Camino Jen… again?

When other pilgrims on the trail would ask me if I this was my first Camino, I would always respond with “and my last.” Don’t get me wrong, walking the Camino Frances in spring 2018 was one of the most rewarding things I had ever done (and I had done a LOT in my 46 years by that point). But it was also extremely more challenging than I had imagined — the daily physical tests gave way to an often grueling psychological battle. When I started, I was out of shape, unpracticed, and exhausted from a job that was trying to kill me. Once I found my physical groove walking into Pamplona, the shock of extreme activity was replaced by the daily drudgery of the journey. And the joy and the psychological exercises and the happiness and the crying and the emotional toil and the pride and the relief and the dread and the excitement and the hunger for a dang fruit or vegetable besides bananas and iceberg lettuce.

I’m ready and eager to do it again.

While the journey itself was challenging, I loved the locals, the pilgrims, the culture, the scenery, the history, the sense of accomplishment, and the food (mostly). I also loved the peace and calm that washed over me, the lessons I learned about myself, and a clearer vision of changes I needed to make in my own life.

Unfortunately, so much change happened after returning home — in every single area of my life — that I had lost that Camino spirit by Fall 2019. According to my Facebook memories, I posted about the coronavirus for the first time one year ago today: February 26, 2020. Of course, we had no idea what was to come in the next 12 months on the global, national, and local stages. I am not going to go into detail how we have been affected by the pandemic because our story is the same as billions of other people around the world. We also have extra layers of trauma to distract from the pandemic itself. Let’s just say it’s been a pretty awful 18 months… like for many others.

So why plan to walk the Camino again? A number of reasons:

  1. I need a spiritual/emotional cleanse again. I need to recalibrate.

That’s it.

No. No, that’s not it. I sure would like to roll into Santiago on my 50th birthday. A few years ago, I had decided I wanted to turn 50 in Venice or Rome (two dream destinations), but now it looks like Spring 2022 might be the first chance I will have to travel anywhere from the US… and I would rather have my first trip be the psychological reset of the Camino. Don’t worry; I will celebrate in style that night — I’m going to try to stay at the Parador again this time (I cancelled in 2018 to balance out the budget once I started staying in private rooms). I turned 46 on the Camino in 2018.

Why walk the Frances again when there are so many other Camino routes? I’ve had the luxury of visiting France and Spain again twice since the last Camino: Normandy in Fall 2018 with the husband and Spain/France in Summer 2019 with the husband and kid (husband was with us for one week in Pamplona for San Fermin and to drive the Camino route, then it was me and the kid for another 5-6 weeks).

Bayonne, France, July 2019
Chartres, France, November 2018
Zamora, Spain, July 2019

I need to walk the Frances one more time because there are a number of legs I want a do-over. I plan to walk the Napoleon route instead of Valcarlos, I want to push through further than I did for some legs, I need to walk the two locations where I took a bus (out of Logrono due to blisters, and Carrion to Sahagun because of the sun poisoning), and so on. I understand that I may still have to take a bus for short jaunts this time, too; most pilgrims find themselves needing transportation help at some point due to injuries, weather, time constraints, or exhaustion. Remember, the pilgrims office in Santiago only cares that you walked the last 100 km from Sarria — they don’t care what happens before then. But I want those do-overs. I also didn’t know to find that tile in the Santiago square I was supposed to put my hand in. I tossed my Brierley the night before I walked into Santiago. Whoops.

I also understand that this could all be wishful thinking considering how unpredictable this virus has proven to be. Spain could still be in lockdown, the US could still be out of control, I may never get the vaccine… But one thing I’ve learned in the last 18 months is that I need to have goals to work towards. I need to have something to look forward to. I have to keep moving forward. Besides, if the global pandemic is still raging in April 2022, I will have much bigger issues to deal with than not being able to walk the Camino. Heaven help us all!

I’m going to use this new blog as a place to plan, brainstorm, and stay up to date on Camino and COVID news, then post blog entries once I’m on the trail again. I started a new blog instead of continuing CaminoJen because that blog seems to have a perfect narrative arc and a clear beginning/middle/end. I will be doing small edits on the original blog going forward to correct typos/errors, add more photos that didn’t get posted the first time, and do some general clean-up. I’m hoping to print it eventually (perhaps with additional commentary from conversations happening on my social media channels as additional context). I will be referring back to the original blog quite a bit and will use some of the photos.

It would be nice to have another fundraiser tied with this next Camino, but I’m no longer a Development Director and therefore would be putting the backend work onto the plate of whichever org I chose. I know how much maintenance and work I had to put into the Steps to Support SCLS campaign, and I would hate for my “gift” to another organization create more work for the overworked development staff. I will continue to think it through, but for now… no walk-a-thon.

Buen Camino!

P.S. What in the world has WordPress done to itself? I cannot believe how much more difficult it is to use in its web interface now. At least the mobile app is unchanged, but I have at least 13 months before leaving (if I can leave); that’s a long time to tap out planning thoughts on an itty-bitty screen. This will probably be the last WordPress project for a long time. Please forgive any messy formatting.

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