Many people have asked us what travels might be in store for us in the future. Next summer we hope to do some trips within the United States. We want to do a hiking trip in Oregon called the Timberline Trail. This is a 41 mile circular hike around Mt. Hood that starts and finishes at the Timberline lodge. We are checking out other trails like the Arizona trail that starts in Mexico and goes to the Utah border. Another trail we are checking out is the Florida trail that is 1000 miles long through the length of Florida. So many great thru trails to see within the U.S. we will keep you posted.
We are on our last night on the Portuguese Camino. Tomorrow we walk 16 miles uphill into Santiago. It will seem like de ja vu to be back in Santiago a third time. Kenny talked of bailing the last day and forget getting the pilgrim certificate since I already have two from before. But I just cant bring myself to quit on the last day after walking for 10 days from Porto. I dont see myself as a quitter! I figure that I have put in the miles, so why not finish strong and get the compestella? I doubt we will be back this way again. I will miss being out in nature every day and seeing new sights. The walking has been more difficult this time around. I have had pain in my Achilles and in my right thigh. So by every afternoon I am in agony. Isn’t it more rewarding to finish when it has been such a challenge? In one way, I am sad to be done walking, but yet I am ready for the pain to be over and to be going home.
This is what tomorrow holds for us, two big mountains to go over. The next four days to Santiago all look this challenging. We have been walking for a week now and our bodies have held up pretty well. Today though I am feeling the effects of walking on the pavement all day on top of all the up and downhill. My Achilles tendon in my right foot is hurting and I have a sore thigh muscle in that leg. It is funny how each day you feel perfectly fine and then bam, you wake up and have troubles the next day. On another side note, we have only met 2 Americans on the Camino. Probably 80 % of all the pilgrims are German. What is the whole of Germany on holiday or what? Another thing, siesta is taken seriously. Nothing opens between 2pm-7pm. When you do eat somewhere, you wait ages to get the check (la cuenta) and pay. It has been a huge test of patience. I thought Mexico was too laid back, Spain is right up there. We decided to go ahead and reserve all our remaining nights to be certain of beds, I hate having to do that. It seems to take away from what the Camino is all about. After all that, I still love to walk and be outside all day. There are gardens and flowers everywhere. It is a botanists dream here with all the unusual plants. Looking ahead for the destination!
The route of the Holy Spirit. We were following this sign for most of the day about a day ago. It was a good reminder to me that the Camino is also a spiritual journey. I think a lot during the day about the thousands of pilgrims that have walked before me in their journey to Santiago. I am finding it is hard to not worry each day whether we will have beds for the night or not. Everyone seems to be booking ahead. I am finding that the sim card I have for my phone for international calling hasn’t been working to reserve ahead. I figured it is God teaching me each day to trust in His provision. Today seemed hopeless to find anything and we were so hot and tired. Suddenly, it all worked out and we got some of the last beds available in the city. We can either stress every day about beds, or let the Holy Spirit lead us each day where to go. I have been at peace that all is well and God provides it. I am so thankful each day for all the smallest things. The Camino is truly not just a very physical journey, but a spiritual one.
Hola Friends, I cant praise enough about our stay on day 3 of our Camino at Casa Fernanda. So glad I booked it in advance two weeks ago. Many pilgrims were turned away without reservations. I cant believe how many pilgrims are here walking. Nearly every place is full. Fernanda was so gracious to us and we were the only ones with a private room and bath. She is amazing! We had a huge spread for dinner and again this morning. It is people like Fernanda that makes the Camino very special.
Hello family and friends! I have been trying for two days to post here or on Facebook, which still isn’t working for me. Oh the joys of technology and travel. This has been such a different Camino from the Camino Frances. I have been very surprised by the huge number of pilgrims walking the Portuguese camino. I had read that only 3% of the half million that get a pilgrim certificate in Santiago walk this one. It must be the newly discovered route. I am a bit disappointed that most of the walking has been on cobblestone roads that are very hard on the feet. Today, from Rates to Barcelos was all walking along busy, dangerous roads. We had to focus on not becoming a traffic casualty all day! It has been a different Camino also because it isn’t a thru hike from the beginning at Lisbon to Santiago. But what has been good is that we are less focused on getting the miles in, and more focused on enjoying the present moment and seeing the sights and enjoying the history, culture and food. Ah, about the food. Siesta is taken seriously here as in Spain. No dinner between 2- 7pm. After walking all day, you are ready to hit the hay by evening. It has been extremely hot, which is making walking a challenge. Pilgrims are leaving in the mornings sometimes at 4 or 5 am to beat the heat. The Portuguese people are very helpful and kind. It has been good to learn some Portugese and see a new country. The drawback is we are only a few days more in Portugal then we are in Spain. I am always amazed how the Camino always provides in ways we least expect.
