Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25, 2013

Just under 700 km. 425 miles. 43 days.

I wanted to do something extraordinary.

So I did.

To be continued...

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24, 2013

Words seem inadequate. I have worked so hard for this for so long, and here it is. I don't know how I feel. It's a mix of emotion swirling around inside of me, making me both sick to my stomach and giddy with excitement. This morning I walked through my last magical, mystical Galician forest. When I emerged, the finality of it all was immediately evident when I saw the airplane lifting off from the runway before me at the Santiago airport.

Gone are the long moments of peace when everyone I started the day with has walked on, and those from the town behind have yet to catch up. Gone are the opportunities to simply pause and allow the chaos around me to pass, while also allowing me to catch my breath and find the peace once again.

But are those moments and opportunities really gone? Or have I finally learned the secret to finding that peace within myself, despite my circumstances and my surroundings. I need only to return to those forests in my mind and tranquility will be restored.

The gratitude I feel in my soul is immeasurable.

For my friends and my family and those I barely know who have lifted me up and supported me in my darkest times, and celebrated with me in my joys and successes. For those who made this possible in one way another, giving me your time and your energy and your love.

For the opportunity to walk the Camino. There have been parts of it I didn't care for at all, but each of those was a learning experience and an opportunity to grow. And each of those has already been overshadowed by the true miracles I experienced along the way. This journey has changed me in ways it would have taken years to accomplish in my day to day life. If ever.

For my courage to take the leap and actually follow through with this. How many times did I want to quit, both during the preparation and the walk itself. But those times don't matter. What matters is, I DIDN'T quit. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, and I succeeded.

In the spirit of my life lesson to Let Go to Receive, the time has come to say goodbye to the Camino. Some of you know how bad I am at goodbyes. There are always lots of tears. Tomorrow will be no different. A big part of my life will be over. In the past. The future is a blank page, still unwritten. What I write on that page is my creation. That blank page no longer seems so overwhelming.

Thanks to the lessons of the Camino, I have learned that tears don't make you weak. Refusing to ask for and accept help doesn't make you strong. I have learned to watch for and follow the signs. They are everywhere, if you just know where to look. I have learned to trust in myself, in others, and in God. In the same way that the Camino always provides, so it is with the Universe.


Natasha Bedingfield "Unwritten"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23, 2013

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."

I've heard this quote by Marianne Williamson many times, but it never really hit home until I walked the Camino. My deepest fear really was that I was powerful beyond measure. That's a lot to live up to. It seemed easier to live beneath my capabilities, blaming it on one inadequacy or another.

Today the quote just popped in my mind as I walked. I thought to myself that I needed to look it up and read it again when I had access to wifi, since I couldn't remember it exactly. When I stopped for lunch, I logged into Facebook and what do you know, the first post I saw linked to this video of Marianne reading the quote herself.

I now know that I am indeed powerful beyond measure, and that I have not only the right, but also the responsibility, to live up to that fact. I'm going to let the video say the rest.

P.S. I don't know how to embed the actual YouTube video in this blog from Spain. It keeps trying to add a version with a Spanish voice over, so click the link below to watch the video on YouTube. You'll be glad you did. It's worth the 4:40 of time.

Marianne Williamson "Our Deepest Fear" 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 22, 2013

I've debated about posting this one, but I've let you all experience everything else with me, so why stop now. This is not intended to make anyone feel sorry for me. It is what it is.

Tonight at dinner, I watched people toasting and celebrating with each other. For many, this is their last night. Tomorrow they will arrive in Santiago. They were telling each other how great it was to have met and how much they enjoyed the camaraderie along the way. Some were exchanging email addresses and Facebook information, others were making plans to meet up for the Pilgrims' Mass at the cathedral in Santiago.

This trip has been a challenge for me. I love my alone time in my real life. In fact, I'm energized by it. But always, when I'm ready for socializing, my family and friends are just a phone call away. There has never been a monumentous occasion in my life where my family and friends haven't been there to celebrate with me.

This time is different. Finishing the Camino may possibly be the biggest thing I've ever accomplished. But when I arrive at the cathedral, there will be no smiling face to congratulate me. No friends or family to hug me. I end as I began. Alone. I guess that makes it a little bittersweet.

I know I have the support of all of you who have been following along throughout this journey of mine, and I can never sufficiently express my gratitude. What would I have done without all of you? Thank you for being there for me through it all. We're almost there...

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 21, 2013

Last night I ate dinner with a German couple. They barely spoke English, and I remember about four words from my German classes in high school, but somehow we managed to have a very nice conversation. I noticed that their guidebook now consisted of about five pages. The rest was gone. Many people will do that as they walk. They tear the pages out as they complete the stages, leaving less and less weight to carry each day. Every little bit helps when you are carrying everything on your back. I told them I had thought about doing the same thing, but I couldn't bring myself to tear out that first page. I love books, and for some reason it just seemed wrong for me to tear it up and throw it away. We even laughed when the man apologized to me for mutilating his book. It was a very brief, and seemingly inconsequential part of our conversation.

This morning, I left a few minutes before they did. Taking it slow, as usual, I had paused to breathe in the smell of the eucalyptus trees in the morning air, and to enjoy another of the magical green fairyland forests that I've come to love in Galicia. The German couple walked by, wishing me a Buen Camino. A few steps later, the man stopped, turned around, and asked me, "You love books?"

"Yes, very much."

"Do you write books?"

Holding back the sudden tears that sprang to my eyes, I said, "Not yet. But I plan to." In my head, I was thinking, "If I ever figure out how..."

He winked and tapped his head with his finger and said, "I suspected that."

He asked me if there was anything of mine he could read online. I directed him to this blog, telling him this was it for now. Then we parted ways as they walked on down the path.

Some of you who've known me for awhile will understand the significance and the incredible synchronicity of that conversation. I have been told over and over by many people that I need to write a book. I have agreed, confirming that I feel that I have a book somewhere inside of me, waiting to get out. I just don't know how to begin. I was thinking that very thing as I began to walk, the tears I had held back were now flowing freely. And suddenly I remembered that I didn't know how to walk the Camino a year ago either. It's not up to me to worry about the "how". It's my job to figure out the "what". How many times have I said that throughout this past year? How many times does this book thing have to hit me over the head before I pursue it seriously?

When I left for Spain, many people asked me what I planned to do after I got back. I always said I didn't know, but that the answer would become clear when the time was right. I had two months ahead of me with nothing to do, but think about that question. I had begun to wonder if there was even going to be an answer or if, for some reason I couldn't understand, maybe I'd return feeling just as lost about my next step as ever. Here I was, less than a week from finishing, and that sign from heaven had not yet appeared.

Until today.

That chance meeting and conversation with a stranger was no coincidence. There is no such thing as coincidence. I finally know what's next. I have no idea how. I have no idea why. I just know it's what I'm supposed to do. Wow! Does that sound familiar, or what? Pretty sure I said those exact words when I decided to walk the Camino.

And so I have come full circle. Am I ending where I began, or beginning where I end?

Does it really matter?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20, 2013

Three times today I got hopelessly lost in Melide. Three times an old man appeared wearing a brown sweater, a beret type cap, using a cane. Each time, he'd walk directly up to me and say, "A Santiago?" To Santiago? Each time, I'd say, "Si." He'd then point me in the right direction and walk away. This happened in three completely different areas of the city. Where did he come from? How did he know I was lost? Why did he choose to help me? Hmmm. Camino magic at work once again, I guess.

Yesterday I stopped a little short of my goal. Partly because my heels were hurting from the hills (again). Partly because I was freezing, and I just couldn't get warm. And partly because I was having a hard time finding a place to stay since I'd moved up my arrival in Palas de Rei. Walking fewer kilometers yesterday meant I had to make them up today. It was a little more flat, but still a long day. I'm hoping these feet of mine survive the final 50 km. I'm almost there. Then I can give them a break on a beach at an all-inclusive resort, while sipping port wine, in Portugal. Hopefully that's incentive enough to convince them I need them to last for just a few more days.

Any additional prayers and "heel"ing would be appreciated. They haven't hurt this bad since Burgos.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19, 2013

Such a mix of emotions as I entered my final week this morning. A year, and then some, of planning and preparation is about to come to an end. But with that ending comes an incredible opportunity of new beginnings. I have learned so many lessons in the past month and a half. So many, in fact, that I can't remember most of them. But not too long ago I told someone, "You don't have to remember the lessons in your head, as long as you remember them in your heart."

I am certain that I remember all of them in my heart, and I will carry them there for the rest of my life. Believe me when I say that this has been the most powerful thing I have ever done. I honestly don't know if I can match it in the future, but I won't even try. If the power I have received from walking this ancient trail is meant to be exceeded, it will come to me easily and without a doubt.

I still have work to do - A LOT of work to do - but I truly left the doubt and fear in my ability to do that work along with my stone at Cruz de Ferro. That doesn't mean I left all doubt and fear behind. It just means that I will no longer let it stand in my way. I will recognize it for what it is, and use that recognition as a chance to instead choose trust.

Six days of walking left. Six days to fully enjoy the "Me" I have come to know and love. Six days. Another lifetime in the blink of an eye.

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013

I have done the work. I have learned my lessons. And I've dragged this out long enough. It's time to finish it.

