Digging In…And Letting Go

Friends, I’ve hit a road bump. I’m not sure yet just how much it’s going to impact me, but it’s probably going to be pretty large. It might even mean that I have to sideline my plans to go to Santiago de Compostela this year. I’d rather not speculate and stress until all the facts are in, though.

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I called it quits after almost 8 years. It wasn’t unexpected; my crumbling relationship was one of the major problems in my life. The Camino was always something of an escape route, anyway. It was the place that I retreated when I couldn’t handle another second of my life. I still desperately want to go on pilgrimage, but now it will be less about running away from my future, and more about embracing it.

Unfortunately, a side effect of leaving a long-term relationship is divvying up your belongings and finding a new apartment. Apartment prices are pretty inflated in New Orleans. They say that about other cities, but here most people I know make under $35k a year, but pay around $1k in rent each month (if they live alone – it’s cheaper with a roommate, but that’s such a pain).  That means that the typical apartment takes up an unrealistic portion of a person’s paycheck, and that’s before utilities get tallied in. I’m currently hunting for something in my price range (a much lower budget than $1k, that’s for sure), and it’s hard. If I can’t find something at or under what I currently pay, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to save anything over the coming months to go on my trip.

Somehow, though, even though I’m writing all of this, I’m not that worried. I feel strangely certain that everything’s going to be just fine. I’m not giving up yet. Things have a way of working themselves out, and something tells me that this will, too.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. 1930 – Rolls Royce Phantom II | The Bliss of Reality
  2. Sunlight on the plant | Crazy Art
  3. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Basically Beyond Basic
  4. Telenovela Style | Mila’s Misadventures
  5. Setting | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  6. Spiked AA 🙂 | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  7. lone deer (steadfast) | photo potpourri
  8. Reel On You ! | Life Confusions
  9. Eric’s Aria (Part 2) | The Jittery Goat
  10. DP Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Sabethville
  11. ‘What doesn’t kill you…’ | Rima Hassan
  12. Care to Dare | Rima Hassan
  13. Never surrender | Sue’s Trifles
  14. 400 Pound Burden | Rima Hassan
  15. Stubborn is as Stubborn Does | Musings | WANGSGARD
  16. Headstrong | Active Army Wife
  17. Night at the Pier | Greg Urbano
  18. On Homophobia | AS I PLEASE
  19. of scary monsters and nice spites | Anawnimiss
  20. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender- Differentiating Between Resilience and Stubbroness | Journeyman
  21. The Trial, Not For the Weak of Faint of Heart: Part 1 | jlaneb
  22. No surrender on Mental Illness awareness/tolerance | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  23. There are just some things I like done or doing a certain way. The right way. | thoughtsofrkh
  24. Stubborn as a Mule! | meanderedwanderings
  25. Pardon me for everything I’m about to say | Attempted Human Relations and Self
  26. Welcome to the jungle | The verbal hedge
  27. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | My Extraordinary Everyday Life
  28. How Are You Toward Health Goals, Easy Going Or Stubborn? | Because It Calms My Nerves:
  29. The Conundrum | Each Feather, A Freedom
  30. Java, Joe, Carbon Remover, Plasma | Exploratorius
  31. Tweet, Tweet, Twitterfiction | My Little Avalon
  32. Steadfast in my integrity: I am my mother’s daughter « psychologistmimi
  33. How Do I Get My Son To Go To School | A mom’s blog
  34. I am not bossy, I AM the boss | IvyMosquito
  35. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Finding Life
  36. Stubborn Love | peacefulblessedstar
  37. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Life is great
  38. Stubborn Dutch | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  39. Minutely Infinite | Stubborn, Yes.
  40. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  41. daily prompt: steadfast | hereisandrea
  42. too stubborn | eastelmhurst.a.go.go
  43. A Letter to my Brother | The Magic Black Book
  44. Who Was that Masked Mule Anyway? | Green Embers
  45. Stubborn or steadfast? No Surrender | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  46. Stubborn Or Easy Going
  47. Daily Post: Never Surrender | melissuhhsmiles
  48. I’LL BE BACK | SERENDIPITY
  49. never surrender | klstar2000
  50. Never Surrender | Knowledge Addiction
  51. Daily Prompt: Never Surrender, 11.03.14 | Markie’s Daily Blog
  52. Staying Stubborn | snapshotsofawanderingheart
  53. Because I’m a Survivor
  54. “Never Surrender” | Relax
  55. Daily Prompt Response: Never Surrender | Confessions of a Monogrammed Runner
  56. Stubborn, determined, or stupid? | Parents Are People Too
  57. The Stubborn Mule and the Easy-Going Duck | Fun with Depression
  58. DP: Never Surrender – Leaving Mina (Hajj Diary Extract) | aliabbasali
  59. Beliefs or Ideas? Daily Prompt: Never Surrender | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  60. Writer’s Block: Get Stubborn! | Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink
  61. Police horse, close up (Daily Prompt: “Never Surrender, Show us Steadfast”) | Photo0pal Photography
  62. Am I stubborn? | Asianchemnerd
  63. “Surrender” | Cosmic Heroism
  64. Insurrection | vic briggs
  65. Stubborn or delusional? | Emotional Fitness

There’s No Place That’s Home

The only existing photo of my old bedroom. It's crappy, but you're not missing much. Notice the missing bits of ceiling and walls, and the unfinished state of the other walls. The floor was particle board. Taken in the summer of 1999, right before I left for college (I think).

The only existing photo of my old bedroom. It’s a crappy shot, but you’re not missing much. Notice the missing bits of ceiling and walls, and the unfinished state of the other walls. The floor was particle board. Taken in the summer of 1999, right before I left for college (I think).

I’m a firm believer that “house” does not equal “home”. It’s probably due to a combination of factors. My childhood house was never completely finished; my father built it, but never had enough money to finish it. The eaves were never filled in, and there were walls and doors missing throughout. Consequently, although my family lived there for my entire life until I moved to New Orleans, it felt a little like squatting. It’s tough to explain the nuances, but it was never comfortable; I was always scared there, and hated being there alone. After I moved away, the house was demolished. Somehow the empty plot of land scares me even more.

During college, I moved to a different apartment every year. The place was always different, but my roommates, two of my best friends, were always the same. They became my home (and still are, even though they’re both so far away – one in Texas, the other in Croatia). After college, they both moved away, and I was on my own again. It took a couple of years, but eventually I found a sweet little half of a double shotgun house that I felt could possibly be a settling-down place. A couple of months later, I lost both the apartment and everything I owned when Hurricane Katrina hit. At first it was devastating, but eventually I realized how freeing it is to not have such strong emotional attachment to physical goods. In years since, I’ve downsized a couple more times; my cats, computer, a few important books, and old photos are all I really need to get by.

