Camino Life – Day 21

I have a slew of notes that I’ve written over the past few days, but trying to compile them all into one legible post is proving very difficult. But I’ll try my best!

Oh, what a strange few days it has been!

This whole skipping ahead thing seems to have transported us into a different universe. The vibe is just totally different than it was before. People are so intense! So determined! So focused! It’s like every single day is a personal competition to see how much they can endure, how far they can go. To put their physical and mental limits to the test.

Kevin and I did not embark on this journey for that reason at all, so people look at us like we are aliens. Enjoyment and fun seem to be foreign concepts.

Before we skipped ahead, we met a lot of people that were out here for similar reasons as us… adventure, culture, love of travel. A chance to meet new people and explore places we’ve never been. To travel in a way we never had before, by foot, which would force us to slow down, and hopefully in the process become more balanced, more centered, and grow as a couple.

And also, to have fun!

The people we’ve met since we lskipped to Leon seem to have entirely different reasons for doing the Camino. No one we’ve recently met is doing it for fun. People seem to be having a much harder time of it out here. The energy is different. Almost everyone we have come across seems to be dealing with some serious shit, working out some really deep emotional issues.

People seem to be a lot more judgmental and a lot less friendly than those we were meeting in the beginning.

And also, a lot them are kind of weird!

I don’t want to be rude, but man, there have been some plain out weirdos!

When we first jumped ahead, we lost all the friends we had made, so we were feeling pretty disconnected from other pilgrims. We made a vow to spend the next week in albergues only, hoping that by doing so we would meet more people, get back in the groove, etc.

And it worked! We met a lot of new people, and we felt like we were part of it again. Some of the albergues have been wonderful… in Rabanal we stayed at the most beautiful 12th century church that had been converted to an albergue. It was incredible.

But not all of them have been so great.

Two nights ago we ended up at this random little albergue that was run by a crazy religious Spanish guy. The whole evening seemed like a bad episode of Portlandia. It was donation based, which we hadn’t realized at first. To us, that meant pay what you could, so we paid the usual albergue cost. To others, that meant free. So the crowd it drew was interesting, to say the least.

It felt like we had stepped into some weird religious hippy commune. The communal dinner, which is often our favorite part of the night, turned into this praying cry fest. There was a lot of weird praying, singing, and crying going on, and it was just too much for us to handle. A very smelly Canadian man was playing the ukulele, weird Argentine women were moaning and playing guitars. The whole thing was just fu*king weird. It was so weird we even took a video. We couldn’t have gotten out of there fast enough.

When we got to Ponferrada, a cool city most famous for the Templar Castle, we decided to break our “albergues only for a week” rule, and we checked into a small hotel right by the castle. And it was wonderful.

We had one of our many “why are we doing this” conversations, and got refocused on our reasons for the trip. I had started to lose sense of why I was here, letting other peoples’ judgement get me down. There are so many people out here with such a superiority complex, and it had started to bum me out.

For example, yesterday we were talking to an older Australian woman we had met a few days ago. We hadn’t said anything about taking the bus, but somehow the topic of skipping ahead came up. “You can’t say you’ve done the camino if you didn’t start in St. Jean, or if you’ve taken any taxis or buses,” she said to us, not realizing that we had done both of those things. “It doesn’t really count that way.”

“Well, you know there’s no official starting point,” I replied. “You can start from places all over Europe, like Paris, Germany, Portugal… and as long as you walk the last 100 kilometers, the confraternity of St. James considers it a completed camino.”

She went on to say that it wasn’t the same, and that starting anywhere other than St. John didn’t really count. It was cheating!

As soon as I told her that we had not only started in Pamplona, but also skipped ahead, I could see that she felt bad. She was trying to backtrack what she just said, but her feelings were clear. Our camino wasn’t as “real” as hers.
She is just one of the many people we have met that believe if you haven’t walked every single inch, consecutively, (none of this week here and there business that the Europeans do!) you can’t say you’ve “done the Camino.”

And I had been letting people like that get me down.

Kevin and I haven’t walked every single inch, but we’ve walked well over 200 miles since October 5th. For someone like me, that is a big accomplishment! Today we walked over 13 miles in pouring rain, and my feet got so soaked I had to cover my socks in plastic bags.

That to me counts as “doing the Camino.”

Camino lesson number 10001: Stop caring what people think.

(As I type this, the song “I did it my way” by Frank Sinatra is playing in the background of the bar we are at. Kevin just looked at me and said “this could be our camino theme song.”)

So, I’m trying to stay focused on our reasons for doing this, and to be a bit more forgiving with myself. To care leas about what people think and stop letting their judgement get me down. Just because other people are walking 20+ miles a day doesn’t make my 13 any less significant. And walking that far every single day is tough! I’m not exactly a person that is known for her athletic ability…

Today we walked over 13 miles, entirely in pouring rain. We left late, sang songs, and drank wine along the way. When we got to the huge mountain that people were trying to conquer (which would have been another 5 miles), we simply stopped, found a Casa Rural to check into (which happens to be a converted butter factory!), and then went to the local bar for some wine and food. The mountain will still be there tomorrow.

We did it our way, and we had a blast.

Julie / BoundOctober 24, 2013 - 11:26 am

So love getting your updates, and I’m really glad you and Kevin have decided to make things happen on your schedule. Down with haters!!

