Plans for Summer 2016 have been made! But here’s the truth- I’ve hesitated to talk about the long, long process of figuring out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. There are probably a few reasons, but none more than this: it feels a little ridiculous to spend so much time (publicly) fretting over how to spend my two months off. Because… I get two months off! Every year that I stay in the job I currently have, I am increasingly grateful that the work I do affords me time off in the summer. It’s a luxury that most people simply don’t get. I was pretty intentional about choosing this particular job in order to have the two months off, and like nearly everything in life there are trade-offs. But I still recognize how lucky I am, and for having this job at this particular time in my life: my family is healthy and I am healthy, I have no kids and no commitments or obligations that keep me state-side. And, for better or for worse, I have no partner to worry about. I can do exactly as I please.
It’s an amazing opportunity, but sometimes I feel a little self-conscious talking about yet another summer in Europe. But I work hard, and maybe never harder than I have this year. And for vast stretches of time during the 10 months of the year that I’m not traveling, my life is pretty simple. I have hermit-like tendencies. I am very, very careful about money; if I weren’t, I’d never be able to travel like I do.
Where am I going with this? I’m starting to ramble again. I’ve missed blogging, but as ever, it’s because my focus has been so wrapped up in writing this book. I’ve slipped just a bit from my weekly word-count goal in the past month, and I blame spring and sunshine and all those blooming trees out there. Makes it hard to get my butt in the chair. But here I am, with a simple and easy lemon cake in the oven and the last few fingers of wine in my glass and I am going to tell you about my summer plans, the ones I’ve worked hard for, the ones that I sometimes agonized over.
Here is my main problem this year: I want to do it all. I already wrote a bit about maybe buying a new car and driving across the country, I wrote a big list of travel goals that included Guatemala and writer’s retreats and long hikes. I want to do it all! (and don’t we all?) I tell myself not to think too big, that I can’t possibly do so much with only two months off, that I shouldn’t try to do it all, that there will be time for it all, one day.
But still, I couldn’t settle down or settle into a decision about this summer. I took the cross-country trip off the list, Guatemala too, but the other things were still up for grabs. I knew that I wanted to spend some of the summer focused on my book, so a writer’s retreat was high on the list. But- and if this comes as a surprise then you need to go back and read more of this blog, maybe from the beginning– I wanted to do another Camino. How could I go to Europe and not also go on a long walk?
I figured out a way to do both of these things, a very doable way to do a writer’s retreat and a Camino, and I thought that I should have been satisfied, that I immediately should have scooped up a flight. And, can we talk for a moment about flights? About the deals that I saw come and go? About the $500 round trip flight between Philly and Milan that pretty much worked with my schedule? Every day for over a week I checked to make sure that the deal was still there, until it wasn’t, and I never bought the flight.
Because something was holding me back. In the past few years, a little travel bug has nudged its way into my head and my chest and most certainly my legs and my feet, and I have a growing list of places to go, things to see, paths to walk. So while another writer’s retreat in France and another Camino in Spain would make me happy beyond belief, I still hesitated. I wanted something new, too.
All those thoughts of not trying to do it all, having time ‘one day’? One day is right now. I’ve been telling myself this for a long, long time, but it always bears repeating. One day is right now.
This isn’t leading up to anything epic or earth-shattering. I’m not quitting my job, the book is nowhere near finished, no radical changes (not yet anyway). But I’m going to try to do a lot this summer, a combination of things that seems just right, so right that now I certainly am happy beyond belief, at the thought of getting the chance to do it all.
There are three parts to Summer 2016. The first is another writer’s retreat, which takes me back to La Muse, the same place where I spent three weeks in 2013. When I was there the first time, I had that deep and knowing feeling that one day I’d return. But I also knew that in order to return, I’d need to be in a different creative place. That first trip was simply about learning to call myself an artist. I didn’t have a dedicated project to work on while I was there, I knew I loved to write and take photos but I’ve never really been serious about it before. So those three weeks in southern France were more about the experience of entering a different kind of world, a world where I could start to consider myself an artist, where I could learn what it takes for me to feel inspired and focused, to give me confidence moving forward.
And in the past three years, I’ve moved forward. Slowly, slowly, one small step at a time. I’m returning to La Muse as a writer, who is working on her book. How great does it feel to say that? Pretty great.