I’m back in the beautiful state of Washington, resting up after what feels like the fastest, and fullest three months of my life: every day full of lessons, blessings, reflections, and challenges.
I’m getting back into the rhythm of my “real” life, one step at a time, but I can feel that something has truly shifted in me. It would probably be more accurate to say that my whole foundation has been toppled, and rebuilt. Time spent with loved ones feels even more important than before. Time, in and of itself, is something that I now treasure and actually use. It’s so crazy to me that I no longer feel the urge to procrastinate or to “check-out.” God has woken up this wonderful appetite for living in me, where I welcome each day with gratitude and anticipation, knowing that every day will be filled with opportunities to discover more about His character, about the world He created, and to be a blessing to the beautiful people I’m surrounded by.
As we begin this Christmas season, my heart is bursting with gratitude and love, and a real thirst to continue to show God’s love in the world, as He has so generously shown it to me.
The Camino never really ends. Each dawn is filled with possibilities; paths that you might take, choices you can make. As we all keep walking our own Caminos, I want to share a phrase that I’ve found to be incredibly anchoring over the past few months. I picked it up from a doctor who I met in a Belleville cafe in Paris, a day before I started the Camino. We had a wonderful conversation over coffee and sandwiches about humanitarian aid. For a time he was a part of the aid group “Medecins du Monde” (Doctors of the World), where he had worked with refugees. I asked him if he had any advice for me, explaining that I hoped to volunteer at the refugee camp in Calais after the Camino. He simply told me to act, “lentement et doucement” (slowly and gently), meaning of course, to be patient and persevering, warm, open and kind to all of these displaced people I was hoping to help.
I learned that these words could furthermore be applied to my demeanor in every situation,and with everyone, including myself. On the Camino, I learned to literally slow down my pace. On the farm, I finally started being patient with myself as I learned a variety of new skills every day. When I encountered challenging people or situations, I learned to wait and listen for God’s guiding voice, instead of immediately springing into action, or saying the first thing that came to mind. “Lentement et doucement.”
Life is hard. Hard things happen to everyone, on all sorts of scales. If we learn to treat ourselves and one another with love and kindness and patience, foremost, the world becomes a little more manageable.
Buen Camino, loved ones!
Hello Friends and Family
My Camino sisters and I decided it would be a great idea to continue this blog and keep giving updates on what is happening in our lives post-Camino. So here it goes. Unlike Sue, I have no job to come back to at the moment, not until spring. This seems to be okay for me for now. I have been spending a lot of time at home doing projects around our place, and like today (notice my great photo of my greenhouse!) getting my hands dirty preparing my greenhouse for future planting in the spring. It was cold and snowy outside, but a balmy 90 degrees inside with the wood stove going.
One of the big lessons I have learned from my time on the Camino was how simple the life was and how little one needed to just enjoy life. So after coming home my perspective was different on a lot of things. For instance, I saw all the stuff in my house that was just taking up space and not adding anything to my overall enjoyment, so I started getting rid of things and re-organizing my house. It was a great feeling to be simplifying everything, life doesn’t have to be so cluttered! I have been learning to be more content with the small things and just be happy with my small house and the joys that God brings my way everyday.
I have also been planning my next trips, one of them being Cancun Mexico for a month from January 27 to February 27. I meet my parents there every winter and we rent a nice studio apartment on the beach. This year will be a bit different because an aunt and uncle of mine will be there for a month also. So I get to be travel guide for them and take them to see as many sights as they care to take in. The other trip that is in the works is a walking trip through Scotland called the West Highland Way. It is a 96 mile walk and would take about 7 days to complete. It sounds very intriguing and there are a few friends interested in joining me including, hopefully, my Camino sister Sue. I will be doing some more research on that one. Otherwise, my life here in New Meadows Idaho is blessedly quiet and tranquil. My passion is traveling but I do love being a home body at the same time. I am a walking paradox I guess.
It’s been about two weeks now since our journey on the Camino ended. Sue and Nikki have returned to the states, and I’ve been staying busy, volunteering at a small inn in Southwestern France, in exchange for room and board. Here I’ve participated in a huge range of activities: butchering ducks to make foie gras, hauling wood, labelling homemade preserves, and exploring the surrounding mountains in my free time, while additionally having the opportunity to brush up on my French.