When I was a kid, since I hated being inside my house, I spent most of my summers hanging out in a tent in the yard, reading what felt like endless stacks of books. I devoured books as a kid, but horror, fantasy, and historical fiction were my faves – as long as they had cute boys and/or dragons, I was good to go. The Chronicles of Prydain and the Anne of Green Gables series were summertime must-reads; I read both series every summer from 11 to 17, and still remember how it felt to yearn (pretty much equally) for the affection of Princess Eilonwy and Gilbert Blythe. I wonder what it would have been like if they’d met?

Is it any wonder that this built-in need for magic and romance led me to a love of medieval art history? Of course, the magic of it all was beaten out of me pretty early in undergrad, but I’ll never get over the romance. I think that every day on my pilgrimage is going to have at least a touch of that wonder built in. What it won’t have, however, is homesickness. When you don’t equate the feeling of “home” with a place, it’s hard to dwell (ha!) on thoughts of somewhere that you aren’t. I do worry that I won’t have the ability (read: available technology) on the road to write as much as I’d like, though, and that bothers me a bit.

The one time I’m “me” lately is when I’m writing. In my day-to-day, I’m having kind of a tough go of it. It’s hard to explain; life probably looks peachy from the outside, but it’s kind of a dim time for me – hence the decision to get the hell out of dodge and cross the Pyrenees while I’m at it. I spend my days so tightly wound, dancing on the edge of my breaking point. Most people don’t see this about me. I’m a Scorpio; we’re built to naturally insulate our feelings. It’s probably why a lot of us end up becoming emotional time bombs. Over the years I’ve learned the hard way that even when I think I’m broadcasting loud and clear, other people tend to find me inscrutable. I let loose steam on my blogs, and every now and then in conversation with a trusted friend. Mostly, though, it’s the writing that gets me through.

Lots of people write on the road, but it seems most are doing it the old fashioned way, with pen and paper. Some books that I’ve read were sketched out on cell phones and tablets, and I know that it’s possible to find a place to power up your tech gear in many alburgues. The worst bit is the extra weight. I’ll hate to add more to my pack load, but I need to capture my thoughts. I’m not quick at physically penning words; a keyboard or voice recorder will be necessary. I’ll most likely be using an iPad mini with an attached keyboard, or maybe a cheaper tablet – I’m not sure on that just yet. It will have to be light, and I’ll probably have to give up some other comfort (like extra socks, or shampoo, or what-have-you) to bring it along. But it will be worth it.

Once the writing is taken care of, the only other issue I’ll have to take care of to feel really at home on the road is to make some friends. That shouldn’t be too hard – a bottle of wine and a great story or two go a long way when you’re all new to a place. I find myself hoping that maybe out there on The Camino, I’ll meet new family, and I’ll be able to extend my feeling of “home” to other corners of the globe. Soon, I’ll be at home in Australia, maybe, or perhaps Belgium. Maybe some of my eventual home team are from Wales, or Italy, or Slovakia. Who knows? I’m excited to find out.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. New iPod | Crazy Markovich
  2. of raging wants | Anawnimiss
  3. Daily Prompt: Our House- The impact of family to our psychological mind | Journeyman
  4. Streaks in the Darkness | Exploratorius
  5. Home: Tankas | 365 days of defiance
  6. To London For Love & The Daily Prompt | The Jittery Goat
  7. Daily Prompt: Our House | Under the Monkey Tree
  8. Cumbraes, 1962 | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  9. Launching Pad | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  10. Daily Prompt: Home | The Wandering Poet
  11. evergreen | yi-ching lin photography
  12. My family are huggers, and it’s always been an awesome part of life. | thoughtsofrkh
  13. Daily Prompt: House | seikaiha’s blah-blah-blah
  14. Daily Prompt: Our House | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  15. Short Plat – A Short Story | Kilbo – Chris Kilbourn
  16. The House in Middelburg. | Hope* the happy hugger
  17. BE IT EVER SO HUMBLE | SERENDIPITY
  18. Home, Sweet Home | Home’s Cool!
  19. Daily Prompt: Our House « Mama Bear Musings
  20. The Gray House | A Sign Of Life
  21. Childhood Memories of Home | Unload and Unwind
  22. Home | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  23. 272. My Childhood Home | Barely Right of Center
  24. Children Must Be Seen And Not Heard | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  25. My Childhood Home | A mom’s blog
  26. Chained Childhood… | Haiku By Ku
  27. Minutely Infinite | Is home where the heart is?
  28. House of Haiku | Finale to an Entrance
  29. An Ode Full of Home | L5GN
  30. Formerly known as home | Le Drake Noir
  31. The rising of the Sap Nymph: an erotic poem | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  32. The family home | Sue’s Trifles
  33. Daily Prompt: Our House | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  34. A Trip Down Memory Lane | Views Splash!
  35. DP Daily Prompt: Our House | Sabethville
  36. DP: OUR HOME | Active Army Wife
  37. Daily Prompt: Our House | Rolbos ©
  38. Daily Prompt reply…3/3/14 | TheWritingMommy
  39. The Halls of Childhood | meanderedwanderings
  40. View from the attic | Standing Ovation, Seated
  41. Charity Begins At Home | AstridOxford
  42. breakfast music | peacefulblessedstar
  43. Our Old House | Flowers and Breezes
  44. Houses and Home | The Nameless One
  45. Thoughts of home | FUNNY…PECULIAR
  46. Childhood Memory… | Cats, Coffee, And Life At Random
  47. Homeless in your heart? | Emotional Fitness
  48. The Tracks–Home: Daily Prompt | Finicky Philly
  49. Moving Away | snapshotsofawanderingheart
  50. My first house: “mango tree” / Ma première maison: “manguiers” | Write for learning
  51. It Was Ours | The Book of Shayne
  52. “Tomorrow you’re going to be four!” | djgarcia94
  53. Our House: Slugs and Stairs (Daily Post) | Fun with Depression
  54. Burning Down the House in the Middle of the Street « psychologistmimi
  55. The House That Built Me | The Shotgun Girls
  56. Are There Five Interesting Facts About Me?
  57. I freaking love this house | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  58. Our House in the Middle of the Street | thanks for letting me autograph your cat
  59. Daily Prompt: Our House | Cancer Isn’t Pink
  60. Early Memories of Home | The Silver Leaf Journal
  61. Quietness in the Houusse!!! | The Salmon Yatra
  62. Daily Prompt: Being Reminiscent! | All Things Cute and Beautiful
  63. Our House | viver para contar
  64. A Fresh Start | Menimèse Creare
  65. Daily Prompt: Home | Winging it
  66. The phone, the farmer, and the Batman. | Trucker Turning Write
  67. Our home, home on the Office Range | Institute for Hispanic Health Equity
  68. Life is Home | Live Life in Crescendo
  69. Our House | YAP + film
  70. Staying in Focus/Daily Prompt: Our House | Staying in Focus
  71. Home | A picture is worth 1000 words

Imagining The Road To Roncesvalles

Click thru to find out more about the path from St. Jean to Roncesvalles.