KariOctober 24, 2013 - 12:26 pm

Hang in there! It sounds like you guys are back with the right mindset. Just proves that there are crazy people everywhere:) It’s so hard to keep a positive attitude when there are so many haters around. You guys are doing an amazing thing and should be so proud of yourselves!

Megan C. StroupOctober 24, 2013 - 12:32 pm

Your updates are amazing! I’ve had the Camino on my bucket list ever since I made one for my blog a few years ago, and this just makes me want to do it even more! Your story about the donation-based place reminded me of that weird Jennifer Aniston movie where she lives in a commune haha. Also, if people aren’t doing it for fun, why are they there?? They have their reasons, I’m sure, and you have yours. I’m glad you’re not letting them get you down. πŸ™‚

StephanieOctober 24, 2013 - 12:59 pm

All I have to say is, good for you!

Also, ditto on the Wanderlust movie comment. I was totally picturing Jennifer Aniston weirded out right beside you. πŸ™‚

nicole marieOctober 24, 2013 - 1:05 pm

girl let it go! those people clearly have issues and will most likely look back at their camino and maybe not even remember the experience. all they’ll remember is the blisters and a good for them they walk the entire thing “start” to finish no “skipping ahead” . so good for them. that’s what they went there to do and they’re doing it. if i were you i’d start making people feel bad for being such camino hypocrites and assholes.

i think one of the greatest things about the camino is that it’s a personal journey. everyone does it for different reasons, with different goals and intentions. the people who are trying to make it a challenge are clearly bored with their camino and their intentions of the camino so they try to make themselves feel better by putting other down.

enjoy these last weeks! i can’t believe you guys have been walking for almost 20 days!! so crazy! so proud of you guys and love all your stories! you should probably start doubling the amount of wine you’re drinking the last week. just bought a bottle of Rioja at trader joes and it definitely did not taste the same sitting in my california house versus in a spanish bar.

LauraOctober 24, 2013 - 1:18 pm

Don’t let them get you down! Or take away from your experience. One month from now none of those people will matter – but the experiences you take from it will last a lifetime!! I can’t believe you have walked over 200 miles!

Kate AnnOctober 24, 2013 - 3:24 pm

Keep up the great work! You’re version sounds soooooo much better than theirs anyway. People who act superior are usually compensating for something – like being stupid.

Patty McClainOctober 24, 2013 - 4:14 pm

I love love the last lines of your blog! A great mantra.

CamilleOctober 24, 2013 - 6:53 pm

Serena, I love reading your posts and your journey inspires me. Enjoy every moment and laugh through the pain; which I know you and Kevin can do better then most! XO, Cam

DaniellaOctober 25, 2013 - 8:11 am

I love reading these posts! Your journey sounds incredible! And yes, don’t listen to those other people, seriously, their criticisms of you are not really about you ya know, they are about something that they are struggling with – clearly a sense and need to have some self-validation that they get by bashing you. It’s nonsense. Perhaps next time you get a comment you can say β€œwell, we are walking this way and talking to people who feel like that as a reminder that we are not here to judge, just to experience. Good Luck on your journey” Keep the posts coming!
-Daniella, Seattle, WA

AmyOctober 25, 2013 - 12:39 pm

I’m inspired. Not only because this is an awesome adventure that you are taking – regardless of distance traveled in a day – but also because you are doing it YOUR way. Sometimes that’s far more challenging than the physical part. And you’re doing it!!

-Amy

GretchenOctober 25, 2013 - 6:25 pm

I am so proud of you guys! 200+ miles is an amazing achievement and don’t let anyone get you down. Keep the stories coming!

TrishOctober 28, 2013 - 6:08 am

When one feels pulled to do a particular thing, when one has passion for a certain life path, karma is always involved. In such an instance, when the goal is worthy and makes one happy, one should continue on that same life path. Just because the elephant cannot carry you anymore doesn’t mean you should give up your goal. Continue down the path that makes you feel fulfilled. Those who continue on an unrewarding path for the sake of only monetary gain are displaying a lack of trust in life. Serena I am so proud of you. This journey you and Kevin are taking is amazing. There is no right or wrong, it’s what works for the two of you. I remember taking you to your first day at Boulder Co and you were worried about how you were going to walk to class, in the snow, in your heels lol. You’ve come a long way baby.
Keep on trucking!!

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Camino Life – A Jump Ahead

Well, friends, we seem to have time traveled a bit. I write this to you from Villavantes, which isn’t where we thought we would be at this stage.

After a lot of discussion, Kevin and I decided to skip the meseta section of the camino. Kevin thought one more rest day would help him a lot, and I have to admit it helped me as well. Since we were already “behind schedule,” we decided to take a bus to Leon, where we resumed our pilgrimage to Santiago from this morning.

There are a lot of reasons why we decided to do this, bit mostly, it came down to time. When we planned out our trip, we did so by basing our schedule on the popular Brierly guidebooks, which lay out suggested day-by-day stages. Many people follow this book almost religiously, not veering off course at all, and freaking out when they get “off schedule.” Sticking to these stages, it should have taken us 28 walking days at an average of 15 miles a day, with the allowance of 2 rest days. This plan would have gotten us to Santiago on our planned date of November 3rd.

Well, what no one realizes until they start walking (but that everyone on the camino talks about) is that the guidebooks LIE! What is only supposed to be 13 miles is ALWAYS closer to 15, which means that for us to actually complete the whole thing in the time frame we had originally planned, continuing on we would need to be averaging closer to 20 miles a day, every single day, and not allowing ourselves any additional short days or rest days.

