confessions’, ‘when I stop I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.’

Søren Kierkegaard speculated that the mind might function optimally at the pedestrian pace of three miles per hour, and in a journal entry describes going out for a wander and finding himself 'so overwhelmed with ideas’ that he 'could scarcely walk’.

Christopher Morley wrote of Wordsworth as 'employ[ing] his legs as an instrument of philosophy’ and Wordsworth of his own 'feeling intellect’. Nietzsche was typically absolute on the subject - 'Only those thoughts which come from 'walking’ have a value’ - and Wallace Stevens typically tentative: 'Perhaps / The truth depends on a walk around the lake.’

In all of these accounts, walking is not the action by which one arrives at knowledge; it is itself the means of knowing.

- Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
Thanks for these quotes. I loved reading The Old Ways. One of my favorite books.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
the mind might function optimally at the pedestrian pace of three miles per hour
Another reason for continuing to walk caminos in my senior years. And the pace is about right (or should that be three kilometres per hour?).
 

jsalt

Jill
Year of past OR future Camino
Portugués, Francés, LePuy, Rota Vicentina, Norte, Madrid, C2C, Salvador, Primitivo, Aragonés, Inglés
I love walking alone – for all the reasons stated above. But my friends here don’t understand it.

They feel sorry for me, thinking that I walk alone because no-one will walk with me.

Aren’t you lonely? No. Aren’t you afraid? No. Why not? Um, because I’m not. How do you explain that?

It is impossible!

However, after a few years of taking some small groups from my local hiking club on the camino (folks who would never go alone in a million years), one of them admitted the other day that, after her last trip with another group, she said that she thinks she might prefer to walk alone next time . . . . yeah!
 

TrvlDad1

Covidyard Bob
Year of past OR future Camino
2017 Frances from Saria
2018 Finnisterre & Ingles
2019 Portuguese from Valenca
2020 Assisi(cancel.)
Great thread Stevelm 1!
I've walked many treks/caminos over the years, rarely with anyone. As I have posted before (and apologize for repeating), what I believe to be my last "group" trek/camino was 2019 on the CP with two dear friends. We got along great, enjoyed the camino, but something was missing for me. I swore after that trip that whatever trips I have left will be alone. Friends are for touring, socializing, playing bridge, etc., etc. And those life events are wonderful and meaningful. But my caminos are very personal and will be done alone, with of course, those pilgrims I am lucky enough to meet along the way.
 
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Felipe

Veteran Member
I walked my first Camino with my son, and I enjoyed sharing the company of the younger pilgrims he very soon befriended, although I did not talk much.
In my following Caminos I walked mostly alone; with the random company of another pilgrim(s), generally just for one or two days, or some section of a stage. I also liked to have some company for dinner and socialize a bit, especially with pilgrims that I had met in the paths and started to exchange greetings and occasional coffee rests with them. To me, it is a perfect mix.
I really miss the Camino; I hope to come back next year.
 

Lucy Keenan

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2016 Northern Route, 2017 Santiago to Muxia and Fisterra. 2018 Frances, 2018 Ingles, 2019 Portugues
While out walking in my neighborhood the other day, I thought about the question: “What did you bring home from the Camino?” On that day I answered the question this way: I am much more comfortable being alone now.

I walked the Camino Frances alone in Sep/Oct of 2015. My wife had no interest and actually, after 40 years of marriage, we were both looking forward to some alone time. My nature is to be introverted and I knew that the walk could be very lonely if I let be that way. Before I left, I was comfortable with that possibility. However, I also was looking forward to meeting new people from all over the world as I knew I would from everything I had read about the trail. However, I was determined to be more outgoing than usual.

While walking the Camino I took my time. I took 44 days to get from Pamplona to Santiago. I ate dinner alone only 4 of those nights and they were mostly by choice. I soon found that Peregrinos were easy to spot at dinner and I would politely ask if I could join their table. I was never turned down and got to meet some most interesting folks.

I know: no one is alone on the Camino, and I lived that, but what I found from choosing to be “alone” that much I became very comfortable walking and eating by myself. I got to think things through with few interruptions. Eating alone was something I had avoided all my life. On the trail, I found that it allowed me to concentrate on the food I was eating much more. I would still rather have a meal with someone to talk to, but I am happy to say that I no longer dread eating alone if it happens.

After 40 years of marriage, I was not sure who I was and where I stopped off and my wife began. Could I get through a day without her help, corrections, criticisms, and advice? Walking alone allowed me to rediscover who I am. I am glad to say that I am pretty happy about how I turned out. My self-confidence soared from this experience.