Today, I reached my intended destination at 9:30 am. Talk about not expecting enough of myself. The day I planned my stops along this part of the Camino, I noticed there was a big hill, followed by a lot of ups and downs, and finally a steep descent. Instead of breaking the stage in half, requiring two days to complete, I broke it into three days. One day to climb up the big hill, one day for all the ups and downs at the top, and one day for the big descent. Often times the downhills are tougher than the uphills.

Definitely planned that one out of fear. When I reached the place I had planned to stay for the night, I knew it was ridiculous to stop that early, so I went ahead and finished the stage, walking down the big descent too. Turns out, it wasn't all that big.  But that put me in the next town a day ahead of schedule. Thinking I could just be lazy and book a fancy hotel for a two night stay, that motivated me to really pick up the pace. I finished what I had planned to finish in two days in just one morning. I was here by noon. But there was one problem with my plan to be lazy in a fancy hotel for two nights. The nice hotels both had a room available for tonight, but were full tomorrow night.

Ok. Fine. I'll just stay in the nice hotel tonight, then move to the albergue I have booked tomorrow in the same town. All because I HAD to stay on the schedule I'd created for myself. I didn't want to risk losing out on the hotel I have booked in Santiago. But I hadn't even bothered to ask if they could change my reservation, if I arrived early.

Why not?

Honestly? I'm afraid to finish. I have been preparing for this for over a year now. It's been a huge part of my life. Even the past few weeks, as I've walked, I've imagined and re-imagined my arrival at the cathedral. What it will be like. What it will feel like. But to actually arrive there...

What if it doesn't live up to all my expectations? Or, God forbid, what if it exceeds them?

And most importantly. What comes next? The scariest question of all.

And so, as I learn another lesson along The Way, I have moved up my arrival date in Santiago. No more really short days. No more rest days. No more fear.

On June 25, just one week from tomorrow, I will reach my goal. I will finish this part of my journey. Mark your calendars. You all better be there with me in spirit!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 15, 2013

I ended up spending three nights in Sárria, instead of the two I had intended to spend, due to the money problem I had encountered. I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to resolve the issue before the weekend arrived. There was a lot of patiently, and not so patiently, waiting as I figured out how to get cash, so I spent some time on the internet, researching the things to do and see while I was here, once I had cash in hand.

Everything I read about the city was extremely negative. Most said it was an ugly city, suitable only as a starting point for the last stage of the Camino, where those who were completing just the minimum 100 km required to receive a Compostella would begin. One blog said Sárria had no redeeming qualities, no hidden gems and it didn't even have a historic center like most of the other larger cities in Spain. After reading that, I explored the option of rearranging the reservations I had in Santiago, so I could leave Sárria and arrive in Santiago earlier. I'm so glad I decided instead to stay on schedule, and honor my desire to experience the cities and the architecture of Spain, instead of just walking the Camino every day. All I have to say to the people who wrote those things is, you weren't looking very hard. There is a wonderful historic center in this town and a not-so-hidden gem, the beautiful and elegant, yet simple, Monastery of Mary Magdalene.

Another complaint I've read and heard over and over about this town was all of the new people who would be joining the Camino from here. For several days before arriving, I listened to people talk about how they dreaded the additional crowds, making the "race for the beds" even more competitive. One group even went so far as to suggest that beds should be offered first to those who had walked further than from León. Any remaining beds could then be offered to those who were newer to the trail.

To me that sounds a lot like taking ownership of the Camino. As if, by walking further than someone else, you are somehow entitled to more rights. Kind of like a form of sweat equity. But the Camino belongs to all of us. Whether we walk 790 km from Roncesvalles or more from other starting points, whether we walk only the last 100 km, or something in between, it shouldn't matter. The energy of the path and the lessons learned while walking it and the opportunity to find something inside of ourselves should not be limited to those who believe they are somehow more entitled to receive them.

Over the past few days, I witnessed the excitement and the uncertainty in the faces of those who had yet to begin The Way. It reminded me of how I felt that first day in St. Jean, when they practically had to kick me out of the albergue to make me take my first steps. What an overwhelming feeling that was. I had spent that first night with a couple who had walked the Le Puy route which is over 700 km through France, ending in St. Jean. They were continuing on to Santiago on the Camino Francés.  Over 1500 km they would walk,  but they never once made me feel I was less worthy to begin my journey simply because I was joining the path they'd already been walking. They encouraged me. They gave me hints and made me feel more at ease. That is the true spirit of the Camino. It's not a competition.

Somehow, taking a few days off in Sárria to enjoy the city and feel its energy and to watch the new people take their first steps has offered me a new beginning. It's as if I am once again taking my first steps. I am excited. I am nervous. But this time, I am ready.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 13, 2013

I had an A-Ha! moment just now when I realized I've completely checked out of this experience. In my head I'm already immersed in everything back in Colorado.  My days here are beginning to feel like something I have to endure in order to make it to the end. After O'Cebreiro, it feels like the magic vanished into thin air. But it's not the magic that has disappeared. It's my focus and intention to experience that magic and allow it to continue to fill my life that has changed.

This is what I do. I get very excited about something new, but when I get close to realizing the goal, I get impatient. I just want it over with already, so I can get excited about the next new thing that will be coming along. I live my life looking for that next adrenaline rush. But I've never learned to find the peace that comes with the contentment of what is. Right now. At this very moment.

While it may seem exciting and adventurous to live life as I do, there is no real fulfillment in it. I'm always looking for something other than what I have. That's no way to live. It's time to find my happiness in whatever is happening right now. It's time to re-focus and to live each moment more fully. Like I was doing at the beginning of this journey.

I realized today that I had overestimated the time I needed to make it to Santiago, now that the tough stages are over for the most part. I considered changing my hotel reservations and moving up the date when I'll arrive in Santiago. Then I could go somewhere exciting before I catch my plane to the U.S. But then I remembered how excited I was for the Camino. Why not find that excitement again, instead of searching out my next adventure. And so, I will stick to my schedule, rest days and all. I will live in this experience fully. I will not short change what I'm doing here.

Hi. I'm Callea, and I'm an excitement junkie. This is day one of my recovery.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 11, 2013

Less than 150 km to Santiago. I can't believe how far I've come. For me, the remaining kilometers will take 10 days of walking, plus rest days, so I'm still two weeks out. For almost everyone else, they're about a week away. The conversations have turned from "Where and when did you start?" to "When do you plan to arrive in Santiago?" You can feel the excitement building. It's palpable.

I'm finding it difficult to keep my excitement in check. I don't want to spend two weeks of this experience thinking only of the destination. I want to continue to experience the Camino fully, giving it the focus and the appreciation it deserves, just as it has from my first step in St. Jean. It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. Funny though, I've realized that, to me, it is also about the destination. Arriving in Santiago is important to me. Collecting my Compostella and attending the Pilgrims' Mass is important to me. Finishing what I started is important to me. Although I know that the end of the Camino is only the beginning.

I've begun thinking about what's next for me. I have to be honest. I have no more idea what the answer is to that question than I did when I left Colorado. It's difficult to trust that all will be revealed in the perfect time. In a way, I feel like I should be more proactive in deciding what I want and bringing it into my life. But I have no clue.

The other day, following a rest day, I left my hotel after laying awake all night wondering where I would live when I get back. I came around the corner to find a huge sign hanging in the window of a bank.



I promised to follow the signs to the best of my ability. And so, I will trust.

Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

Let me begin with the fact that if I were to live in Spain, it would be in O'Cebreiro. I have always had a fondness for people, places and things where seemingly impossible opposite forces meet and come together. O'Cebreiro is one of those places. The blending of the Catholic with the Celtic, the Christian with the Pagan, results in a kind of magic I have yet to witness elsewhere.

When I made it up the hill to O'Cebreiro. I knew I'd be happy to finish the climb, but I had no idea the effect it would have on me. It was a very difficult climb. More steep, uneven, rocky terrain testing my desire to do this thing to its very limits. But even if I suddenly changed my mind, what difference would that make? I was on some mountain somewhere, with nowhere to go but up. And up. And up...

Earlier, as I left the albergue, I immediately began climbing in elevation. No time to even work myself up to the task. I was absolutely exhausted before I even started. My legs felt like jelly and my lungs felt like they might explode if I took one more step, and I hadn't even left the town I'd stayed in for the night. How was I going to make it 5 more km uphill, with no hope of a break? Well, apparently, one step at a time.

As I climbed, I was more and more broken. For some reason, I just didn't have it in me anymore. The worse I felt, the more the fog enveloped me, making me feel alone, with no way to see where I was headed. Suddenly, I wanted to quit. With all my heart, I wanted no more of this crazy adventure I had undertaken. I'd had enough. I had failed. Someone get me off this mountain. And just as I was seriously ready to give up completely, if I could only find a way, the town of  O'Cebreiro, appeared out of the mist, like some Spanish Brigadoon. I was ready to quit, and yet, I'd made it to the top.

Still feeling exhausted, I made my way into town. The weather had deteriorated, blowing cold, wintry air in my face, the fog so thick I could barely make out the buildings. To my right, I saw the bell tower of the church, and turned in to warm up. It was a beautiful little church, much more simple than the cathedrals I'd visited. It was warm and inviting, with beautiful music playing in the background.

I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere, so I decided to spend a little time there. I walked to the first row and sat down. The sense of relief and accomplishment that overwhelmed me as I settled into that pew was indescribable and I began to cry. Not just a few tears, but big, long, shoulder-shaking sobs. I don't know how long I sat there, just letting the tears flow, not even really knowing what I was feeling, just knowing it was powerful. And then I heard the words, "The hard part is over. Well done!"

