I’m just over two weeks away from leaving for my second pilgrimage, this time on the Camino del Norte/Camino Primitivo. Two weeks!! Sometime before I leave I’ll post a map of my route(s); I always meant to do it last year and it was probably one of the most asked questions by my family and friends: “Where in Spain will you be walking?” My guidebook should be arriving any day now, and then I’ll have a better sense of where I’ll be walking. Someone, it might have been my mom, seemed a little surprised that I would be bringing a guidebook. “Didn’t you have a great experience after you lost your guidebook last time?” And I did- I practiced letting go of planning, I learned to fully embrace the openness and possibility of my days in a way that I wasn’t quite able to when following a guide.
But at times, I missed the Brierley guide that directed me along the Camino Frances. I missed learning about the detours (which I loved taking), I missed being able to read up on albergues, I missed learning some of the history of the places I was walking through. So for this walk I’m going to use a guide, and I’m going to do my best to make sure I don’t accidentally leave it in the folds of a blanket on my bunk bed. I’d still like to follow the same approach that I learned on last year’s Camino: walk until I’m tired or, walk until I stumble upon a beautiful place. There are some things I’d like to plan (already I have a couple albergues that I’d like to check out), but more than anything I want to leave my days open to chance and possibility.
Along those lines, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what else I’d like from this year’s Camino. It’s a big topic, and I’m still processing last year’s pilgrimage: the things I wanted, the things I received, the things that surprised me, the things I was learning. I think that more than anything, I want to be very open to this experience, and to whatever it brings. That’s the third time I’ve used this word- open- in this post. Maybe because this second pilgrimage feels so wide open. I already know what a Camino is like, there aren’t quite as many question marks, not the same kind of fears and anxieties. But I’m also not clear on what I want, which leaves the possibilities open: Do I want to form deep bonds and find a Camino family that I stick with until the end? Or do I want to be totally free and unattached, able to walk as much or as little as I want on any given day? I wanted both of these things, often simultaneously, on last year’s Camino. I still didn’t quite have it figured out when I arrived in Santiago, and I felt like I needed at least another 500 miles to find my answers.
Putting the bigger questions aside for a moment, lets talk about some of the things I’m dreaming about for this second Camino. I already have some guarantees: I know that I’m going to meet some incredible people. I know I’m going to savor those mugs of café con leche and glasses of vino tinto. I know I’m going to love waking up every day and putting on my shoes and walking. But now lets talk about the dreams, the fantasies, the things that could happen but probably won’t but (who knows) maybe will…
1. Making it to Muxia
Emma, the Canadian-born, London-based friend we made on the way to Finisterre last year, said it best: “Five years ago, walking to Santiago was the end. And Finisterre was like this little secret that not everyone knew about. Now, walking to Finisterre is the end. And adding on a day to get to Muxia is the secret that not everyone knows about.” Muxia is a small coastal town about 30km from Finisterre and today, indeed, many pilgrims walk here, in addition to Finisterre, after arriving in Santiago. Muxia is part of the ‘Costa de la Muerte’ (Coast of Death), named after the many shipwrecks resulting from its rocky coastline, and it is beautiful. At least, that’s what I heard from friends who made the trek last year. Because of timing, I could only walk to Finisterre, but I wished I had extra time to make it to Muxia as well.
And this year? Getting to Muxia is a pipe dream. I have exactly 31 days to walk, and that’s not exactly a long time for the roughly 840km between my starting point of Irun and my ending point of Santiago. At best, I might be able to make the journey in 30 days, giving me a day to bus over to Muxia, but I’m not sure that’s how I’d want to do it. I really think I’d like to walk to Muxia, and that’s a minimum 3-day journey from Santiago.
But who knows- maybe if I’m totally going at my own speed, not attaching myself to anyone and feeling really strong, I’ll walk some long days, and get to Santiago way ahead of schedule. Maybe.
2. Taking black and white photographs along the way
I considered this before last year’s Camino: should I lug my old and heavy SLR camera and a dozen rolls of film over 500 miles in order to take some nice photographs? Ultimately I decided not to, and it was a good decision. But this time? Oh man, I’d LOVE to have that old camera with me. I’d love to have several rolls of film from this trip, to one day be able to make a few beautiful black and white prints that I could frame and hang on my wall. Or print enough to have a small exhibit somewhere… (I’ve been so focused on writing lately, but the photography dreams are always lurking just beneath the surface).
And speaking of writing…
3. Blogging every day
Blogging on last year’s Camino gave me so much joy, and continues to give me joy when I go back and read through my posts. But I just couldn’t do it all: couldn’t walk the long days AND spend time with the people I’d met AND explore the towns AND blog every day. But this Camino is a different Camino, and I just might have more time on my hands. Unless #4 happens…
4. Meeting a Javier Bardem look-alike in Oveido
Ha! Last night I watched Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (a movie that I never seem to tire of), and I paid close attention to the scenes in Oviedo, a city that I will be walking through/staying in if I detour from the Norte to the Primitivo. Maybe the Camino will offer up some good-looking Spanish/European men again this year…
So that’s my wish-list for now. Along with perfect weather, lots of opportunities to lounge on the beach, and perfectly placed café con leche stops.
I think the reality is going to be just a bit different… but only two and a half more weeks until I find out!