About fifteen years ago, my bestie, Jackie, gave me The Camino by Shirley MacLaine for Christmas (after pre-reading my gift and writing a note in one passage! Besties can get away with that). I read most of it but MacLaine got a little too “out there” for my tastes, and I put it down. Still, El Camino de Santiago stayed in the back of my mind. Reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, in more recent years, served to rekindle my enthusiasm.
I like to challenge myself in new ways. There should be no plateau in life. I’ve read articles on centenarians about whom were reported such things as, “Arthur started playing video games when he was 98.” What isn’t talked about much beforehand is that in the late 40’s and early 50’s, increasingly, unfortunately, individuals start becoming seriously ill and some die. Juvenile diseases and poor lifestyle choices catch up with the body; cancer sets up shop and vies for a monopoly. I am blessed enough to be healthy so far (knock on wood), but I “put no trust in the ‘morrow.” I wanted (dare I say “needed”?) to have this one thing to call my own before facing the challenges that the next decades hold with family, professionally, and personally.
Globally, solo woman travel is on the rise. While on El Camino (the French Way), a man from Germany commented on how many women were on the trek and that a number of us were traveling alone. One book I read had cited that 47 percent of pilgrims on El Camino were female, but that was from 2014, and we all agreed that the percentage had likely risen. Our Camino group was definitely female dominant. Even so, some people commented to my husband, Mike, beforehand, that they were surprised he was “letting me” go alone. He didn’t dignify those remarks with responses. If Mike felt he were “letting me” do anything, he wouldn’t be my husband. (Second husband, I might add.) Instead, he was 100 percent supportive. I did trip planning, prep, and training on my own. It took about a year of reading; purchasing backpack, hiking shoes, tickets, etc.; and training (toward the end). (A HUGE thank you to the family and friends who loaned and/or gave me money, books, supplies — e.g. blister kit — and trained with me, namely: Michael Poore, Bill and Wanda Lukens, Jackie Larson, Lynne Benson, Barbara Shoemaker, and Debbie Murphy.)
Away I went on June 29th!
For a long while, I’d imagined letting go of haunts on the trail, the largest of which involved physical and sexual abuse. Two years ago, I thought that I would be making a humongous professional decision while hiking — whether or not to stay in my academic position. As it turned out, I’d already done a great deal of the abuse processing, and I made the decision to leave my job last August and did so in December 2017. That said, I envisioned trekking alone and withdrawing into an intense inner journey. I craved that time unplugged so that I could live in the silence surrounding my mind and hear myself think for a change. I could actually see myself plopping down on a rock to write memoir insights. I also prepared for potential hip pain and bad blisters.
One thing I’ve learned, however, is to embrace the organic experience.
My pilgrimage proved nothing like what I’ve described above.
Tune in next blog post for a lowdown on the Snail Sisters and much, much more!