It’s been awhile since I talked about my soul’s calling to go on pilgrimage this year. But as much as I struggle with the weight of this journey, I do it mostly in my head these days. It’s such a huge dream, and some days it feels like the undertaking is going to break me before I even begin. Money is such a struggle right now, and my employment doesn’t feel very steady at all. I feel like if I go away in October, even though it’s totally within my rights as a freelancer, and even though social media can be automated to the point where I only need to check in weekly, I might just come back in November to no clients. And, frankly, I find that terrifying.
About two weeks ago, I was 99% sure that I’d have to scrap the whole thing. Maybe try again in a few years. Maybe just give up all together. But I took the time to write down my thoughts and fears in a comment in the American Pilgrims on the Camino FB page, and was comforted by the outpouring of support from the other members. As each new comment came in, I began to hope that maybe there was a way after all.
So many people had struggled with money, time, family obligations, fears, or some combination of any and all. All made a choice that worked for them, and there was no shortage of suggestions for alternatives that could help me. Some pilgrims suggested shorter trips, like starting closer to Santiago de Compostela and walking a shorter distance. Others suggested taking one of the alternate caminos, like the Camino Norte, which can be accomplished in 7 to 10 days. Some suggested walking as far as I could from St. Jean Pied de Port in whatever time I had allotted, and then coming back to finish another year. But many suggested that this was just a test. If there was absolutely no choice in the matter, yes, I should cut my trip short in order to keep my life in one piece. But if there was even the sliver of doubt, if I felt like my life wasn’t what I wanted, if I thought that maybe the Universe was just sending out a signal to make my choice (and to choose The Way), I should take that leap of faith.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to work really hard and save all the money I can between now and October. I’m going to finish putting together the proposal for the book that I want to research and start writing while I’m in Spain, and I’m going to start a GoFundMe fundraiser to help with the book and trip. Then I’m going to walk the 500 miles of the Camino Frances, and if I haven’t broken anything (bodily), after that I’ll walk the Camino di Assisi in Italy. Then I’ll come home and start life over. If my jobs and friendships were right for me, they’ll still be here. If they weren’t, they won’t. Easy, right?
I’m a little scared, but I feel like I’ve never been stronger, mentally or physically, than right now. This is the time to go. No more waiting for life to begin.
Machado Labyrinth, by Fitzgerald Letterpress ($70)
On the 4th of July, I was walking around by myself in the French Quarter, and walked down a little alley I seldom travel. In a shop window, a letterpress print of a labyrinth caught my eye. I visited Notre Dame de Chartres in 2005, specifically to view the labyrinth, and since then it’s been one of those symbols that tends to pop up when I need it most. I glanced at the print, then started to turn away, when I realized that the word “camino” had been written below it. I turned back to press my face against the shop window and examine the art fully, and saw that it said this:
“Se hace camino al andar.” (Antonio Machado)
Which translates to:
“We make the road by walking.”
I knew that. I know that. How could I possibly keep forgetting something that important? This is my life, RIGHT NOW. I work to have this life, not to have the “privilege” of working again tomorrow. Each of these breaths, these moments where my joints don’t hurt and my limbs move freely, this is all going to go away. And it’s going to go away much more quickly than I’d like, or than I could ever imagine. The time to enjoy my body, my health, and my freedom is right now. The time to seek my answers from the Universe is right now. It’s my turn to get out there and make my road, one foot at a time. I just needed these reminders from other pilgrims, and wayward pieces of art.
Over the coming months, maybe I’ll lose my reserve again, or maybe I’ll stay strong. I hope that you’ll all stick with me. I could use the encouragement. I’m trying not to be too scared of living more fully, but it’s going to be a really big change. Thanks for hearing me out, now and in the future. I really appreciate you all.