Click thru to see a larger version of this image, plus find out more about the path from St. Jean to Roncesvalles.

When I first found out about the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, I remember being most excited about hearing that you had to cross the Pyrenees to get there. Of course, this technically isn’t true – you don’t HAVE to cross the Pyrenees on your Camino. However, the most popular route, the Camino Frances, kicks off in St. Jean Pied de Port in France, and takes peregrinos across the famous mountain range on the way into Spain. I definitely plan to start my journey in St. Jean Pied de Port, but it still gives me a little bit of worry.

From what I’ve read, those who elect to take this route find that the first day on the trail is one of the most challenging. The road is straight up (and then straight down) a mountain, with a vertical incline of almost a mile. The surroundings can be treacherous, and I’ve read accounts from different times of the year with problems ranging from heavy fog to torrential downpours to blizzard conditions that call for trail closures. In the movie “The Way,” the main character’s son dies on his first day on the Camino. It’s implied (or at least I always thought) that he lost his way and fell over a cliff, but I’ve also read that pilgrims can get lost and die of hypothermia. This list of people who’ve died on the way to Santiago de Compostela includes a few people who passed away during this first day of the journey.

However, that’s not really what scares me. I’m planning to spend this first part of the trip with other pilgrims (I’m sure I’ll find someone to walk with), just to make sure I don’t fall off any mountains. What makes me nervous is the more mundane “killer” on the journey – many people don’t train adequately for a walk of this scope, and the first day is an incredibly demanding hike. People don’t correctly gauge their energy levels, forget to eat or drink enough, and generally have no concept of what it takes to walk for 27 kilometers (almost 17 miles) up a mountain on Day 1. I’ve even read that some people get so worn out that they’re delirious and disoriented by the end, which makes me think of how I felt when I ran my first (and last) marathon.

Sure, I’m planning to get in some training, but I know myself very well, and I know that there’s no way I’m going to get in enough time on a StairMaster to be adequately prepared for the incline. If we had some mountains around here to practice on, then maybe I’d get in the practice, but spending hours in the gym every day is not my cuppa. But that’s OK. The best part about the first day on The Camino will be meeting new people – and that most likely means commiserating with the other folks who’re just as ill-prepared as I’ll probably be! As strange as it seems, I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Karma For a Lapsed Veggie | AS I PLEASE
  2. Mad Hatter and I | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  3. Ecclesiastical rocket | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  4. Lime Plant in White | Exploratorius
  5. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | Incidents of a Dysfunctional Spraffer
  6. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone- The Psychological Fact of Living | Journeyman
  7. Coffee Neurotics Seem To Find Each Other and The Daily Prompt | The Jittery Goat
  8. The Twilight Zone | Hope* the happy hugger
  9. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | Under the Monkey Tree
  10. Wholesale Hot Dogs | the intrinsickness
  11. Surreal journey: Daily Prompt | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  12. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | The Wandering Poet
  13. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  14. fandom | yi-ching lin photography
  15. DP Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | Sabethville
  16. IN THE ZONE AND OUT AGAIN | SERENDIPITY
  17. in concert, there ought | y
  18. The Truth About Motherhood | theempathyqueen
  19. Pushing forty, going on sixteen… most of us anyway. | thoughtsofrkh
  20. Drunkenness Adventures | Knowledge Addiction
  21. You will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger- again | Suddenly Single in Marin
  22. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | SURREAL | nomadofwoods
  23. Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  24. Twilight Zone meets Logan | It’s a wonderful F’N life
  25. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | A Day In The Life
  26. One Crazy Mom » Living In A Haze
  27. The Santa in Derby UK | Le Drake Noir
  28. For E., With Love and Make-up | Kosher Adobo
  29. 270. Train Rush | Barely Right of Center
  30. Twilight Zone | The Silver Leaf Journal
  31. The Daily Post: Twilight Zone – Revelation | growinolder
  32. Surreal (Short story) | A mom’s blog
  33. The Cruelty of Time | snapshotsofawanderingheart
  34. Chaffinch | Writing and Works
  35. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone « Mama Bear Musings
  36. Episodes of Serenity | My Musings | WANGSGARD
  37. Daily Prompt/ Twilight Zone? | Sitting on the Porch
  38. Get Transported. How? Finding Awe | Emotional Fitness
  39. Daily Prompt: The Twilight Zone | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  40. DP: Surreal | As I See It
  41. Twilight Moments (Daily Prompt Challenge) | Ana Linden
  42. In the Nick of Time. | jwdwrites
  43. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | Indira’s Blog
  44. Time Warp | Views Splash!
  45. The Quickest Way To The Twilight Zone Is By Bus… | Steve Says…
  46. This is Not a Pipe | jigokucho
  47. The Twilight Zone | melissuhhsmiles
  48. Secret Jellyfish World | Wright Outta Nowhere
  49. Moving back home will make anyone feel as if they’ve entered a 1950′s pod people movie. | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  50. Delirium | Life is great
  51. Silence in the Metro | MC’s Whispers
  52. There Is No Time/Daily Prompt | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  53. Woman urinating in traffic | shame
  54. Magnetic Me | Green Embers
  55. Mother’s Room | Flowers and Breezes
  56. DP: Confusion / Surreal – Morning Prayer at Mina (Hajj diary extract) | aliabbasali
  57. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | Basically Beyond Basic
  58. Miss Mona’s Final Day
  59. Surreal | Real Life Co.
  60. Daily Prompt: Being Trippy! | All Things Cute and Beautiful
  61. When Facts & Imagination Converge… | AShadeOfJade
  62. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/daily-prompt-twilight-zone/ | Menimèse Creare
  63. The Psychology of Scooby Doo Friends in the Workplace: Piety, Problem-solving and Paranoia « psychologistmimi
  64. One girl two cups | EatYour HeartOut
  65. Death, sex, surrealism | Standing Ovation, Seated
  66. Twilight Zone | Lori’s Life and Other Stuff
  67. Remembrance of Things Past | djgarcia94
  68. The Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone – Somewhere I Shouldn’t Be | wordistryinc’s Blog
  69. improbably negative. | The Seminary of Praying Mantis
  70. Losing Faith: So hard to breathe. | anonim0us
  71. Dreaded Vis-à-vis | field of thorns
  72. Like Deja Vu | Sam’s Online Journal
  73. We Need to Tallk | The Zombies Ate My Brains
  74. Awe inspiring | Parents Are People Too
  75. Out of body, out of mind | SusannaAntihero
  76. The Great Migration | Oh Danny Boy!
  77. Daily Prompt: Surreal Musical Theater School | Cabernet In The Dark
  78. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | Jottings and Writings
  79. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone |
  80. back to st. gabriel’s | eastelmhurst.a.go.go
  81. Arizona’s Still Bleeding: Pearl Harbor | Jaspa’s Journal
  82. Al Wahba Crater Escapade (Part 1) | THE MARRIED MAN WHO LOVES HIS X
  83. In a roundabout way | Trucker Turning Write
  84. The Bus Driver | The Book of Shayne
  85. I’m entering the Twilight Zone | browney237’s Blog
  86. The gap between | The writer in me
  87. Slipstream | Edward Hotspur
  88. Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone | Yowza, Here We Go!
  89. SURREAL: Nothing is Impossible With GOD | The Christian Gazette
  90. Close Encounters of the Redneck Kind | The Shotgun Girls
  91. Daily Prompt:The Twilight Zone | Down the Rabbit Hole | chelseaofbakerstreet