And that is just not possible for us. Anything more than 16 miles a day is too much for us, and some days we are maxed out at even less.

We had stopped following the book after our first two days, instead stopping where we wanted to stop and walking for as long as we felt like walking. We have loved doing it this way, and it has made this experience so much more enjoyable.

So for us to do it the way we want to do it, which is walk at our own pace, sometimes have short days, spend an extra day in cool cities, and just go with the flow, we would have needed closer to six weeks. We obviously didn’t know this until we started walking. If we had, we would have planned a bit differently.

We debated skipping our Morocco trip to give us more time, but we already have our tickets booked and paid for, and ultimately we don’t want to do that, as we’ve both been looking forward to Morocco immensely. So, after much discussion, we decided to skip the meseta section of the Camino.

The meseta is rumored to be the most “boring” part. It is miles upon miles of flat unshaded desert-like land, with the path often running parallel to the highway. A lot of people skip this part, and we’ve already met quite a few who decided to skip it as well. This will save us about six days, which should give us plenty of time to walk from Leon to Santiago at our own pace.

I struggled with this decision quite a bit, as there is a part of me that feels like a huge failure for having to skip ahead. I’m disappointed in myself that I’m not physically capable of walking as far as I thought I could each day. And also, as much as I don’t want to admit it, my ego is afraid of being labeled a “camino cheater” by others.

Our friend Auvi from Israel decided to skip ahead too. I asked him if he felt guilty. His response was exactly what I needed to hear: “Why would I feel guilty? I’ve been walking farther than I should trying to keep up with people, and that got me injured! So instead of being miserable, I’m going to skip the part that is ugly, boring, and dangerous. I don’t feel guilty. I feel happy!”

One of our main goals for doing this was to slow down, and not be tied to some arbitrary schedule. We want to make it to Santiago, and for us to do so by November 3rd we would either need to kill ourselves walking, likely getting injured, or skip a part. So skipping it is.

And to give some background/perspective, there is no “official” starting point. It’s all arbitrary. In recent years, St. Jean has become the most popular place to start, but you can really start from anywhere. We’ve met people that have been walking for months already, and others only a few days. Even skipping ahead, we are not even halfway done… we still have more than two weeks of walking days ahead of us.

The hardest part about this decision was having to say goodbye to Evert. He’s become somewhat of a father figure to us, this presence that is always watching out for us. I’ve grown strangely attached to him. When we told him that we were skipping ahead to Leon, he said he thought that was absolutely the best decision for us, but that he would miss us dearly. I was surprised to find that I was trying hard not to cry.

We will miss him too.

We started walking from Leon this morning, which felt strange after three days off. It’s the only day we will truly experience the meseta, and true to its reputation, it wasn’t the most attractive of walks. But soon we will enter into Galacia, a part of the Camino that is said to be the most beautiful but also the most rainy.

In a way it feels like we are starting anew. It’s a bit strange, this skipping ahead. We keep looking for familiar faces, but everyone is a stranger to us. For now, anyway. I’m confident that new people and new adventures await us.

And if we’re lucky, Evert won’t be the last wonderful friendship we maKe.

image

This was what today’s walk looked like ALL. DAY. LONG. Longest 17 miles of my life.

JeanOctober 18, 2013 - 2:46 pm

anytime i get a blog update in my email, it makes me so happy. i am loving getting glimpses into your guys’ adventure. also, in no way shape or form is any part of your adventure a ‘failure’. evert sounds amazing and so sweet to hear about the bond you guys have made. miss you both lots!

KateAnnOctober 18, 2013 - 3:18 pm

Good for you! This should not only be a challenge, but also fun. I think it’s great you’re doing it at your own pace. Thanks for sharing your adventures, I can’t believe you have the strength after walking all day to post.

VeronicaOctober 18, 2013 - 3:30 pm

Love hearing about your journey! Also happy to hear you are not skipping Morocco. I have done a lot of traveling in my life and by far my trip to Morocco (about 5 years ago) was the best trip of my life. It was amazing. Enjoy!!!

LoraOctober 18, 2013 - 4:25 pm

Deciding what is best for your physical as well as mental health will never make you a failure; instead, it makes you stronger and wiser.
Cheers.

nicole marieOctober 19, 2013 - 9:15 pm

for some reason i got a little emotional reading this. probably about the part about leaving evert. it’s so crazy how we can meet such amazing people and have share such memories that you’ll never really truly be able to explain to others.

I’m so glad you guys skipped ahead. you have to do what you went there to do. for some that may be walking every single mile of the camino but for you guys (like you said in your first posts about the camino) it’s about the experience. the sights, the wine, the villages, the people you meet. i actually feel sad for the people who are so focused on the walk they don’t enjoy the absolute best part that spain has to offer in those towns and villages surrounded by lovely people, food and wine.

