It has been 527days since I completed my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. It's hard to believe, because it feels like it was just last month. There has not been one single day gone by that I haven't thought of the trail and my time on it. I have gone back to the trail multiple times in the last year and a half. I have done more hiking in snow than I ever admitted that I would do again, and I have had a blast doing it! My life before the Appalachian trail really does not exist any more....that "old" life has been ruined. The AT has ruined my life, and I am so greatful for that!
Not that I wasn't a good person before, and not that I didn't enjoy life before. I just learned that life can be lived....experienced, in a totally different way. I look at people differently. I approach difficult situations in a different way. I understand me. I trust me. I believe in me. I charish me.
While on the trail, I got news of a dear friend whose husband was given a devastating cancer diagnosis. They are an amazing, inspirational couple. He returned to Heaven just before Thanksgiving of this year. This is just one example of how important fully living life is. Tomorrow it can be taken. Anything can change in an instant that alters our lives and how we are able to live them. So what is important? Live your life in the way you can, the best you can, the most exciting you can, the most loving you can, the most honorable you can. Whatever that is to you, do it. My family is so important to me, and I wish that I could drag them along with me in all the crazy things I do. I want them to know that when I am close and when I am far away, they are my everything. I have always wanted a family of my own, but that hasn't happened yet. When or if it does, I know that the way I live life will adjust, but until then, I get to keep a little extra "extreme" involved with this thing I call My Life.
So what is the next extreme, you ask?
When I was planning my AT hike, I came across another trail called the "Camino de Santiago". I studied it briefly, and decided to open a new folder in my email and tuck some information away for another time.
While hiking the AT, I was at the White Mountains Lodge and Hostel, and they had the new movie, "The Way", with Martin Sheen. We all decided to watch it, and I became more excited about re-visiting that email folder someday.
When I returned home to my family after completing my hike, I brought the movie with me to watch with them. This is when I revealed my plan for hiking the Camino de Santiago. Of course, then, it was almost 2 years away that I could think of going, since I needed to save more time from work, and of course the money to make it happen. That time flew by, and I am about 5 months away from departure.
The Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of St. James or St. James's Way is a pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great, in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. The Way can take one of any number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Traditionally, as with most pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James began at one's home and ended at the pilgrimage site. However a few of the routes are considered main ones. I plan to do the Camino Frances. This camino starts in St. Jean Peid de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees mountains, and finishes about 780km (485 miles) later in Santiago. I will extend the hike another 87km (54 miles) to Finisterre, meaning, "the end of the earth", which ends at the altar to the sun Ara Solis, where I will say a prayer and throw a rock into the sea.
I will not call myself a thru hiker. I will be known as a "Pilgrim". As with the ancient pilgrims traveling the Way, I hope to make this a spiritual walk. Ancient pilgrims left the comfort of their homes and set out on what could be a dangerous journey. They suffered theft, beatings, and possible death. For modern pilgrims, the journey is extremely safe. There are many pilgrim hostels along the way, called albergues. I will come across one or more of these every day of my journey. I will not have to camp in primitive woods most nights as I did on the Appalachian Trail, but I will bring a tent in anticipation of when those opportunities may arive, and they will be welcome.
This last weekend, I was able to watch a documentary on the Camino de Santiago, filmed by my buddy, Squatch, from the AT. The film was great, and would make anyone want to make the pilgrimage. Check out his film at www.squatchfilms.com
I will be updating on this blog as I make my plans. There is a lot to learn about the Camino, and I will try to explain a little bit more each time I write. I am hoping to make my flight reservations in the next week or two.
Though I have been forever changed since the AT, I have also felt life's monotony start to reveal itself lately. I almost feel like the leading lady character in the movie, "Chocolate", as I feel the winds blowing me in this new direction. It is definitely time for a "re-boot" I am giddy with excitement, and I cant wait to share the story with you here.