I am one hour from my 24 hour online check-in with Delta. Departure for the first leg of my trip is tomorrow, but I am timing this letter to arrive in your email-box while I am somewhere over the Atlantic and well on my way to Lisbon.
At this moment I am a torrent of emotions; anxiety, excitement, anticipation… I apologize if I have been shorts with you as this day drew nearer. I’ve imperfectly tried to suppress my tendency to become annoying at partings. You have known this in me for over 48 years, and to your credit you accept this as what conspires to define “me”.
Talking to you this way feels odd, but also familiar. I had forgotten that 47 years ago I sent you daily letters while I was off solo camping and backpacking in Colorado. You gave me another new insight into our history when you revealed yesterday that you still have those letters. Someday I will have to see what the 23 year old me revealed to you. I don’t think we have ever since shared in writing our thoughts to each other.
35 days is not so long to be apart, yet today it looms before me like an impenetrable wall of time. I need to focus on the moment and not “count the days”. I need to embrace my journey and not my destination.
I promise that I will listen to my body. I will also listen to my spirit. I will be open to taking alternate paths, making decisions in the context of the day and not be driven by my expectations. Although I have largely abandoned the practice of religion, I intend to use my faith roots as the language to embrace and appreciate the centuries of worshipers and places of worship that my footsteps will mirror.
I already miss you, even though you are at the other end of the house, not knowing that I am “speaking to you” now with my fingers. My bag is packed and remains heavier than I would like. So it is with my heart. Perhaps the later will ease a bit when I land and become preoccupied with adapting to Portugal.
Love to you, our children, and our grandchildren. Peter
In 5 days I depart for Portugal and Spain to pursue my third hike on the Camino de Santiago. This time feels different, understandable because it is. Christine will not be with me, I’m 70 years old (instead of 60 and 65 as when I departed on the first 2 Caminos), it is fall rather than the spring, Europe is just emerging from the COVID lockdowns, and there are other distinctions. Apprehension plays an emotional part.
My pack is 95% made but annoyingly heavy at just over 20 pounds. Today I will try and better discern what in my pack is necessary and what is “just in case” which should be excluded. Portugal and Spain are not third world countries. What needs may arise can be met there at stores, shops, and pharmacies.
Over the last month I have hiked nearly every day between 5 and 7 miles in preparation for the 10-15 miles I expect to cover overseas. The last few days these hikes have been with my pack. As a result my back is “talking to me” upon awakening in the morning. Ibuprofen helps.
It remains my intention to share my experiences in posts and pictures, however I have mused that I might approach it differently this time. Since Christine will not be with me until early November when we meet in Barcelona I knew I would be sending her daily updates. It occurred to me that I might “kill two birds with one stone” and write my posts as open letters to her. I ran this by her and shared the idea with a few friends. The reception by friends has been positive. Christine approves and has even proposed that I include portions of her emails to me, with some posts taking the form of a dialogue.
One friend pointed out that Ken Burns’ documentary series on the American Civil War featured readings from letters exchanged between soldiers and their spouses. The deeper insights these letters provided illuminated not only the events but the impact of those events upon the lives of the authors. Of course, those letters were written without the knowledge that they would be shared more than a century later.
Christine and I will share our experience and our deeper feelings with you. What that will look like, and how it plays out remain to be seen.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. Most of you receive alerts to my posts by email. Some of you read these posts when I share them on Facebook. I have found that Facebook does not always include them on everyone’s feed. If you wish to receive an email link from me when a post is published then please let me know and I will add you to my list. Pete
18 days and counting to my departure for Portugal. This will be my third hike to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, this time on the Portuguese coastal route. If all goes well I will hike from Porto, Portugal, to Santiago and then continue to the Atlantic coastal villages of Finisterre and Muxia before returning to Santiago. Over the course of 35 days I intend to cover about 300 miles on foot.
From Santiago I will travel to Barcelona to meet Christine in early November. Whether I transit Spain to meet her by train, plane, or bus is as yet undecided. From Barcelona we will travel aboard a Viking cruise ship to northern and western Africa, cross the Atlantic, and make ports-of-call in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.
Our homecoming in Kansas City is scheduled for early December.
What, if any of this, is an adventure? What is “an adventure”? These are questions that have been running through my mind recently.