Megan C. StroupOctober 19, 2013 - 10:53 pm

I think it’s awesome that you’re rearranging in order to make it to Morocco! That sounds like an amazing experience that I know I wouldn’t want to miss out on. πŸ™‚

KariOctober 21, 2013 - 8:25 am

Good for you guys for doing what is right for you! I loved your last past when you said you had to get out of the mindset of thinking you’re “failing” if you take a bus. I think that is such the case with Americans. I find myself doing the same thing a lot. I put these unnecessary pressures on myself and then get depressed when I can’t meet them. This is your trip, and I love that you guys are making it your own. I am really enjoying following along:)

WhitneyOctober 21, 2013 - 9:14 am

I think any sort of ‘pilgrimage’ is an intensely personal thing. You have to do what’s right for you. Its YOUR experience after all. I am very much enjoying reading about your trip so far πŸ™‚

AmyOctober 22, 2013 - 5:45 pm

I just discovered your blog and I’m swooning over this adventure. And as a brand new reader who knows next to nothing about your journey, I am so happy that you are making the most of it by doing what makes you HAPPY. Go you!

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Camino Life – We Love Burgos!

First of all, a huge THANK YOU to those if you that left me such wonderful comments or emails in my last post. They helped me in ways I can’t begin to articulate, and I appreciate them so much. I haven’t had time to respond personally, but please know that each comment or note I received has meant so much to me. Thank you again.

In other news, what a difference a day makes!

We woke up yesterday morning to a rainy and windy day. Since we had stayed at a pension with a private room, we were able to take our time, which was quite a change from the hustle and bustle of most mornings. In the albergues, the morning is a time of chaos – everyone seems to move at lightening speed, trying to pack up their things and start walking as soon as possible.

We walked to the only bar open for breakfast, which was already filled with pilgrims getting ready to take off. We sat with our friends Daniel, a 5-star hotel chef from Scotland whom we had met a few days ago, and Hilary, a quintessential hippie from Colorado, whom we had just met the day before. I was a bit embarrassed to tell them that we were not walking, but instead taking the bus straight to Burgos. I shouldn’t have been.

As soon as we told them, we could see the wheels turning in their heads… the walk for the day was supposed to be incredibly hilly, and they started debating whether it was worth doing it in such rainy wet weather. We gave them the bus details and left them to discuss, saying that if they weren’t on the bus we would see them again in Burgos. Lo and behold, when we got to the bus stop they were there, along with another couple that we had met the night before.

There is this underlying judgement on the camino about taking a bus or taxi and skipping ahead, as of it’s “cheating,” though so far this seems to be a predominantly American/Canadian/Australian attitude. Most of the Europeans we have met have no guilt about skipping ahead, telling you that it’s your camino and that you need to do what is right for you. It is mostly those of us from across the pond that seem to place all the judgement, which is something I’ve been struggling with, feeling as though I need to justify myself to complete strangers.

We talked about this on the bus, and Hilary said that she felt a little guilty because despite having a ton of knee pain, she felt like her body was telling her to suck it up and push through it. I told her that at first I thought my body was telling me the same thing, but I realized that it was really my ego speaking. My body is telling me to take a rest – my ego, on the other hand, is telling me to keep up with everyone else so that people don’t judge me as a camino cheater.

As soon as I said that, Hilary’s eyes lit up, and she said “oh my god, you are so right! It’s not my body talking to me but my ego!” She gave me a high-five and thanked me for helping her to come to this realization.

I told her I’ve been battling my ego a lot on this trip!

When we arrived in Burgos it was only 10:30. The four of us were almost giddy at the speed in which we had just traveled. “Almost 40 kilometers in less than an hour! It’s like time travel!” we declared.

We walked to a bar by the cathedral and indulged in multiple glasses of wine, amazing bocadillos, and even better conversation. It was early, but it felt right. Daniel was wearing a necklace with a guardian angel charm on it, and Hilary said a few days ago she found a similar angel charm on the ground, along with a pin of two flags, and that she took them with her because she felt like she should.

I gasped. “Is the a angel colored on one side?” I asked. She said yes. I couldn’t believe it! I had brought with me a guardian angel charm given to me by my mom, and on our second night on the camino the head of the Norwegian chamber of commerce had given me and Kevin each a pin of the Norwegian and Spanish flags intertwined, telling us that when our camino got tough, we could look at those pins and know that the Norwegians were behind us and wishing us well.

The pin and angel charm were both in a small pocket on my backpack, but a couple of days ago I had realized that they were missing. They must have fallen out somewhere along the way, and I was sad.

But Hilary, a person I had met less than 24 hours prior, had found them and kept them! We felt like this was a true camino sign that we were doing the right thing… that taking the bus was a good decision for all of us.

Eventually we said our goodbyes and went to check in to our respective shelters for the evening… us to our incredibly luxurious hotel that we splurged on in honor of our anniversary, and them to the municipal albergue.

After staying mostly in albergues and pensions, the luxury was almost too much to handle. A huge tub! Big fluffy towels! A queen size bed! A hair dryer! Oh, the splendor!

And all of this for €85 a night, which is about $115. I’m pretty sure that couldn’t even get you a motel 6 in San Francisco.

We spent most of the day lounging in our fancy hotel, giving our bodies the much needed breaks they so rightly deserved. We didn’t know it until we got here, but Burgos was recently declared the Gastronomical capital of Spain, a fact that delights us to no end. It’s an incredibly cosmopolitan city, which we love, though we feel a bit out of place in our pilgrim clothes. As our present to each other we went to a beautiful 100-year-old restaurant and feasted on foie gras and suckling lamb, and we wondered how we would ever be able to top this anniversary.

