Camino de Santiago with Alissa

By Rali Chorbadzhiyska

Are you familiar with Camino de Santiago (an 800 km long spiritual walk in Spain)? My dear friend Alissa Atanassova (a Bulgarian actress and official Free Sofia Tour guide, who also loves dancing and hosting concerts for Sofar Sofia, Bulgaria!) went there in 2014 and later wrote a blog about it to share with the world all her amazing discoveries on the Road!

Her words are inspiring and challenging! Alissa’s blog posts gave me much food for thought on Freedom, Independence and Loving yourself, to start with. Her wonderful blog will definitely have you wonder whether or not to pack a bag and go to Spain any minute yourself!

Alissa’s posts are personal but I am grateful she has decided to share her experiences with the world because people deserve to hear this genuine and positive account of a special (and emotional) journey!

Here is my translation of her blog post ‘The Freedom’ and you can read more translations or the original versions in Bulgarian on her blog here. Enjoy!


The Freedom

(Monday, 27th July, 2015)

One year later.

I am still thinking about everything that happened to me, about the people I met, and about the ideas that have barged into my mind since.

‘Still digesting it’, as someone I know would say.

The memories and emotions are, of course, not as vivid anymore, the thoughts are not as radical.

Yet, they are quietly waiting every day, stored somewhere in the background. Like the wallpaper on a phone.

Meanwhile I keep wondering how to express an essence without being overly dramatic.

I am talking about Freedom this time.

Am I a liberated person? In terms of my work I have to be, at least on the stage. I thought I was liberated in my personal life too, without being extreme. But I would never have guessed to have internal barriers and conservative limits myself.

At the same time, Sofia had become so tiny all of a sudden that without knowing why, every day the air was not enough for me. Upon leaving, I felt like a hamster in a wheel. Not only was I aware of this monotony but I wasn’t getting off. A human in a hamster body. Or something of that sort. Anyway, I think you got the idea.

On the walk I met:

A well-paid 30 year old accountant from Austria, who had taken a one year leave to travel and decide whether he should change his career path and become a shiatsu masseuse because this is what he liked and he wanted to help people;

A 23 year old Korean girl who had taken up the Walk despite her father’s forbiddance;

American students, a couple, who had gone to photograph the edible plants on the Walk (four times, once each season) to compile a guide;

A Bulgarian woman, living and working in one of the hostels in the mountain, who had exchanged her previous life in Bulgaria to follow her dream and own a remote hut somewhere;

An 18 year old, who hadn’t decided what he wanted to study, so he was travelling to meet people and find out what really interested him;

A 75 year old American with serious knee problems, determined to walk the 800km;

A woman in an electric wheelchair with her boyfriend;

And many other people with various stories that leave no doubt that anything is possible.

In the course of the discussion with one person or another, and without necessarily going into deep conversations, I found the common link between everyone –

The natural state of mind where you are comfortable and confident that you can do anything you want to and there is nothing that can stop you. Except your own fears and prejudice if your name is Alissa, for example.

I realise that I’m on the verge of making a grand statement like in a New Age Religion Self-Help book. But when you feel it that strongly in the people around you, it comes to you too and it hits you like the sunlight outside after being trapped for 5 hours of rehearsal in the dim hall of the theatre. Your eyes are burning but at the same time you’re enjoying it.

I felt like I had lost (if I ever had it properly in the first place) the sense of limitless opportunity. The reason is either the geographical location where we are situated (although I have travelled a lot) or the people that constantly complain how things are impossible. Or it’s the environment where it turns out that if you are not immediately successful, you’re asked to remove yourself because it’s already too late. It seems to me that it’s mostly because of the tension in the air, the pressure that you must be at the peak of your realisation at any given moment. And if you have low periods, they are absolutely fatal. Making others feel bad has been so popular that you can become depressed whatever you do. And at some point you have no objective viewpoint. You’re somewhere, pushed to the side, and whether you like it or not, you become a fish in the tank of your own fears and discomfort. Then you forget other viewpoints exist at all.

This is what I was able to remember as a result of my encounters in Spain. Nothing is fatal. Nothing is final. Nothing is critically important. Why not let yourself at least consider that you could be someone else? To change your searches and interests, to say goodbye to everything and dive into new waters?

Maybe because we are little, a few and in a small country, and we are always afraid we have lost the little that we’ve got. It might not be a Bulgarian syndrome, it might be mine. Nevertheless, only words are not enough, you need to experience it. This is how things worked out for me. The people who have influenced me do not know it. It’s only because they were talking so naturally about the turns in their lives that all I could hear was the echo of ‘I have my freedom’.

And I dared to think that anything is possible. I dared to think I have the time. And the energy.



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