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.