I think the best practice for the Camino is traveling around Europe the week prior. More specifically: Go to Lyon and head towards the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière at the top of the hill. See some stairs and think, “They don’t look that bad.” Get to the top of the stairs, and find even more stairs. Think, “Well, at least this is good practice.” Get to the top and see even more stairs. Feel your body responding to hundreds of stairs in 95° weather. Start cursing yourself. Figure it’s too late to turn around now. How much longer can it be? A lot longer. Climb more stairs. Wish you had counted the number of stairs so you could brag about it on your blog. Stop to catch your breath. Take a video to try to show how crazy this is. Video does not do it justice.
Finally get to the top and see a map of said stairs. Think to yourself, “Why wasn’t this map at the bottom of the stairs?!”
A few minutes later: Girl walks up to the door of the Basilica Norte Dame de Fourvière. Sees the sign that says “tour decouverte” (discovery tour) to the left. Sees that the sign also says “tour insolite” to the right. Looks up the word insolite. Finds that it means “unusual.” Heads to the right.
Finds that the tour starts in 30 minutes. Reads that the tour provides 360° views of the city. Realizes that’s more stairs. Wants to go anyway. Sign says one should sign up online. She doesn’t have internet access. Walks inside of the basilica. Stops and stares at the blue and gold mosaics covering the ceiling. Catches her breath. Confirms that if she waits by the sign outside, she may be able to go on the tour. Heads back to the sign.
Twenty-something English-speaking girl approaches. Visiting from the US — thanks to a $3000 grant her college offers for students for summer travel.
Learns the tour guide only speaks French. Is able to follow not even half of what she says. But it’s all worth it for the views. And the opportunity to have dinner with the American girl who, two weeks ago, stepped on a plane for the first time. To head to Europe for the first time. Alone.
Acknowledges that the girl’s troubles the first week were all normal. The loneliness. The getting lost. The wondering if it’s a good idea. Wondering if one should head home. Tells her she still has these feelings after 20 years worth of traveling–alone and with others. Hopes she’s convinced the girl it is worth doing. Again. Because at the girl’s college, she can apply for that $3000 grant again next summer.