At that moment, the bells of the church rang out.  One. Two. Three. There's power in that number for me. I don't know the full meaning of it yet, but someday I'll understand. As I stepped from the dark, warm interior of the church, I noticed the fog had lifted and the sun was shining brightly, welcoming me back out into the world.

Some say that this portion of the Camino symbolizes rebirth. I truly feel as if I have been given new life. I almost quit. In fact, if I could have I would have. That moment right before something really amazing happened. That's a lesson I'll never forget.

June 9, 2013

I started out the day tired and sick to my stomach. No surprise after the night I had last night. I woke up from bad dreams about 3am that, in reality, turned out to be old memories. Memories best left forgotten, but left forgotten, never healed.

When you bury a bad memory from your past, rather than dealing with it as it happens, you bury with it all of its toxic energy. It is this toxicity that often later reveals itself in sickness and disease.

I have been lucky. I have buried many unpleasant memories, many of which haunted me last night. But none of that negativity has made me seriously ill. Yet. I can only imagine that if I didn't release them, eventually I would have had to pay the price. Instead, I have been offered both the time and the opportunity to bring them to the surface and let them go. The Camino has given me that gift. Although the work is difficult, and at times painful, I will be eternally grateful for this experience.

A few minutes ago, I mentioned to someone that time was going by more quickly than I expected, but when I looked back on it all, it seemed I've been here an eternity. He said, "Maybe that's because we are living more fully in each moment." Hmmm. I like that explanation.

Friday, June 7, 2013

June 6, 2013

I wonder why it is that every time I reach a high point in my life, it always seems to be followed by extreme difficulty or pain. The Camino has illustrated that perfectly over the past couple of days. Yesterday, I reached the highest point of my journey so far, both in reality and metaphorically. Today I was looking forward to some easier downhills, but instead I was met with some of the most challenging downhill terrain I've experienced since this began. Kilometer after kilometer of rocky, uneven and slippery paths, made even more dangerous and difficult by the light rain falling on and off all day.

It seems that whenever I make a commitment to follow my soul's journey, my path immediately gets more difficult, challenging my every step. At times it makes me want to scream at the injustice of it all. Or at least what I perceive to be injustice.

When does the path get easier? Does it ever?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 5, 2013

"With this stone, I choose to leave behind the fear and doubt which obstruct my ability to live the life I am meant to live. I ask for clarity from this point forward, giving me guidance and showing me the direction to my soul's purpose. I promise to watch for the signs and to follow them to the best of my ability. And I promise never to forget the lessons I've learned along the way."

I did it! I made it to Cruz de Ferro, the highest point on the Camino, higher even than the Pyrenees. What else is there to say.

June 4, 2013

I was beginning to wonder if all the walking would ever make me feel physically stronger. There's been no doubt it's working my mental and spiritual muscles, making them stronger, but I haven't felt much difference in the physical part. Today I finally had the opportunity to witness the vast amount of improvement I've made in that area.

On the first day of my Camino, I walked about 8 km uphill from St. Jean to Orisson. I had sent my backpack ahead by courier and only carried a small daypack. It took me almost 7 hours. Today I walked about 7 km uphill from Rabanal to Foncebadon, carrying my full backpack, on much more difficult terrain. It took me only 3-1/2 hours. What a difference! I may still be slow, but at least no one is mistaking me for dead anymore.

When I arrived at my albergue, I had some time to lay on my bunk and think quietly about tomorrow. It occurred to me that today would be my last day to carry the stone I brought from home, symbolizing whatever it is I no longer wish to carry around in my life. It made me a little sad. I've gotten used to having those things in my life. They're who I am. Or at least who I was. Am I willing to leave them behind? What if I leave them behind only to find I've somehow picked them up again? Does that mean I failed?

The actof leaving the stone and all it carries with it implies a commitment to real and visible change in my life. That's a lot of responsibility. Am I ready for it? I guess we'll see.


Monday, June 3, 2013

June 2 , 2013

I left Astorga full of hope and excitement for the days ahead. Trying not to place any expectations on the experience, but knowing whatever was about to happen would be perfect and powerful. Maybe I was feeling a little cocky when I said, " Bring on the lessons. I'm ready today."

I stopped in a little town about 6 km outside of Astorga, about an hour and a half walk, for something to eat. As I sat there eating my breakfast, it suddenly occurred to me that I had forgotten to get money before I left the city. I only had about 20€ in my pocket. Enough to get me by for a day or two. I wasn't too worried, thinking there would be a cash machine in Rabanal, only a day away. I started looking through the towns coming up on an iPhone app I have. It didn't take long to determine there wouldn't be a cash machine for several days. Even if I gave up my expensive Coca-Cola a day habit, I just couldn't stretch the money I had far enough. I was going to have to walk all the way back to Astorga.

Hoping the iPhone app was wrong, I went inside and asked the owner of the cafe, Pilar, where the next cash machine was. She confirmed it was in Ponferrada, several days ahead. Astorga was my only choice. The walk back would cost me 12 km round-trip and another day out of my schedule. I was deflated. What else could I do?

Seeing the look on my face, Pilar immediately said, "If you can wait a few minutes, I have business in Astorga. I will take you and bring you back." I was flooded with relief. It never occurred to me to refuse. The Camino always provides. This was just one more example.

Soon we were on our way in her "new" car. It was 15 years old, but it was new to her and she was so proud of it. We talked of many things on that drive back to Astorga. Things like The Way, spirituality, religion and the goodness of people. But she left me speechless when she looked at me and said, "The only reason we are here on this earth," pointing first to herself and then to me, "is to learn to love and to help others find their way. The way that is right for them."

I began to cry (yes - again!) remembering my promise from yesterday and the promise I'd received in return. This was no accident. No coincidence. The events of this morning were divinely orchestrated.

When we arrived back in her small town, having gone only to the bank for me, no "business in Astorga" for her after all, I hugged her and thanked her for her immense kindness. I wanted to ask what I could do for her in return, but before I could say a word, she shook her head, smiled and said one more thing before she was gone.


Wow. How did she know?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June 1, 2013

Today was one of those monumental breakthrough days that remind me why I'm doing this. I didn't blog yesterday because there wasn't much to talk about, but there was one thing that happened that is relevant to today's story. Somewhere along the trail, I saw one of the many heart-shaped rocks I've been seeing everywhere since I started the Camino. This one was different, though. It was broken in half. I didn't know why, but I knew I needed to stop at the rock and take a moment. As I stood there, I received a message.

"It's time."

"It's time for what?"

"It's time to open up your broken heart and finish the healing."

Wow. Ok.. And here I thought I'd done all that work and had moved on. It appears there's one thing left to do. Rip off the bandage I've kept so tightly wrapped around it, and expose it. Let it free. Let it heal. Think about that. You know that old saying, "It sticks out like a sore thumb"? That's because when something has been hurt, it seems to attract more hurt on top of hurt. So you keep it bandaged up and protected. But the final little bit of healing doesn't really come until you remove that bandage and let the air get to it. Let nature take its course.

I started out today with that in the back of my mind, but in spite of that, I was fully enjoying my morning. The weather was beautiful, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I just felt good. This was the first day I had some hills to climb ahead, so I was hoping that my heels wouldn't protest too much.

It was a quiet and serene walk through the woods. No traffic. No city noise. Just me and the others making our way up the path. I was definitely taking my time on the hills, stepping very carefully over the loose stones on the path, not wanting to irritate the sore tendons any more than they already were.

I had stopped at a flat spot to take a rest. It was at a crossroads of a sort. A little used country road, really just two dirt-worn tire tracks crossing the path I was on. I noticed that on the other side of the little country lane, there appeared to be a large arrow made out of a collection of stones. Much larger than the one I posted in my blog from a couple of days ago. This one did not want to be missed. It wanted to be sure to guide the way, to help those who might feel a little lost, who needed a little guidance. Someone like me.

After I finished resting, I walked over to take a picture of the arrow, tripping on a stone underfoot. I was a little frustrated until I looked down to find a large, heart-shaped rock at my feet. At that moment I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. I picked up the rock and I carried it over to that large arrow guiding the way, and I placed my heart right in the center of it. And with it, I vowed that I would put my heart into helping others find their way. I don't know how. But the "how's" aren't up to me anyway.

After I had done that, I stood there, of course with more tears running down my face - seems to be a common occurrence for one reason or another these days - and I thought about what I had just promised. And I wondered, "Who am I to vow to help others find their way, when I feel lost most of the time myself?"

The answer, "Who are you not to?"

I feel like I have agreed to something pretty huge, and I don't even know what it is. Sounds a lot like my decision to walk the Camino, doesn't it?

It was only as I turned to continue walking up the hill, when I noticed that the tip of the arrow was pointing at a perfect, unbroken heart. In return for my promise to somehow help others find their way, I will find the way to finish the healing I need to do.

May 30, 2013

Today, for the first time, I truly felt I'd lost my way. I arrived at a roundabout out in the middle of nowhere with signs and roads going in all different directions. The yellow arrows that were painted on the ground were not helpful at all. They were pointing in three different directions, and there was a road sign that read "Camino" that pointed in a fourth. Usually at that time of day, there are people ahead of me or behind me who can be helpful at deciphering which way we should go. This time, however, there was no one. Anywhere. No people walking, no cars, no businesses. Nothing. After a few tears and some worthless self-pity, I decided I had to make a decision. Pick a direction and go with it. I couldn't just stand here all day.

