I booked my flight last night. And just before I hit the ‘confirm booking’ button on my computer screen, I could feel my heart beating in my chest, sweat forming on my palms, my breathing becoming shallow.
Man, I was nervous. I’ve been preparing for this trip for three months now: reading everything I can, writing about all of my reasons for doing this long walk, training and hiking and learning how to take care of blisters. I’ve told everyone that I’m walking the Camino, I’ve told myself that I’m walking the Camino, and yet, until yesterday, it wasn’t actually real.
Without a flight, I could back out. I could have decided that I am indeed crazy for doing this, that I didn’t want to go alone, that walking for 5 weeks was not how I wanted to spend my vacation. I could be on a beach instead, I could be in Maine, I could go back to France and write.
And all of those thoughts have gone through my head. Am I crazy for wanting to do this? Do I want to be alone? Do I want to be on a beach in Maine instead?
I always knew that the answer was ‘no’, but it didn’t stop those questions from tip-toeing around my mind. And even though I have been so certain that I will walk the Camino this summer, until now, it’s all been words. Only words, and some hikes through a local park.
But now I have a plane ticket, and I’ll be away for 52 days. I look at that number and I have some disbelief. I just committed to a 52-day trip in Europe. 52 days. Right now, it feels a bit daunting. And… incredible.
There is still so much planning to do, but for now my trip looks kind of like this: fly into Paris. Get down to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port and start walking. Walk for about 5 weeks. Arrive in Santiago, possibly on my birthday. Meet up with a friend and (maybe) walk to Finisterre. Fly/train back over to France and spend time in Provence. Return to Paris.
And here’s the final twist. In Paris, get on a plane, and on my way home, stop in Iceland for 17 hours.
I couldn’t resist! I’ve been looking at flights for months, and trying different combinations of dates and airports and airlines. Flying in and out of New York, rather than Philadelphia, was $300 dollars cheaper on Icelandair, and when I saw that I could fairly easily roam around Reykjavik and experience the midnight sun, I was sold.
There are now so many parts to this trip that I feel overwhelmed, but it’s a very, very good kind of ‘overwhelm’. I’m just relieved that I still have several months to prepare.
So I just put a giant check mark next to ‘purchase flight’. Phew. Next up: a new pair of shoes.
This is fantastic! So your flights are booked; you are almost there, walking the path so many before have walked!!
One word of advice though – get the boots and break them in, make sure they fit and feel like they are part of your feet. Most problems incurred by Pilgrims are foot related and all that could have been avoided had they had their boots fitted a size to a size and 1/2 larger and worn them often before they set out for the Camino.
I’m off to the Camino in 2 days. You will be getting blog updates from me, I’m glad to have you along!
Happy Trails to you!
Oh I know that feeling well 🙂
Let the countdown begin.
Nathan Mizrachi says
Hey Nadine! A few thoughts:
Man, I am STOKED that you decided to walk the Camino. It´s a life-changer. I know with your flights booked (and a job, which means you can´t jus buy a one way ticket) you can´t really change anything at this point, but I will say that the experiece of starting at SJPP instead of walking through France on one of the four roads leading to the Pyrenees is totally different. The good news about this is that you´ll be thrown into crossing to Roncesvalles with all the other new pilgrims(so you can commiserate about your blisters together) and trust me when I say that climbing the Appalachians will ensure a proper fitness level. The bad news is that mentally and spiritually, the walk will be very, very different for you. I walked from Vezelay starting in mid-August and had encountered only 10 other pilgrims on the road by the time I reached SJPP. Walking mostly alone shapes your outlook in a way that the Camino Frances does not provide, because it´s crowded most of the way. Unless you´re a social butterfly, in which case that´s not bad news at all! There is, however, one exception to this on the Camino Frances: Dragonte. You´ll reach it about three or three and a half weeks after starting, on the verge of Galicia, and good thing too becaue it´s an ass-kicker of a climb and there´s a much easier route which the vast majority of pilgrims opt to take. It was my favorite day while walking in Spain.
Funny enough, I also used Iceland as a midway point. The difference is it was my first stop in Europe, and I had about twice as much time on my layover as you did. I wish I had given myself more than 36 hours and you will too because the landscape is rugged, barren, and desolate in the most extremely beautiful sort of way. When the wind is burning your face from cold you´ll know what I mean 🙂
Nathan, thanks for this input and advice! As I’ve read more about the various routes to Santiago, I’ve wished so much that I had more time to walk. For awhile I was considering walking for a week or so in France on the Le Puy route (that’s the one you did, right?), and reading about it made me want to walk the entire thing. Assuming I love my experience this summer, Le Puy will be Camino #2. And while I’m definitely looking forward to meeting other pilgrims, I’m not excited about how crowded the Camino Frances is going to be. But… we’ll see. Your advice about Dragonte is so helpful, I will definitely take that route.
That IS funny that you also stopped over in Iceland- I bet I’m going to love it, too.
Man, after reading your comment (and, well, prepping for this trip in general), I wish I could buy a one-way ticket and take my time everywhere I go. Something to work towards… 🙂
Nathan Mizrachi says
I walked the Vezelay road, which is a bit to the west of the Le Puy route. Both are fantastic and contain numerous examples of beautiful Romanesque and Gothic churches (another reason why I prefer the French routes is because France was the avant garde when it came to building them–Spain merely followed along). Either way Dragonte is basically a reason in itself to walk the entire Camino! I can’t stress enough how invigorating it was to take that path 🙂
You’ll love Iceland, no doubt, but I guess since you have a J-O-B that one-way ticket is something to work towards! I had the extremely good fortune of graduating college without debt and despite having dual degrees in the humanities used my university alumni network to land a job at a financial services company for a year (never going back, no matter how much they paid) so that’s how I’m funding this trip. You’re a teacher, though, right? Have you considered teaching English abroad? It pays pretty well, I have friends doing it in Spain, Japan, and have heard from others who know people teaching in Saudi Arabia–apparently teaching in the Middle East pays best. Just some thoughts for you!
I hope your Camino is a wonderful experience. I am only a week into mine, and already it is the hardest, most humbling, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Every step has been worth it so far, despite the times when it is not easy. I look forward to reading about your journey! Buen Camino!