Kevin is still having a lot of calf and tendon pain (of which he has self-diagnosed himself with a level 1 calf strain) so we have decided to stay in Burgos another day and reevaluate how we feel tomorrow morning. We are going to do some sightseeing but mostly take it easy. It’s only been two days of no walking, but it already feels so strange to be so stationary. What an alternate universe we are living in!

I’m not sure what our plan will be if he (or I) needs more rest tomorrow, but we will figure it out. We are taking it one day at a time.

And now, a few pictures from the last few days…

imageimageimageimageimage

BriOctober 16, 2013 - 6:59 am

I am LOVING all of the trip updates. What an amazing adventure, and I’m sure one that you’ll look back on and remember with a smile for the rest of your life!

AllisonOctober 16, 2013 - 7:02 am

Absolutely fantastic! I’m loving the updates and this might just be my favourite post since you started. The body vs ego realization makes so much sense, so good for you for throwing other people’s judgment out the door and doing what truly works for you!

MoOctober 16, 2013 - 8:01 am

I’m soooooo happy you are doing these updates! And also that you guys are taking it easy for a few days. And also that your anniversary was perfectly timed with a place like Burgos. And also that you look so pretty in all the pictures.

LauraOctober 16, 2013 - 8:44 am

Oh my it was so fate that you met that woman! Glad you got your guardian angel back and glad you are resting up! Your anniversary sounds incredible!

JessicaOctober 16, 2013 - 9:29 am

I’m loving all the trip updates! And you look so beautiful! I really think the Camino agrees with you! Glad you two are taking some time to rest. Hope you had a very happy anniversary!

TheresaOctober 16, 2013 - 9:40 am

I can’t even tell you how happy your posts make me! It’s like I’m living vicariously through you when I read them. I know someday, I need an adventure like this! And how amazing that you and Kevin are doing this together, what an amazing thing to look back on and talk about when you celebrate 50 years! What you said about ego really resonated with me, it’s so true. I think your attitude and goals for this trip are great, taking it one step at a time and making it “your camino” then there is no way you won’t get everything out of it you hoped. Because you aren’t putting pressure on yourselves for it to go a certain way. OK, sorry longest comment ever! Happy Anniversary!

StephanieOctober 16, 2013 - 11:28 am

Sounds like the camino is giving you exactly what you need – good company, confidence, introspection, and lots of great food and wine. πŸ™‚ Keep the trip updates coming! I can use them to persuade the husband to do this trip with me. ha!

LindseyOctober 16, 2013 - 12:33 pm

LOVING all the posts and updates! I especially love that you guys had a great honeymoon! Sending our love from SF πŸ™‚

LindseyOctober 16, 2013 - 12:34 pm

I mean anniversary – hahah πŸ™‚

wendyOctober 16, 2013 - 12:52 pm

So happy for you both. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! Happy Anniversary!Love to you both!!

JeanOctober 16, 2013 - 1:39 pm

i am loving your confidence in making it your own!

KirbyOctober 16, 2013 - 5:53 pm

I am so enjoying reading about your trip. It sounds like a wonderful adventure! Stay well and enjoy yourself. And Happy Anniversary!

MishOctober 16, 2013 - 9:08 pm

Hope Kevin’s calf feels better soon! Glad you guys are getting rest! Happy anny, love birds πŸ™‚ Miss you both!!

xo

eileen ragan | leaner by the lakeOctober 17, 2013 - 9:43 am

I have to tell you, I have found such delight in reading your posts and checking out your photos on Instagram. Love your attitude and honesty about everything – keep it up lady!

nicole marieOctober 17, 2013 - 1:49 pm

that’s so very american to be judgmental of “cheating” and so very very European/spanish to actually listen to your mind and body and what you need. i could give so many examples of how that exact mind thinking is so predominent between our countires and cultures.
so glad you guys are taking an amazing rest time! and geez that hotel sounds amazing! sounds like our 1 night stay in paris after so many disgusting hostels we though the best western was a 5 star hotel!
keep on trekking!
(when you’re ready πŸ™‚ )

StephOctober 22, 2013 - 1:35 pm

I am loving your recaps. It sounds like an amazing experience and something that many people wouldn’t have the strength or will to do.

Megan C. StroupOctober 26, 2013 - 7:58 pm

That is so awesome – and crazy! – that Hilary had your tokens. And I love your epiphany about body vs. ego; that is so true, and something I think any athlete or active person should remember.

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Camino Life – 10 Days and Counting…

We’ve now been walking ten full days. Our bodies are definitely getting stronger but I wouldn’t say it’s getting any easier. The evenings are always wonderful no matter how hard the day was, but it seems as if every great walking day we have is almost always followed by a not so great one. Yesterday was amazing, we walked more than 16 miles and we felt like we could have gone on forever! But today… today was rough.

It was my first really shitty walking day. I was upset with Kevin (Mevin had made his first and hopefully only appearance), I had a bad wine hangover, I ate a terrible breakfast of processed food, and I just felt like crap all day. As soon as we started walking my right arch started killing me, I was basically limping, so I started walking weird which then gave me a blister on my left foot, and no matter what I did I was in pain. I wanted to stop walking and sit on the ground and cry. So I did.

It was the first time I had a “WTF am I doing here” moment, which, from what I’ve been told, everyone that walks the way will experience at some point. And I suppose that’s the nature of this kind of journey. It wouldn’t be a pilgrimage if every day was easy.

