Monday, November 21, 2011

Resting my feet in Almuñecar

It's been a full week since finishing the camino. It's hard to accept that there are no more yellow arrows to follow until I pick up and do another one.
November 13th was my birthday and even though I've had over a month of it, all I wanted to do was walk. I traveled 31km, walking from one beautiful Spanish seaside town to another beautiful Spanish seaside town. While walking to my left there were many moments of fields, tall trees and water, to my right there were fields, tall trees and mountains. It drizzled off and on but that's what ponchos are for. I saw a pasture with a white donkey and a black sheep. I had to take off my shoes and socks at one point to walk through knee high water. I collected shells on the beach. It felt like an adventure. I'm happy to say I walked all the way to 'the end of the world' and then some.
I did miss family and friends by the end of the day, so it was nice to come back to a fb wall full of messages, and emails. Who would have thought I could miss Toronto so much! I've really come to love that city and all the wonderful people in it. Its been weird to see a non-cosmopolitan culture and having every restaurant and bar have very similar menus. I've learned the many differences between a Big city, a small city, a small town and a hamlet. Upon reaching Madrid I was very eager to eat Indian and Thai food. Both were easy enough to find and delicious but I still missed my cosmopolitan big safe city, Toronto.
Its been great being able to relax with family in Madrid and Granada and to be putting my feet down for a little while in Almuñecar. I used to call Almuñecar a small town but after seeing how small towns can actually get I am realizing it's a small city. I've found a few health food stores and bring home things that make my grandmother think I'm crazy. Oatmeal and green tea for breakfast has replaced hot chocolate, white toast and cookies. Spinach pasta for dinner is just loco and that I eat it at 7pm and not 10, tonto.

I have three goals while in Spain, learn how to cook from my grandmother, read and write in Spanish, write. So far I'm standing over Abuela's shoulder while she cooks until she shoos me away and reading Harry Potter in Spanish; highlighting all the words I don't know and then making new sentences for those words.

I love being so close to the beach, and even if they fuss a lot I'm glad to be close to my grandmother and aunt. I feel like I'm taking advantage of a very special opportunity. This is the first time I have enough Spanish to really understand my Abuela and the first time I've seen her retired and willing to say more than refranes, sayings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

one wonders how you're able to afford it.

I got this message from a friend on facebook just now:
"This trip of yours is awfully expensive. one wonders how you're able to afford it. you're not drug dealing are you?"
Nope, I'm not a drug dealer :P thanks for the vote of confidence that I'd be able to pull off that job! Actually one week in Paris was almost the same as four weeks on the camino. Some people do the camino on a budget of 12€ a day. Then in Madrid and the South, Costa del Sol, I'll be with family. I lived with my dad for a few months before leaving Toronto and waited tables and saved as much as I could. There were some other factors too, an old boss owed me some $, my family sent me off with some generosity. The Camino is doable on any budget really. I kept a record of my spending for the first four weeks. My cheapest day was 12€, my most expensive day was 111€. The expensive day I bought thermal long johns, a thermal top and a 16gb memory card for my camera. I thought I would be able to upload photos along the way but that wasn't the case. Those three purchases will last for a while so its more of an investment for winter and future travel than just splurging on things. The least expensive week was 144€ and the most in a week was 253€ (the week of my most expensive day) I ate really well, I slept in a Pension when I needed, I didn't hold back on my needs and it was still rare to spend more than 25€ a day.
I met one woman on the Camino who is staying in a hotel every night and having her pack sent to each hotel, and not doing very many Km a day. Her trip is costing $4000AUS. Another guy did his trip on 12€ a day. A few pilgriams do their trips on the kindness of others for reasons such as to humble themselves, learn how to ask for help, and trust in the goodness and generosity of others.

