"Are you nervous?"
"Yes," she said, "but I went on a long walk last year . . . "
Carolyn did go on a long walk. She hiked the Camino de Santiago. She hiked 500 miles from St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
I'm going to do it, too.
On Sunday, May 13, I will fly to from DC to Paris. When I arrive on Monday morning, I'll take a train to St Jean Pied-de-Port in the southwest corner of France. On Wednesday, I'll go for a long walk . . .
People ask me a lot of questions about the Camino. I don't have a whole lot of answers. I figure I'll have plenty of time to learn as I go.
It is a medieval pilgrimage to the bones of St. James. I know little about the historical and religious details of the Camino. I do know that if I reach the finish line and give Jimbo a high 5, I'll get to spend less time in purgatory. As soon as I begin to believe in purgatory, I'm going to be psyched that I have to endure less of it.
Most folks seem to walk about 15 miles per day. I will have a 23ish pound (ojala) pack on my back as I walk. At night I will stay in refugios--very simple hostels as far as I understand. I will get up early in the morning, brush and floss (I thought I could give up flossing for 2 months but Dad says no), repack, and walk. That's it. Eat, sleep, walk. And bandage blisters. Some reasonable people have told me to expect the walk to take 5 weeks. I am scheduled to be in Spain for 7 weeks.
I am going by myself. I won't start out with any companion or group, though I'm sure I'll meet fellow travelers.
Why walk a medieval pilgrimage while sporting a rainbow mohawk? Good question.
Am I newly Catholic? No. Am I newly gay? No. Am I protesting against the Catholic church's stance on homosexuality? Not really, though that's a pretty good idea. Maybe I'll tell people that.
Am I crazy? Yes, but that isn't really news.
I have a few honest answers:
- Because the academic gods provide me with 3 round and sparkling months every year.
- Because, as my sister puts it, I am not chained to little gnats.
- Because I like speaking Spanish and have never been to Spain.
- Because I like traveling so that I can meet new people and new communities.
- Because I like hiking, but I'm unfond of camping and very devoted to beds.
- Because lately I am not quite as (clinically) crazy as usual, and I am feeling thankful for it.
- Because I'm 80 pounds lighter than I was 2 years ago.
- Because it sounds really cool to get half off purgatory.
- Because I'm turning 33; I heard a rumor that can be a pretty tough year for Christian heroes.
- Because it gave me an excuse to horrify my mother by transforming my head into an imitation tropical bird. (She's tough to shock. I'm feeling pretty proud of myself. If she would just pretend I'm a quetzal, the birdwatcher in her would appreciate the beauty.) In fairness, other members of my family are probably trying to prove we have different DNA. Others think I'm supercool, though, including my students. All of these are fantastic motivators to be ridiculous.
- Because I hear that having painful foot blisters is an outstanding experience.
- Because I've never done it before.
- Because it makes me laugh and roll my eyes whenever I think about it.
- Because it scares me.
- Because I'm not sure I can do it.
- Because I'm certain that whatever I do, I will love it.
- Because it will be grand.
There are plenty of honest answers but the true thing is that I'm doing it because I have questions about beer milkshakes. I hear they serve delicious ones there.