Luckily, with intuition and some help from above, I picked the right direction. As soon as I started walking, I found this non-traditional arrow confirming I was going the right way.  All I had to do was pick a direction and start walking and the confirmation arrived. Standing locked in one spot waiting for someone to come along and rescue me got me nowhere.

I found the incident to be extremely ironic, because the day before, while still in León, I had begun to feel that I'd truly lost my way in general. I was wishing I had someone to talk to, who could point me in the right direction because the signs I was receiving from the Universe just weren't clear. I love how the Camino takes what I'm feeling and illustrates it in a real-life situation, then waits as I figure it out.

I have recently begun to think about what's next when I get home. Where will I live? What will I do with this new life I'm creating here as I walk the way and change who I am? It's somewhat daunting. And even more than a little frightening. Who will I be when this is all over? It's one thing to say I know I'm on a life-changing journey, it's another thing to follow through with allowing my life to change. Those were the thoughts going through my mind as I walked on once I'd found my way. And suddenly, there it was. My yellow arrow. In the form of a poem painted on an underpass. It's not pretty or artistic. But it was exactly what I needed at exactly that moment.

Dream what you dare to dream,
Be who you want to be,
Go where you want to go...

Dream what I dare to dream? Is that possible? Is that even allowed? Not long after that, I came across this symbol on the path. I'm still not clear about its meaning, but I honestly don't think it matters. It had a profound impact on me, to the point where I had to sit down on the side of the road and cry it all out before I could even walk through it. Dream what I DARE to dream. I dare to dream big!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29, 2013

It starts when we are kids. Everything, and everyone, needs to have a label. Who's mom and who's dad? Who's grandma, grandpa, sister or brother? When we go to school it gets more complicated. Now your label defines who you are within an entire societal system. If you grow up living in the same area, the label you are given as a child in elementary school often defines who you are for the rest of your years in school. Then let's add in religion. Are you religious or not? Are you a Christian? If you're a Christian, are you Catholic or Protestant. If you're Protestant, what denomination? All of these labels seemingly serve to help the world makes sense, but in reality they limit our potential to grow and experience this human existence to that which is socially acceptable within the confines of our label.

By the time I was in high school, I had begun to rebel against the labels I had been given. I was smart, so I started skipping school. I was the good kid, so I started getting in trouble. I was a Christian, so I stopped going to church. It's only now, in retrospect, that I see what I was doing. I don't like to be labelled. It confines me rather than defines me. The world makes less sense to me when I am expected to live within a label. I don't understand why I can't pick and choose what I want out of this life from all of the possibilities that exist. I have redefined myself many times over my lifetime in order to escape the labels. Yet each time, in each new phase, the labels begin to creep in, unnoticed at first, until they've almost consumed me and convinced me of their imaginary importance.

It's happening again, here on the Camino. My new label is pilgrim, or peregrina. In each new town, most do not see my face. They don't know my name. The see the backpack, and the muddy shoes and the tired eyes and I become just another one of the multitude of pilgrims that will pass their way. Along with being a pilgrim, I have rules I'm supposed to follow. The tricky part is the rules are unwritten, and none of the pilgrims who have come before me can agree on what the rules really are anyway, so even if someone did try to write them down, there'd be so much disagreement over what was the right way to be a pilgrim and what was wrong way, that we'd all end up just as confused as we were without the rule book.

Let's face it. While we are all grateful for those yellow arrows that come in all forms, all shapes and all sizes, leading us to Santiago, there are no yellow arrows leading us to the right way to be a pilgrim. My way is different from anyone else's on this path. I don't want to be lumped in with everyone else as if we're all doing the same thing for the same reason. Let's get rid of the label and just be the individuals we are.

Hi. I am Callea. I'm walking the Camino de Santiago. I came to have a spiritual experience and to break through my limitations. To do something extraordinary. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27, 2013

Every time I think my "roommates" for the night can't get any more rude during quiet hours at the albergues, they do. This portion of the Camino is teaching me tolerance. Last night's lesson in tolerance resulted in about 3 hours of sleep, on and off. Ironically, I had a very productive day because of, or in spite of, their lack of consideration. I was up and walking before the sun was fully awake. The poppies along the road didn't even lift their sleepy heads to wish me Buenos Dias. The good news is, I'm a day ahead of where I thought I'd be today. I made it to León where I was planning to take a scheduled rest day, but since I got here a day early, I'm taking two.

While reading through the guide book with my feet propped up in bed, I found the following. I thought it was very interesting, considering my recent struggle with the decision to take the bus part of the way between Burgos and León. Here's what John Brierley, author of "A Pilgrim's Guide to the Santiago", has to say about pilgrims who take public transportation along the way.
"If the idea of taking public transport seems like heresy, it might be useful to ask yourself - why not? ... The ego and its obsessive behavioural patterns can be just as limiting as a laissez-faire attitude and indifference."
That is so true. So often, we set out to do something and our egos get so wrapped up in what we're doing, that we forget to listen to the whisper of the why from the soul. Did I set out on the Camino de Santiago to walk 800 km? No, I set out to have an incredible, life-changing experience. I risked allowing my ego to get in the way of that happening.

It's important to listen to our hearts and our souls when we're following our dreams. Our dreams don't come from the ego, they come from the heart and the soul. It matters not what the ego wants when it comes to our dreams, it matters only what makes the heart smile and the soul take flight.

And one more quote from "El Alquimista". It's in Spanish, but I'll translate it for you. Somehow, the Spanish version just seems more beautiful.
"Cuando alquien tomaba una decisión, en realidad estaba sumergiéndose en una corriente poderosa, que lleva a la persona a un lugar que nunca había soñado a la hora de decidir."
When someone makes a decision, in reality he is submerged in a powerful current, that takes the person to a place he had never dreamed of at the hour of deciding.
I am in that place right now. I can only imagine how much farther that powerful current will have taken me by the time I arrive in Santiago.

May 26, 2013

Last night, my friend Sandiee sent me a iMessage that she had received a message for me. Sandiee is not only a good friend, but a gifted psychic as well. Her messages for me have always been incredibly accurate and perceptive. This one was no different. Part of the message she sent me said, "Slow the pace. It will be clearly yours. It will be clearly marked." She also saw wooden objects, but she was unsure what they were.

For the past few days, I've been using new trekking poles. They'd been recommended to help me with the plantar fasciitis, and as the Camino always provides, my friend Debbie had left me hers when she finished her portion of the Camino and left for a wedding in France. The first day I tried to use them, in the way I'd been shown, it just didn't work for me. AT ALL. They made me feel like I was walking much faster than I was, as if I were in a mad race. And the constant tap tap tapping drove me crazy. I couldn't even think. Using them was destroying the peace, and the pace, of my Camino.

The second day, I tried again, allowing a more natural rhythm to just happen. Something that worked for ME. Along the way, a woman stopped me to tell me I was using them incorrectly. I thanked her and told her I was doing what worked for me, and we each continued on our way. I don't think that answered settled well with her, though.

Today as I walked with the poles, I noticed I had developed a non-traditional rhythm that just felt really good. It was more like the 3-beat gait of a slow, collected canter than the 4-beat gait of a fast, frenzied road trot. For some reason, I just knew that I was experiencing the power of 3, a very powerful number for many people for many reasons.

I walked for awhile, just enjoying the feeling of rhythm and power it gave to my walk. Soon it was time to stop for breakfast. To "slow the pace". I sat down on a bench under a tree and pondered the fact that I was eating breakfast somewhere in the middle of Spain! How amazing is that! I offered my gratitude for this life-changing experience and for the many signs and messages I had received. As I stood up to leave, I noticed the tree trunk next to me, "the wooden object". In the bark was a perfectly formed 3. It was "clearly marked". I may not be doing it right, but I'm doing it my way. And that is "clearly mine".

Thanks for the confirmation in advance, Sandiee!


May 25, 2013

While I was in Burgos, with access to a telephone, I called ahead and reserved beds in each of the towns I'd be stopping in for the next week. As more and more people converge on the main route, the race for the beds is heating up. Nowhere is it more evident than on the Meseta where the towns are farther apart and the beds are more limited.

In fact, just a couple of days ago, in Terradillos de Templarios, I watch as dozens of pilgrims were turned away and sent on to Sahagún, 12 km ahead. The next day, after looking more closely at my guidebook, I decided to change my route in order to even out the kilometers per day. I would instead take the alternate route, ironically called the Camino Real, since the original Camino had been re-routed  years ago. On the Camino Real, the towns were closer together, but had fewer options for beds, at least according to the book. I was ok with that, even without bed reservations, since I assumed the majority of people would take the recommended route, rather than the one I'd chosen.

I sent my backpack ahead with a transport service to give my aching feet a break, and headed off down the alternate route. I stopped along the way to eat breakfast and as I ate, I read a little more about the two different routes. It turned out the one I was taking was, in fact, the most popular route. This new info made me very nervous. There was no way I could win a race for a bed, even if my feet were completely healthy. My backpack had been sent ahead, so there was no changing my mind. I had to take a deep breath and forge ahead. I agreed that I'd trust God and the Universe completely. I would be taken care of. There was no other way.

