I need to put this out there – I am not a hiker. I am barely a walker. My life is too busy to be a couch potato, but my idea of walking was moving between some of the fabulous hidden bars in Melbourne that potentially were on the other side of the city from the previous one.
So, with this in mind, how on Earth did I decide to walk the 800km pilgrimage across Spain, otherwise known as the Camino Trail?
When people ask me what made me decide to do it, I say the idea of it started from a book I read that I am 97% certain was called ‘Unholy Pilgrim’ by Tom Trumble. It was an entertaining account of suffering from bed bugs, gastro, diarrhoea, blisters and other various ailments while walking the Camino. After finishing the book, I thought, I’d like to do this walk one day. Now, I can already picture your face because, trust me, I have seen the physical version of it numerous times already when I have been asked the inspiration question.
While his story telling was highly amusing (and I hope to goodness that I do not suffer the same ailments), reading between the lines, you could tell that he had been profoundly affected by the walk. I think at the time, it was the whispers of knowing I wanted to bring change in to my life, but didn’t recognise what that looked like.
The idea cemented a bit more into reality in 2017 on one of those lazy Sunday afternoons where everyone was at home and watching various tv programs and one happened to be following someone on the Camino. As you usually do with conversations from the couch, we all started our discussion of doing the Camino. What usually happens though is this conversation peters out with time and goes nowhere. How easy it is to do anything from the safety of your couch at home!
Except that isn’t what happened with me. The seed that planted when I first read the book had received some water and was wanting to sprout.
I started to think seriously about walking the Camino. I knew I couldn’t do it in 2018 as my son was finishing Year 12 and for any parent who has gone through this, I will quite happily accept your sympathy. This pushed it to 2019 and the realisation that it would be the 20th anniversary of my beautiful daughter Bree passing away. 2019 also coincided with The Compassionate Friends international conference to commemorate its 50-year anniversary in the UK, which I wanted to attend. It felt like the universe was telling me that this was the time to do it. I needed to honour my daughter in a big way and this was it.
I joined a women’s hiking group to help get me started walking (and then was too insecure to join them on what I term a “real” hike for six months!) This group though, have lifted me up, inspired me, made me laugh and supported me every step of the way. I have come to love this group. Their philosophy is simply to encourage women to get out and about in the outdoors, without judgement and to have fun while doing it. You have to love a group who think it is perfectly natural to go for a walk with a bright green handbag slung over the shoulder!
I now have just under six months before I head off and, writing those last words, I have just felt the first flutters in my stomach. Fear? Excitement? Who knows, but right now, what I do know is that I am nowhere near ready. To date, I am still yet to do two consecutive days of hiking. Every time I have done a single walk of more than 15kms, the next day I am walking like a penguin because my hips have locked up! Did I mention that Day 1 of the Camino Trail is climbing over the Pyrenees Mountains?!
I was regaling a couple of friends with stories of my hiking misadventures and in amongst their laughing, one friend in her gorgeous way said “I’m a bit worried about you darling” and to be perfectly honest, I have to agree. I have no idea what I am dong, I question whether I will find the time to train like I should be to hopefully not need to be carted off the mountain on the first day and sometimes, I worry how I will manage being away from the people I love who have become very dear to me for as long as I will be.
What I am trying to do is trust that I am on the right path for right now and everything else will fall into place. It has to for all the reasons I need to do this walk.
Especially… for Bree