A year ago I wrote a blog post called ’10 Days, rain, and stress’. I was- as you can guess- 10 days away from leaving for my Camino, and my days were consumed by- as you can probably also guess- rain and stress. I felt mildly panicked about everything: I hadn’t trained as much as I wanted, and for some reason I thought that I wouldn’t be remotely prepared for the physical part of the Camino if I didn’t get a chance to practice with back-to-back 15-mile hikes. I can’t remember what my longest training hike even was, last year; if it was 15 miles it only happened once, and it wasn’t with a loaded pack.
The rain was getting me down, I had two huge work presentations that were scheduled for the days just before I left for Spain, and I was terrified of walking the Camino. I was excited, too, but terrified: the Camino was calling me, loud and clear, but I didn’t know if I could handle it. I was so intentional about the decision to walk and the preparations and the training but suddenly, with 10 days to go, it felt a bit absurd- what in the world was I thinking? I was about to walk 500 miles across Spain??
This year is different. 10 days to go, and I feel… calm. Mostly. I actually don’t feel like I’m about to leave for Spain to walk another Camino, and maybe it’s because the stress and the fear isn’t there in the same way that it was last year. It just doesn’t feel real, but then again, things like this never feel real until I’m sitting in the window seat of a large aircraft, with my pack stowed above me and my journal open to a fresh page. That’s when it really hits- the excitement and the fear. I’ve had moments of each but I think they’re going to hit hard, and all at once, when I’m sitting on the plane.
But for now, everything feels controlled and calm. I’m not exactly sure who this person is, sitting here, writing about how calms she feels about a month-long trip to Europe to walk across a country… because months ago, I suspected that I would be a bundle of nerves at this point. Second-guessing everything, wondering if I was fit enough, worried that I would be too shy to make friends, worried about everything that could go wrong.
Instead, I feel settled. Despite spending hours, day, weeks, (months?) earlier this year, struggling to figure out the ‘best’ thing to do this summer, I think I always knew that I wanted to walk another Camino. And I can feel that, now. I feel it strongly: walking another Camino is exactly what I want to do this summer. I wrote about wanting to be ‘open’ on this Camino, and it’s been like a very tiny mantra that I repeat to myself every day, as I organize my gear, as I climb up small hills in a park: “Open. Open. Open.”
I’m ready for it NOW. Yesterday I hiked 15 miles with a loaded pack and I felt good. Tired at the very end, but mostly strong. Not everyday will feel like this, and I still worry that this Camino will be tougher on me than the walk last year… but I’m ready. After my hike, I bought the last few items I need for my trip: a bar of soap, a fresh t-shirt. My pack isn’t put together yet, but I have everything I need. No scrambling for last minute items. I’m ready.
Last year, I asked myself- what do I want out of my pilgrimage? I had some ideas, but I wasn’t really sure what the experience would be like for me. On the plane ride to Iceland, I wrote these words in my journal: “Connection. And fun.” Sometimes it shocks me that I was able to identify what I needed, because those were, perhaps, the two things in life that I needed the very most at that time. To feel strong connections, and to have fun. And man, did the Camino ever provide those things to me.
This year, I kind of want everything- sunshine and beach days and endless cafe con leches and Javier Bardem. And time to myself and time for connections and fun. But I expect nothing. If my days are beautiful and I meet incredible people and I have amazing days full of laughter and joy… then it will be a good Camino. And if I walk in nothing but rain, if I walk alone and stay alone, if I spend more time writing than socializing… then it will be a good Camino. My only goal, I think, is to be open- to accept what’s before me, to talk to the people around me, to take each day as it comes, with whatever it brings.
I still suspect that my next blog post, the one just before I leave or the one I write on the plane ride over, will sound completely different than what I’ve just written. That I’ll be saying things like, “What in the world am I doing?? This Camino is more isolated and it’s more challenging and WHAT IF IT RAINS EVERY DAY???” But right now, I’m not saying those things. I’m saying this: Camino #2, I’m ready for you.