Monthly Archives: June 2014

Just Stop With Planning

Day in Astorga

Day in Astorga

Do Not Make Plans. They Don’t Work Out

June 21, 2014

AHHHHH!

We had a nice rest day. Slept on a park bench in front of the Astorga Cathedral and Gaudi Castle until they opened. It is Saturday, everything opens up later in the morning…like 10:30. I highly recommend going in to see these two places. I am learning a lot about the Cathedrals’ history on the Camino. And Gaudi is one of my favorite people of all times. What an artist!

We met up with two of our friends from the American Pilgrims on the Camino, Amy and Ena who arrived in town walking down the middle of the street. It was nice to visit with them before they continued on.

Then we ate lunch. Picked up train snacks. Saw the Roman Bath House ruins that the Catholic Church had dug up while building over it. Ate an ice cream cone. Got lost walking to the train station. Saw some great slums. And upon arriving to the station for our 3:15 departure, found out it was going to be an hour late.
Uh-oh. We also had a connecting train to catch, but it wasn’t going to wait for us.

We hung out in the train station listening to great music from a Brazilian woman’s IPhone while we bonded with her. She had walked the whole way last year, but was leaving the Camino early and heading to Santiago to meet up with friends and head to the beach. She just wasn’t feeling the Camino Spirit inside her anymore. The people were not nice like last year and she found no need to continue.
She was a wonderful help to us in translating for us with the conductor later on.

Ok…so for the fun part. I am all about setting goals. It is the way one progresses. I read Stephan Covey’s books way back when I was 19. Hence why I like to have things kinda planned out and yet I’m not anal enough that I can’t go with the flow, however, NOTHING has gone as planned on this pilgrimage. The one lesson that keeps repeating over and over again is, “Don’t plan. Keep it loose. Just go with the flow.”

The conductor informs us that there isn’t a connecting train at the station for us. No train. He said something about taking a bus or a taxi. He is explaining this in Spanish. Abby comprehends some of it. I’m getting nothing. So for the next 40 minutes we are wondering what we are going to do. We agree that it will work out. We will sleep in the station until the next day to find out when the train comes or the bus comes. Once again, we are going to get in to a station that will be closed. The Albergue that we figured we could stay at would probably be filled up if we continued on to Sarria. And there are ominous dark clouds that completely filled the sky for the entire 4 hour trip. Rain. Yeah. Oh…and snow was on the mountains too in some parts. Yippee-skippee. And tomorrow is Sunday and trains and buses cut back on their service. And we figured we had lost out money for the remainder of our train ride and would have to pay more for another ticket.

The Brazilian woman told us to wake her up when the conductor came back and she would find out the info for us.
Thank goodness for her being there. Turns out that the conductor had made arrangements for a bus to meet us at the station to take not only us, but the other passengers that had missed the connecting train. We could stay the night at the town and have our money refunded partially or continue on without paying any additional money.

Of course we are continuing on.

We get to the station. The bus is there. We ride going 90 down the road and get to Sarria in 30 minutes. Then we get lost trying to find the Albergue. It starts to rain. It is 8:30pm when we find the place. And they are filled up.

I’m going to cry. It is raining. We look like pathetic drowned rats. We ask if they can call another place to see if they have rooms. Informed that the hostel down the street has beds at 20€ each. “I can’t afford that” I say as water is running down my face. She looks at us and says, “Wait a minute” when she comes back, she has found us each a bed in her place one at 9€ and another at 10€!

Yes. It has worked out. And breakfast is included.

We are tired. Grateful. And we will continue to start each day with prayer to help us find a bed that we can afford each night. We also give thanks each night for the blessings we have received each day.

Now let’s see if my prayers for no rain while I’m walking play out.

 

 

It’s the End of the World as We Know It…and I Feel Fine

Sleep in peace

Sleep in peace

Don’t Stop Believing

June 20, 2014

Just when I was ready to throw in the towel. No. Really. I mean it. After last night’s experience in Leon with the two rude women twins who locked the window shut due to the party noise outside. The only ventilation for the one women’s section that housed 30 of us females, we were in was now cut off and I cannot begin to describe the Hell Hole that room became.

