Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010: Becoming Obsessed

Okay. I admit it--I am a planner & organizer. Think giant "J" on the Myers-Briggs test. But there is nothing I like more than planning a trip: researching the location, emailing potential lodging, looking at others' photos of the trip, reading about the history & politics of the country I will be visiting--all of it. Most of my trips are planned a good six months before I go--some longer than that. And I would say that my planning pays off: I have yet to take a trip that I was not pleased with (although there have been a couple of people on my group trips who I wished would have stayed home). I like to plan my packing, usually packing & re-packing numerous times--all of it helping me get ready to leave.

But this upcoming trip to the Camino has put me over the edge. Although I was aware of the existence of the Camino de Santiago previously, it was during a drive to a world music festival in Louisiana when I was listening to a podcast from "Notes in Spanish" (more about that another time) and heard a description of the walk when I knew, instantly, that I was going. I had been researching possible hiking vacations: Scotland, Italy, etc., but I knew immediately that I wanted to walk the Camino in Spain. Since that time, I have been reading about it, looking at maps of the different routes (from France, Portugal, England, southern Spain, etc.) and trying to figure out where I wanted to walk. I knew that I could not do the entire Camino Frances--I can't take six weeks off work or out of my life. So I have changed my route and starting point several times, finally deciding on Astorga on the most frequented and most well-marked route, but that has only been the beginning of my obsession. I start every morning with reading the most recent additions to the Camino forum where newbies ask everything from what is the best rain gear to how to avoid bedbugs (now THAT is not something I am excited about!) and the experienced share advice, give support, etc. So I already feel like I am part of a community when I have not even started the walk.

Now I am focused on getting ready for the walk: finding the right shoes (which I FINALLY have), deciding upon a training schedule, weighing my critical electronics to see how much of the 12 pounds I can carry they will comprise, etc. But the most unexpected part of the planning is how much I have come to look forward to & cherish the walking itself. At first, it was like any other exercise: something that I needed to do, but which felt hard and slightly dreaded, but which I knew would make me feel better when it was over. But in the past couple of weeks, I have come to look forward to the walks, have enjoyed walking hills (which I ALWAYS HATE), but most importantly, happily anticipate the longer walks & want to figure out how to increase the frequency and length of those. I already feel like I am getting into the meditative state of walking--looking forward to listening to podcasts in spanish, enjoying music I have not heard in months or years, or just letting my thoughts wander. In part, the walking feels different because I know that it is the critical variable that will determine whether I will be able to do the trip at all or will have to settle for less distance than I want to travel. So its easy to feel motivated. Some of the literature about the Camino refers to the occasional "pilgrim" who becomes addicted to the walking and has a hard time settling in when he or she returns home. I don't think I want that to happen to me, but I feel sure that there are going to be many surprises ahead as I walk this path.

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