I was thinking, today, that my blog has its seasons.
There’s a “cold season” and a “warm season”, and right now we’re emerging from the cold months into a warmer time and- like the grass and the petals and the buds all coming slowly back to life- so, too, will this blog.
Not a lot seems to happen around here in the winter months, nothing worth writing about on a walking blog, anyway. Or maybe it’s more that I’ve been trying to focus on other projects, and after years of writing posts about the Camino and walking, I don’t feel like I have a ton of new stuff to say, outside of the more travelogue style posts when I’m actually out on a long walk.
In any case, this blog has gone through quiet periods, but I’m back today because the air is warm and April is around the corner and so is a little break from work, and all of this means that I’ll be heading back out for another long walk!
Well, longish. I only have a week to walk but I decided to go big and fly over to Europe and walk some part of a Camino route. Months ago I researched route after route, trying to figure out where I might want to walk: what would be do-able in a week, a place that wouldn’t be too cold, a place that would have enough open and not be too expensive, a place I hadn’t walked before, etc, etc.
It seemed to hit me all at once: I could walk in Portugal!
I don’t think I’d initially considered Portugal for a short spring-break walk because I’d always planned on something much longer. I was set to fly to Portugal in June 2020, and walk from Lisbon up to Santiago. I had my flight and my guidebook and I was excited to explore a new country and a new Camino path, but, of course, COVID derailed those plans.
So I think I’ve always kept Portugal in my mind as a longer Camino that I’d just have to replan someday. But then I realized that I could walk the Coastal Portuguese from Porto and suddenly it all made so much sense! From Porto, there are two routes to Santiago: the coastal and the central. I’ve heard great things about both, and when I was originally planning my 2020 walk, I wasn’t sure what I’d decide to do when I reached Porto. But, with just a week to walk, it’s actually the perfect amount of time to do the entire coastal section of the Portuguese. I’ll start in Porto and I won’t reach Santiago, but it’s okay for this time around. When I have more time at my disposal, I can start down in Lisbon and try to walk all the way to Santiago. This time, with just a week, I’ll spend those days walking along the coast.
And so, it was decided! A spring Camino, my first one ever! Five years ago I did Hadrian’s Wall over my spring break, and while I suppose it’s a big trip for a short amount of time, I remember thinking as I walked that first day out of Newcastle that I’d made the best decision ever. That making the effort to get myself to a beautiful place where I could follow some way-markers and simplify my days into the soothing routine of walk-eat-sleep-repeat was worth it, every time.
So that’s what I’ll do again, I’ll fly to Porto and my plan is to start walking immediately (will I regret this? Probably. But I always want to just start as quickly as possible), and I’ll find my first yellow arrow and then just keep following them and walk for as far as I can. I’ve planned some big stages- of course I have!- but the route is fairly flat and I’ve been walking all winter and at this stage, I think I’ll be able to handle the big stages. I’ve reserved most of my beds, too, because I’m just not sure how crowded things will be around the Easter holidays, or just how many albergues will be re-opened after/during this COVID time, or just how many pilgrims will be on the path.
The plans are made, as well as I can make them, and I’m still not totally convinced that this trip will go off without a hitch (I need a negative COVID test to enter Portugal, and I’ve been working in a school where masks are now optional and hardly anyone wears one anymore, and germs are flying around, and, well, COVID has made travel feel a lot different, a lot more uncertain). But I hope that all will go well and smoothly, and that- soon- I can be walking again.
And even though this is a short trip, I’m starting to get all of my pre-Camino jitters, the same as ever, even though at this point I should know better. But yet, I worry anyway. My new shoes don’t feel quite broken in, they don’t feel as comfortable as my last pair- are they rubbing against my toes? Will they cause blisters? Will there be rain in the forecast, should I pack my rain pants? (I ask myself this every single time.) I’m walking in the spring, do I need to bring an extra layer? I just bought myself a fanny pack/waist pack but I haven’t yet hiked wearing it AND my pack and will I like it or be annoyed by wearing something extra around my waist? Do I bring my nice camera?
On and on the questions go but there’s a joy in asking myself these pre-journey questions, the same ones every time, it means that I’m heading off across an ocean and following a path, I’m heading off on a journey. This is something I love, something that makes me feel so solid and good, something that makes me feel alive. Alive! It’s spring and I can feel myself emerging from my winter cocoon, ready to take my first steps down a new path.