Stunk of farts, B.O., stale pee from the bathroom…and the heat was stifling. I had nightmares. Woke up soaking in my own sweat at 4 am and had to flee the room for the outside courtyard in order to breath.

That was it. No mas.

Plus my left foot is not cooperating. A ligament is strained. If I sit or stop moving, it tightens up, swells and hurts. I limp when I walk. It is sore and throbbing. But I’m bound and determined to finish this pilgrimage come Hell or high water. I did not climb the Pyrenees to go home without my Compostella.

So we took the bus to Astorga. Yup…jumping ahead, but time is moving forward and so do we. I have no shame. I have no guilt. I do not owe anyone any excuses for doing so. Even though I overheard a conversation about pilgrims doing as such, being described as losers and cheaters. That compassionate pilgrim spirit hasn’t bit that group of pilgrims in their butt yet.

And then upon arrival, we decided…well…I decided that perhaps now is the time to bite the bullet and take the bus to Sarria. This is the point where you HAVE to walk 100km and collect two stamps per day on your credential in order to get your Compostella. This isn’t an easy decision to come to. I had looked through the next stages coming up. Knew we would take a bus in two of them, but for the most part walk and still have time left over.

Then as I was stewing in my own juices last night, the thought came to me that perhaps I should go to Sarria now and not hobble through the next stages, eeking out the left foot. What if it got worse and due to it becoming more inflamed I wouldn’t be able to continue during this last stage that HAD to completed by foot ( or bike or horse)? All for not. I would be upset with myself for NOT finishing.

Turns out, we can’t reach Sarria by bus, only by train. And we are going out late on Saturday from here, take the train to a connecting point and continue on from there. We won’t arrive in Sarria until 6:30 pm on a Saturday night. It is a crowded place with a lot of pilgrims just coming in to start their pilgrimage. We don’t know if we will have a place to sleep or not. But we are going for it.

Anyway, all of this has been a bummer. Last night’s experience. Caving into jumping so far ahead…I was feeling pretty crappy about everything, when we reached the Albergue (Albergue Publico in Plaza de San Francisco 3) that I had seen advertised last week at the 80 men hostel. It looked nice in the picture. In person, it is stunning. And they gave Abby and I our own room. With a window. With a view. For 5€ each. We squealed and jumped up and down delighted with this.

Things happen. Things work out one way or other. If we hadn’t stayed in the 80 men hostel, we wouldn’t have found this place. Just when you get discouraged and start kicking yourself because The Plan is not working, something better comes along to give you an attitude/ gratitude adjustment.

We will continue to progress.

 

Are We That Different From Each Other?

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

To Be or Not to Be, Is There a Difference?

June 18, 2014

Tourist vs Pilgrim is there a difference? Let’s explore using a pseudo Venn diagram

Tourist                                                 Pilgrim
Vacation from stress.                         Vacation from stress
Explore                                                  Explore
Interact with others.                            Interact with others
Eat different foods.                              Eat different foods
Learn another language.                    Learn another language
Travel to different places.                  Travel to different places
Go visit a variety of sights.                Go visit a variety of sights
Pack too much stuff.                           Pack too much stuff
Reflect on life.                                     Reflect on life
Relax.                                                     Relax
Keep to a schedule                              Keep to a schedule
Walk a lot.                                             Walk a lot
Shop for nic-knacks.                            Shop for nic-knacks
Make new friends.                               Make new friends
Spend money.                                       Spend money
Get blisters.                                           Get blisters
Get sunburnt.                                       Get sunburnt
Wear the same clothes.                      Wear the same clothes
Take pictures.                                        Take pictures
Get bedbugs.                                         Get bedbugs
Sleep in hotels w/lots of people.        Sleep in rooms w/lots of people
No curfew.                                             Curfew
Complain about stuff.                          Complain about stuff

Mmmm…I’m sure I could ( and you too) continue to add to both of these lists, but I believe that tourists and pilgrims are both in the same category—visitors—with a purpose.
Not so different after all as people would like to make them out to be.

