One week. One week!! You’d think after all these years of planning summer adventures and long walks and reunions with friends and writer’s retreats in the hills of France, I wouldn’t feel the same kind of excitement or nerves that I always do.
But thank goodness this hasn’t gotten old yet. I’m a week away from this year’s long summer journey and I’m feeling that exact same mix of thrill and anxiety that I always do. I write about it every year, too: here are ruminations from 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.
This year’s “check-in before the big adventure” feels most similar to what I was feeling before my very first Camino, which is a little strange. I’m worried about my gear and the weight of my pack and the fear that I haven’t trained nearly enough.
So let’s rewind just a little, and fill you in on what’s been happening in the past month in regards to my trip.
I’m starting off in England, with a plan to walk 15-days on the Pennine Way, beginning to end. Here’s a map from my guidebook that might give you a bit of context as to where the Pennine Way is, and the route it takes:
My plan for the Pennine Way was to stay in a mix of bunkhouses and hostels and B&B’s, much like I did on both the West Highland Way and Hadrian’s Wall Path. In fact, I found an itinerary for a Pennine Way walk that allows a walker to stay almost exclusively in bunkhouses and hostels, and so I planned for this route, hoping to save some money.
The only flaw in this plan was that, even months in advance, some places were fully booked, including several large youth hostels (though, as my mom pointed out, these are youth hostels that are most likely being used by the youth of this world. As hard as it is for me to admit, my days of being considered a ‘youth’ are probably long behind me. So I should graciously take a step back for the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and youth groups who are taking up the beds in the hostels). But then I discovered it wasn’t just the hostels; B&B’s were booked too, and it’s all boiled down to this:
I’m going to camp on the Pennine Way.
Well, sort of. I’m bringing a tent and any other accompanying gear I might need, but I’ll probably only camp a couple nights (at established campsites with showers and toilets and a nearby pub with warm food). It’s a long and complicated story of how I can’t find any accommodation for one night on the trail, and I honestly can’t come up with a better solution than to bring a tent.
And part of me is really excited about this: I get to add a new element to this year’s walk, I get to push and challenge myself, I might fall in love with backpacking and sleeping outdoors, etc.
But the real problem is this: I’m adding an awful lot of weight to my (new) pack for just a couple nights of sleeping outdoors. Yesterday I loaded up my pack with everything I plan to take and the pack was a whopping 26 pounds and I really have no idea if this is reasonable or not. What I do know is that it is nearly twice as much weight as I started with on my first Camino (though, for the record, I packed so little for that first Camino that I ended up buying things along the way). I think I’ve averaged around 15-18 pounds on my other walks, and while an increase of 8 pounds might not seem like a ton, I felt every ounce of it as I walked yesterday.
And this is why I feel like I did before my first Camino. I’ve been researching gear and making multiple trips to REI and buying things and returning things and I’ve been trying to go on as many hikes as I can. A few weeks ago I threw a bunch of books in my pack and hiked with about 20-21 pounds and I was getting used to that, but the addition of another 5 might as well have been akin to adding a boulder to my pack.
I’m going to weed through my stuff and get rid of whatever I can, and then, well, hope for the best.
I can do this, right? Right. Right! As ever, I hope to blog a bit while I’m walking, but in an effort to shed weight I’m not going to bring a keyboard or iPad, so any writing that happens is going to be my thumbs on an iPhone screen (but once I arrive at my writer’s retreat I’ll have proper writing tools, have no fear). So there may be short updates here, but I’m also planning to update photos on Instagram, and maybe even on Facebook. You’re welcome to friend/follow/sign up/stalk/whatever it is we do these days on social media; as ever, I’m so happy to be able to share parts of my experience with all of you.
There are so many other wonderful and amazing parts of this trip: Paris and Sète and La Muse and more walking somewhere and reuniting with old friends and I’m excited about every single part of it. I still feel so grateful that I have the kind of life where I can do something like this, and so grateful that, despite the very hard, hard things in this world, I can find this pocket of beauty and freedom and adventure and joy.
So I think this is where my mind is this year, as I prepare to head off to Europe again: I’m nervous and excited about the physical challenge ahead, but I’m also seeking abundant beauty and joy.
It’s my wish for all of you as well, in these months ahead: pockets of freedom and adventure, moments of abundant beauty and joy.