When I stopped in another town for lunch, I considered sending a Facebook message to a Camino friend, asking her to call ahead for me and reserve a bed. I began writing the message, then I erased it. I had agreed to place my trust in something larger than myself. Sending that Facebook message would not be trust. It would be me trying to take back control.

When I arrived at my intended destination, I found a beautiful albergue with hot showers, warm blankets and a gracious hospitalera. And plenty of beds. I had been taken care of. There is no other way.

What was I worried about anyway...

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24, 2013

I made it to the halfway point today. I took a little time to think back over the first half of this journey. That day in St. Jean when I took my first step, seems so distant, like another lifetime. In a way I guess it was. Since then, I have had many ups and downs, struggles and successes, smiles and tears, and I'm still walking. Still moving onward. Still giving it my all.

As I walked along today, a woman from Bulgaria slowed down to talk with me for awhile. She asked me if I was going all the way to Santiago, and I said yes, then asked her the same. She said, "I hope to!" I said, "Don't hope, just do it." I'm so good at giving advice to others, not so great at giving it to myself. Or maybe, it's more that I'm not very good at taking it from myself.

Alex recently told me that he believed there were few people in the world as brave as I was. Looking around at the hundreds of people walking with me, I disagreed. There are a lot of people walking the Camino. What makes me any braver than they are? That's when I realized that very few of them are walking it alone. Although many arrived alone, they have all hooked up with other people and are now walking together. Those who do walk alone, fill their time with their iPods, keeping their minds busy, possibly so as to not have to think about the unthinkable. I am facing it head on, with no buffer to save me. Ok. Maybe I am pretty brave after all. Brave enough to face myself all by myself. That takes guts.

May 23, 2013

Today I left Burgos behind and headed off down the road again. I've looked at the distance I can realistically complete, so I took my last bus to that point. Now I'll finally be able to enjoy this journey without feeling so much pressure. The last little residue of guilt was gone when I boarded a bus full of pilgrims all doing the same thing.

I listened to a guy in his mid-20's talk about his injury, very similar to mine. He mentioned that he goes on long distance hikes in the mountains of California almost every weekend. Another guy was a marathon runner. He said the toll this is taking on his body was more than he'd ever experienced in all his years of running. I didn't feel so bad after that, considering I only got off the couch a year ago. If its tough for those guys, then I'm doing ok.

Now that I have let go of the guilt of not fulfilling my unrealistic expectations, the clouds have lifted and the sun is shining, both in my spirit and on the trail. Right now I'm sitting on the front lawn of an albergue, with a beer and a smile on my face. People are playing frisbee and chatting and soaking up the sun. I think this is my favorite afternoon so far.

I find it fascinating how the Camino is a mirror of my life, both current and past, reflecting the experiences I've had and helping me to learn the lessons I may have missed along the way, and to heal that which is still wounded.

Last night, I had dinner with my friends from Portugal, Alex and Ana once again. Ana mentioned that the Camino was a love/hate kind of relationship. I told her I didn't think I'd found the love part yet. At least not until I arrived in Burgos. She then reminded me of all the personal breakthroughs I've had. "There's your love," she said. And she is so right.

This IS a once in a lifetime experience. I will never be the same, once I am done. Not because I wasn't already good enough, but because I can be so much more.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 21, 2013

When I decided to take this trip, I knew that I would be learning many new things. I'd be getting to know myself in ways I've never done before. I was excited to experience these things and to share stories along the way with new friends. I have been lucky to have met many amazing people so far. Some who will remain lifelong friends, in spite of living on different continents.

What I didn't expect, and maybe I should have, was the degree of competition on the trail. The race for the beds which leads people to leave one bed before the rising of the sun, sprinting on to the next one with no time to stop and smell the roses, or even to take a picture or two. The competition to see who can walk the farthest or the fastest which leads to the same conversation each night at dinner, over and over again. "How far did you make it today? When and where did you start your Camino? When do you plan to finish?"

All of these questions leave me feeling a little empty. Not because I'll never even be close to winning any competitions based on these criteria, but because my answers to these questions come from a completely different place.

How far did I make it today? Well today, I didn't make it very far at all in terms of kilometers. But I did soar to the heavens with my visit to the Burgos Cathedral. I also learned some very valuable lessons about myself. I learned that I am not somehow less worthy of making it to Santiago, simply because I want to slow down and enjoy myself along the way. I learned that my way of living, putting the enjoyment of the beauty of life ahead of the rat race is ok. For me. Not for everyone. I learned to like that about myself. So how far did I make it today? I made it a very long way.

Where did I start my Camino? I think I'd get some strange looks if I said, truthfully, "I'm not sure yet." What do you mean you're not sure? Did you forget already? No. I'm not sure, because my Camino began long before I arrived here in Europe. Every time I think I've figured out the beginning of this journey, I remember something further back in time that was also instrumental in leading me here. My entire life seems to have led me down a path that put me right here, right now. So where did I start my Camino? I have no idea, but it doesn't really matter. I'm here now.

When do I plan to finish? I don't. I plan to bring the life lessons I am learning here in Spain everywhere I go. I never plan to finish my Camino. Santiago is not the end for me. It is just the beginning of a new chapter. So when do I plan to finish my Camino? Does it mean I "win" the competition if I say I plan to walk it for the rest of my life?

I talked to my "Camino coach", Alex, today. He reminded me about the most important thing I am doing here. I am following my Personal Story. Just like the shepherd did in 'The Alchemist'. It's MY Personal Story. No one else's. I can't do it wrong. The only way I can do it is exactly perfectly the right way for me.

As the shepherd in the book says, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to be an adventurer. I choose adventurer.

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20, 2013

Last night I met a friend for wine and tapas in Santo Domingo de la Calzada.  I had just walked through another tough day. I planned to go to bed early and rest my weary feet. It seems that another bonus of this trip is a developing case of plantar fasciitis in both heels. I knew I was coming to walk the Camino and to do some hard work. I thought I came into this whole experience completely prepared, with my eyes wide open. There's no way I could've been prepared for what I would experience. When I say this is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, I'm not exaggerating.

As Nancy and I talked, I told her that I knew it'd be hard, but I'd honestly expected to get some joy out of the experience too. When does the joy begin? I know some of you will say the same thing I've been telling myself. That I am I charge of choosing joy or misery. But let me just tell you, that choice is sometimes very difficult to make when adversity abounds day and night.  Sometimes you need a little help in choosing joy. A reminder. A stirring in the soul to reassure you that there is beauty in the world. And if that's what you really want to see, that's what you will see.

I finally decided last night that I do want to see the beauty and to experience the joy that life has to offer. I have had enough of the ups and downs and the hard work. At least for now. I need a break. It's completely in my power to take that time out. To rest and rejuvenate. To enjoy my life experiences.

Since the Camino ALWAYS provides exactly what I need when I need it, last night I asked, "When does the joy begin?"

Today, I received my answer.


At that moment of now, I walked through the gates of the city of Burgos and found my joy in the form of the most beautiful architecture I have seen since I arrived in Spain. There is something about art and architecture that moves me deep within. It happened in Italy so often that I had to keep reminding myself to be amazed. It happened again today. I have chosen joy and it was right here waiting for me to arrive.

In practical terms, what this means is that I have been so focused on doing this Camino thing the right way so as not to disappoint others, that I've forgotten to do it in the right way so as not to disappoint myself. I am here to do some hard work physically, mentally and spiritually. But I am not the type of person to work hard day after day after day. I work so I can live, not the other way around.

From here on, my Camino will be different. I will be walking fewer kilometers than I originally intended. Some who walk the Camino do only the last 100 km or 60 miles required to receive a Compostela. I have already walked twice that much, and I will walk more than twice that much again, and along with that, continue to do the hard work I came here to do. This is not an admission of defeat, it is a choice for my happiness. My reassessment will result in fewer kilometers walked, but more joy received. By the time I've finished, I will have completed about 570 km, or about 350 miles. To me, that is a worthy exchange.

And to those of you that pray, or send healing energy, please send lots of both for my heels.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19, 2013

Today began as the worst of the mornings for the weather. Freezing cold, drizzly, muddy, windy. Pretty much you get the picture. I found myself slogging through deep, heavy, sticky mud, making my shoes feel about 5 lbs heavier each. It was tough to feel inspired. Yesterday I was ready to quit. Today I was walking on. Doing my best. Hoping for a miracle.

I stopped for lunch in a cafe about halfway to my destination. I was planning on a 17 km day, so I still had quite a distance to go as I left the cafe and continued on my way. Although the guidebook showed a flat afternoon ahead, I quickly saw that, once again, there were unexpected hills on the horizon. I wondered how I was going to make it this time. I was spent. Done. With 8 km to go. I lifted my eyes to heaven and said, out loud, "I can't make it over this hill alone. Someone is going to have to help me."

My steps got slower and slower, my stops more and more frequent. The hills were winning and to make it worse, I had no idea how many more there would be on the other side of this big one I was climbing. As I made my way, step by plodding step, I felt rather than heard someone next to me on my left. I looked over and saw, to my surprise, a dog. But not just any dog. My dog. It was Bandit, in his most active youth. He was dirty from being out playing in the mud, his favorite way to be. He looked up at me and tipped his head in the way that only Bandit could do and then he ran ahead.

In his older years, Bandit had hip problems that never curbed his desire to play fetch, but did prevent him from running like the wind after the stick or the ball as he'd done in his youth. I used to love to watch him run. I compared the smoothness of it to the grass waving in the wind. I often wonder if he's up in heaven, playing fetch with God, running as tirelessly and effortlessly as grass in the wind.

