Walking Everyday

Happy Easter, my friends.

This is day two of my week long blog-a-thon where I look back on lessons from the Camino in order to inspire others and myself. It’s my way of reconnecting with my Camino six years after my walk. And I like writing.

When folks asked me how many miles I walked in Spain, I would say five hundred. That usually led to a look of shock and awe. I would then reassure the person that I didn’t walk five hundred miles in one day. I walked between twenty and thirty miles each day, went to sleep at night, got up the next day, and walked twenty to thirty more.

My hardest day to get up and walk was Day Two in Roncesvalles, but I got up and walked anyway. What was I going to do? Stay in Roncesvalles and think about walking the next day? Besides, they were kicking us out of the albergue.

When I was training for my Camino, I didn’t focus on being super fit. Instead, I focused on getting up and walking every day. Slowly, I worked my way up to walking five days.

It’s not about the big number, the five hundred miles. It’s about all the little numbers. It’s about the three miles to the next café where I will have a café con leche. It’s about the twenty-three I walked that day. It’s about all the little things that I did every day to get myself to where I wanted to be.

Even though I do not put new words on paper every day, I do work at writing every day. I read. I rewrite. I brainstorm new ideas. I find ways to get my words to readers. I work at it every day. It has become natural to me like walking on the Camino.

I love what I do, most of the time. Sometimes, it’s challenging. Sometimes, I go to sleep at night tired and frustrated. But then I get up the next day and do it all again.

Take a Step Back, Look Around, Walk Forward

On April 6, 2012, I walked out of St. Jean Pied de Porte and started walking the Camino Frances. I did not know on that cool misty morning that my life or rather my attitude about life would change in the next six years. I did not know that I had everything I needed (too much in fact). I just knew that I was going to walk to Roncesvalles.

Now, six years later, as 2018 starts, I have taken a step back as I ask myself what do I really want to do with my time on the planet. I looked at my website and I asked myself, what do I want to do with it? What do I want to do with my blogs?

I restarted the Happy Robot blog because I enjoy riffing on things that are happening in the ether. It’s fun for me to just throw down some words. It always has been. But what do I want to do with the blog on this website?The answer came easily. My mission on this site is to inspire Camino walkers and other aspiring adventurers.

Yay Jen!

But how am I going to do that? I soon decided to write a series of blogs about random ideas related to the Camino and to my life. I don’t want to write about the practical. I want to write about those intangible things that keep popping up in my head. Maybe these blogs will help others. Maybe these blogs will help me.

I decided to make it a specific series, so it doesn’t get out of control. I will post a new blog every day between now and April 6th, the 6th anniversary of the start of my Camino.

I can’t always walk forward. Sometimes, I have to take a step back and look around. Sometimes, I need to look at the scenery. Sometimes, I need to drink some water or catch my breath. Then when I’m ready to go again, I’ll start walking forward. Adelante.

 

 

Why Did I Write These Books

The first of November will be the fourth anniversary of the publishing of The Slacker Pilgrim Guide. How did four years go by? It seemed liked not so long ago when I walked into Santiago de Compostella on a cloudy morning. I had no lodging booked. I just knew I had done what I set out to do, and I was so happy that I had done it. And the next day, I walked out of Santiago to go to Finisterra.

In my Osprey pack, I also had a notebook filled with notes and ramblings that I hoped to make into a book. The journey from notebook to ebook was as long as the Camino. I had to learn a whole new form and new way of writing. I also would discover a whole new way of connecting with the world. . .but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Recently the question of why I write these walking books was posed to me. I’m not completely sure why I write these books. I just do. Maybe if I talk about how I write the books, the why will become evident to me.

The Slacker Pilgrim Guide began simply. I was walking the Camino and thought, what if I wrote a book about the Camino. What if I wrote about all the little details—like Ladies Rooms and Café Con Leche. Instead of talking about the life changing epiphanies, what if I talked about the human and the humorous.