Take it Off? Leave it On? Whatever…

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

Things to Remember to Take Off or Not Put On ( and other things that bug you)

June 15, 2014

*Toe rings- your feet swell in the hot weather when you are walking. The toe ring cuts off circulation until your toe becomes numb. When you discover the toe purple in color, the ring band embedded in the flesh, you remember too late that the pain you were feeling in your toe wasn’t due to a hot spot, but the ring. Removing it is quite an undertaking. Your toe will turn back to flesh color in a few hours, if you are lucky. If you are not so lucky, your toe will blacken and it will need to be snipped off.

*Make-up. Why bother putting it on in the first place. It will drip off with the sweat and sting your eyes. Plus it is one more thing to pack, along with make-up remover. No one cares what you look like.

*The over-the-shoulder- boulder- holder. Also known as, The Bra. Take it off as soon as you come to the place you will rest for the night. Air out your wares. This contraption helps to reinforce The Girls, but it also is very binding when rubbing on you under your backpack straps. Hint: wear your bra when buying your pack in order to see how the two will fit together. Go buy a bra that fits with your backpack shoulder straps.

* Trying to decide if I can balance with my pack on or if I have to take it off in order to pee.

* Being aware of the direction the wind is blowing when peeing and then it changes on you.

* How to scratch an itch when you can’t get to the bug bites- on the bottom of your foot ( who wants to take off all the socks and the shoe in order to scratch it?) and on
your backside ( good luck trying to reach around your pack to take care of the itch). It drives me mad…feels like the way a dog looks, chasing its own tail trying to nip that flea.

* Pulling a wedgie out. Ahhhhh!

Stay tuned. I’m sure there are more things I will discover as I walk.

 

 

My Own Philosophical Musings

Looking at the road less traveled

Looking at the road less traveled

Philosophies of Men (Rambling musings along the dusty road)

June 14, 2014

Some thoughts as I contemplated life while walking the long, flat terrain of the Meseta today.
We human beings love to qualify things. We appoint levels of pain; scale grades; have ranges for a variety of areas…we love percentages and data. And then we have the audacity to determine based upon these ratings the degree to which one has reached success. As a teacher, I know all too well about determining the level of achievement based on a chart that shows developmental levels of growth. And yet, these results don’t really acknowledge the learning an individual has achieved over a given time period.

Hence when one decides just how successful a pilgrim is, it is based on some pseudo misconception that has been predetermined by an individual or a group that has collectively decided the scale as to what a pilgrim is. Pain and suffering seem to be a key point. You get points if you suffer along the pilgrimage. More points if it is for a spiritual reason–and by spiritual it is not a broad encompassing definition. It is determined based on the individual who is reading or hearing about a pilgrim’s journey that decides if it qualifies within a small range.

How one travels is another point of either contention, justification or qualification. Anything deviating from actually walking and carrying one’s own pack is frowned upon by some hard- core believers that one can not be a pilgrim unless you suffer the whole way through. Comes to mind the saying, “there is no gain, if there is no pain.” And yet history shows that pilgrims throughout all the centuries have used modern day convieninces in order to make the journey on the Camino de Santiago. Porters were used to carry bags. Carts and animals were used to transport not only bags, but people too. So in today’s time and place, buses, taxis are used for the transporting of individuals as well as equipment.
For some purists, this is sacriglious of the purpose of the pilgrimage and is seen as circumventing the journey.

This brings to mind the other scripted controversies heard throughout the years, women who use drugs for labor vs those who did it the natural way and birthed their young without. Does this mean that one way is superior to another even though the outcome is the same…a baby. For some, it is lauded above those who “caved” and birthed with the usage of drugs or other methods that deaden the pain.

