Unloading My Fears, Lightening My Pack

“Don’t let your fears load your pack,” Rick said to me on our third day on the Camino. He’d read this advice on a Camino Forum, but admitted he didn’t follow it close enough. As we walked along, he decided to heed this advice and let go of his bedbug spray. Years ago the hostels along the Camino had a problem with bedbugs, but I’d read it had since been remedied. I hoped that was true. So did Rick.

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‘God: Is This the Right Way?’

The trail marker was ambiguous. I thought it pointed to the mowed path off to our right. My new friend Michel thought it meant we were to stay on the paved road we were on. I recalled that my map indicated we’d be walking along a road for most of the day, so I listened to Michel, but was nervous we were going the wrong way. Walking through the Pyrenees with 22 pounds on my back, I didn’t want to have to backtrack.

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Everyone Walks Their Own Camino

Rémy and I placed our orders for paella at a cafe on the square in Pamplona. It had been a long day walking the Camino and we still had a few more kilometers to go. Our packs sat on the ground next to our table. As we sat sipping our beer, I saw Antoine walking across the square. I had met Antoine a few days earlier — he’s a 27-year-old Frenchman on his second Camino in less than one year. He had his 40-pound pack on his back, walking sticks in one hand, and a guitar case in the other. I called him over to our table.

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Packing List: Hiking Shoes, Sunscreen, Rocks?

Rocks are not the first things I’d think to bring on a 480-mile pilgrimage walk across northern Spain. Hiking shoes, dry-wicking shirts, sunscreen: yes. But rocks? Though not shown on any packing list, I would wager that many of my fellow pilgrims along the route to Santiago de Compostela (a journey popularly known as the Camino), are carrying their own rocks.

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Note: This post was written by Rebecca Gallo and originally posted at bustedhalo.com

Best Yet

Is it too early in my trek to say that this is, hands down, the best experience of my life so far?  It’s only Day 3 of walking The Camino, but if I had to end it tomorrow I’d still say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Think about this:

  • Every day I meet people from all over the world who want to share their time, there insights, and their stories with me.
  • I am carrying on my back all I need to live for the next six weeks.  (Yes, the pack is entirely too heavy at 22 pounds, but that’s a whole other story.)
  • I’m surrounded by people who are sharing the same experience but for all different reasons – providing an endless source of interesting conversations.
  • I am walking in nature every day for miles and miles.  It’s not only good exercise, but also meditative.  And, I come up with some of my best blog ideas when walking alone on a wooded path.  (I keep a small notebook in the pocket of my convertible hiking pants to jot down said thoughts.)
  • I can take each day as it comes.  There are no definitive plans other than to follow the trail.  Somedays I end of walking farther than I imagined.  No matter – I’ll always find a place to lay my head and food to fill my belly.  (The latter is sometimes in a restaurant, sometimes cooking with others at the hostel.)
  • I get to do this over and over for forty days – how blessed am I?!

I fully realize that what I’m doing would not be everyone’s idea of the best thing ever, but let me tell you this: if you get to have just one experience in your life where every day, at some point, you find yourself with tears in your eyes because you’re so happy to be where you are right now, oh how lucky you are.

This Pilgrim´s Path

Note:  This post was originally written by Rebecca Gallo and  published on bustedhalo.com.

Why would a woman with serious doubts about her Catholic faith embark on a 480-mile pilgrimagetrail across northern Spain? Maybe I’ll know by the time I finish. For now, the answer to that question is this: I just know it’s something I’m supposed to do. My gut, my intuition, my heart, my God (I use them all interchangeably) has never steered me wrong. From the moment I decided to take this journey, everything has fallen into place — as it usually does when you trust in God.

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And She’s Off…Again

While most of you are sleeping soundly tonight, I’ll be 30,000 feet in the air trying to do the same.  At 10pm, I leave JFK and head to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  From there, it’s a bit an adventure to get to my starting point for the Camino: St. Jean Pied-de-Port.

  • Thursday, May 10, 11:10 AM: Touch down at Charles de Gaulle.  Get my bags.  Go through customs.  Hop a bus for the 45 minute ride to Paris’ other airport – Orly.
  • 3:00PM: Depart Orly for Biarritz, France – on the same flight as two fellow pilgrims from South Africa with whom I’ll travel the rest of the way to St. Jean.  (More on that below.)
  • 4:15PM: Arrive Biarritz.  Take a half-hour bus ride to the Bayonne train station.
  • 6:10 PM: Take the train from Bayonne to St. Jean Pied-de-Port.
  • 7:36PM: Arrive in St. Jean.  Make my way to the hostel I reserved.  Eat something.  Hopefully get some sleep.
  • May 11, sometime after 6AM: Wake up, write three pages, eat, don my pack and head out for my first day on the Camino.  Walk 5 miles up and up and up and up into the Pyrenees to Orisson.  Note the snow in the pictures on their web site.  Let’s hope I don’t see any of that.

I posted my start date and location on a Camino Forum a couple months ago.  Thanks to that, I know of seven people starting with me.   Brad is originally from Nebraska, now going to school in DC.  You can follow his blog here.  Next I heard from Daniel who informed me he and his two friends (all from Switzerland) would also be starting from St. Jean on May 11.  Next Christina from Germany asked about car pooling.  I gave her the name of a web site for that as I’m aiming to take public transit from the airport.  Then there’s Charmaine and Chrisi – the two girls from South Africa who are actually on my very same flight from Orly to Biarritz.  So for those of you that said, “You’re doing this alone?!” rest assured I’ll have some company along The Way.

And if you’re still picturing me walking something akin to the Appalachian trail, go on Netflix and watch The Way with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.  You’ll have a much better picture.

Note that I’ll also be blogging for bustedhalo.com along the Camino.  I will link to those posts from this site (so subscribers – you’ll still get an e-mail notification), but you’ll find those posts on bustedhalo.com first.  The first post is due to go up on Friday, the second possibly on Monday.

Any words of support or encouragement are welcomed – ideally via the comments section on these posts or via e-mail.  Thanks to everyone who helped me get this far:)  Next post will be from Spain!