Oh how that dog loved to play fetch. Any object would do. A ball. a frisbee. A pine cone. A stick, no matter how big or how small. And he never got tired. We used to have to make him go lay down and take a break.

As he ran ahead, he darted into a field of waving grass, and there he chased after a bird he knew he would never catch, with wild abandon. Running like the wind, as smooth as the ripples of the grass. He came back out onto the road with a stick in his mouth, laying it down in front of some people walking ahead of me, patiently crouched, hoping they'd take the bait. He kept trying, but no one seemed to pay attention. Just passing him by, as if he weren't there. Couldn't they see him? He finally gave up and ran to the top of the hill, turned and looked at me one last time and disappeared down the other side.

As I got to the top of the hill, I searched desperately to see where he'd gone. He was nowhere to be found. The other pilgrims on the trail completely unaffected by his appearance among us. Not finding him there, disappointed, I looked ahead to see the city. My destination. I had made it after all. With a little help from an old friend.

May 18, 2013

Today started out rainy and bleak, but despite that, I vowed to make it a better day. I put on my rain gear and left the albergue. The first order of business was to climb another big hill, but according to the guidebook, after that, the rest of the day was mostly flat. I was looking forward to some easier terrain, although the guidebook has been known in the past to understate some of the ups and downs. My rain jacket is designed to keep the rain out, but that means it also keeps body heat in, making it very warm, very quickly.

Today as I started up the hill, the raincoat immediately made me too hot. The heat and the confining clothes made me claustrophobic, compounded by the fact that the strap around my waist that I'd just tightened yesterday because of weight loss, was now riding up around my stomach, because of the added bulk of the rain jacket, making it harder to breathe. I was only about halfway up the 1 km long hill when the claustrophobia and the heat combined to bring on a panic attack. I couldn't breathe and I started to cry, those huge racking sobs you get as a kid leaving you gasping for air. The perfect storm.

It all became too much. I had nowhere to go, no one to turn to for help, nothing to do but stand on the side of that hill and find a way to pull myself together. After that, all that was left to do was to start walking again. About 6 km later, I stopped in a cafe for breakfast. Having access to internet, I decided on a whim to email the pensión I had planned to stay at about 8 km farther down the road and make sure they had room. I never assumed the answer would be no. But that's exactly what they said. No room at the inn, or in this case, the pensión. I checked with the other two places in the same town. Both said they were full for the night.

Knowing I couldn't make it to the town after that one, I was stuck in this town, having completed only 6 km for the day. What made it worse was the fact that this was the one town I swore I'd avoid at all costs, because the albergue is infamous for its bedbugs. Now I was about to find out if the rumors were true. Remember those issues of mine that are being brought to the surface. Um. Yeah. BIG issue here. The good news is that, all the rumors must have caused the albergue to take some extra measures, and all was fine.

Feeling very lonely and unhappy, I began to wonder if this was really something I was supposed to do after all. Maybe I'd misread the signals. Maybe I should just go home. Maybe my lesson in all this is not how to exceed my own expectations, but instead to learn how to fail. Miserably. In the spirit of the day, my friends Alex and Ana, who have been my angels here in Spain, tried to call me to offer some support. The connection was just good enough to hear Ana's voice, but not good enough to have a conversation. I sat in that cafe and cried like a baby in front of at least 30 people I didn't know. I was broken.

May 17, 2013

Up and down, my mood seems to change as often as the elevation. For the first half of today, I was locked in a battle for personal comfort. I'm cold. I'm hot. It's raining. It's not raining. My shoes are too tight. My shoes are too loose. And now the damn shoe just came untied. Fixing each of these issues requires the removal of my backpack, which of course, means putting it back on again too. Just one of those days.

The hills are not getting any easier. My body does not seem to be adjusting to the walk. My backpack feels like it's been filled with stones. When does the fun begin again? On the positive side, I did figure out the backpack situation. I've lost so much weight that the straps around my hips weren't tight anymore, so the frame of the backpack was unable to do its job. Hopefully that adjustment will help. There are some serious hills ahead.

They say, if you let it, the Camino brings up many difficult issues. Not to make things more difficult, although that is certainly a symptom of it. But instead to heal these issues. I came into this with my eyes wide open, knowing my buttons would be pushed, just not necessarily expecting the degree to which it would happen. Walking alone, with no escape from it all, just heightens the experience. This is working every muscle I have - physically, mentally and spiritually. I keep wondering, why did the Camino choose me? What's to come from all this hard work?

May 16, 2013

The rest day in Logroño helped mind, body and spirit. As I left the city, the Camino was overflowing with locals, mostly the rich, track suit-wearing, housewife type. They were all walking and talking as fast as they could.. There were hundreds of them. All walking the same direction I was. I have no idea where they were all going. It was very difficult to maintain my own pace and sense of peace. I found myself getting very stressed, so I took a deep breath and let it all go.

I finally walked free of the crowd and had a chance to catch my breath before starting up another big hill. Remember those stories your grandpa always told you about walking five miles to school, in the snow, uphill both ways? Yeah, well he obviously went to school in Spain. But I guess the ups and downs on the Camino, as in life, are finally over when death comes around. On the Camino, the portion known as the Meseta is often compared to how most people perceive death. A long, vast nothingness.

I'm thinking if death can get me out of all these hills, that might be something I'm looking forward to. Today instead of struggling against the hill, I found myself reciting a new mantra that seemed to help. "I am fast enough. I am healthy. I am strong." Somehow the hill didn't seem so big.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15, 2013

Halfway through my first month. Today I got a little homesick. Just feeling very displaced and a little lonely. In the manner of the Camino, which always provides, I found my friends Alex and Ana were here in the same city. Just what I needed. Although I only met them a few days ago, seeing them was like coming home.

We talked about some things I'm not ready to share yet, until the time comes. Their support and friendship means the world to me. I am truly lucky to count them among my friends.

After dinner, I walked over to the cathedral. It was still open, so I went in for a look around. I didn't take any pictures, partly because it just didn't feel right, but mostly because there is no way I could have done it justice. Construction began in the 15th century but wasn't completed until the 17th century. The transformation from the gothic to the renaissance was incredible. Symbolizing the move from the dark to the light. Very powerful in my own journey. As I stopped and admired the artwork and the altars, I came to the Altar de Milagres, the Altar of Miracles. I paused for a moment, then donated a euro and said a prayer. A miracle is what it will take. As I left the cathedral, a man in the plaza was playing, "What A Wonderful World" on the saxophone.

Yes, it sure is.

FYI - for those of you reading my blog, but not friends on Facebook, I'm going to open a photo sharing account so you can see my pictures along The Way. Next time I have internet service and enough time, I'll get that done and share the link.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14, 2013

Currently everything feels like a struggle. I struggle to speak and understand Spanish. I struggle to find my way. I struggle to walk uphill. I struggle to walk downhill. I struggle to walk a straight line. Even my water bottle, which is attached to the same place on my backpack as it's been since the beginning has suddenly decided to start swinging and hitting me in the elbow. I struggle to enjoy this experience, when all I can think about is, "Oh no. Not another hill..." I know it's all part of the learning experience, so I'm going to just live through the struggle and keep moving onward.  Well, not tomorrow. Tomorrow I'm staying put for a rest day in Logroño.

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 13, 2013

Maybe it was the excess of wine last night. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe my body is getting weaker instead of stronger. Whatever it was, today was so much harder than my days in the Pyrenees. The uphill climbs were brutal, the downhills rocky and strenuous. They weren't long, but they were steep, with very few places to stop and rest. I didn't make it as far as I planned today. I arrived in a small village on the side of a hill, stopped in a bar for a Coca-Cola and a break from the heat, and suddenly decided not to go any farther. I walked about 15 km, or 10 miles, my daily goal, but I'd hoped to make up some ground from the days when I was sick. It's just not going to happen.

As I sat here in the bar, getting ready to blog, I met a guy from Idaho. He walked from St. Jean to Zubiri in one day. 50 kilometers!  Today was a short day for him. Only 40 km. I have to remember everyone has their own pace and their own physical capabilities, and so I shouldn't try to compare myself to him. But then I remember the guy I saw earlier today who had something wrong with his leg. It wouldn't bend at the knee. I don't know if it was a physical deformity or an injury, but he seemed to have some other things going on physically and mentally as well. On one of the steepest downhill sections, he turned around and walked down backwards. Now that is determination. I have nothing to complain about. What a reminder.

That's it for today. I'm tired. Dinner in an hour, then straight to bed.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12, 2013

I climbed the Alto de Perdón today, in English it means the Hill of Forgiveness. Let me tell you, Forgiveness is not an easy hill to climb. First of all, it's much easier to keep stopping to turn around and look back at where you've been, remembering and re-telling the story that got you to this point in the first place. And just when you think you've almost conquered the beast, you find yourself heading back down, in the wrong direction, with an even steeper hill to climb ahead.

This morning, I stopped and had breakfast with where I've been. The Pyrenees rose in the distance as I remembered the struggle and the pain, the laughter and the tears, the friends I left behind and the friends I hope to one day see again. As I finished breakfast, I knew that, although I hadn't yet conquered Forgiveness, I was close. And once I took those first few steps down the other side, there would be no looking back. No stopping to see the things that had come before. Forgiveness would be in the way.