Pain. Being a mrytre for a cause or enduring through pain and suffering is seen as a sign of strength or evidence of “true” sacrifice for service. And yet, is a veteran any less of one if he/ she does not have battle scars to prove to those that they were in combat?

Yes, we humans indeed enjoy determining grade levels, point systems, stats, percentages…in all areas in order to show proof of one’s level of success. And yet, why do we believe that there are certain ways which one has to meet in order to be a pilgrim on a pilgrimage? Why do we cancel out others levels of achievement by saying, “Well, next time…” Or “You almost made it…” Or ” If you put your mind to it you can do better.” We, in general discredit the level of one’s success by comparing theirs to another’s. Us humans are very quick push others to be better, faster, richer, better looking, smarter…

For me personally, I came to the realization early on, that for me, my pilgrimage is on- going. It is a metaphor for life in general. It isn’t to be confined to a 500 mile walk from France to Santiago, Spain. It isn’t something to check off on a bucket list. It isn’t about collecting the most stamps on my credential and framing it like a trophy on my mantle. It isn’t about how many miles I can walk in a day and brag about. It isn’t about how many or lack of any blisters I have. It isn’t about the pain or suffering. It isn’t about the need or the belief that one needs a health issue in order to justify taking a bus or having someone transport the pack ahead. It isn’t about the struggle in the elements or the long walks over the stones.

I don’t have to have the acceptance or acknowledgement of others in order to justify the belief that I am a pilgrim. My spiritual experiences are different from everyone else’s, because I am a unique individual and there is only one of me. There are no amount of notches needed to obtain in order to prove to others that I am a pilgrim. We all are different from one another and therefore what we each learn and how we develop on our own pilgrimages cannot be qualified. There is no need to do so and how presumptuous are we for doing this very thing.

A successful pilgrimage cannot be determined using science researched based methods. It isn’t quantifiable. The experiences cannot be replicated-even by the same individual. Anecdotal notes can be kept and compared, but to what avenue?
And yet, I have read and have listened to a great number of individuals ( I’m even guilty of having said some of these things way early on in the beginning of my planning stages) who believe that certain conditions need to be met in order to have a ” true” pilgrimage.

And this means for me, I am still learning how to embrace others whose experiences differ from mine and that I need to guard against becoming smug and resting upon my laurels. Everyday is a new day that brings with it a new adventure and another 7 hours to contemplate life as I trudge along The Way—or ride the bus.

 

 

Seek and Ye Shall Find

The monastery in ruins

The monastery in ruins

Seek and Ye Shall Find, Ask and it Will be Provided

June 16, 2014

Quick update as I’m tired. We are currently in Itero de la Vega. We had to climb up out of a deep valley, 1080 ml high at a 12% grade- though at some points it felt closer to 25%. And then we descended back down 380ml at 18% grade.
So thankful for the breeze blowing and the dark rain clouds covering us from the bright sun.

Last night we stayed in San Anton Albergue, which is housed in the ruins of of an ancient crumbling monastery. No electricity, no warm water and yes it was cold at night in spite of the two horse blankets I slept under.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. This place is beautiful. Under the full moon, it was gorgeous.

Oh…and a Japanese TV station showed up to interview those of us staying at the Albergue. The documentary is being produced to commemorate the 10th yr anniversary of their relationship with The Way- or something along this line. Anyway, the Japanese show had selected 10 Albergues to document in this series which will air only in Japan. They were selected based on their historical ties to the Camino. So since there were only three of us staying the night, Abby, myself and a very interesting woman from Lutherania and the both of them quickly headed to the bedroom, that left me standing there to be questioned.
The donativo hosts were making dinner and I was asked by them to help out and as I was slicing cucumbers for the salad, the camera was zooming in on close- ups of my hands all the while I am being questioned about the Camino. Thank goodness I have been able to process my thoughts during the long hours of walking the many miles of the Camino. I was able to answer all the questions fluidly ( Abby and the Lutherania woman confirmed this as they could hear everything on the other side of the wall division) much to the satisfaction of the interviewer.
Nothing like being filmed looking like a real pilgrim, decked out in a multitude of different mix matched clothes, with no make-up on and my hair sticking up in all directions due to it drying funny. A 20 minute interview…whew!

