What do you do when you’re waiting for your book to be published? Why, you take a walk. A long walk. Perhaps the longest walk you’ve ever taken in your whole life kind of walk. A 500 mile walk to be exact (or 800 kilometers as the case will be). The Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
The Camino Frances, or the Camino as it is sometimes called, is an ancient pilgrimage route that starts in St. Jean Pied de Port in France and travels up over the Pyrenees and across the northern part of Spain and ends in the town of Santiago de Compostela, at the cathedral, where it is said the bones of St. James the apostle are buried. For more than a thousand years pilgrims have walked this route, many in cloak and staff, and relied on the goodness of strangers to help them on their way. The journey has been memorialized by many, most notably Paulo Coehlo and in the movie, The Way, starring Martin Sheen. Even Shirley MacLaine walked the Camino. People walk for all sorts of reasons. Some spiritual. Some not. Some as a challenge of endurance. Some, an escape from the day to day of busy life. Some only learn why while they walk.
Me, I’m turning 60 this year. My mortality is facing me in the mirror. I’ve wanted to walk the Camino ever since I learned about it in 2012 when I had the chance to teach in Barcelona. I’ve had friends who have done it, and each time, with a tiny bit of envy in my voice, I said. “Oooh, I want to do that too. I want to walk the Camino someday.”
Well, someday has arrived. In just about a month, I’ll find myself putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, week after week. I’m going alone. Up one hill and down the other, across sun drenched plains and through unpredictable weather. Sleeping in refugios filled with pilgrims I have yet to meet until I reach the town of Santiago de Compostela. I plan to post a few pictures of the journey here, on the blog, as I make my way across Spain. Probably not too many words, though, as I challenge myself to be present and focus on the journey rather than where I am trying to go.
I have my passport and my credential. It is sparkling clean and ready for the dozens of colorful stamps I’ll collect along the way. I have a guide book, my pack and as few belongings as I can carry and soon I’ll be off, spending each day focused on the journey of a lifetime.
Wish me luck, or as they say on The Way, “Buen Camino.”