I recently celebrated a birthday. 32. Which is, I hate to point out, not all that young. I have no idea what I imagined I’d be doing at 32 but it was definitely not this. The good news is that this is so much better.
It’s funny how life can change in the blink of an eye if you’re open to it. I used to hate surprises. That was my control freak side trying to keep the scales tipped in its favor. But I’ve loosened over the past year and a half. I’ve learned to roll with things, to shrug my shoulders and laugh a little more and relax the death grip I used to keep on this big, bad world of ours.
Which is why it took me about only 48-hours to come to terms with my birthday gift. It was a shocker of a gift, given to me by my husband Brian who usually does not do such things without consulting with me first.
When I first opened the gift I couldn’t quite comprehend what it was. I thought Brian had written me a letter. But when I unfolded that innocuous piece of paper, tucked so tidy into my birthday card, I saw that I was not staring at a letter but at an itinerary. “What’s this?” I asked.
What it turned out to be is a one-way ticket to Spain and an unexpected push to do something that I have always wanted to do. It’s a plane ticket to Pamplona which will land me within spitting distance of the start of the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across the entire width of Spain.
The Camino de Santiago. This is a bicycle map but the route is essentially the same as the one I’ll be walking.
I’ve never traveled alone before, not for any period of time. I want to. I want to test my limits, to prove to myself that I can navigate the world without relying on my husband or on anyone else. I want to know what it is like to own every single hour of the day. My soul tells me that this is an experience that I need and want in my life, but it scares the shit out of me.
“You’ve been talking about doing this for a long time,” Brian said to me when I finally recovered from the shock of that plane ticket. “But you weren’t going to do it. Now you will.” Then he added for good measure, “The plane ticket is non-refundable.”
So I’m going.
And I’ll be walking the entire 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
I know plenty of people travel alone. I’m not exactly breaking new ground here. But this is a huge step for me, a major stretch of my limits.
I am so excited and so scared. And I feel guilty about leaving Brian behind in suburban Ohio to tend to our dogs and clean my in-law’s pool while I go find myself on the ancient road to Santiago. Still, mostly I am excited. Excited. Scared. Excited. Scared.
(It is interesting how the words scared and sacred so closely resemble each other.)
After Spain, all plans remain unchanged. Brian will leave Ohio for SE Asia sometime in early October. I’ll meet him there when I’ve completed the walk.
I leave for Spain on September 18th.
Have you walked the Camino de Santiago? I’d love to hear your tips and advice.
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