Saturday, May 4, 2013

Reflections on the Camino 18 months later

May 4th, 2013
As I was walking along the Bosque trail tonight (6 miles @ 17 minutes/mile--still slow, but getting a bit faster) I thought about the fact that I am planning my first real trip since ending the Camino del Norte in September, 2011, and how that experience brought me to this moment in my life: a new city, new home, new life.  When I first heard about the Camino Francés, I was drawn to it for two reasons: it was a long walk I could do alone & I would have the chance to (perhaps) improve my Spanish.  As I always do, I plunged into the Camino literature (everything from Jack Hitt's book upon which the film "The Way" with Martin Sheen was based to "Walk in a Relaxed Manner," lessons learned from the Camino by a nun.)  I read all the suggestions on the Camino Forum, studied maps to determine how far I should walk & where to start, and obsessed about what I should bring with me (even going so far as weighing everything although I still brought WAY TOO MUCH!), but I gave no real thought to the psychological/spiritual elements of the walk.  This is a bit surprising since the Camino has always been a pilgrimage: people hundreds of years ago walked it to repent for their sins, and people from all over the world walk it today for spiritual guidance.  In fact, one cannot obtain the "compostela," the certificate of completion from the Catholic Church, unless it is walked for spiritual reasons (I said it was for meditation--which turned out to be true).

I returned from my shorter walk on the Camino del Norte in September of 2011, and by the beginning of October, I had decided to move to New Mexico.  I did not think that I was considering a move--in fact, I did not think I would ever leave Austin.  So what was it about the Camino experience that resulted in such a huge (from my point of view) life change?  First of all, I think that it convinced me that I could do whatever I set my mind on doing (see photos of my feet in Camino Part 1), and that I could do something that sort of "broke the rules:" it is okay to undergo a life upheaval when you are in your 30's, but it is not supposed to occur when one is in their 50's (one should wait to retire).  In spite of my agnostic stance toward religion, I also thought that I should not "roll the dice with my life" when I had been given so many wonderful things: friends; a great psychology practice; a home I loved, etc.  I thought that the Universe might find me full of hubris (remember all those Greek tragedies?) and not give me a second chance.  Yet the second Camino made it clear to me how important it was (at least at this point in my life) for me to be somewhere that afforded me moments of astonishment and breathtaking views in nature.  I also think that I was struggling on both Caminos with my need to bring too much stuff: that my wish to not lose things that I love (e.g. my house in Austin) was getting in the way of making more important decisions that would affect my life emotionally and psychologically.  I remember exactly the moment I decided to move: my brother was considering going to the International Balloon Festival in Albuquerque and it came to me almost like an epiphany: I thought "I can move!!"  And so, six months later, I had moved to New Mexico, and I have not had a moment of uncertainty about the decision.  I really hope that I get a chance to do the complete Camino someday (starting in the Pyrenees and walking all the way to Santiago de Compostela), but that may have to wait a while.  Fortunately, one of my Texas clients plans to walk the entire route this fall, so I will have the opportunity to experience it vicariously through her blog.

So I have been planning my first post-Camino adventure and have decided to do something I have never done: take a real American Road Trip.  Of course, my family did some of these (leaving me with have mixed memories), but I have never done one on my own.  Since I now have a car that will take me pretty much wherever I want to go, I am planning to do a tour of some of the National Parks.  Last fall, I saw this amazing program on "Nature" about Yellowstone National Park in the winter, and I was transfixed.  So I am planning to go to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and hope to perhaps see both Mesa Verde and one of the major parks in Utah.  So far, I have reservations for 6 nights in Yellowstone (4 in a hotel & 2 camping) in September.  And, of course, the only thing I like almost as much as adventure travel is the planning of an adventure.  So I have my maps, my guides to Yellowstone, etc., and I hope that I will have a great photographic/hiking adventure that will leave me with lots of great photos to post here & on Facebook. I feel like I am already on the next adventure.  Stay tuned.