Friday, April 24, 2015
My friend Dani is going for a 500-mile walk. She’s leaving tonight but I suspect from her recent demeanor that she’s already been gone for a while. That’s generally what happens when you’re off on a grand adventure. You actually leave a long time before you go.
She’ll be doing the Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James. She’ll begin at St. Jean Pied du Port in southern France and cross the Pyrenees, then walk west in Spain through Basque country and end up in Santiago de Compostela, near the Atlantic Ocean. Legend has it this is where the remains of St. James are buried. She’ll have plenty of company. The trek draws thousands of pilgrims a year on foot, on bicycle, and occasionally on horseback or mules.
Dani has been preparing for this trip for months. Her pack will weigh seventeen pounds, though she was hoping for fifteen. She has weighed every single item she’ll be carrying, and she recently spent the better part of fifteen minutes worrying about the weight of a hairbrush. She is not taking make-up. Nor will she be carrying her heavy camera, though she will have an iPad and an iPhone. She is prepared for rain, as this is the wet season, and she has spent a part of each weekend for the last few months slogging through mud and muck. Her favorite saying is that it’s not poor weather, it’s poor equipment.
Dani wants to write a book about her Camino, which is what she calls it. She’s already blogged about it extensively and I’ve no doubt the experiences garnered on the trail will be worth reading.
She’s hoping the long time away—almost six weeks—will help her come to some decisions about her life, and harden her resolve regarding some choices already made. She’s young, attractive, smart and single. She has a good job that doesn’t fully satisfy her creative urges. Like many writers, photographers, musicians and other imaginative sorts, she’s torn between having the security of a salary and the lure of inspired self-employment. She’d like to be able to devote her full existence to the craft she’s honing, and make a living at it. She’s also savvy enough to realize that earning a paycheck from your passion is iffy. Almost all artists will tell you it’s more famine than feast.
I’m envious. Decades ago I went to that area of France and Spain and spent a summer in Santander. The Camino existed then, of course—it’s been traveled by pilgrims since before the Middle Ages—but I never heard of it.
I’ve started looking at websites; Dani has lent me a couple of books. I too have to make some decisions about the future. The Camino is tempting.