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Archive for February, 2012

I’ve had “walk the Camino” on my bucket list since the first time I learned about it at least five years ago. Several years passed before I thought much or heard anything else about it, but it was always in the back of my mind. A recent movie (2011), directed by Emilio Estevez and starring Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen, has brought a lot more attention to the Camino. The Camino, officially called El Camino de Santiago, translates to The Way of St. James in English. It is a pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain,  where legend has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried.

But, back to my bucket list…when I added “walk the Camino” to my list, I was in my 40’s. I had no idea when – or if – I would get around to actually doing it. Fast forward to 2012, and it is on the calendar for this year! Now, the planning begins. My better half has agreed to do it with me. We have a few things to work out…he wants to buy round trip airline tickets with fixed dates; I would rather fly military space available and get there and back whenever we can. He would like to do the pilgrimage in 30 days, I want to take a more leisurely approach and allow at least 40. He wants to train; I don’t – but I think I will acquiesce to this one for my own sake! We’ll figure it all out; planning is part of the fun.

My nightstand has a tall stack of books about the Camino including Fumbling by Kerry Egan, Shirley MacLaine’s The Camino, Seven Tips to Make the Most of the Camino de Santiago by Cheri Powell, Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook by David M. Gitlitz, and Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage.

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Today I finished doing our federal and state taxes using TurboTax (great program) and e-filed the returns so that we can get our refund back as soon as possible. I’m really excited about the refund because this year my wife and I are going to use it to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile pilgrimage that begins in France and goes across the northern part of Spain. The refund should be just enough to buy a few items of equipment, purchase airline and train tickets, and pay for our food and accommodations along “The Way”.

2012 is a big year for me personally and for us as a couple. I am leaving the working world this summer and entering a world of fun, adventure, learning, and most importantly, freedom and independence (which I’m told aren’t the same things). The day after my last day of work this summerI will get on a plane to fly to Lander, Wyoming to begin a course at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). I am so excited about this course because I’ve wanted to go to NOLS for as long as I can remember but the time and/or funds just weren’t there. My big chance is finally here and I’m going to make the most of it.

At NOLS I hope to greatly improve my wilderness skills, explore the boundaries of my abilities as a learner and a leader, and just generally have a terrific time while celebrating my retirement. I will be 55 years old this summer and I know that will make me twice as old as my NOLS classmates but hopefully they’ll tolerate an “old guy” in the group. I’ve taken my fitness training up a notch since the beginning of the year and should be in the best possible shape for the program, so hopefully I won’t have any trouble keeping up.

So back to the plan for the Camino…about a week or so after I finish up at NOLS we will depart for Spain for a 5-6 week pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, or “Way of Saint James”. In a future post I’ll talk more about what the Camino means to a pilgrim but right now I’m still in the early learning stage myself. You see, the idea of walking the Camino is really my wife’s. She’ll have to tell you when she first got the idea for the walk and why she wants to do it but whatever it is, I’m all for it and want to be a part of it.

We’ve got a stack of books – borrowed, purchased, etc. – on our nightstands and we’re reading through them as fast as we can to find answers to questions about all sorts of topics like the best time to walk the Camino, what kind of shoes/packs/sleeping bags/etc. we should use, and what it is like to stay in a refugio or albergue. We’ve got a lot to learn and we need to get in good walking shape so that we can handle the mileage. It seems like most people walk 10-12 miles per day and some people do considerably more. We haven’t set any firm goals yet but we hope to complete the Camino in 35-40 days.

So that’s what’s on the horizon for me in the next six months – finish the semester here at school, retire, go to NOLS, and walk the Camino de Santiago…what a life!

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