The term “adventure” is often casually thrown around to describe any number of activities. These can include everything from cross-continent travel by bicycle to a weekend outing with the family; from blue-water ocean sailing to kayaking on a small placid lake. So what qualifies anything as “an adventure”?
First of all, there can be no adventure without the participation of the “adventurer”. Adventures are measured in the context of the participant.
Walking to the mailbox is hardly an adventure, unless the person is near 100 years old, with failing balance, and dependent upon the use of a walker. My now deceased father-in-law who very nearly made it to 102, embarked upon an adventure every time he stepped out of his home.
Adventures are things typically out of the ordinary. They present aspects of risk, challenge, and uncertainty.
So, is my forthcoming venture, an “adventure”?
First of all, my travel itinerary is not so unusual for me. What is unusual is that I am proceeding solo, Christine will not be at my side. With the exception of a few short camping trips and 4 Atlantic Ocean sailing passages, we have traveled nearly 50 years together and shared our “adventures” in lockstep.
Second. I’m 70 years old. While I enjoy good health and vigor for my age, I do suffer from some conditions that raise the specter of risk, challenge, and uncertainty. Of course there are the typical age related eye and hearing issues, the morning aches that work out quickly, and balance that is not what it once was. What conjures a measure of anxiety for me are two other conditions.
Since childhood I have exhibited tremors diagnosed as Familial Essential Tremors. “Familial” in that I inherited the condition from my mother, a life-long sufferer, “essential” in that it is idiopathic with no external cause, and “tremor” which describes the uncontrollable shaking that occurs when attempting a task. It is the most common motion disorder known to medicine, with about 10% of the population exhibiting symptoms to some extent. For most people it does not impact daily life. I am not most people.
Over the last decade my “shakes” have become progressively worse. I have difficulty writing. Putting a key in a lock requires two hands, as does holding a cup or glass without spilling. I am confronted hundreds of times each day by the impact ET has upon routine tasks. I have been fortunate that Christine always helps, but she won’t be there to bail me out when I have to carry a plate of food across the room or pass the bread and butter to others sharing my table. Her absence certainly makes the coming trip more “adventurous”.
Last year I tripped one night in the dark while camping. I recovered my balance without falling to the ground, but in the process severely strained my right knee. It has not been the same ever since.
Three weeks ago while doing a 5 mile training hike in Kansas City my knee briefly locked up. I had to call Christine to pick me up. Elevating the leg and applying ice with gentle range of motion exercises brought relief, but residual pain and swelling sent me to an orthopedist. An MRI was conducted with the results, “…a complex radial and horizontal tear… of the medial meniscus… displaced meniscal fragment…”. There was more, but you get the point. I am scheduled for surgery in mid-December.
I have continued my daily training walks of 5-7 miles without further incident, but that one experience three weeks ago gives me pause. Christine will not be a phone call away should I be unable to hike.
Risk, challenge, uncertainty. These things will all be present in ways that are unusual for me. Yes, this is an adventure and I face it by choice. I’ve been asked “Why” to which I reply, “Don’t put off until tomorrow the things you may then find you are unable to do.” I will soon find out if I am unable to do this.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. We each share in common the two greatest adventures. One begins with the first breath we take, and the second begins with the last.
We are heading west to our home in Kansas City. Our estimated day of arrival is Sunday, August 7th. In.the meantime we have just spent two wonderful nights camping near Quebec City. This is our third visit to this delightful place which exudes more of a European than North American flavor.
We weathered a bit of rain, but when the sun came out so did the people, the colors, and the street performers.
On each visit we have “splurged a little“ in the bar at the Hotel du Frontenac. Just drinks and a charcuterie for 2 was well north of CA $200 before tip.
Ahead of us before Kansas City is a two night visit with friends in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and a brief stopover to see a longtime friend in my hometown of Crete, Illinois.
I anticipate that I will be “going silent” now until we are back home.
Once home I will then begin preparations for a 10 week journey that returns me to the Portuguese Camino, extending my foot-trek beyond Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre and Muxia in Spain, a total of nearly 500 km.. This will be part of a grand journey to 4 continents, 9 countries, covering over 30,000 km. Included will be a transit by ship of the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Stay tuned!
At the end of this post are a few more pictures from yesterday. For those who wish to dig a bit deeper the following link will take you to my pictures and travelogue from September 2018. Enjoy!