Book Review: The Way, My Way

There is no shortage of books about the pilgrims’ path to Santiago de Compostela. From travel guide to personal memoir, spiritual exploration to historical documentation, there is something for every armchair pilgrim who wishes to travel The Camino by way of words. This week’s book chronicles the journey of an Australian filmmaker who relies on his gut instinct to make the right choices along The Way of St. James, coloring his pilgrimage with sometimes painful, often hilarious, observations about himself and his fellow peregrinos.

"The Way, My Way" by Bill Bennett. Click through to learn more about the book on Amazon.com.

The Way, My Way by Bill Bennett. Click to see the book on Amazon.

Australian filmmaker Bill Bennett was on vacation in New Orleans when a gut feeling saved his life. While preparing to drive through a green light at an intersection, something internal urged him to slow down. As he did, a truck going the opposite way sped through its own red light and barreled through the space where Bennett’s car should have been, missing him by inches. By nature a seeker, he encountered the terrifying moment with curiosity, terming this unexpected, primal message that saved him as a lesson from his PGS, or “Personal Guidance System.” In The Way, My Way, our middle-aged, good-natured, and somewhat smart-alecky protagonist takes his PGS on the road, exploring what it means to listen more deeply, enjoy life as it comes, and most of all, to stop being so damned competitive all the time. He’s still working on that last one.

It takes a great storyteller to provide for raucous laughter and heart-felt tears, all within a 300-page span. From the first page, the author’s honest, no-holds-barred exploration of personal strengths and weaknesses gives readers a well-rounded picture of a funny, driven, and ultimately relatable guy who has a slight problem admitting defeat.

The book reads as a personal memoir, taking 59-year old Bennett from the airport in Biarritz, France, where he meets the people who are to become his “Camino Family” (whether he wants them or not) all the way to Santiago de Compostela. Along the way, the author meets a host of colorful characters whom he alternately either endears himself to or pisses off. He takes a million and one photos, daydreams about his beloved, long-suffering wife, Jennifer, contemplates what it means to get older, and nurses an injury that threatens to end his journey before it even begins. Most of all, he discovers what it means to take the time to listen to your body and spirit, and how this not only affects your own path, but also your relationship with the world around you.

The Way, My Way joins the ranks of other humorous Camino memoirs by authors like Hape Kerkeling and Tim Moore, though with considerably more honest self-examination. As a result, we’re given a great selection of laugh-out-loud moments, tempered by earnest introspection that manages to touch all the right emotional chords. A reader could be excused for imagining she hears her PGS humming softly in the background…

(Note: If you’re interested in finding out more about Bill, his experiences on the Camino, or the Personal Guidance System, please follow him at PGS – The Way or PGS Intuitive.)

Footloose, Fancy-Free…Fashionable?

Yeah...no.

Yeah…no.

Here’s a confession: I have no clue what to wear on The Camino. Sure, I know the basics, like sturdy boots, a warm, waterproof jacket, breathable shirts, convertible pants/shorts, and thick wool socks, but I’ve never purchased any serious outdoorsy gear. Hiking and camping aren’t really huge pastimes here in New Orleans, and the last time I went on a “hike” I lived in Chicago, wore sneakers, and brought along a couple of bottles of wine for the journey. With pretty much zero experience and a seemingly endless array of different Camino forums and camping websites, option paralysis has already taken hold. When it comes to putting together my all-star list of perfect pilgrimage duds, I’m feeling pretty lost.

My rational side tells me that this is all a bit of a gamble, and that I should try my best to not get bogged down in the details. Things that matter: weight, waterproofing, temperature control, long term comfort, injury prevention. Things that don’t matter: color, attractiveness, current trends.

In the end, I’ll probably make some sacrifices on both sides of the coin. For instance, I know I won’t be comfortable wearing a dark jacket. What if I fall down a cliff and the rescue team can’t see me? So I’ll be looking for a combination of performance and obnoxious color – preferably magenta, since it makes me happy. I’m also thinking of trying to find minimalist hiking boots, which will probably come across as a tad trendy to most people. However, I love walking in minimalist shoes, and my hips and back feel a lot better since I stopped using shoes with extraneous cushioning, so in that case trend and performance are on equal ground.