When we got to Villafranca de Montes de Oca (about 9 miles) we decided to call it a day and not go on any further. The thought of sleeping in another albergue bunk bed room with 20 other people was just to much for me to handle, so we got a private room at the first pension we came across. It started raining within minutes of us checking in, and I couldn’t have been happier that we decided to stop when we did.

Though we have walked some short days, we haven’t taken a rest day once since we started ten days ago. Kevin’s been having some bad tendon pain, and combined with the cluster of foot problems I had today, we have decided it is time to give our bodies some rest.

We had planned to walk into Burgos tomorrow. It’s our second wedding anniversary (!!!) and we have a nice hotel booked. But because of the issues described above, instead of walking we are just going to take a bus. It will be the first time we’ve skipped a part, but we are fine with that. Our bodies need a break, and we would rather spend our anniversary in a cool city like Burgos than in a village with a population of less than 200.

Our best friend is still our surly old Dutch man, Evert, but we’ve been meeting a lot of great people, including quite a few from California. Abbey is around my age and is from San Francisco. We clicked instantly and started talking about our favorite SF spots, laughing about how weird it was to be talking about things like San Francisco sushi while sitting in a small bar in a village in Spain. It really is such a small world.

We also talked about how we have both found that often the people that claim to be the most spiritual and open-minded are exactly the opposite, as we have both met people like this on the camino. A few days ago Kevin and I were looking up places to eat in Santo Domingo de La Calzada, and a young girl overheard me say that there was a Michelin star restaurant we might want to check out. She interrupted us and asked, “why are people like you doing the camino?” I asked her what she meant, and she went on: “Well it sounds like you guys really like fancy restaurants and pΓ’tΓ© and stuff, so I don’t get why you would want to do something like this.”

As if it’s that black and white.

We explained that while we do like those things, we also like community and adventure and culture and meeting new people, and that the camino is a way for us to experience all of those things together.

She didn’t understand. It was clear that she thought that by us occasionally staying at hotels and eating at nice restaurants, our camino wasn’t as valuable as hers. That doing those things somehow lessened the experience.

But to each their own. She is young and abroad for the very first time. She might feel differently when she’s in her 30s.

(or maybe she wont, as she later mocked me for having lip gloss and mascara.)

But now we are at one of the local bars, clean and warm, and slowly the difficulties of earlier are starting to melt away. Our friend Jose Antonio, an old man from Barcelona, just blew us a kiss and wished us goodnight. And even with rough days like today, even after sitting in the mud and crying, I’m still so thankful to be here and doing this. It’s a privilege we have worked hard for, and no matter how bad I might feel, I always remember that at the end of the day.

Tomorrow we will take the bus into Burgos. And we will dine at fancy restaurants and stay at a nice hotel and celebrate our first two years of marriage.

And to me, taking the time to do that is just as much an important and valuable part of our pilgrimage as any walking day could possibly be.

MoOctober 14, 2013 - 12:17 pm

1.) Happy anniversary you two!!
2.) I miss you guys πŸ™
3.) I want to punch that girl in her face

MargaretOctober 14, 2013 - 12:28 pm

I look forward to your posts every day- living vicariously through you!! This sounds like such an amazing experience- and I think you are doing it the best way. There is no point in traveling through all those amazing cities and towns without experiencing the unique things each place has to offer. And if your feet hurt? A bus is totally acceptable.

Sarah McGuireOctober 14, 2013 - 12:40 pm

Happy Anniversay! Well said:-) You guys are doing it for all the right reasons. Screw all those inexperienced people. Everyone gets something different out of the experience.

Taegen HallerOctober 14, 2013 - 12:49 pm

Hi Serena,
I’m an old friend of Kevin and haven’t spoke to him in sometime but I’ve been following your amazing journey via Facebook. It sounds like a once in a life time experience and I’m grateful to be following along. I wanted to share an old proverb that I just love and it seems so appropriate for your adventures. Especially after reading about how it seems so many are in a “race” to do the camino. And it seems to me you and Kevin fully understand and appreciate it.

“The journey is the reward.” Taoist Proverb

Thank you for taking me along on your adventure and even though I don’t know you I am sending you and Kevin blessed wishes. Happy anniversary. Please tell Kevin hello for me. Thank you!

Patty McClainOctober 14, 2013 - 12:51 pm

Enjoy your anniversary day of celebration and healing!

TheresaOctober 14, 2013 - 1:17 pm

Happy Anniversary! Good for you, doing what feels best for you and enjoying two years together! I hope you have MANY glasses of wine to celebrate! πŸ™‚

Carolyn ThomasOctober 14, 2013 - 1:23 pm

Happy Anniversary!!! Love you both. Thank you for capturing your trip in so much detail. I love your stories. You guys truly inspire me. Keep having the time of your life – should that involve days of pure joy and excitement as well as days of tears and blisters. That is what this experience is all about, right. Love you! Carolyn

Kyle NiemerOctober 14, 2013 - 1:58 pm

Hey Peregrino!
Don’t worry bout a thing girl, we all have our “What the Fuck am I doing here” moments. Mine came while in the Meseta a day outside of Leon, which lead to me laying in the middle of the street next to The Camino chanting, “what am I doing here!?” To nothing and no one. Lucky an Italian man named Marco came along, saying, “dis is a bad idea Kyle” and got me out of the street. He gave me some amazing advice that I have passed on to a few pilgrims. This is what he said. He told me, “Kyle, you only need to take the time to listen. The answer is out there right for you to take it, only if you are able to see it. Take the time. And listen.” You will discover why you are there, and it will smack you full in the face. You have many miles to go girl, but they will be worth it. Believe me. You are heading into the Meseta, which is awful, but remember that as soon as you are through the wonders of Galacia await.
Listen.:)
Also, don’t worry about taking the bus to Burgos. I walked from VillaFranca to Burgos, and beyond. I 50km day! (Brushes off shoulders) I call Burgos the city of stone because the 10km walk into the city limits is nothing but stone roads. Woof. You aren’t missing much.
And as for the pretencious pilgrim you met, she just hasn’t learn to deal with her own journey. It doesn’t matter how you walk “the way” it only matters that you are walking it.