During my last retreat I would spend a few hours a day writing, but otherwise I was out in the mountains that surrounded the small French village of Labastide-Esparbairenque. I took long hikes and hundreds of photos, and more than anything soaked up the inspiration and beauty of where I was. This time around, there will surely be more hikes (photos too), but I also have a big project to work on. I’m excited to see what kind of progress I can make on the book with three solid weeks to do nothing but write.
The second part of my trip will most likely be another Camino. Nothing is set in stone yet, but that’s also the beauty of a Camino… nothing really needs to be decided until I arrive. I’ve gone back and forth dozens of times on this, too: if I walk another Camino, which one do I want to walk? Return to the Frances? A path in France? In Portugal? My thoughts ran in circles until finally I stumbled on something that felt just right. Start in Leon (a city about two-thirds of the way towards Santiago on the Camino Frances), and walk about 5 days on the San Salvador, a short Camino that extends south to north, from Leon to Oviedo. I passed through Oviedo last year, when I left the Norte to go down to the Primitivo. So now, I’ll make my way back up to Oviedo on the San Salvador, and from Oviedo will continue north up to the point of the Norte where I veered off last year. If the timing works out well, I should have a dozen or so days to finish the Norte and arrive in Santiago.
I’m sure that explanation was super confusing. Basically, all you need to know is this: I’ll have roughly 17 days to walk a Camino, I’ll be back in Spain, I will drink cafe con leches, and it will be beautiful.
And finally, the third part of the trip gives me something brand new. My return flight to the states is out of Glasgow, Scotland, and I’m leaving about a week at the end of my trip to walk the West Highland Way, a popular long-distance footpath in the Scottish Highlands. This area of Scotland is rugged and remote (though the path itself could be crowded in August), there could be lots of rain, and there will definitely be lots of midges (small flying insects that will certainly be a pain). But what I’ve read and seen of this 96-mile route is nothing short of stunning. I’m only going to have 5-days to walk this path, and while it’s doable it’s also going to be challenging. But after a summer of hiking in southern France and walking a Camino, I hope that I’ll be in tip-top shape for the Highlands.
Big plans, exciting plans. Plans to do it all, at least all that I want for this moment in my life. And I can’t wait to share it all here.
I’m not sure how it’s possible for me to be jealous, but I think I might be. Also, I’m headed east this fall and will be within driving distance of Philly. Just sayin’! 🙂 Buen camino, hermana peregrina! May the Way guide us both.
Haha, Jen, aren’t your bags *literally* packed for your own great adventure?? (I’m thrilled that you commented on this, what is the countdown to your trip? Are we down to hours yet?).
And please let me know when you’re close to Philly!! I could drive out to you, we could meet in the middle, I know a place for great (if a bit expensive) tapas in Philly… but any way it happens, we should definitely meet up.
Hours. 12 and change. 😉
To be continued… <3
Anika Goldhahn says
Hey Nadine, wooaaah that sounds amazing! Scottish Highlands, oh my god. I will have to interview you afterwards, as I have always been very interested in that too. I am a huge UK geek (actually studying Literature and Culture of Great Britain at uni!) – would love to hear about accommodations and costs of that trail.
Also, you asked in a comment of your last post about new camino plans: Initially I had planned to do a Camino in Germany, in my region. You know, you can start the Camino from Russia (apparently takes about a year to Santiago). I have heard of someone from my hometown in East Germany, who walked 4 months from his house door to Finisterra. I found it a bit ridiculous that I know Spain much better (through the Camino!) than the country that I live in, so I had planned to walk at least some part of it in my region (I had thought about 500km). Sadly, my mum got very very sick and I don’t know how the situation will be in the summer….right now she needs a lot of help concerning everything in everyday life….and also she was the one who took care of my cats so lovingly when I did my caminos. I am not sure she will be able to take care of them this summer. If things get better by September, I am looking forward to a assumingly very calm camino with hardly anyone around – but also a bit different. I have heard that there are a lot of albergues on the German camino but they only open if you call them a day in advance and let them know that you are coming. This is bothering me a bit, because it takes a lot of freedom from me….but on the other hand, there are not so many choices…with an albergue every 25km or so.
