Well, I think it’s well past time to resurrect my blog after a hiatus of a couple of years. I have big news related to the Camino. I was searching for an apt metaphor to describe the reactivation of my blog and initially thought that the image of a phoenix rising from the ashes might be the ticket. However, as I gave this idea further thought I realized that while the ashes part of the metaphor seems appropriate, the idea of my blog being some sort of rising phoenix seemed a bit pretentious and grandiose. So, I’m thinking that the idea of a 17-year locust emerging from its underground habitat where it has remained out of sight for eons might be a better metaphor. The image of an insect (actually, a cicada rather than a locust) emerging from the ground seemed more accurate for my blog than the image of a phoenix. Ha!
So, onto the big news, which many of you may already know. I talk about it all the time – just ask my wife! After an extended period of discernment, mental wrestling, in-depth study, and discussion I have decided to return to the Camino. My previous experience on the Camino has altered my life and even, I fear, somewhat taken over my psyche. A day does not go by without me thinking about the Camino or communicating with other Camino addicts.
Thinking of the Camino as a form of addiction is not so far out as it may seem. Let me give you an example. I had the distinct honor a couple of weeks ago of meeting Phil Volker (the subject of the documentary “Phil’s Camino”) and Annie O’Neil (the producer/director of “Phil’s Camino” and one of the six primary pilgrims in the film “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago”) at a screening of “Phil’s Camino”. After the screening and Q&A session, I was able to spend some time speaking with Phil. I commented to him how the Camino has this sneaky way of taking over your life and he summed up my thoughts very succinctly in three words by saying “It’s a drug!” How accurate is that!?
Side Note: By the way, if you haven’t seen Phil’s Camino, please find the time to do so. It’s readily available for purchase (go to philscamino.com) or rent. This moving, powerful, and beautifully photographed film has a strong connection with the Camino but it is not about the Camino. It is about one man’s way of dealing with the devastating news of a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Rather than giving in and giving up, Phil deals with the issue in a creative, uplifting, and encouraging way. It is well worth the time to seek out and view this film. You will be inspired and moved!
As far as my return to the Camino, my intention this time is to go a bit farther than I did the first time – twice as far, to be exact! I will retrace my steps along the Camino Frances but will be starting deep inside France at the city of Le Puy en Velay and walking the Via Podiensis as well. This route is one of the four main Camino routes within France that eventually connect with the Spanish Caminos. In particular, the Via Podiensis extends from Le Puy to St. Jean Pied de Port – a distance of around 500 miles – where it meets up with the Camino Frances. Assuming that my body and spirit hold up, this means that when I arrive in Santiago almost three months later I will have hiked around 1000 miles! I must be out of my mind!!
So far, I have made the decision to return (a big first step), laid out a daily itinerary which I may depart from if and when circumstances warrant, obtained my airline tickets, and started sorting through all my hiking paraphernalia to see what I will take, what gets left behind, and what I still need to procure. These are all logistical questions, but the myriad details seem overwhelming and daunting at times – actually, most of the time, if truth be told!
In fact, I have spent far too much time worrying about all the “what if’s” associated with the Camino. What if I have trouble with the language? My French is whatever I remember from high school (a long time ago!) and it is used extensively on the Via Podiensis – not so much English. What if I overstay my time in the EU? I am only allowed to be in the EU without a visa for 90 days and my entire Camino itinerary could easily take that long. But, I have total flexibility with my itinerary and my return flight date can be easily changed with no penalty. What if my wife needs help while I’m away for 3 months? She will do fine and has other family nearby in case of need. What if the airline loses my backpack? It’s never happened to me before and I doubt it will this time, either. What if I need to call home? I will be getting a European SIM card for my phone and all will be well. We have WhatsApp, after all! The list could go on and on. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg! But I’ve reconciled my fears and trust that all will be well. I am convinced that once I get to Le Puy and take that first step, my fears will evaporate and I will slip back into the familiar Camino groove once again.
One big change from my first Camino is that this time I will be walking solo. Last time a friend accompanied me. So, there’s a whole set of anxieties associated with that, too. But lots of folks have made the pilgrimage solo and lived to tell the tale. Preparation for this Camino has been a lot about overcoming my fears. I think part of my anxiety has to do with the fact that I already know what I’m getting myself into and, in large part, what lies ahead. The first time we were like babes in the woods! But I have had a ton of support from members of the various Camino-related Facebook groups I frequent, including the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC), the Portlandia Chapter of the APOC, and the Via Podiensis group. Everyone, without exception, has been helpful and encouraging. So, off I go!
My plans call for flying to Paris on August 18 (only 2 weeks away!!! Yikes!!!), traveling to Le Puy on the 20th after an afternoon sightseeing in Paris, then taking that fateful first step on the 21st. I’ve heard it said that there are only three simple steps for walking the Camino. Step 1: Get to your starting point. Step 2: Take your first step. Step 3: Repeat Step 2 two million times! (OK, as I actually heard it, it was 1 million steps. But that was from St. Jean. From Le Puy, it’s twice the number of steps!) That’s all there is to it.
Anyway, I plan on posting updates on my blog as often as possible and practical (every day or so, assuming I have good wi-fi access) and will include some of the best photos I can take. (By the way, that’s pronounced “wee-fee” in Europe. Don’t want to make that mistake!) In a way, I have missed this form of journaling. Aside from keeping folks updated on my whereabouts, it has created a tangible record of my thoughts, challenges, and observations along the way. I am looking forward to the journey that seems to be approaching at warp speed. This walk will be a spiritual and well as a recreational experience and I hope I will be able to convey some of that in these posts. Thank you for joining me along the way.
Bon Chemin and Buen Camino!