Socks, as small a purchase as they are, are one of the most important choices I’ll have to make. Blisters can slow you down, or even end your pilgrimage, and I am notoriously prone to blisters on the tops of my toes and backs of my heels. There are methods to avoid this, like rubbing Vicks Vaporub on your feet each day before donning socks, but your choice of socks is still key to preventing foot injury on the trail.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten as of now, other than discovering that there are about a million and one choices for everything on my list, and all of them have pros and cons. In the end, I’m going to have to start trying things out, one at a time. I’m going to probably spring for boots and pack first, so I can practice and wear them (and myself) in. Everything else will have to happen a piece at a time, so I guess I’d better get started comparing reviews, huh?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Shine like a Star | Rima Hassan
  2. Daily Prompt: New Sensation-you shouldn’t give an iPad to your child | Journeyman
  3. The Little Ike and The Daily Prompt | The Jittery Goat
  4. Cheerful | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  5. Pure randomness | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  6. New Sensation | Knowledge Addiction
  7. From bell bottoms to DMs! Daily Prompt | alienorajt
  8. 24/7 Grunge | Under the Monkey Tree
  9. Come on gay gene, do what you’re meant to be good at?! | thoughtsofrkh
  10. Do NOT! Back Car Off Cement | Exploratorius
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  13. Daily Prompt: New Sensation | The Wandering Poet
  14. DP Daily Prompt: New Sensation | Sabethville
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  16. Daily Prompt: New Senation | snippets and words
  17. i’m fingering my | y
  18. A Hot New Super Model! | Haiku By Ku
  19. Daily Prompt: New Sensation « Mama Bear Musings
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  24. FAD | Among the Whispers
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  26. Clothes: The Necessary Evil | Living Dead Girl
  27. Daily Prompt: New Sensation | Little Fish Teaches and Reflects
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  52. FAD | Stuff and Nonsense
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  55. Fashion Days of Yore… | Maria For Real
  56. It Used To Be Called a “Hat” | djgarcia94
  57. Daily Prompt – New Sensation – I was once a Brosette |
  58. The Members Only Got Lost in the London Fog. Everyone Else Knew Their Way Around | My Author-itis
  59. Colors #01 | THE MARRIED MAN WHO LOVES HIS X
  60. Adventures (in Fashion) | Scraps of Paper
  61. Depressionista Fashion?
  62. Life Love Lily
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  65. It’s a fad, but do you like it anyway? | Photography Journal Blog
  66. {Not Such A} New Sensation… | Babbleogue
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  68. New sensations | A picture is worth 1000 words
  69. When it Comes to Clothing, My Size is Comfortable | meanderedwanderings
  70. The hijab – My choice | The Word Trance
  71. One Crazy Mom » Looks I’m Crazy For
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  73. Baby Tees and Overalls, Fall 1993 | Kosher Adobo
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  75. A FUN FAD! | Words ‘n Pics…
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  77. Fad | The Land Slide Photography
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  80. Respond: Daily Prompt: New Sensation | Etienette

Exploring Assisi – The Unintentional Pilgrimage (Part 3)

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Via Wikimedia Commons.

First off, you should know that the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is pretty large. The basilica consists of two main levels – upper and lower – plus crypts underneath the main structure, as well as the requisite bell tower and related private rooms above the upper level. I spent about three hours exploring the spaces open to tourists, and could have spent many more, if not for the repeated message on the loudspeaker: “No photos, please. No photos, please. No photos, please…” in about five different languages. As you might gather from this, I didn’t take any snapshots of the interior of the church. I doubt anyone would have kicked me out or confiscated my camera, but after the run-in with the Alabama church group, I was feeling like I should attempt to be a better person, you know?

The upper level of the basilica is awash with frescoes depicting the life of St. Francis, frequently attributed to artist and architect Giotto, who is known as the first great artist of the Italian Renaissance. I’d count him as a late medieval artist, but that’s an ongoing academic argument that will most likely see no solution in my lifetime. We have little proof that the frescoes were indeed created by Giotto, but they are striking and historically important nonetheless. In the lower level of the basilica, a fresco painted by Giotto’s teacher, Cimabue, still exists. It, too, is argued to be by another painter, due to its contradiction to commonly known elements of Giotto’s style. I’d studied all of these works in undergrad, but had conveniently managed to forget their location. As a result, when I walked into the space, my heart skipped a beat. As my dad would say, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

The only other time I’ve felt that extreme rush of familiarity and longing – a soul call, if you will – for a piece of art was when I unexpectedly stumbled across Rogier van der Weyden’s “St. Luke Drawing the Virgin” at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 2004. That was a moment for the ages. My heart breaks just thinking about it. Some folks get misty-eyed over lost loves; I get misty-eyed over beloved paintings. What can I say?

"St. Luke Drawing the Virgin" by Rogier van der Weyden. Currently housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

“St. Luke Drawing the Virgin” by Rogier van der Weyden. Currently housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Image via Wikimedia Commons. (Also, please don’t judge this painting by the image on your screen. Go to Boston and see it in person. It’s superb.)

Anyway, so I walked into this enormous, softly lit space, my eyes landed on priceless art previously only seen in a text book, and I felt like someone had just cut off my air supply. I got a little loopy. I went from being a tourist on a day trip to being my primal self, standing in a small Italian town, searching for something I didn’t know I’d lost. I was smaller than ever, but suddenly feeling intimately connected to everything.

This feeling only intensified as I entered the small museum dedicated to St. Francis, on the lower level of the building. At first, I didn’t intend to go in. It was a tiny room, and people didn’t seem to be staying that long. What could it possibly have? Knowing the day was short and there was a lot ahead of me still, I walked in, intending to just glance around and walk back out. But there, in a simple case by the door, was a brown hair shirt, conserved under glass. I looked at it, then looked again. Not just a piece of clothing. HIS piece of clothing. Until that moment, I’d never realized one of the coolest things that sets Francis apart from other saints of the time period: he was acknowledged to be on the road to sainthood whilst still alive. People were already planning his veneration before he died, which gives credence to the fact that the items preserved are actually his, versus items from other saints that were sometimes collected decades or even hundreds of years after the saint’s passing.

Though the room was small, it held clothing that Francis wore during his lifetime, the cloths used to bandage the wounds of his stigmata later in life, and most impressive, the original document used to found the Ordo Fratro Minorum (Francis called his followers the “Little Brothers”). The beginning of the Franciscan Order, the words that can be argued to have saved the medieval Church from a ruinous path of greed and gluttony, it’s there for all to see in that little museum. For a person of little religious faith but an overwhelming desire to find some smidgen of truth, seeing Francis’ words written out in ink on vellum can make – did make – a world of difference.

After seeing his belongings/relics, I mistakenly thought I’d reached the pinnacle of my experience at the basilica. But as I started to walk back through the building, I noticed a sign for the crypt. I love crypts. Crypts and bell towers are the best parts of churches, in my opinion, and I visit as many of both as I can. So of course I decided to take the stairs and see what kinds of creepy stuff was down there. As I got closer to the bottom, I realized that whoever was buried downstairs must be important – lots of people crowded the stairs with me. We reached a small chapel where a service was being conducted. Beyond the chapel, I could see a wide stone column, surrounded by a round room with niches. The people next to me began to whisper, “Oh, this is Jacoba!” and I turned to see that I was standing next to a protected niche, containing a burial container. Inside were the remains of Jacoba dei Settesoli, a dear friend and devoted follower of St. Francis. She was the one who dressed the wounds of his stigmata, and she was present at his death, despite the impropriety of a woman being at his bedside in the friary. Suddenly, I realized why everyone was standing around. I realized who was in the crypt. I’d come here to feel close to St. Francis, this man I didn’t know or understand, but still loved, and here he was, waiting for me.

