Camino de no thank you

The only person I know to have walked the Camino de Santiago was an acquaintance from The SFU Writer’s Studio, Barb Kmiec. Before I heard a few stories from Barb, it was something I thought I might like to do one day.  I was impressed that a) she did it alone, and b) she survived it. I’m not positive she did the entire route, but I do believe she did complete enough of it to get the certificate.  After hearing about it, I made a decision right then that I could check off this quasi-desire and label it, Camino de no thank you.

The walking appeals to me. The hordes of peregrinos (pilgrims) and the sleeping options would preclude my taking the first step. Not to mention that lately, my weak right ankle, (an old basketball injury), and one crooked toe that I’m guessing has some minor arthritis, would have to get sorted out. The thought of sleeping in a room full of others, in a bad bunk, after a day of walking 15-25 km, reminded me of the worst hosteling experience I had in London in 2001 and in Edinburgh somewhere on the Royal Mile.

In London, just after arriving, wide-eyed and a little overwhelmed because I hadn’t stayed in a hostel for a long time at that point, I was kept awake all night by man in the bunk above me. He was non-stop snoring. He didn’t speak English. We couldn’t communicate and we were the only ones in the two-bunk room. This went on for three nights. By the third evening, I was practically homicidal. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to just ask for a different room. Duh!

I do not want to re-experience that or sleep in a room full of people in an uncomfortable bed that thousands of others have slept in before me. I do not want to deal with disgusting, painful blisters to do a pilgrimage that, from a spiritual perspective, I don’t really know at this point why I’d do, and for me, the spiritual, not the physical, would be the point, although I gather they’re inextricably linked.

I’m telling you this because last weekend I found myself ordering a small guidebook, Camino Francés, written by Bryson Guptill, from P.E.I., that I’d seen referenced recently on social media. I’ll call it a no frills guide. You can read it in a night or less. You’ll get the route he took with tips, some photos, and exact GPS-plotted distances. If you’re looking to whet your appetite, this could be one book to have in your arsenal. I do have to give a warning about the quality of its binding however. It would probably not survive more than a few days in a pack. Maybe he’ll rethink that on the next printing and use a cerlox bind instead.

“Are you going to walk the Camino this year?” he asked me in an e-mail that he wrote back to me when I ordered the book.

‘No,’ I said. ‘Not this year. Probably not at all. But just in case.’

And it was that part of the sentence, ‘just in case’ and the fact that it had popped out of my mouth, [where the heck did that come from?], that left me both curious and a little worried. I mean, that I actually took the time to order the book did not escape my curious attention either.

Then yesterday morning after reading his book, I was up, unintentionally,  way too early, and I decided I must re-watch, The Way, with Martin Sheen. But it wasn’t to be found on Netflix.  Instead, I came across another film, Footprints: The path of your life, a documentary about 10 American guys led by a young Catholic priest from Arizona. I thought it was really good because of its focus on spirituality (in this case Catholicism) and besides you don’t often see a movie about 10 guys, with at least one who’d had some major losses to overcome, make it happen.

At some point, past the halfway mark, the group realized that the slowest members had to come first, regardless of how slow they might be. Halfway through they found a unique solution for making that happen on the major inclines. You’ll have to watch it to discover what that was. Apparently seven of the 10, just in case you’re still romanticizing such a trip, had to seek medical attention during the 40 day experience (this little tidbit runs quietly across the screen at the end of the movie).

I couldn’t stop thinking of my friend Dave Brent when I watched it  For all I know, he’s way ahead of me and he’s in training for it with all the walks he leads around the Lower Mainland as a secret warm up.  Dave, are you holding out on us as to your ultimate walking motivation?

So just wondering, how many of you secretly desire to do the Camino de Santiago? Have you already done it? Got any unique tips?

Walking and social media and a blast from the past

About six weeks ago, I had a gallbladder attack so severe that I had to call an ambulance. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to call an ambulance for yourself but it’s a really hard thing to do. It always seems to be required at 3:30 am when the dark and the silence closes in to make the decision even starker.

