I’d been thinking of walking the Camino this summer for the past few months, but it’s only been in the last 3-4 weeks that I’ve been giving it “serious” thought. As soon as I said to myself, “I might be able to do it in the summer of 2014,” I began to read everything I could about the Camino. I started with blogs, for day-by-day accounts of pilgrims who have walked in the past year or two. Then I started checking books out from the library (as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t make it through Shirley MacLaine’s account of her Camino). Then I went on forums, studying the questions that people were asking: learning about equipment, foot care, budgeting. I’ve probably overwhelmed myself with information, but to me, this is a fun stage to be in: before anything is real, before I’ve told anyone (with any certainty) that I AM going to do this; before any training or booking a flight; before taking any footsteps. It’s all fun and exciting and ideal.
But when, exactly, do I move from the pre-planning stage to the actual planning stage? I think it’s as soon as I say the words, “I am going to walk the Camino this summer.” Whenever I talk about my plans, the words ‘maybe’ and ‘if’ and ‘I’m thinking about it’ always come out of my mouth.
What am I waiting for? Well, there are some questions. The first one being: is this how I want to spend my summer? I work in a school and have two months off, from mid June to mid August. Most years, I take short trips, visit family and friends, and otherwise relax and lounge around. Not a bad way to spend a summer, by any means. But last year, I spent an incredible three weeks in southern France, and it reawakened a strong desire for travel and experience. With so many places I want to see, not to mention wishing that I could repeatedly return to France, do I want to spend my summer walking through Spain?
And then there is the question of money, and it’s what has stopped me from big summer traveling in the past. I never thought that I had enough, and the practical side of me heard warning bells every time I thought about spending the money I saved up during the year on month(s) long European travel.
Money needs to be a consideration, but so does the question: “If not now, when?” I may never again have two months of my life when I have nothing tying me down, when I do not have to work, when I am healthy and able, when I have the desire and willingness. I may never have this time again. So if that means scrimping and saving throughout the year, sacrificing other things so I don’t have to sacrifice this, then I know that I can afford to travel. Besides, I’ll be traveling like a pilgrim: sleeping on mattresses or bunk beds with dozens or even hundreds of others in the same room, and cooking my own meals or eating off of the inexpensive Pilgrim’s menu.
My plans are still hazy, but as my desire to walk the Camino grows every day, my vision of this becomes clearer. I’d like to give myself about 6 weeks in Europe, which should be more than enough time to walk from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Santiago. It allows for a few travel days and rest days, and maybe even a return to southern France for a week, or the chance to spend a few days in Paris or Barcelona.
And as these plans become clearer, the questions begin to be answered. I will have enough money to do this. I do want to spend 5-6 weeks walking through Spain. Slowly, I am moving into the planning stage of this journey. I have a lot I want to do: talk with people who have done this before, walk and walk and walk and then do some practice hikes, learn some basic Spanish, buy a backpack and shoes and everything else. I don’t really need to do any of this (except for acquiring the backpack and shoes), but I can only do anything remotely adventurous with a lot of preparation.
So. I am going to walk the Camino this summer. Let the planning begin.