Buen Camino, and perhaps we’ll meet somewhere on the road. One day away from Fisterre! The end of the world calls.
Also, glad you enjoyed the pictures. I followed a bunch of people on Instagram right before I left which got me so exited for the journey. I am glad that I could share with others.:)
Buen Camino!
-Kyle Niemer
(_Niemer_)

LauraOctober 14, 2013 - 3:18 pm

Clearly that girl needs to find out the reason why she is walking. If she is simply looking to pick on others then she is not there for herself. And sadly she probably won’t take much from the journey as it sounds she is too focused on others. I applaud you!! Happy Anniversary!

Carmen VecchittoOctober 14, 2013 - 3:39 pm

I love reading your posts, Serena! Keep up the good work (with the posting and the walking/experiencing). Happy anniversary!

LaurenOctober 14, 2013 - 4:11 pm

I think you are amazing for putting yourself to this challenge and you can do it however you want! (I am pretty sure I would have also packed mascara and lip gloss:)) Congrats to you and Kevin on 2 years of marriage!!

JessicaOctober 14, 2013 - 5:54 pm

Ew, I totally want to punch that girl in the face- is that wrong?! Well, I’m super proud of you guys and love the journey you are on! Especially love that this journey is uniquely yours. You guys are in charge! I hope you two have the happiest wedding anniversary. Live it up!

Darryl ellisOctober 14, 2013 - 7:05 pm

I can’t wait to walk the camino next year and really enjoy the reality check that there are good and bad days.

Timm BennettOctober 15, 2013 - 5:02 am

Hi honey. Happy anniversary. To both of you !! I love you both and Without a doubt my best day ever!!! Was 2 years ago today walking you down the aisle
It Always helps me to stay in compassion to some one who is judgemental When I simply remember That no one says anything that isn’t about themselves. And I realize they judge themselves far worse than me. And my heart starts to soften
Live you guys both very much

Megan C. StroupOctober 15, 2013 - 10:15 pm

Happy anniversary! And as for people who question the specifics of your pilgrimage (and are quite rude about it, it appears), isn’t the point of a pilgrimage to do it on your own? So whatever way you decide to do it, that’s the right way for you! πŸ™‚ I think it’s awesome that you’ve even embarked on this journey to begin with.

JeanOctober 16, 2013 - 1:36 pm

I am LOVING all of the instagram/blog posts. Trav and I are so so proud of you guys and am loving reading about your guys’ amazing adventure. You guys are a beautiful and admirable couple. Happy Anniversary! I’m so jealous of all the foie you’re getting to eat.

xoxo

Camino Life – Six Days In

I’m writing to you from a tiny tapas bar in the town of Navarrete. Today marks our 6th day of walking, and despite being a short day (we only walked about 9 miles) it felt harder and longer than others. Everyone says that if the camino was only a week long, no one would do it, because the first week is just so hard. Apparently once you make it through it, your body has adjusted and you just get in a zone. Kevin and I have yet to find that zone but we are hoping it’s on the horizon. Each morning a new part of our body hurts – as soon as we seem to overcome one ache and pain a new one surfaces somewhere else. Yesterday I had my first blister, which was the bane of my existence all day. Today the blister felt okay but my Achilles’ tendon was in pain. It’s something new everyday. I suppose that is to be expected when you go from sitting at a desk 40+ hours a week to suddenly walking a half marathon daily. It can’t all be a walk in the park!

But other than our aches and pains, we are already loving this. So so so much. For the most part the walks have been stunning, the scenery so beautiful it almost makes you cry, and the people better than both of those things combined. We have met so many wonderful people and had so many wonderful conversations – it’s hard to keep track. Kevin is currently talking to a German guy that started walking from Germany. Yes, from GERMANY!!! Today is his 69th day.

Because Kevin and I walk at the pace of the elderly, all of our camino friends are 60+. Our best friend so far is a super old Dutch guy named Evert. He seems grumpy at first but he has grown to love us. He constantly gives Kevin shit, telling him he should be rubbing my feet more and what not, which I love.

Most of the people our age (or younger) on the Camino seem to be on this mission to get to Santiago as fast as possible, charging through each town as fast as they can. They seem so deadline driven it feels like they are not even enjoying themselves.

And then you have us, who stop at wineries and walk slow and have wine at lunch and always look up the best place to eat in each town we visit. We seem to have become known as the Camino winos on the trip… whenever we stop for wine everyone goes “there’s San Francisco drinking again!” But our favorite people so far are those that like to drink with us. One couple commented “it’s like you guys are on holiday or something!” to which we replied “we ARE on holiday!” There are some people that seem to think unless you are suffering you are not doing it right. Our attitude is that if we are suffering, we are doing it wrong!

