|Maps, check. Passport, check. Journal and pen, check.
Several years ago, while struggling with some personal issues, I bought Shirley Maclaine’s book, “The Camino.” I didn’t have a clue what it was about, but while perusing the travel section of the book store, was intrigued by the cover. This is how I buy a lot of my books and I’ve been surprised at how many times that the judging a book by its cover method has led me to exactly what I needed and in a timely manner. I once had a book fall off the shelf while I was making my way through an aisle I used to frequent and with a nudge like that, I felt compelled to buy it (self-help section books don’t seem to stay on the shelf like the fiction books do…). As I started digging into Maclaine’s story about her solo pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago in Spain, I found such a connection to the emotional piece that had put her on the Camino in the first place that I knew the right book had landed in my hands, yet again.
The Camino is a 500 mile spiritual pilgrimage across Spain that people have been traveling for thousands of years and for at least that many reasons. Ever since reading Shirley Maclaine’s memoir, I’ve wanted to make the journey myself. On Friday, September 11th, after 4 days of planes, trains and automobiles, with my sister, Susan, I will be doing just that. We won’t be walking the Camino in its entirety, but will log over a hundred miles in what I’m optimistically calling “phase 1” of our journey (to be completed in the following year or two).
This will be no doubt not only be a physical challenge, logging 12 to 14 miles of walking a day, but a challenge of mind and spirit as well. Even though I will be walking with my sister, Susan, and we are rarely without words when we’re together, I know the significance and importance of this journey, as does she (she did a leg of it a few years ago) and will try to practice more awareness and less endless chatter. After at least a dozen two day breast cancer walks with her, I know our routine. Conversation is relevant and thoughtful in the beginning but quickly cycles into past travel recollections… still good… with ‘what’s this jiggly stuff on my upper arms?’ for the lightning round… not so good.
Awareness. In the moment. Silence. I’ll google the arm stuff when I’m home. THIS, is my plan.
I recently became inspired by a woman I was introduced to via Facebook, (rather than real face to face), who recently completed her journey on the Camino, all 500 miles of it, all by herself, and while battling cancer. I’ve been humbled, moved, inspired and awed by her photos and posts and know she will come to mind often as I pace through the same pathways and trails that she did. I’m honored to carry her story with me and can only hope to show the strength and stamina that she did throughout her journey.
I’ve learned through my many solo hikes, that sometimes the scariest thing on a hike is that person you are hiking with…and on solo hikes, it is very difficult to escape oneself. Sometimes the mind is like a 4 year old child vying for attention to matters you thought you had long since tucked away. Eventually, the endless jumping from one subject to another calms down and just like in meditation, it becomes easier to let the thoughts that don’t really matter go, while lassoing those that hold more relevance. I’ve spent 7 or 8 hours in my head on a long hike and I’ve got to say it’s as inspirational as it is challenging, but that’s only one day. I can’t imagine 9 days, let alone a month, which is the length it takes most to complete the Camino.
So, with few expectations and a whole lot of excitement, Susan and I will start the walking part of our journey on the 11th of September after 7 legs on 3 different airlines, stopping in 2 different countries before arriving in Spain, where we’ve decided to add in a day to sleep off any jet lag from an exhausting bout of travel. To this I have to add that day one of our journey will be the most difficult (through the Pyrenees Mountains) so the hang, chill, sleep day was a very good idea. Thanks, Susan.
From long hikes in Colorado to prepare my body, to the many books and travel memoirs I’ve read to prepare my mind and spirit, to the intentions I’ve written and will carry with me in my pack, I’m ready to begin a journey that I’ve thought about for the past 12 years and right now, feel like a kid on Christmas Eve, anxiously waiting to open my presents.