In 2012, the Camino was becoming more popular because of the film, The Way, and thanks to ebooks and the internet, one could learn about it. I knew that I had to get my book out quickly because the information in it was timely. I learned about ebooks and how to put a book up on Amazon.

The Camino had given me a certain courage to just put the book out there, but as a failed playwright, I was prepared for silence. I was prepared for only friends reading it. I was not prepared for the book to spread far and wide and for the book to connect me with so many people I had never met.

I became a Camino cheerleader. You can do it. Yes, you can do it. Sure, it’s gonna hurt. Sure, it might get uncomfortable. Go for it. I had never been a cheerleader. Cheerleaders did not appeal to my absurdist view of things, but I do know that a positive voice is what you need when you’re about to do something that might be a little crazy.

Through these books I have connected with folks. My story and my perspective have led me to hearing other stories and other perspectives. There was an exchange.

So why did I write the walking book and why do I continue to write walking books? At first, it was just an idea I had. But it was an idea that has developed into something larger. It is an idea that goes around the world and back again. It’s an idea that leads to connection and community. It’s an idea that makes me a better human.

I am not a super hiker. I am not a superior human being. I am just a person. I have faults. I get angry and upset and worried and scared like everyone else. But I have had moments when I see the good in myself and the world. I can walk for long distances (with cafes along the way) and everything starts to look good.

I like that you can go to a country and walk through it. I live in a country that is huge, and there are parts where that is difficult to do. I like seeing a place one step at a time. I like the slowness of a walking pace. I like it when I get a beautiful view after a little bit of work. All I had to do was start.

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Walking Offseason on the Via Francigena

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From late October through November this year, my partner and I walked for 28 days on the Via Francigena from Fidenza (an hour and a half train ride out of Milan) to Rome. Because we both worked in the summer months, we had to wait until the end of October to start our walk, so we were walking offseason.

With almost no knowledge of Italian, we stumbled through Italy for 600 kilometers through sun, rain, and mud. We had done the Camino Frances in Spain, but the Via Francigena in November was tougher. The route was well-marked and sign posted, but the infrastructure was not as strong as in Spain. In some places the accommodations were limited. Also, the route could go a whole day without passing into a town although the cappuccino was consistently excellent.

Still, I liked walking the Via Francigena. It was like the Camino Italian Style. On our walk, we went over the Cissa Pass and into Tuscany with some beautiful landscape. There were also some amazing churches along the route especially in Lucca and Siena. After Tuscany, we went into Lazio, walked through Bolsena, Viterbo, and finally into St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

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Like the Camino, pilgrims carry a credential which gets stamped at every stop. Then, you can get a testimonium if you walk more than a hundred kilometers. Even though I was focused on getting to Rome for most of the walk, I did not pursue the mighty testimonium. I guess it wasn’t important to me anymore. Maybe I really am a slacker pilgrim at heart.

If you are thinking of walking offseason on the Via Francigena, there are both advantages and disadvantages. There were no crowds of pilgrims on the Via Francigena and no crowds of tourists in Tuscany. We only met only one other walking pilgrim in our month on the road although we did see pilgrims a few days ahead had left notes in the books at the osperias (pilgrim accommodations).

In November, many of the osperias were closed, but in the ones that were opened, we were the only pilgrims in the place. When there were no osperias, we stayed in B&Bs which were around 45 euro for the night for both of us while the osperias ranged in price from donation to 40 euro for both us. Also, most of the osperias had no heat, so it got mighty cold at night.

Speaking of heat, it was never too hot or too cold for walking. When it rained (and it rained a lot), the temperature stayed warm. It would be cold in the morning and after the sun went down (which was early, usually by 5pm). We walked north to south, so temperatures got warmer as we went.

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When we finally made it to St. Peter’s Square, we were able to sit in the sun and soak up the heat like the little lizards we had seen on our walk. We had also gotten to see an Italy that most tourists don’t see.

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And yes, I am writing a book about it.