I sat in the chapel for the remainder of service, then walked around Francis’ grave, taking note that the niches around the room were the graves of his four best friends and fellow monks. I was suddenly happy for Jacoba. Though she wasn’t in the chamber, itself, she was close. I pictured them enjoying nature together, sharing a simple mindful moment. As I left the crypt, I purchased two candles, leaving them to be burned at one of the chapel’s daily services.

For the rest of my time in the basilica, I felt my spirit begin to drift higher and higher; I was feeling positively effervescent. I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off of my face. It’s free to enter the building, but there are donation boxes dotting the corridors. I put a euro or two in every donation box that I passed. There were brochures explaining the various artwork; I took one and dropped a couple of euros in the donation box. I wanted to light a candle and pray at a small side altar; I dropped a couple of euros in the donation box. A photography exhibit shared the Franciscan Order’s works of service with the poor; I dropped a few euros in the donation box. By the time I’d walked around the building and stopped in at the gift shop to buy a few keepsakes for friends and family, I had about 15 euros left in my pocket. I’d have to find an ATM before heading back to Perugia.

After leaving the church, my next stop was another small museum. To be honest, my first intention was to find a free bathroom, but I was quickly drawn in by MUMA (Museo Missionario Indios Frati Cappuccini Dell’Umbria In Amazzonia). For a pretty tiny museum, it had some of the most impressive interactive technology of any museum I’ve ever visited, and the subject matter – the Capuchin Order (a subset of the Franciscans) and their mission in the Amazon from the 19th century to today. It’s easy to assume that the story told would be about a bunch of Christians coming in and “bettering” lives by converting native peoples, but that’s not really what the museum is about. It turns out that though the idea is to spread the gospel, the method is to go, be of service, help make changes that native peoples are comfortable with, and respect existing traditions. The museum is a celebration of cultural diversity, overcoming adversity, and protecting ecological treasures. I was pleasantly surprised, though now I understand that these are all things that Francis, himself, supported. If you have a chance, please check out MUMA’s website.

Hunger was calling, so I opted for a sandwich and some wine at a local cafe with the last of my money. Afterwards, while trying to withdraw money at an ATM, I realized that both my bank card and credit card had been shut off. I’d forgotten to tell the bank that I was traveling internationally, and they placed a hold on my accounts. No problem; I’d find a telephone, call the number on the back of the card, and have my problem solved within the hour. Just one problem – the international numbers on my cards weren’t working from the pay phone. After several failed attempts, I gave up and decided to enjoy the hour I had left before it was time to catch the bus back to Perugia. Thankfully, my return ticket had already been purchased.

The cell in which St. Francis' father imprisoned him.

The cell in which St. Francis’ father imprisoned him.

Not far from the ATM, I passed a smaller, interesting looking church and decided to go in. It turned out that I had entered Chiesa Nuova, built on the remains of St. Francis’ family home. I stood in the storeroom where the former Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone’s father had stored fine silks to be sold at market. I saw what remained of the family home’s imposing front door, and the small cell in which Giovanni’s father locked him when he declared his intention to give up the family business and become a man of God.

My last stop before heading out to wait for the bus was the simplest, but strangely also the most striking. Santa Maria Maggiore is austere in comparison to its fellow holy sites within the walls of Assisi, but after a day of passionate impressions, followed by a building sense of worry about my finances, the late afternoon light streaming through her rose window was everything I needed.

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I left town, and went to stand by the bus. There were pay phones, so I tried all of the numbers I had once more. No luck. I just couldn’t manage to dial out. Deciding it was user error and recognizing that I was quickly destroying every ounce of personal peace I’d just found within Assisi, I gave up for the time being. Still, I was seething. I’d lost it. A whole day of beautiful things and suddenly all I could think about was how I was going to pay my hotel bill when it was time to leave Perugia in the morning. Standing there on that June afternoon, I was halfway between heaven and hell. I was so angry, and angry again at myself for letting something this stupid get the better of me. And even angrier that I couldn’t just hold on to this goodness I was just reveling in, not a couple of hours before. What was wrong with me? Who does this to themselves?

A friendly voice piped up from beside me, stirring me out of my slump. “It’s much warmer here than back at home.” I looked down to see a lovely little Japanese lady, impeccably dressed, and staring back at me with the kindest smile. My ruffled feathers began to smooth over instantly. Ikuko was from Japan, but lived in San Francisco with her husband much of the year. She spent a great deal of time in Italy with friends, and like me, had traveled to Assisi for the day out of curiosity about the saint. She had ridden the same bus in with me that morning, and was also heading back to Perugia on the last bus out for the day. We chatted for a bit there at the bus stop, then sat together on the way back, too.

In the year and a half since meeting Ikuko, I’ve tried to explain the feeling of that bus ride many times. The closest I’ve ever gotten is by using something that popped into my head that day, while we were talking. I seriously began to wonder if she was my angel. Sometimes I think that even if that couldn’t possibly be true, it’s the thing that makes the most sense. We talked about life in Italy, about the little things, like coffee and finding great gelato, and about big things, like finding God. She asked me why I’d gone to Assisi, and I explained sheepishly that I didn’t know, exactly. I told her that I had trouble with some parts of Christianity, but no trouble at all with the big picture items, like being good, spreading light and love, and living a life of service. We talked about doing our best each day, and hoping that it would be good enough in the end. She told me of her (literal) epiphany during a sermon in Ravenna, the moment she’d gone from agnostic to enthusiastic Catholic. She spoke of suddenly feeling an emptiness inside her fill up with light. I was so happy for her, because the light she spoke of shone out of her.

Have you ever watched a baby laugh and smile over something simple that absolutely filled them with delight? It’s like they’re overflowing with simple goodness – there’s nothing dark or troubling that could encroach on how they’re reacting to that moment. That’s what it felt like to be with Ikuko on that bus ride home. She helped me focus the passion that I’d experienced that day, and turned it on in me, like a faucet in my heart. I feel like I’ve been filling up with goodness, ever since. True, I’m a little leaky now and then, but I’m a work in progress.

She left me with a poem. It’s one of the first things I posted on this blog, actually. You can read it here. We’ve kept up through emails ever since. I wish I would have walked her home that night, but we were going to two different parts of the city. And besides, I still had the credit card issue to figure out.

