The other day, my mom asked me how this year’s Camino training and prep are going. “It’s probably no big deal this time, right?”
I had to agree. Camino Prep, Round Two- so far- is relaxed and fun. Thinking back to a year ago, I remember the anxiety I felt with two months to go: all of the things that I still needed to buy (at that point, I didn’t have my pack or the right pair of shoes), all of the walking I still needed to do, all of the details I needed to figure out.
This year looks very different (although check back at the beginning of June and I will probably be running around frantically, picking up items, cramming in last minute hikes). But for now, I’m calm. Except for a few new clothing items, I’m just going to re-use everything I took on my Camino last year. I have my flight and my train ticket (more on that later), I have several word documents storing notes on the Norte/Primitivo, and I already have a couple of good training hikes under my belt. I’m even (slowly) learning a bit of Spanish.
Someone once said (I can’t remember who or where… whether in a book, on a blog, in a comment on my blog), that preparing for a Camino is part of the Camino experience, and that in some ways, they wished they could go back to the time before their first Camino. Everything was unknown and thrilling. There was so much to figure out, but so much joy in the process.
And I think I can understand that. Last year’s training and prep really were part of my Camino, and in some ways it consumed my winter and spring. While I was certainly stressed over finding the right pair of shoes and worried about how physically prepared I was for the walk, I also loved those months of throwing myself into the ‘prep’. I loved how much I was learning about what it would take to walk 500-miles; I could feel myself growing and expanding even before I set foot on the trail.
So this year is different, but that’s also okay- actually, in some ways, it’s a relief. Last week I walked into REI and left 15 minutes later with a new pair of shoes: the exact same pair that I walked my Camino in last year. I loved my Keen hiking shoes, and after wearing them for hundreds and hundreds of miles, they felt like they were perfectly molded to my feet. But with holes and broken shoelaces and very worn tread, I was ready for a new pair. These new shoes are stiff and clean and feel a little foreign on my feet, but after a few hikes are already starting to break in. What a relief to not have to go through the same process as last year! Lets just hope that Keen makes this exact pair of shoes forever.
I think I’m also very relaxed about the ‘how’ of walking this next Camino. Last year I wanted to have the pilgrimage experience, and make it to Santiago. I was so focused on the goal. This year? I want to just go in with an open mind and do this walk however I want. If I find a charming sea-side village and want to stop for a few days and relax and write, then that’s what I’ll do. If I never make it to Santiago, I think that will be okay. Mostly, I just want to spend my days walking and meeting people and eating good food and seeing a new part of Spain.
Speaking of this walk, I realize that I should probably explain my plans. I last left off with a big question mark, not sure if I should walk another month-long Camino (the Norte), or if I should do 11-days on the Primitivo and then hop over to France for a few weeks at a writer’s retreat. Well, the Norte won. It was probably always the answer, but I didn’t fully realize it until I was in the process of buying a train ticket (a cheap one!) down to Hendaye (a town in the southwest of France that is steps away from the starting point of the Norte). Just before I purchased the ticket, I thought to myself, “Oh! I guess I’m going to walk the Norte.”
And that’s the plan, for now: spend a month walking the Norte (and maybe branching off onto the Primitivo) for my second Camino. I don’t have a lot of time- only 31 days of walking- but if I’m feeling as strong and as motivated to walk as I was last year, getting to Santiago should be no problem. But maybe I’ll never make it to Santiago: maybe I’ll walk short days and take advantage of being along the ocean. Maybe I really will hunker down and do mini writer’s retreats along the way. Maybe I’ll make some friends and decide to walk with them. Maybe I’ll speed walk and arrive in Santiago ahead of schedule and have time to walk to Finisterre/Muxia (very unlikely, but you never know).
What I like about this year’s Camino is the flexibility I’m allowing myself. I’ve already done this once, and I know what it means to have a goal and walk 500-miles to get there. Now, I think my only goal is to fully embrace the experience of the Camino, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for me this time.