Anika, thanks so much for this comment! I love hearing more about your plans, even if there is some sadness/hardness in your life right now. I can totally understand the need to stay close to family, to help your mother… and sometimes (often!) life gets in the way of other plans. But if you do go on the Camino in Germany, I can’t wait to hear about it… I also met a German pilgrim on the Frances who started from his doorstep, and he had been walking for many months. On the Norte, too, I met a pilgrim who started in Switzerland, several who started in Paris… impossible for me to begin in the states, but I love the idea of beginning from your front door.
As for calling ahead to albergues… I think I feel exactly as you do. The freedom is one of the greatest parts of the Camino for me. In Scotland I think I will have to plan ahead (but the walk will only take 5 days, so it’s not the same feeling of freedom that I get when I face 800 kilometers of open land). But still, something feels lost when plans are made ahead of time… but from the sound of it you might need to do this in Germany. On the whole, it will be an amazing and different kind of experience 🙂
Wonderful to wake up to your news! I’m supposed to be asleep, but my flight to Madrid leaves in a few hours and as always I’m too excited to catch more than a few winks. Next stop Pamplona. And I will check here often to see how round three is taking shape.
I know that wide-awake feeling before a big trip… safe travels and a very Buen Camino to you. I’m having a flat white in honor of your Camino this morning 🙂
Shelley @Travel-Stained says
It all sounds absolutely wonderful! and I love what you wrote about your initial time to La Muse and allowing yourself to enter into the space of artist. 🙂 We are also summering in Europe (3 months), mostly to introduce our new daughter to my hubby’s family and attend a wedding, but have not planned much of it aside from our flight in and out of Rome. Still have the Camino in the background of my thoughts though…and it will definitely happen one day, just will have to wait a bit till our daughter can actually walk. :p
3 months in Europe, so many possibilities! And how wonderful to be able to share it all with your new daughter 🙂 (you know, I’ve seen one or two babies in strollers on the Camino…)
Shelley @Travel-Stained says
I knowwww! So many possibilities that we haven’t planned a thing yet. :p Strollers on the camino? How amazing…I wonder if doing it would be easier pre or post breastfeeding? Hmm…the wheels are turning… 🙂
Sounds wonderful! Good luck with all your plans. 🙂 xx
Thanks so much, I’m excited (as always!) to be going back and also for another stint on the Camino… I think this is turning into a life-long obsession 😉
Terrific ideas!! I’ve heard the Way from Leon to Oviedo is really beautiful and I look forward to reading all about your adventures!
Thanks!! I’ve also heard such good things about the stretch between Leon and Oviedo… should be challenging too, which always adds an extra “fun” element.
Ah! I’ve been waiting for this post since you teased it in your email a couple weeks ago. This sounds amazing and I cant wait to hear/read all about it.
Nadine how very exciting. May all of your plans work out as you dreamed them…with a few surprises to grow again. You know ..like the Camino wisdom of..trust that you will be given all you need…not necessarily what you want.
From experience you know it will all turn out perfect.
I am looking forward to your postings.
Buen Camino peregrina. Ultreya!
Randy & Joyce Meyer says
We hiked the West Highland Way last September. Breathtaking views and wonderful people along the way. My sister and I hope to complete our remaining 300 miles of Camino Frances in September. Best wishes for you summer adventures and looking forward to your posts.
Anne Lene @ MinimalistSometimes says
What a perfect plan 🙂 you get to do your Camino (we knew you would 😉) your writing “retreat” and a great new walk… Woohoo, what’s not to like 😎 your kinda making me want to walk the Camino too…
Nathan Mizrachi says
Good to see you branching out on this next trip across the pond. Scotland is gorgeous — you’ll be so inspired by the Highlands. And definitely a good idea to have 17 days of Camino walking to get in shape for what awaits you in the North.
Warm hugs from San Sebastian, where I’m spending this month.
Hey Nadine – thanks for posting about La Muse. It sounds and looks absolutely amazing. I am thinking I would love to do something like this, myself. I have these writing and photography projects I keep saying I’d like to do but “life” gets in the way. Focus is what I need and this sounds perfect. I hope you got what you wanted out of it this second time around!