And then we were filmed eating. All of us were told to ignore the camera and act natural. While we did the best we could. The subject of why Abby and I didn’t drink alcohol came up as other religions allowed consumption. On film, I explain that we are member of a The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints…which drew blank looks until I said “Mormon” and that was understood.

Who knows how much will be kept and cut, but keep your eye out in Japan for my debut. After the Japanese film crew left, we all cheered and toasted them leaving. We had a great conversation which we enjoyed before going to bed.

What a great day and evening. We knew we were meant to stay when we arrived there at 10:30 am ( by this time we had already walked out 10 miles). I am so glad we listened to our heart and to our feet. A great relaxing day, filled with interesting conversation amongst this small group.

And these are the rich blessings that the Camino provides.

 

Do I Really Need a Reason to Justify Doing the Camino?

Bonding as we journey

Bonding as we journey

And Your Point Is?

June 11, 2014

I was asked why I’m doing the Camino de Santiago. Was this for a religious reason?
I have many reasons and not just one will suffice.

I like to explore. It can be at home in my own backyard, but I enjoy venturing out and partaking in life. Everyday is an adventure. Going on a pilgrimage, such as this is for me an epic adventure. It is fun. Exciting. Scary. This is outside of my comfort zone. I need to rely on others to help me along the way. This is a humbling experience because usually I am the one who is steering the boat, so to speak.

I believe that I should instill in my children a thirst for attaining knowledge. Traveling broadens their horizons. Going on a pilgrimage with my 19, soon to be 20 year old daughter is a bonding experience. I’m showing her that it is a good thing to challenge oneself and go interact with others in the world. What a great experience to do this together. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to ask for help. I believe that by showing my daughter that we can go venture into the unknown, we are empowering ourselves with fortitude, strength and humility. When I’m old, we will look at pictures together of this adventure and tell lots of stories to the next generation. What a great opportunity to do this together when we can, before life becomes more complicated.

We both had a cancer scare. It smacked us up side our heads by surprise. A very eye wakening experience for the two of us. Life can end at any time in any place. Why put off until tomorrow what can be done today. And with this thought in mind, the seed was planted to go and live life now, not wait for some day. We should take glory in the present and rejoice in the life that God has created for us.

What do I hope to gain from this pilgrimage? So many thoughts to that question.

A feeling of freedom. A belief in myself for being able to endure all things, even be able to overcome difficult situations that I don’t haven control over, but that I will have the fortitude to move forward and persevere. That my daughter will witness this and see how we can overcome problems together and not just by ourselves.
We will have a sense of accomplishment. When the going got tough, we kept on going and that it was/is ok to acknowledge that situations do not always go as planned. Change the course and make your own path. Create your own journey.

When we are born, we don’t have a playbook/guidebook/travel guide to follow. We are dependent upon others to mentor us along the way. We make mistakes. We learn from them. We gain more wisdom and knowledge as we grow older. Only through first- hand experience can we obtain these lessons.
This pilgrimage, is a reflection of life’s journey for me. We are on the road discovering sights and sounds that we can’t witness first-hand, sitting at home on the couch, reading about others adventures or watching the travelogue special.

Bottom-line, life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. The world is a beautiful place. The people who populate it are fascinating. By going outside our comfort zone, we are embracing the unknown and welcoming whatever we find on our path. The good, the bad and the ugly. And the best part, we are not alone, doing this by ourself. Just as we mature, we have others to lean on. All we have to do is humble ourselves, open our mouths and ask.

Just like from the beginning of birth, leaving our Heavenly Father’s presence and security of being with him, to come test ourself on Earth and to the end of life when we die to return Home to his presence once again, we are not alone. Guidebooks are full of suggestions, but it is up to each of us to decide how we are going to travel on our own journey. To own it. Buena Camino!