With tears running down my face, I started packing up. Two local men came around the bend with their dog.

"Buenos Dias..."

"Buenos Dias, from where do you come?"

"From Colorado. From America."

"Oh! A long way then."

"Yes. A very long way."

May 11, 2013

First thing I did this morning was get lost. I was walking along, thinking I knew where I was going, ignoring the complete lack of Camino waymarkers. I walked past a yellow arrow on a lamppost, pointing down instead of up, with a curvy line for a tail. I thought, "Hmmm, that was strange" and kept walking. Suddenly I stopped a few blocks later as it occurred to me that the upside down arrow meant I was going the wrong way. By then I was totally confused and an hour behind schedule, so I found a bus stop I had used the night before. I knew the bus would take me to city center where I could pick up the Camino a little farther down the line. I paid my €1.30 and boarded the bus. Less than two blocks later, I saw a waymarker and several pilgrims. As I got off the bus, I know that bus driver thought I was crazy.  Oh well.

As I walked through the ancient city center, I passed a bakery in a non-descript old building. The pastries in the window stopped me in my tracks. Even though I was behind schedule, I went in and ordered a petit chocolate. Most likely the best thing I've had since I've been here. It was similar to a cream puff, with light, fluffy chocolate filling in the center. One step from heaven. If not actually all the way there.

As I continued through the winding city streets, I smiled at everyone I met. Some smiled back, some gave a greeting, and some ignored me as if I were invisible. But one older man, in his 70's, glared back at me, then flicked his cigarette at my feet. I won't pretend to understand his motivation. Maybe he doesn't care for the pilgrims on the Camino. Maybe he doesn't like Americans, and I looked too much like an American carrying a Coca-Cola at 9 am. Maybe that's his idea of a friendly greeting. Who knows? I wished him well in my head and went on my way.

Later on, after I'd left the city, I stopped to make some adjustments. I was on a walking path near a busy road. A car pulled in and, although there was plenty of space to park, he wanted to park where I was standing, so I moved out of his way. A man got out and started up the trail. There were many locals walking the Camino path this morning, so I didn't find it too strange. As I finished my adjustments and continued I on, I saw him ahead. He kept turning around to look at me. Soon I saw him stopped in the middle of the path, talking to another local. As I tried to pass, he refused to move so I could go around.

I kept walking, soon coming up on several other pilgrims who had stopped to eat. I did the same, finding a place close by, but just around the corner so I could have some time to myself. I saw the man come up the path and turn the corner at the crossroad and take a different path. I was somewhat relieved. After about 15 minutes, I finished my breakfast and was packing up to leave, when I saw him come back up the path he had taken. My pack was on the ground next to me. Suddenly he walked right up to me, brushed past me and reached as if he was about to take my pack. I was quicker than him, and swept it up in my arms and he continued on up the trail.

Soon another pilgrim came by and introduced himself to me. His name was Christopher from Calgary. He thanked my for standing where I was because as he'd looked back at me, he noticed the beautiful view. He wouldn't have noticed it otherwise, so he stopped to chat. As he started to walk on, he asked if there was anything he could do for me. Something told me to tell him about the man ahead and ask him to keep an eye out. He instead offered to walk with me for quite awhile. I never saw the man again, which is weird, because he should've had to return to his car, but I am thankful for Christopher, who came along just when I needed him.

Come to think of it, isn't St. Christopher the patron saint of travelers? All I'm saying is, there are no coincidences.

Quick note: I'm doing much better and starting to gain some distance. I'm behind schedule after my rocky start, but not letting it worry me.

May 10, 2013

For myFacebook friends, you've already read this. I just wanted to add it here, so it's preserved for posterity:

My Spanish is not good enough for me to be 100% sure, but I am 99% sure I just almost got arrested at the post office tonight. The cute little man took my credit card for payment for my package home, then scanned my passport as ID. The screen started flashing something about something being suspended. He looked at me, his eyes got big and he started talking very loudly, but not to me. Two other postal employees came over and I heard him say the words "passport is suspended" and "call the police". One of the other two said, "No, no, no..." Then showed him something on the screen and re-started the transaction, all the while holding back laughter. It turns out that the credit card authorization service was temporarily suspended. The good news: I didn't get arrested. The bad news: I had to go find a cash machine and pay the almost $80 postage fee (!) in cash. I'm currently not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Friday, May 10, 2013

May 9, 2013

Today was an easy day into the outskirts of Pamplona. I'm staying at a very nice hotel in Villava which offers a great rate to pilgrims on the Camino. I am ready to relax and take it easy, hoping to get my strength back. I had a croissant for breakfast, and nothing for lunch. My pants are beginning to fall off no matter how tightly I tie them. I do need to get my appetite back because my body desperately needs fuel for energy.

After a long afternoon nap, I got dressed in my non-pilgrim clothes and went into the city center of Pamplona to meet Alex and Anna for dinner. They are an amazing couple from Portugal, who I met at Orrison, while drinking wine on the patio. They are such positive people, and have traveled the world already at a young age. I have to admit, I'm a little jealous. Dinner was beautiful, with delicious food (yes, I ate a lot!) and inspiring conversation. They made me cry when Anna told me that they had talked about it, and of all the people they thought deserved to make it to Santiago, it was me. It still brings tears to my eyes to type this. It meant so much. They said, they just felt I wanted it the most. I found that interesting, since I have been questioning whether or not I wanted it anymore. It was just what I needed to hear, and a reminder that, yes indeed, I do want it. My short time with them  re-energized my desire. For that I'll be eternally grateful.

After dinner, not knowing if our paths would cross again on this journey, we hugged and said "See you later" and that was that. The letting go and the receiving and the letting go again are very quick here on the Camino. I'll have to get used to that. But one thing never changes. I am always moving onward. ¡Ultreya!

May 8, 2013

I started out today thinking I felt better, but about halfway to Zubiri, I found I was wrong. I had sent my backpack ahead again, with all my rain gear in it, and of course it started to rain.  Not a heavy downpour, just a steady drizzle, enough to make everything a mess. I must have looked terrible, because every time I stopped for a break, someone would pause and ask if I was ok. ¿Está bien? Si, gracias. Ça va? Ça va. You ok? Yes, I'm fine.  I could answer in three languages. Not bad.

After a bit of an uphill climb, there was a pretty steep drop into Zubiri. It was paved in smooth rocks and full of mud, so the footing was treacherous.  There was no place to lodge  my walking stick for extra traction, so it became a little like rock skating down the hill. Not only dangerous, but extremely tiring on the leg muscles.

Almost to the bottom, I saw Lee and Maureen, the Australian ladies I'd met the first day. They asked me how I was feeling and I burst into tears. Maureen asked if I believed in the power of prayer and I said yes, so they said a little prayer for my health to return. We may have different beliefs in that area, but all positive intentions result in the same thing.

We walked together the rest of the way down the hill. Just as we arrived at the foot of the hill, at the sign announcing our arrival in Zubiri, my feet went out from under me and I landed on my butt in the mud. I was so done, I didn't even have the strength to stand up on my own. Lee helped me to my feet and we trudged on into town. We found a bar where we could warm up and have something to eat, then they continued down the road. I stopped at the albergue in town and asked if they had a bed for the night. They had three left, and one of them was a bottom bunk.  Such a relief, since I couldn't have climbed up to the top. Once again, proving I would be taken care of along the way.

I had plenty of time to rest, connection to wifi, a hot meal and a shower. That's really all I need to be happy. And honestly, the wifi was a bonus, I can be happy without that if I have to. But seriously. This has to get better, right? Tomorrow, Pamplona...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 7, 2013

How bad do I want this? I am still very sick to my stomach. I can barely eat, so no fuel to energize my body, and I'm obviously allergic to something in the air, so I can't breathe properly either. Feeling this bad makes me want to just lay in bed, not walk kilometer after kilometer after kilometer.  I will say that I'm shocked and heartened by the number of people who care and go out of their way to look out for me and to ask about me along the way. Their kindness keeps me going.

At times today, I thought, "If every day is going to be this hard, I honestly don't know if I want to continue." But then I'd find another dose of willpower and onward I would go.  I found strength I didn't know I had. To be honest, I still haven't felt the pride of accomplishment because I'm still too sick and too tired. But I'm hoping I'll look back at these past few days at my greatest leaps forward. I didn't go anywhere fast, but I always moved onward, never going back and never giving up. ¡Ultreya!

Unfortunately, my slow pace leaves me little time for rest, but today I arrived mid-afternoon in Viskarret and slept for almost 6 hours. My host had to wake me up for dinner. I felt a little bad about that, but she was very kind and didn't seem to mind.  After dinner, I went back to bed and slept another 8 hours.

I'm looking forward to Pamplona in a couple of days, where I'll get a rest day and will hopefully meet up with some new friends I've met on the way.

My Spanish is coming in handy in many situations and I've met quite a few native speakers who help me practice. Shockingly, I haven't taken a vow of silence after all, and I even initiate conversations in Spanish. I guess if I can cross the Pyrenees on foot, I can speak a second language.

May 6, 2013

Today tested my will to do this.  I started the day really sick to my stomach.  I don't know if it's a stomach bug or nerves or something else.  Regardless, it was much more difficult than yesterday. More than twice the distance and a crazy climb over the top followed by a knee-jarring descent into Roncesvalles. But I made it. Along the way, so many lessons for which I am extremely grateful. I'm too tired to write them in any real order, so here are a few things that I experienced in snapshot form.