It took me a few more hours to crack the case. Many, many tears and failed phone calls later, after I’d enlisted the help of an American in my global cell phone’s company call center, plus two separate concierges, the lady at my soon-to-be favorite gelateria, plus a number of concerned but utterly unhelpful tourists in the public square, I got everything figured out. In the end, no one could help me dial the numbers on the back of my credit cards (or any international numbers for Chase Bank on any of their websites) from Italy – not even the Italians. My concierge darkly blamed the trouble on it being an “American number”. I bit my tongue to avoid the unpleasant remark I felt bubbling up inside…and to think that only a few hours earlier, I might have agreed with his assessment.

Luckily, I had an iPad and Skype, and it turns out that you can dial anyone from Skype – including Chase Bank. Ten minutes later, I celebrated my newly-reinstated bank accounts with two scoops of gelato – pistachio and sweet cream is the best combination, hands down.

During the ordeal of trying to call my credit card company, I was sitting on some steps near the public square and sobbing. Luckily, extreme displays of emotion don’t make Italians run in the opposite direction, and an older gentleman came up and interrupted me mid-sob. He asked me if I was holding an iPad, and if I’d be so kind as to let him check his stocks. He asked me why I was so upset, brushed it off as an issue I’d soon solve, then asked me to wine later if I was free. I declined, much to my later disappointment when I saw the man and an extended group of friends having a lovely conversation at an open-air trattoria.

Watching the group of Italians laugh at their table, it struck me that it had all been a test – a big, messy lesson from St. Francis. I’d just had a small taste of what it was like to depend entirely on the kindness of strangers, to not know where my next meal was coming from, to have no clue how I’d be leaving town. All I had was my ability to make friends, to prove my goodness, and to have faith that something would come through. It was a tough lesson to learn, and I don’t think I did too well on the first round; I was a spoiled brat and an emotional wreck, placing too much faith on my gadgetry and not enough on human connection. Maybe that’s where I’ll step up my game on The Camino.

Overall, my trip to Assisi was a pivotal moment in my life thus far. In one way, the day was quite simple: I took a bus to see a couple of churches, and ran out of money. It’s all of the details that make the day so huge in my memory. Every time I run back through the events of the day, my mind untangles some new moment, makes a previously unnoticed connection, draws me closer in my relationship with St. Francis. The wild man who preached to birds, who believed that laughter and song were the perfect way to spread the radical concept of not being a jerk, who gladly stripped naked in the public square to renounce his father’s fat pocketbook in exchange for a life of austerity…I’m behind that. I might not be able to accept everything yet. Maybe ever. But I’ll take what I can – and I’ll pass it right back out. My best is all I’ve got, and I’m going to give it.

Shrubbery from the basilica's lawn. The Tau (in red) is the symbol of the Franciscan order. Pax = peace.

Shrubbery from the basilica’s lawn. The Tau (in red) is the symbol of the Franciscan order. Pax = peace.

Conversation Can Be Overrated

infj-head

One of the things I’m going to enjoy most about The Camino is the chance to not have to talk that much. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, and I enjoy exchanging ideas with folks I meet. However, I’m also an introvert, and too much social interaction is emotionally and physically draining for me.

Tonight, for instance, I went to dinner with some clients whom I also consider friends. They’re fun to hang out with, and we had a great time talking about both business and personal matters over steaming bowls of pho at our favorite local Vietnamese place. But the strain of adopting a chatty, extroverted nature for a client meeting is really hard on me. I can do it; in fact, a decent subset of my acquaintances know me as a pretty outgoing person. It’s just that it takes every ounce of energy I have to be that kind of girl, and the aftereffects are sometimes major.

After dinner, my energy levels took a nosedive. I had plans to go out to a concert, but by the time I got home I knew that there was no way that could happen. I was exhausted. All that talking had worn me out for the night. The most I could do was put on pajamas and curl up on the couch.

On my walk, I’ll have hours of quiet every day, but also (hopefully, anyway) plenty of opportunities to meet new people and get to know their stories. I won’t have to pretend I’m anything other than what I am – a traveler enjoying the scenery, thinking about life, and looking forward to the next albergue. Ah, I’m feeling more relaxed already. G’nite folks!

Various Negative Reactions To My Decision To Walk To Santiago De Compostela

When writing the story of your life, don't let anyone else hold the pen.

Hand-drawn Typography by Carrie Chang. Click thru to visit her Behance page.

With my excitement, it was easy to forget that other people might not have the same amount of faith in my proposed journey as I have. That’s one of the reasons I needed to start this blog – the real life reactions were beginning to get disheartening. Since coming to terms with the fact that this trip was definitely happening, I’ve gotten a lot of confused stares, a few politely-worded questions to the basic tune of, “Why on earth would anyone want to do that?” and only a small handful of genuine expressions of interest out of everyone I’ve told.

The interested folks: my three best girlfriends, a friend’s mom, a couple of other friends, and a coworker.

The disinterested folks: my parents, the rest of my coworkers.

The people who think I’m wasting time / wasting money / otherwise making a stupid mistake / am just strange or insane: my significant other, the rest of my family, a decent chunk of friends, pretty much everyone else that I’ve told in passing.

A lot of my friends think that walking 800km is kind of crazy. I get it. Some people just don’t like being that physically active. I’m comfortable with people liking to be inactive, so why can’t they be comfortable with the alternative? I’ll probably never get it.

A couple of folks have asked me what I think I’ll accomplish. They hear “pilgrimage” and think that I’ve gone soft in the head, like I’m going to start wearing a hair shirt and toting a life-sized cross around. I wouldn’t get that reaction if I said I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail, even though plenty of people hike the Trail to find themselves and enjoy their surroundings, which is exactly what I’ll be doing. If pilgrimage is a quest to to pay homage, why can’t one use it to pay homage to the world, and in doing so, find his or her place in that world? True, I go with some religious questions in mind, but I also go to meet other seekers, to explore medieval architecture, to pit my weak body against the much stronger terrain, and to have a story to tell. Shouldn’t one of these things be enough? Why is it that I can go through the whole list without seeing a single sparkle in the other person’s eye? It’s heartbreaking to know there are people out there with such small imaginations.

A number of people are treating this like I’m talking about taking an extra-long vacation, and see me as somehow selfish for making these plans. Americans typically get two paid vacation weeks a year, compared to four weeks in most European countries. Many Americans – in the past, myself included – take their work with them on vacation, and don’t take their full vacation time each year. We’re workaholics, and it’s killing us. There’s no upside. And technically, even though I’m working 40 hours a week at an agency, I’m a freelancer, so I should be able to dictate my own work schedule. I’ve given up a higher paycheck and health insurance in order to have a job that gives me some choice in my life. Even so, there’s a good chance that I might come back to find I have no job waiting for me. But really, if they can’t hold my desk, is it really a job I want to keep?