Before the Camino, I sometimes felt a little guilty about spending a lot of time alone. Now I admit I prefer it most of the time. This self-discovery would never have happened without walking the Camino, alone.
Walked 4 caminos on my own. Just great to make decisions in the moment and just decide as and when. Also have met some wonderful people along the way.
 

fransw

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2012; Le Puy - Conques 2014;Camino Aragonese Oloron Ste Marie - Puenta la Reina 2018
It all depends. On the CF you can walk alone but you feel seldom alone or lonely, therefore it is an excellent Camino. I walked also the Tolosana and the Aragonese alone, and I met only on a few occasions fellow pilgrims , even in the little villages I met only cats, so I became aware what it felt like walking alone alone. As my Spanish is rather poor I even could not speak with others in a café or with the barmaid:)))
 

Davybhoy

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (August 2019)
Portuguese (planned August 2020)
Some great thoughts in this thread. I have only done the one Camino, 2019 Frances with my wife, however had planned to walk alone on the Portuguese from Lisbon in 2020, which obviously i couldn't.

Whilst i was excitedly looking forward to walking alone last year, i recognised that one of the side benefits of walking with someone is the necessity to "get up and get going". That is, on those dark albergue mornings when i awoke at 5:30 or 6 am and thought "oh i need half an hours more sleep!" , I HAD to get moving because my wife would be in the throes of getting going too! And i couldnt make her wait because i was feeling lazy! The result was every day we got up and went rather than slept in wasting time. Not keeping someone else waiting is motivation to get going
 

Old Kiwi

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I walked my first Camino alone, and loved it. I occasionally walked with people I met along the way, but only for short distances.
I took my daughter on my second Camino and loved her company, but after Pamplona I asked her if it would be OK if I walked alone sometimes. I liked to get engrossed in the scenery and my thoughts rather than having to make conversation.
We both walked the third Camino and walking separately for half the time worked really well.
I have two more Caminos planned (Covid willing) and intend to walk both on my own.
 
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Kiwi-d

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sep/Oct 2014
I began alone, but ended up walking different sectors with three different peregrinos I met along the way, as well as alone.

The lesson I learned was that I didn't have to worry about problems, I would always find a solution as problems arose and I'd be fine.

On a different note, my two sons, one living in Europe and one in New Zealand, would have loved to walk the Camino with me, but because of work commitments weren't able to do so. However they have agreed they will one day walk the Camino Frances together and remember me as they do so - 'Mum was here!' I was very touched too when my daughter commented that although she wouldn't be able to walk because of arthritis, she would meet up with them somewhere along the trail, as she wanted to be there also.
 

truenorthpilgrim

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Great thread Stevelm 1!
I've walked many treks/caminos over the years, rarely with anyone. As I have posted before (and apologize for repeating), what I believe to be my last "group" trek/camino was 2019 on the CP with two dear friends. We got along great, enjoyed the camino, but something was missing for me. I swore after that trip that whatever trips I have left will be alone. Friends are for touring, socializing, playing bridge, etc., etc. And those life events are wonderful and meaningful. But my caminos are very personal and will be done alone, with of course, those pilgrims I am lucky enough to meet along the way.

Couldn't have said it better. Caminos are very personal and deep for me.
 

Dani7

Stop wishing, start doing.
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances
When the time is right
I love walking alone and have made some pretty big life decisions during those alone times.
I left a 15 year relationship after one lone Camino and much thought.
I am pretty independent, and I like being able to stop when I want and where I want, as Flyguy expressed.
If I decide not to walk a day and just be a tourist, I don't want to have to negotiate.
Maybe I'm just old and crotchety! :😆:
Self-love and wisdom are a powerful combination.

But…as for being old and crotchety, my first sip of coffee really tempers that lol.
 
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vettesquared

CF Sept/Oct 2017
Year of past OR future Camino
2017
From my heel to my toe is a measured space of 29.7 centimetres or 11.7 inches. This is a unit of progress and it is also a unit of thought. ‘I can only meditate when I am walking,’ wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the fourth book of his ‘Confessions’, ‘when I stop I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.’

Søren Kierkegaard speculated that the mind might function optimally at the pedestrian pace of three miles per hour, and in a journal entry describes going out for a wander and finding himself 'so overwhelmed with ideas’ that he 'could scarcely walk’.

Christopher Morley wrote of Wordsworth as 'employ[ing] his legs as an instrument of philosophy’ and Wordsworth of his own 'feeling intellect’. Nietzsche was typically absolute on the subject - 'Only those thoughts which come from 'walking’ have a value’ - and Wallace Stevens typically tentative: 'Perhaps / The truth depends on a walk around the lake.’

In all of these accounts, walking is not the action by which one arrives at knowledge; it is itself the means of knowing.

- Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
That was so deep even I could understand it! :D
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
::scratching around for virtues not yet mentioned::
For me, many of the pleasures (and lessons) of a pilgrimage walk are quite subtle, and completely overwhelmed by the conversation, pace-matching, stop-matching, negotiation and compromise that necessarily accompany any travelling companion. The soul craves silence, sometimes. Otherwise one misses that still small voice.
 

stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sep-Oct 2015, Camino Portuguese in Sep-Oct 2019. I might have one more Camino in me.
Another reason for continuing to walk caminos in my senior years. And the pace is about right (or should that be three kilometres per hour?).
When I am walking on flat surfaces I tend to walk around 4km. I am 67.
 

stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sep-Oct 2015, Camino Portuguese in Sep-Oct 2019. I might have one more Camino in me.
I HAD to get moving because my wife would be in the throes of getting going too!
We all have our motivators. What you mention though is exactly why I like walking alone.
 

stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sep-Oct 2015, Camino Portuguese in Sep-Oct 2019. I might have one more Camino in me.
::scratching around for virtues not yet mentioned::
For me, many of the pleasures (and lessons) of a pilgrimage walk are quite subtle, and completely overwhelmed by the conversation, pace-matching, stop-matching, negotiation and compromise that necessarily accompany any travelling companion. The soul craves silence, sometimes. Otherwise one misses that still small voice.
Ah yes, one of my motivators to walk alone is that I take a lot of photos, A LOT. I took over 12000 between Porto and Santiago. I suspect no one is willing to put up with stopping every few minutes to wait for me to take a few photos (I know it drives my wife crazy when we vacation together). When I have walked with fellow perigrinos I always felt I could not stop as often to take those shots, but the conversations were worth it. When walking the CF a German man I kept running into passed me one day while I was taking some photos and said to me, "You would be in Santiago by now if you did not take so many photos." We were on the Mesata at the time, and he might have been right. I still would not change a thing!
 

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NancyLee

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I live alone and have travelled fairly often alone to winter getaways (from Canada) and to run half marathons. So the Camino was a ‘no brainer’ in terms of going alone. As several have alluded to in previous posts, you are really alone when you want to be. Your ‘Camino family’ appears. I did appreciate setting my own pace, stopping and starting when I wanted to but after a serious experience of getting lost outside Leon, I made it a point to leave with others in the early morning if walking before dark. I would just wait at the albergue and ask if I could tag along and it was never a problem. One morning several of us got lost together but there was comfort in not being alone at that particular time. This was fall of 2019 - Camino Frances.
Buen Camino fellow pilgrims and stay safe. My next solo trek is Camino Portuguese.
NancyLee from Canada 🇨🇦
 

Bob from L.A. !

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francis 2012, 2014, 2016. Camino Norte 2018. Many more to come in my future God willing !
What a great story.
At times in life we can lose our identity, our passions and our motivations.
A long time ago I learned being uncomfortable in a situation is not a nuisance, but a necessity to obtain positive growth, excellence and success in life. Those with resiliency in their lives have an advantage over those with none.
 

Dawsie

Mature member
Year of past OR future Camino
Via De Plata (2019); Camino Del Norte (2019)
I have a few other considerations for this discussion which makes walking alone more practical:

a) I used to be shy and spent most of my career working almost alone. I always walk alone. However, in my first two week half-Camino trip, I set my objective to meet (and speak with) at least 100 people - easily exceeded and from almost 30 different nationalities. You are never truly alone when walking a Camino.
b) I generally walk slower than most on flat and level tracks, but faster when walking up hill. The steeper the hill, the faster.
c) I particularly enjoyed the company of one small group of fellow pilgrims and tried walking with them for a while, but all I got was blisters and resentful from trying to keep up with them and so I had to part company. Later we met up again several times in the evening in several towns which worked much better.
d) I listen to music for part of the time while walking and will often set my pace to match the individual piece of music. Drum and Bass at exactly 183 beats per minute is especially effective.
e) When I get back on the trail again, I intend to take many more photographs and videos. I particularly want to be able to look back at these adventures in the coming years. Taking good photos takes time and must be very boring for anyone who is waiting for the photographer to finish and move on.
f) I snore a lot (especially after a long day of walking) and have adopted a strategy when sleeping in albergue to get up and leave very early to escape the recriminations. If I meet up later with someone I had previously met, it is most likely to be in a cafe or bar - when I can at least offer a drink or something by way of apology for my snoring.
g) There have been a few occasions where I needed a bit of help and assistance - finding the route, finding a venue, or problems with my kit. Even when walking alone, I rarely had to wait more than half an hour before another pilgrim followed and could help. Once again - you are never really alone on a Camino.
 

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