Yesterday we walked into Logrono, a city in which we were both completely enamored with. It’s the city where tapas originated, and there are wine bars everywhere. Everywhere!!! And each one specializes in one or two different tapas. So you basically bar hop all night, having amazing wine and the best tapas of your life, for soooo cheap! On our third tapas bar I had just finished the most incredible mushroom tapa (and I don’t even like mushrooms!) and devoured a delicious glass of 1.5 euro wine, and I looked at Kevin and said “I have found my happy place. If I die tomorrow I will be content.” We stayed out very late and drank a lot and it was amazing.

Because we loved Logrono so much we wanted to stay and hang out a bit longer. We slept in and went to another amazing wine and tapas bar for lunch, and because of that we didn’t leave the city until almost 2. And when you leave that late after being stuffed full of amazing food and wine, it’s a hard start. It felt like our longest most boring day yet, but then I thought about the Australian man I had met earlier that had broke his foot on the first day and was still trying to hobble along, and I told myself to stop whining and buck up. And eventually we arrived.

Now we are sitting in a tiny bar full of old Spanish men and a handful of pilgrims. My legs are aching but my three glasses of wine has helped tremendously. It’s amazing the transformation that happens when we finally get to our destination… I arrive cranky and tired and sweaty and in pain, but then I shower and walk to a bar and have an amazing glass of wine, and suddenly all is right with the world.

And then we do it all over again.

Pictures from my love affair with Logrono…
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TheresaOctober 10, 2013 - 1:16 pm

I think you have the best approach to this! And I love it β€œthere’s San Francisco drinking again!”…because SF is awesome, if they only knew what they were missing πŸ™‚ Also, how do you look so pretty and put together after walking 15 miles?

Nicole MarieOctober 10, 2013 - 1:38 pm

I am absolutely convinced that had you lived in spain then I did my spain life would have been a million times better. Not that my friends weren’t great but they just didn’t really really enjoy the things about spain like I did and like you are. It’s probably the San Francisco drinking problem in is but seriously the wine and prices don’t get any better. It is physically painful to pay $6 + for a glass here.
And I love that thy call you guys San Francisco! Clearly city living prepared ou well for the all the wine πŸ™‚

StephanieOctober 10, 2013 - 2:26 pm

Um . . .where are the pictures of you LOOKING gross and/or tired and/or wearing the same clothes as the day before. You’re adorable. Love hearing about the trip – hang in there!

Patty McClainOctober 10, 2013 - 2:27 pm

We appreciate the great details and impressions that you are sharing…(despite being exhausted? ) We are proud of you both. Hope that tomorrow will be easier.

jenn from much to my delightOctober 10, 2013 - 5:31 pm

Amazing! Why should you not treat this adventure like a vacation?! I would approach it the same way, and after your posts…I kind of want to!!!

Dannielle @ ChicaDeeDeeOctober 11, 2013 - 4:54 am

I honestly love these updates, and your approach to this whole thing. And this just goes to show, wine actually DOES make everything better. Life isn’t a race, it’s a journey, keep on having fun and exploring!

LydiaOctober 11, 2013 - 10:58 am

Serena,

I love the way you are really appreciating the places you are seeing and not rushing through the Camino like a race. I am really hoping to do the Camino soon, and your blog has really inspired me to actually make it happen. I think I will be a similar pilgrim – with the route and especially being slow with the old people. Anyway, I am living in La CoruΓ±a now (30 minutes from Santiago). If you are interested in seeing a fun and beautiful city Galician coast when you finish, message me on Facebook! I can’t offer accommodation (as I am living with a 75 year old woman), but I can offer a friendly SAS face πŸ˜‰

Besos,

Lydia

LoraOctober 12, 2013 - 9:34 am

Someone broke their foot on the FIRST day?—and then is continuing on??? I thought people only did that when they were being herded toward a concentration camp.

StefaniOctober 12, 2013 - 3:44 pm

Just wanted to drop a note to say thanks for sharing about your Camino de Santiago adventures! I studied abroad in Spain way back when and walked a very small part of the trail on a field trip; it’s fun to follow your adventures and bask in a little nostalgia πŸ™‚ Enjoy, Spain is a special place!

Accidental LondonerOctober 13, 2013 - 6:09 am

I love your style! Good on you guys for actually viewing the Camino as something to enjoy. So many people I know who’ve done it have focused on the pilgrimage aspect and whizzed from end to end in great pain without taking the time to actually have any fun or indulge themselves at all. You guys are doing my kind of pilgrimage!

DaniellaOctober 14, 2013 - 8:16 am

Love you blog! Stumlbed across it a month of so ago. Love loving all Camino trip and updates. Wow, I’m sitting in my office on this gloomy fall day in Seattle day dreaming about Spain. Good Luck!

LauraOctober 14, 2013 - 2:10 pm

I love these posts and I love that you are going at your own pace and ENJOYING it. The Camino is a metaphor for life, every hour, every day and every Camino can be broken down into lessons. Rushing through it, I think many fail to see these.

Megan C. StroupOctober 15, 2013 - 10:37 pm

Who could visit Spain and NOT drink all the wine? When I was in Spain recently, we asked our waiter what the traditional Spanish drink was so we could order it. He told us, “We have wine, and wine, and ……. wine. And ……. wine. And …… wine.” He continued this until we ordered some wine. πŸ˜‰