From the moment, I stepped out onto the path, it was a steady uphill climb.  It was painful.  My legs still hurt from yesterday, my lungs felt as if they'd never again fully receive oxygen.  As I stopped for what felt like the 1000th time, a thought came to my head, divinely inspired.  A message from above.  "Don't fight it, just feel it." I am supposed to feel this struggle.  If it weren't for the pain, I wouldn't feel the accomplishment as I pushed through it.

As I neared the top, I was still very sick to my stomach.  I was doing my best to keep it in, because I didn't want to lose the water I'd been drinking.  I came around a corner, to find myself face to face with a wild Spaninsh horse.  After my struggle a few years ago with my unexplainable fear of horses, I knew that it was another message.  Let go of the fear.  Everything would be fine. I sat down on a rock and spent some time with the herd that seemingly appeared out of nowhere.  It was magical.

When I finally reached the bottom of the hill after two excruciating and challenging days, I just wanted one more rest stop.  I meant to sit down on a flat rock sticking up out of the ground, but I missed. As I caught myself, my hand landed in a patch of stinging nettles. I had never heard of stinging nettles before, so I wasn't sure if I'd touched something poisonous. I immediately began to pour what little water I had left on my hand, praying it wouldn't begin to swell. Luckily, when I reached Roncesvalles, someone was able to tell me what had happened and to reassure me that the pain would subside in a day or two. I'm glad to say it only took a day, not two.  It was like the pain of 100 bee stings, in case you're wondering.

Finally, to end the day in the most unforgettable way possible, I went to retrieve my backpack which I had sent ahead by courier.  I looked through the pile.  It wasn't there.  Everything came down on me at once.  The fear, the illness, the exhaustion. I sat down in a chair in something of a catatonic state. That's when a woman I had met on the mountain, Nancy, noticed me sitting there,  she asked if I had found my backpack.  I told her no and began to sob uncontrollably.  She immediately took control of the situation, making phone calls and asking the questions that needed to be asked. Meanwhile one of her friends, Yasmin, bought me a glass of wine to calm me down.  In the end, it turned out, that I had been looking in the wrong place and that my backpack had been there all along. Once it was all solved, Nancy then carried my backpack to the albergue up the hill, checked me in, delivered my backpack to my bunk and returned with the details of where I would be sleeping.  It was an act of kindness that touched my very soul. I can't say enough how much it meant. But I can tell you where to find her if you ever decide that you want help beginning your Camino experience rather than struggling through it as I did.  She helps you with how to get to the start, what to buy, how to use your equipment, then walks with you for the most difficult leg from St. Jean to Pamplona. Her website is at Walk Your Way. Check it out! She's a class act!

Finally, after dinner we attended the Pilgrims' Mass. An incredible experience as the priests sang in Latin, their voices echoing throughout the medieval stone cathedral. Then they blessed us all, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. It really brought home the history of what I had undertaken.

Oh yeah. And remember when I told you all I was walking almost 500 miles, or 790 kilometers from St. Jean to Santiago? I lied. The 790 km mark doesn't start until I leave Roncesvalles. So add the distance from that "little" climb across the Pyrenees to my total as an extra bonus.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 5, 2013

This morning, I am both terrified and excited, all at once.  The day has arrived, and I am on "the way".

That was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  A gain of about 2500 feet in elevation in only 5 miles. That is steep! Just when I'd think it was about to level off, I'd turn a corner only to find another, even steeper, hill.  At one point I almost panicked as I wondered if I really had what it takes, and what would I do if I didn't. How would I get off the mountain? Then I remembered the day I had the breakdown in Spanish class. I asked Alex how I was ever supposed to make it over the Pyrenees. His answer, "One step at a time." It wasn't pretty.  I wasn't fast, but I made it to the alburgue. I wish I could say that tomorrow was going to be easier, but I have another 1800 feet to climb and a pretty brutal downhill after that. I guess I'll just take it one step at a time.

Through all of the hardship, I am remembering to be grateful for the amazing experiences I am having. This morning as I climbed through the Pyrenees, the sound of cowbells rising through the mist was something I'll never forget.  What a beautiful experience.

So far, my favorite part has been listening to some of the stories from the other pilgrims, so I'll share them now and then. I met a couple of nice Australian ladies, Maureen and Lea.  Maureen is carrying 15 stones for the prayers of 15 different people. The most important being her husband, an Australian cowboy, who was thrown from a horse and now has a severe brain injury. His prayer is for his brain to become "untangled". Sending extra energy to him and hoping for a Camino miracle, with tears in my eyes as I write this.

May 4, 2013

The train ride from Madrid to Pamplona was gorgeous. I had planned to read, but why bury my nose in a book when I can watch the Spanish countryside go by.  I took some time to reflect on what was to come, but I knew I really had no idea. Better just to wait and see, one step at a time.

When I arrived in Pamplona, I discovered that my Spanish was good enough to begin a conversation with the cab driver who was taking me to the bus station to catch a bus to Roncesvalles.  He asked if I was walking the Camino and if I was starting in Roncesvalles. I told him no, that I planned to take a taxi from Roncesvalles. He told me that there were no taxis in Roncesvalles. If I wanted to go to St. Jean, I needed to take a taxi from Pamplona. He only spoke Spanish, so I was able to ask him the cost for him to take me to Roncesvalles (a lot!) and to coordinate directions to my alburgue using my map once we arrived in town.  If I hadn't been able to speak the language, I'd have been stranded in Roncesvalles.

Riding in the taxi from Pamplona to St. Jean, I caught my first glimpse of peregrinos (pilgrims) and the waymarkers that I'd begin following the next day. Seeing it all live and in person added a touch of surrealism to it all, which seems backwards. Shouldn't it have become more real?

The pilgrims' dinner at the alburgue was inspirational. I found myself holding back tears as I listened to the stories of why everyone was making the walk. So similar and yet so different. Afterwards, I received my first stamp in my credential. Such a milestone! Tomorrow, it's on!

Funny fact, by the way, if you have seen the movie, 'The Way'. According to the Dutch people staying at the alburgue with me, they prefer our guidebook, not the Dutch guidebook, as Joost repeatedly tells Tom throughout the movie..

Friday, May 3, 2013

May 3, 2013

It's my 2nd day in Madrid. Much better than yesterday, but then again, yesterday I was exhausted from traveling and no sleep. I also found a nicer part of the city today. It's still not Florence, though. Sorry, Madrid... I rode the Metro for the first time, of course singing the Berlin song the whole time. If you don't get that reference, google it. I also visited the Prado Museum. Amazing works of art!

Now I'm sitting at a patio cafe with a sandwich and a beer. The weather couldn't be more perfect. Mid-70's and a few fluffy white clouds floating through the sky. Please, please let it stay that way for the next few days.

I really hope my Spanish gets better. I'm having a hard time understanding what people are saying.  Somehow it's all been fine, though. I haven't gotten lost, I'm not going hungry - yet - and there's even a Pepsi waiting for me in the mini bar in my room. What more do I need?

It's ironic that, although my Spanish sucks, as I write this, I'm thinking it in Spanish and having to translate to English. How weird is that? In my head I'm fluent. But I suppose if I can imagine it, I can do it. One thing I've noticed, if I don't understand you the first time you say something, it doesn't help to just say the same thing louder. That just makes me nervous. And to all the people who asked me before I left why I was learning Spanish because "everyone in Spain speaks English", that is SO not true. Even here in the touristy part of Madrid.

Tomorrow morning, I leave for St. Jean Pied-du-Port. Vacation time is almost over. It's about to get real.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 2, 2013

This one will be short and sweet. Partly because I'm so tired and partly because the hotel only lets you access wifi from one device, so I'm posting from my phone. Gotta fix that tomorrow.

So far I gotta say I'm not impressed with Madrid. I'm trying not to compare it to my favorite city in the whole world, but the comparisons to Florence are everywhere. Unfortunately they're not in Madrid's favor. Even the trees have graffiti on them. The Royal Palace looks forgotten and unloved now that the royal family doesn't live there.

But I know I'm tired and tomorrow is another day, so I'm not making any final decisions yet. I will say that at this point, I feel about Madrid the way I felt about Venice. I'm glad I got to visit, just to say I've been there, but I wouldn't need to return.

All in all, today has been a good day, though. They're just gonna get better from here. Good night!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1, 2013

New beginnings! I don't have a lot of time to write, but I couldn't let this day go by without posting something. In about 30 minutes, I'm headed to the airport to officially begin my grand adventure. To be honest, I'm not sure how to describe what I'm feeling. I'm excited, nervous and a little teary-eyed. I've felt the support from so many of you over the past year, but yesterday and today have been amazing. So many of you wishing me a Buen Camino in a hundred different ways. Thank you for that!

 I'm beginning my journey with another example of the Universe's sense of humor. We are having one of those heavy, wet spring snowstorms. When I woke up this morning, I started worrying. What if my plane is delayed? What if I miss my connection in Dallas? What if I get bumped and have to sit in a middle seat all the way to Madrid? What if, what if, what if? Then I realized that worrying wasn't going to change the weather. Everything will be just fine. Whatever happens, happens. The snow can't last forever. I will be taken care of.

And with that, I have to go. I am off on the adventure of a lifetime and I'm taking you all with me in spirit. My next post on this blog will be from Madrid! Can you believe it?

Hasta luego!