I’ve been planning to walk the Camino for 10 years, but have really ramped up my research and plans in the past two years.
There are many Caminos, the most popular being the Camino Frances, an 800km trek that begins in France, crosses the Pyrenees and across Spain to Santiago de Compostela. All Caminos end in Santiago de Compostela.
After much research, and not being the kind of person who wants to do the same thing as everyone else, I decided to walk the Camino Primitivo. It’s the most ancient route and starts in Oveido, Spain, although the Camino del Norte begins much further to the northeast and joins up with the Primitivo. I’d decided to walk beyond Santiago to Finisterre (translated: the end of the earth) and Muxia, which I’m told I must go to whether on foot, horseback or by bus. It’s a daytrip by bus from Santiago. I plan, when I go, to spend about five weeks on the journey, including rest days, day trips and a possible side trip to the UK and Northern Ireland to visit family. My total walking journey on this route would be about 400km.
I haven’t travelled alone for a very long time, so I’ve had some trepidation about that, but my remedy is to do the research. So I know exactly what to expect.
I’ve joined Facebook pages: for women who walk the Camino; for anyone who walks the Camino; for those walking the Camino Primitivo, and Canadians walking the Camino. I’ve joined my local chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, attended a Camino 101 offered by the chapter, and purchased my credencial (the pilgrim’s passport).
I’ve researched packing lists, terrain, elevation, guided tours, self-guided tours, horseback tours (yes, that’s something I’d like to do). I’ve joined forums, and read so many posts about every aspect of walking the Camino – private vs. public albergues (hostels); walking poles or not; footwear and foot care; socks; food; weight of the pack I’ll carry; how much water; how much it will cost; which Camino is best; which is busiest, etc.
I’ve worked on building my stamina by doing 72km of the Avon Trail in 20-22km chunks, hiking with friends and strangers alike. You can read more about those hikes under the Buen Camino tab.
I feel prepared.
Last year for my 50th birthday, I asked people who wanted to give me a gift to support me in walking the Camino, and I received enough money to pay for a flight. I have kind and generous friends and family. I’ve added to the little pot of money, and I’ve got enough saved for a good trip. I just hadn’t booked the flights. Something held me back. I chalked this up to waiting for flight prices to go down, or finding just the right deal, or challenges with our teenage son.
Enter coronavirus, or Covid-19, as it’s now called.
Although I am a naturally anxious person, I’m not one to panic. I kept following the Camino Facebook pages to see what people said about the virus on their trips. I checked the Government of Canada travel advisories, and read articles on the spread of the virus in Europe, specifically in Spain. I have watched it spread from “something that happened in China” to a worldwide pandemic.
I still thought I could travel; heck, I might even get a cheap flight because the airlines are hurting from the pandemic.
Then I discovered it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get travel insurance, because Covid-19 is now a known threat. That set me back a little. And the more I read about the spread here in Canada, and in Ireland, and in the US, the more I began to believe that it would irresponsible to engage in non-essential travel. I began to understand that social distancing is likely the only way we’ll be able to curb the spread of this illness. And that everyone is susceptible to it. Of course, the elderly and very young are more at risk, but I am around the elderly and very young sometimes. I also work in a community college, and take public transit to get to my job. I understand it is now a possibility – maybe not a strong one, but one all the same – that I could get the virus.
I’m disappointed about having to postpone the trip, but I’ll get over that. I’m only postponing, not cancelling. I’ll keep watching and waiting, and washing my hands religiously. Like many things in my life have proven, I know things will happen when the time is right. When I’m ready – emotionally, spiritually, physically – or when my family is ready for me to be away for an extended period.
I know many would scoff at the idea of there being a whirling maelstrom of circumstances and relationships and chaos – or even a higher power orchestrating it – that could align for a brief moment to open the door to a heart’s desire. I suppose I would, too, if there hadn’t been many times in my life where it seemed this was true.
Call it thinking positively, or evidence of a greater Plan, or the stars aligning – whatever rings truest for you. For me, the time will be right when the unknowns become known, and when the threads of life are ready to make a silken rope that ties me to the rest of my life journey.
Buen Camino. The journey is long. It is hard, sometimes. But trust the path you follow and there will also be joy.