One person, in particular, has made it clear that they don’t believe in my decision or ability to carry it out. Planning an expenditure of this scale when I don’t have the funds to begin with, especially knowing that I will surely suffer afterward, just makes them mad with me for being stupid and wasteful and willfully ignorant. This is probably the hardest burden for me to bear on a daily basis, that someone close to me plain doesn’t think I’m capable of achieving a beloved goal. They want me to do what they do – obsess about the future without ever living today. What they don’t, maybe can’t, understand is that I’ve looked at this from all angles. I know the hole I’m potentially digging for myself. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is having the faith that what I’ve decided will not only come to pass, but will be the right thing for me. I’ve decided to LIVE, even if they’re too afraid to make the same decision.

Out of everyone I’ve spoken to, only one person – my best friend – has looked at me with some understanding when I told her what I was planning. She might not have understood the compulsion, but she understands me. She understood, like I do, that this pilgrimage is not an option. It’s happening, one way or the other. As it turns out, she was one of the first that I told once I’d finally made the call that it was going to be this year. I’m so happy that she was the one, because it’s kind of painful trying to speak my soul to other people and having them write me off so easily. I don’t think I can be any clearer: this is of massive importance to me. If I were having a baby or getting married, people would drop everything to congratulate me for embarking on a new path. The irony is that here I am, literally embarking on a new path, and no one gets it.

One thing I’m learning through this process is that I can’t afford to take too much time to be angry or hurt. I definitely can’t try to spew irritation, disgust, or misguided language back at people who try to influence me to change my mind. I truly believe that if I just keep working at this, and putting my back into it, so to speak, only good will come out of my decision. Above all, I need to stay true to the spirit of this journey, and that means staying true to my heart, inviting only the best energy in. Kind of like karma, I guess.

One way or the other, it definitely helps that I have you, kind readers. I really appreciate you all being here, and coming back to read on as I progress in my plans. You’re giving me some of the strength I need to make this journey happen.

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Spanish Lessons For The Road

Image via Brahmaloka or Bust.

Click through to read “The Yoga of Learning a Language” on Brahmaloka Or Bust.

Here’s a dirty little secret – I don’t speak a second language. It’s a shameful thing to admit, but thus far it hasn’t terribly affected my ability to travel and explore other countries on my own. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in places where people don’t speak English, and aside from a few rough moments (like trying to get my hair styled in a tiny Croatian town, or trying to find the nearest train station in Bratislava), I’ve been pretty lucky. There was the run-in with the knife-wielding, potentially deranged guy in Paris, but that was less about not speaking French than not spotting the nuances of insanity right off the bat.

This moderate success at travel in the past is probably why I’m being kind of lazy about learning Spanish in preparation for my pilgrimage. Well, that and the knowledge that lots of other pilgrims travel without a great command of Spanish and live to tell the tale. There will be thousands (or at least hundreds) of other people on The Camino when I walk it, after all, and I’m bound to meet other people who speak English. There’s a saying that The Camino will provide; I’m just hoping it provides me with a translator.

But therein lies the rub. If I fail to learn at least a little bit of some other language (aside from the minimal German I currently own, which mostly boils down to ordering beer and saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” – all extremely useful, but not so much in Spain), I’m going to be just one more jerk American who can’t be bothered to be a world citizen. I really don’t want to be that person. That person sucks.

I’ve just never been that good at languages, though. I took Spanish all through high school and have no recollection of more than the very basics like “water” and “bathroom” (as well as, oddly, how to order fish at a restaurant). In college, I took Latin and all but failed out every semester. The primary reason that I didn’t move further with my studies in medieval history after undergrad was that I’d have to learn Italian, German, and French to even apply to grad school, which for me, both then and now, is a completely incomprehensible goal.

I will admit that the one language I’d desperately love to learn is Italian. I adore Italy. It’s not a romantic thing – though it is an undeniably romantic place. It’s the fashion, the architecture, the lifestyle, and those beautiful Italian men, so quick to flirt, so deliciously unreliable. (OK, so maybe it’s just a little bit about the romance.) Since I plan to make a quick pit stop in Umbria before heading off to Spain, maybe I should learn Italian, too…

In all seriousness, though, I’ve been studying a little bit of Spanish and German over the last couple of months using a great free website/app called Duolingo. If you haven’t tried it out yet, I’d definitely recommend signing up now. It’s a fun way to pick up some vocabulary and test out your skill in both reading and speaking other languages. But I’m not convinced that I’ll become adept at conversational Spanish with solo online study, so I’ll probably end up joining a Meetup group to chat en español over coffee.

Did you walk the Camino without learning Spanish first? Weigh in here on how it worked out for you!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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Pilgrim, Who Is Calling You? (Poem from the Camino de Santiago)

A poem by Eugenio Garibay Baños, written on a wall along the Camino between Navarrete and Najera. Translation by Google & Camino de Santiago Forum member Vigdis. Click through for more info.

I
Polvo, barro sol y lluvia
es Camino de Santiago
Millares de peregrines
y mas de un millar de años

Peregrino, puien te llama?
Que fuerza oculta te atrae?
Ni el Campo de las Estrellas
ni las grandes catedrales

No es la bravura Navarra,
ni el vino de los riojanos
ni los mariscos gallegos
ni los campos castellanos

II
Peregrino, Quien te llama?
Que fuerza oculta te atrae?
Ni las gentes del Camino
Ni las costrumbes rurales

No es la historia y la cultura
ni el gallo de La Calzada
ni el palacio de Gaudi,
ni el Castillo Ponferrada

III
Codo lo veo al pasar,
y es un gozo verlo todo,
mas la voz que a mi me llama
la siento mucho mas hondo.

La fuerza que a mi me empuja
la fuerza que a mi me atrae,
no se explicarla ni yo
Solo el de Arriba lo sabe!

E.G.B.

And with Google translator (not correctly, but we all understand it):

I
Dust, mud, sun and rain
Camino de Santiago is
Thousands of pilgrims
and more than a thousand years

Pilgrim who is calling you?
What hidden force attracts you?
Neither the Field of Stars
or the great cathedrals

It is not the bravery of Navarre
or the wine of La Rioja,
neither Galician seafood nor
the Castillian countryside

II
Pilgrim, who calls you?
What hidden force attracts you?
Neither the people of the Way
Nor their rural customs.

Not the history and culture
or the Rooster’s Causeway
or the Palace of Gaudi
or Castillo Ponferrada

III
It is a joy to see everything in passing
but the voice that calls me
I feel much more deeply.

The force that pushes me
force that attracts me,
I cannot explain,
Only the One above knows!