Last week I had breakfast with my former husband, to talk about some family business regarding our three grown children among other things, and when the subject of my upcoming Camino walk rolled around into the conversation, Mike looked at me with a wry smile and asked, “Have you figured out the source of this madness?”
I slowly said, “Nope,” then turned to my Santa Fe Huevos Rancheros and speared another bite of eggs, black beans and pork green chile. Mike has a right to be amused . . . in our 14 year relationship, I never aspired to be a long-distance anything.
It’s been 19 months since I walked into Santiago de Compostela after my first Camino journey on the Camino Frances, and have had this next Camino in my sights since then. I didn’t need to know why I walked the first time, and I guess I’m happy with not knowing why I’m going again. I was never a hiker or backpacker, and to tell the truth, I’ve done very little training since I returned in October 2013.
All the reasons are just excuses, I guess . . . a very sick dog for three months soon after I returned last time, some long-time stressors rising up and down like recurring tsunamis, intermittent travel to Italy, Indonesia, New England, New York, and all the rest of the things that interfere with a dedicated training program. See, I have said over and over that I was never THAT person, the one who was always in training for something . . . a half-marathon, a bicycle race, scoring points at the health club for number of reps recorded on an exercise machine, etc. Not a “let’s backpack in the canyon for a week” type either. Just wasn’t ever me.
I did spend two weeks at Point Reyes National Seashore last October and loved hiking there. I even spent a lovely hiking day with my friend Spencer Price, whom I met a week into my first Camino. The Way allows you to know people from all over the world, and even if you only see them once or twice, your shared experience anchors you forever, I think.
But what drove me toward the Camino the first time, and what calls me back again, is the promise of being in my own space for weeks at a time . . . walking in my own bubble, thoughts wrestling with one another until after about two weeks, I just break wide open and let things be. The physical challenge was first so difficult and then became a habit, culminating in a huge surge of self-back-patting when I reached the top of O’Cebreiro and thought, “This day’s walk was my biggest fear on the trail, and here I am!”
Rolling out of a bunk bed in a room with anywhere from six to one hundred fellow pilgrims, earlier than I typically rise, knowing I have to put that pack on again and walk for another day, becomes very much like a meditation, believe it or not. And I hunger for that again. I just hope it doesn’t become a bi-annual habit, this Camino walking. I’m not sure I want to be doing this when I’m eighty.
So though I’m pretty slack about the training, I’ve packed and re-packed in my mind a hundred times, have everything I need in two drawers, and will do a dry-run with my Gregory backpack in the next two weeks. And of course I will walk, hike, walk, hike before I leave on August 27 for Spain. We’ll be at Neil’s cabin in Ouray for a month, and then on my annual trip to New England I will have plenty of time and space to walk the country roads that surround Stone Walls, my retreat property in southern Vermont.
As I heard on my first walk, “You don’t train for the Camino . . . the Camino trains you.” I have several elements this time that I didn’t have on my first journey.
The biggest one is true confidence that I have done this and can do it again. Another is a familiarity with the walk, though I will begin in Irun, Spain, rather than St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France, and walk the Norte, rather than the Frances. But “the walk” encompasses the paths, the people, the albergues, the architecture, countryside, sunrises and sunsets, and the rhythm of my feet, my breath, my hiking poles, and the hum inside myself.
Psychologically, I’m ready. Physically? Well, I’ll get there. I will be carrying 10 pounds less on my body, and perhaps nearly 10 pounds less weight in my pack than last time. Walking into Santiago in mid-October, a month before my 69th birthday, will be an early birthday present to myself. And the best advice I give myself as I go through the next journey in my mind is: Take your time. Take your time. Take your time.
I am looking forward to reading of your experiences during this Camino trek as I did the last. Is a book about these adventures is in the offing? Go gently. Andrea
Thanks, Andrea. Yes, a book is in my mind and on paper in scraps, and I do hope to shape it into a form that is book-like. Working on that too slowly at this point, but it will come.
I know what you mean. It is hard to explain this amazing experience to people who have not walked the Camino, but you are doing an excellent job. It is a spiritual high even if one is not religious. Sometime in the future you will have to walk the French part of the Camino from Le Puy to St Jean Pied de Port. It is incredibly beautiful with far fewer people.
Thanks for sharing, Brad
I’ll say it again, you are a true inspiration….
Good on you, Joannah!
Hope to see you in a couple of weeks, Judy! We’ll get to the cabin by the 4th, I think.
What an inspiration you are. You don’t need to know why. You only need to want to. You go, Girl. I’ll be following along again, living vicariously through you.
Thanks, Mary. I’ve been missing you, and you’ve been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe we can talk at some point soon.
Solitude, solitude. Comes in many manners and places. For me it was two separate but whole months in a small cabin outside Estes Park. Writing. And hiking. Every day. On my last day hike, an owl flew into a tree incredibly nearby and asked me “Who? Who?”
And I knew.
Joannah, I look forward to your second trip experiences. And to seeing you in August!
Love it, Pat. Yes, we’ll be at the reunion in August.
The best to you on your journey. Hated to miss your talks of the trail. I will keep trying to hear after the next trip.
I will be looking forward to your blogs on your second journey. When I did Ride the Rockies, though it was only a week, I didn’t understand people who were so glad when it was over, or even left early – it became what I did everyday – get on the bike and ride, with lots of time to think, and I was usually the last, or nearly last one in at the end of the day, so it was about 10 hours a day.
Your walk is really what convinced me about the worth of bucket lists! 😉
Geez! I’m glad you told me that . . . it would have been easier for me if we had just TALKED about bucket lists! But whatever works . . .
Joannah, thank you for sharing. Oh, the places you will see and the people you will meet….xx
May the Force be with you.
Sent from my iPhone
I love your writing, so open and authentic, and I applaud you for sharing. Just today I had to rid myself of the APOC FB site as I was reading far too many postings that were judgments, criticisms, bickering, and more. I have been a tad disillusioned for the past 24 hours over it all and then I read your writing and I am left with a peace in my heart, so thank you! I especially love the quote “you don’t train for the Camino, it trains you”. Isn’t that the simple truth of it all!
So sorry about your experience with the APOC FB site. I contribute responses to that site on occasion, though I see that they are a REALLY active group. And I’m very happy that what I’ve written counteracts your frustration with the APOC site. We must choose what makes our hearts richer, rather than what diminishes our joy. Stay connected to that truth!
Well crafted, nicely stated, almost vulnerable. jb
Our life is frittered away by detail. ~Thoreau
Thanks, John. Have a great time in GREECE!