It’s been extremely weird, waking up in a room all to myself, AFTER dawn, and NOT walking. It’s been weird feeling my body have the time to fully recharge and heal. Weird not having cafe con leche and tostados for breakfast every day, then sharing morning prayers and songs with my Camino sisters as we tackled the day’s challenges together. It’s been bizarre having moments where I’m truly alone. Bizarre being back in the “real” world, where people work hard and pay the bills, and struggle to find time to answer the “big questions.”
But God has been good to me. It’s been a nice, slow transition back to “normal” life, here in this tiny mountain village. I’m still completely surrounded by the peace and majesty of nature, and have been blessed with good and kind hosts, who are happy to patiently teach me all these new skills.
I’ve been trying to sit down and write a sort of conclusive Camino blog. How it felt to complete it, what I feel I learned overall, and whatnot. I think I’m realising that it’s almost impossible to write any “and that’s the moral of the story, kids” statement about the Camino because, for me, it never ended. The Camino has become a deeply ingrained way of pursuing and thinking about life every day.
Our prayer in Santiago, as the three mujeres fuertes prepared to say goodbye, was that we wouldn’t forget all of the lessons we’d learned over the past month, and that we’d carry the open-hearted, ever hopeful, ever God-pursuing spirit of the Camino in our hearts as we went our separate ways. Frankly, at this point, I don’t think it’s possible to let that spirit go. The Camino isn’t a trip you go on for a month. It’s a way of life. It’s a soul-shifting, life-moving journey that continues every single day.
And for that, I am bursting with gratitude.
Hello Friends & Family! I’m finally home again after about 23 hours-worth of tiring traveling from Madrid to New York to Dallas to Seattle yesterday. Today I’m unpacking, and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I just walked 500 miles. And that it’s over now. How to explain the feelings? How is it that we are drawn to journey toward a common goal, and finally get there, — though the Way was not easy — then, too soon, we are propelled back into ‘regular’ life again??? The Camino drew us in and sent us back out. I am changed forever and hope to “Be the Change” as a sign we saw encouraged us to do.
But, to catch you up on the ending of our Camino, Nikki was only sick for one day and was able to continue walking after that. We finally made it into Santiago on Friday, Oct.23. The city is built up and spread out, and we couldn’t see the cathedral for a really long time. Not even from the monument on the hill where the ancient pilgrims could see it, and they named that hill the “Mount of Joy”. But we kept going untill finally we got to the old center of town and had a glimpse down a narrow street. Then we were going down some steps, through a tunnel, which was the portal, and there was a man playing the bagpipes. Instantly it opened up into the plaza and We Were There! I was filled with emotion and was crying and smiling all at once. We took pictures, and let ourselves just sit and take it all in. There was a crowd there and we happily hugged friends we had shared the trail with, — some recently, and some we hadn’t seen for a long while. Next stop was the Pilgrim’s Office to wait in line for our compostelas (certificates of completion). We had to show our ‘credential del peregrino’ (pilgrim’s passport) for proof that we had indeed walked the Camino. We’d been getting unique rubber-stamps all along the way at albergues, cafes, and churches. Well, after being issued our compostelas and hugging some more friends, we had to go hunt for lodging. Nikki took us to a tiny shop where the storekeepers also have rooms to rent. We ended up in a nice private room with 3 beds and bathroom with hot showers down the hall. After cleaning up, we went out to eat at a nice restaurant with our Basque friend Ainhoa, then off to see the the cathedral and for Mass. We had 2nd row seats luckily because the cathedral was packed with pilgrims. The beautiful singing was led by a nun, accompanied by gigantic pipe organ. At the end, they swang the huge incense burner, the ‘botafumeiro”, hung on a rope from the high ceiling. The six guys in robes pulled on the rope to make the thing swing back and forth, and almost all the way up to that high ceiling on both sides. Tristen said, “Whoa! It’s right over our heads!” The smell of incense filled the air as our prayers of thanks went up to heaven.
Next day we took a bus over to Finisterre (“the end of the earth”). Lots of pilgrims walk this 87 kilometers more from Santiago to the Atlantic Ocean, but alas, we were short on time, and had to go by bus. Once there, we amazingly ran into even more pilgims we knew, and had dinner with Alexandra, our 74-year-old friend from Idaho. Sunday morning we were up extra early and walked the 3 kilometers by the light of the stars all the way out to the lighthouse on the point. From the rocks we watched the sky lighten and the sun come up over the water and over this place which medieval peoples believed was truly the end of the earth. An awesome and fitting way to mark the end of our journey, with peaceful meditation, watching the world become lighter and lighter, and listening to the lapping of waves and the waking of little birds.
Now that I’m home and have a real computer, I’ll post more pictures too. Have to go now. Love & peace to you all!