Letting Go on the Camino de Santiago
Why the wait?
Boy, this newsletter is long overdue. I’ve promised to share details about my week long hike between the French Pyrenees and Spain’s Rioja region at least five times in the past three months, but each time I tried, I just couldn’t do it justice, and there are a few reasons.
One, I’m not a travel writer. I’ve never been great about repeating the history and facts I learn about an area. What I hold onto are the feelings that a trip evokes in me: How I feel standing in a field or on a mountain top I could’ve never found on my own; experiencing the beauty of anonymity and humility in a crowd of people whose language I can’t speak; or recognizing that the world is huge, and the realities and perspectives in it are diverse and not exclusive to my own.
I also love seeing the native flowers and animals (see donkey above). I love connecting with nature. I enjoy architecture.
So how did I feel as my partner and I (along with ten other guests and five guides) made our way from Biarritz, France through Basque country to Bilbao, Spain over six days?Liberated: I was unplugged and connecting with nature and my partner every day and all day.
Purposeful: Every morning I knew what I was doing from sun-up to sundown.
Mindful: There’s something about hiking in new places that slows life down to the “now.” (The huffing and puffing help, too.)
Stimulated: Everywhere I looked was new to me, and I made new friends with different life lessons.
Hopeful: Miles upon miles of rolling hills and native plants reassure me there are some areas humans will never touch.
Grateful: I’m so lucky to be with my partner. He’s one of my favorite people and the only person I want to spend so much time with.
Satisfied: At the end of each day, we slept like newborn puppies.
The second reason I haven’t talked more about the trip is that I “let go” which is a vulnerable experience to share.Many of you have probably heard about the Camino de Santiago. It began as a religious pilgrimage (see above mention on how I’m not good about relaying historical facts). Today, the Camino de Santiago isn’t exclusively a religious journey. It’s a journey for avid hikers as well as people on spiritual journeys who are trying to let go of something or move-on in their lives. Some hikers are cancer survivors. Others are saying hello to a new era in their lives while accepting the end of their marriage. Some are celebrating sobriety. Some people are retiring and transitioning from their career identity. Many people carry a memento that they plan to symbolically throw over a cliff in Santiago de Compostela at the end of their journey.So what did I let go of other than the trappings of my daily routine and technology? I let go of my fear about publishing my novel, Tiger Drive. But what was my fear?
Well, I can’t seem to convince my entire family that Tiger Drive is fiction. No matter how many times I say it’s fiction, some relatives still tell people that it’s a true story (nope, they haven’t read any of it). The idea that someone might read the novel and think it’s a memoir horrifies me. My youngest sister, who has actually read it a few times, says the idea that someone might read it and think it’s true is laughable. She’s right, but still . . .
Goodness, as recently as two weeks ago, my mother told anyone who would listen that my book is full of “inconsistencies” and “misrepresents” her—yeah, BECAUSE IT’S FICTION and not about her. See? Got to chuckle.
While I didn’t know about the Camino de Santiago’s modern day tradition of “letting go” when we took our first step, once I heard about it, I asked myself, what am I carrying that isn’t in my control? The answer was immediate.
Thanks to thousands upon thousands of steps, I was able to toss my worries to the wind and accept that I can only write and publish Tiger Drive, and I’ll never be able to control how people respond to it, including my family. Novels and songs are similar in that the reader and listener will take from the words what he/she wants to take away, or what resonates with him or her. The takeaway is, ultimately, up to them. And so, I let go of my concerns, and I’m in the process of learning the future publication date of Tiger Drive. You’ll be the first to know when it’s available.
We weren’t on the Camino de Santiago the entire trip, only portions of it, but the walk can be followed by anyone. There are Scallop Shell markers throughout the journey on trees, rocks, trails, street signs, sidewalks in the cities, and sides of buildings. The Camino de Santiago goes over hills and through fields, small villages, and large cities. Even after the walking portion of our trip ended, Ted and I often spotted “de Santiago-ers” on our trip.
I highly recommend taking this trip: Backroads Walking & Hiking from French Pyrenees to Spain’s Rioja Region.
Oh, and next time I travel, I think I’ll write short newsletters each day (as I originally intended) and send them to you. This way, you can be on the journey with me before it collectively becomes “too big” to share.
Do you have an experience that is just too big to share with others, or do you have something you need to “let go”? I’d love to hear more.
As always, thanks for being you.
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