Now, I figured out pretty quickly that it must be a gallbladder attack because three years ago, I thought I was having a heart attack that turned out to be a gallbladder attack. This time though, I just put two and two together. Besides, I’d made the horrible mistake of eating an entire bag of Salsa Fresca rice chips that night and I don’t even really know what Salsa Fresca means but to my gallbladder it meant, “Are you #@!! kidding me?”

About a week afterwards, the episode still vivid, and the tenderness of my right side subsiding, I decided to make a few changes. They recommended surgery but I’m kind of a surgery-over-my-dead-body kind of gal. Especially when lifestyle and food choices are the problem. Why convict my innocent, abused gall bladder? How about taking some personal responsibility?

I Googled extensively. I punched in the words gallbladder and liver and all sorts of “natural” remedies popped up.  I settled on assembling this beet, carrot, apple juice, apple cider vinegar concoction which required boiling the carrots and the beets first and then blendering them so as to drink it through a straw (so as not to stain my teeth). I chose to forego the natural remedy that required the ingestion of Epsom Salts but claimed to rid the body of gall stones, in contrast to medical papers that refute such a thing is naturally possible.

I started taking a Milk Thistle supplement for my liver. I stopped drinking alcohol, except if the social occasion and my mood dictated that I felt like one drink. Everything in moderation. Even moderation. I stopped drinking coffee, at least on a daily basis, as a way of not starting the morning with a spoon full of sugar because black coffee is not something I desire to ever acclimatize to. Now I just put on the kettle and squeeze an organic lemon of its juice and drink that first thing. Good for the liver.

I’ve started eating much better, following the philosophy of that guy Michael Pollan and the example of my friend Gwen. “Eat. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

And, I started walking. I bought a pair of Skechers which helps me to feel like I’m walking in slippers. I put on a pedometer (because I’m old school and don’t want to send the money on a Fitbit) and marked off the days that I walked. In August, I walked between 2 and 4 miles, sometimes 5 miles max. on all but four of the 31 days, not including the tiny steps around the apartment, around the block walking.

I also knew I would need some accountability and inexplicably the first person who popped into my head was Gary. It’s kind of weird that I should choose him since I haven’t seen him in 18 years when we met on a trip through the Yucatan and into Chiapas.  We hadn’t even kept in touch in the last decade although I did see him for one day sometime around 2005 when he came to Squamish for an Outward Bound course.

gary

Gary, 18 years ago in Chiapas

He seemed like the perfect accountability buddy to me: super fit and on the other side of the country. He couldn’t really get in my face should I get lazy. I’m sure it seemed alarmingly weird that I should contact him for such a thing but to his credit, without missing a beat, he was ready to play along.

It took just one sentence from him complaining about someone he knew to really drive home my lack of commitment to exercise.  He said, and I quote, “I have to get up and go to work every day and drive, sometimes 90 minutes back fighting traffic and she can’t even spend one hour of her entire day getting some exercise.” Hello! Was he talking about me? He might as well have been. And that’s how it began.

Now six weeks later, I feel like I’ve really hit my stride. Five miles takes about 1.5 hours. The  circumferences that my legs are carrying me is ever-widening the way circles push out from the center when you drop a pebble into a pond. At this point I have to remind myself that I’m not aiming for Forrest Gump wannabe, I’m just trying to get a little exercise on a mostly daily basis and it’s working. At the same time, I’m experiencing the beautiful side effects of all sorts of weird and interesting ideas flowing through my consciousness that seem to be a direct result of the body’s physical movement.

I text Gary when I’m done. “5.1 miles. 10,817 steps. Fav time to walk? Late Sunday afternoon. Just got back” He texts me back. “Wow.”  “That’s great.” “You’re getting more exercise than I am.”

And, of course, we text about more than walking. We’ve learned a lot more about each others current lives in the process. In the meantime, I’ve lost 9 pounds and my gallbladder has been happily silent.