I did a lot of research before my trip, and I mean years of browsing online of how to travel on a shoestring budget. Any time I would have the opportunity to buy something I would weigh the options, 'If I'm thinking of buying X where else could I put that money? How many plane tickets out of YYZ is that purchase?' I read sites like The Professional Hobo, Matador, Mixergy. Where I read about all different types of ways to live, to make money and to travel the world. The Four Hour Workweek is one of my favorite books. I have three copies that I lend out frequently. It changed my perspective on how people can live. It shows you the extremes, but also the possibilities that are available to you. Why spend your life waiting for what you want? Why not see if you can do that now? Every day on the camino was a day where I realized I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but right where I was. How often can one really say that? Travel doesn't have to break the bank, it depends on what you want from your travel experience. People all around the world are house sitting for eachother, working on organic farms, hooking up with a multitude of programs. I have a lot of resources on my computer that I'll have access to in a few days so please feel free to ask me any questions!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Will you walk with me to the ends of the earth?

"Will you walk with me to the ends of the Earth?" I asked my new Camino friend Jenn who graciously accepted.
So for the past three days I have been walking the extra part after Santiago to Finisterre (once know as the end of the world when it was considered flat) and it couldn't have been more fun. On the third day of walking you run into a fork in the road where you have to choose to go right to Muxia or left to Finisterre. After a day of joking with Jenn we left camino mail for our Aussi friends Mike and Tom.
"Go left! It will be all right. But if you don't it's not the end of the world!" 
We had spend the whole morning making "Its not the end of the world" jokes for everything that cropped up.  (We thought it was so funny we considered turning right to Muxia just so we could keep on laughing about it.)
Walking there gave me time to think about what we know now and what is going to change over the years. If there was a time when people were so certain that the world was ending at the spot I'm about to visit what else are we wrong about now? It was two back to back 30k days so there was a lot of time to think about things. Galicia is absolutely magical and I feel blessed to have seen this part of Spain. I think this extra part of the walk was more rewarding for me than to arrive in Santiago. The sight of the ocean really made me feel like I had walked a very long way. I was saying to Jenn 'with beauty like this you could accept that there wasn't anything more' and then we saw the ocean down below and freaked out. It was such a rewarding moment. I think the angels parted the clouds just for us to catch a glimpse and write in our journals and then closed up again so we'd quit dilly'dallying and make our way down the mountain.
Jenn, Tom and I reached some part of beach to watch the sunset and soak our feet and drink a hot chocolate but we still had 6k more to meet Alex at Finisterre to celebrate the end of it all. On that walk in the dark we got a dissaproving jest from a local, shaking his head at us saying 'you're late, its night time'. This made us look to the East and catch the tiniest glimpse of light peaking over the hill. We all stood in awe as a giant full moon quickly rose above the hillside. So to the Señor who shook his head at us I'd say thanks and I think we were just in time. It was the first time I've seen a moonrise and my moon-shadow and the rest of the night celebrating was really somthing else... Now for a day of rest! (Before my 20ishK walk to Muxia tomorrow!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh Santiago

Santiago was something else. It was odd to be in such a large city but even more odd to be seeing so many people I'd met along the way, continually passing them on the street. I splurged with 23€ for a private rooom in a hotel including a buffet breakfast. I realized I haven't had a room to myself in almost 2 months. It was nice to just sit in silence. The catheral was really more extravagant than I was expecting. The certificate of completion was less extravagant than I was expecting, but the mass where I heard say 'two Canadians who started in Pamplona' was pretty neat. Santiago was a place of planning for the next week which was pretty draining. I already missed following the yellow arrows and was so happy to be on the road again the next day. I'm sure there will be a few tears to shed when I have to get on a bus to go back to Santiago on the 14th and then on a train. I've really loved this journey with its many nuggets of learning.

Paolo Coelho recently described going in to Santiago and the journey, I really loved reading this article about the camino:

Tomorrow is 11.11.11 where I will burn paper in the fires of Finestere. Some people burn clothes but I wanted to write a list of all the things I was angry about to burn away. This is what I came up with instead...
To Burn at Finistere Fires 

"When you're being pushed towards anger, HAVE MERCY (for in Latin Mercy is 'Love for the miserable')"
My anger, like high waves of the sea has risen high for many people...
but really
-When I act like a five year old having a tantrum

-When I lean to situations I really don't like for the illusion of pleasing another

-When I listen to others negativity without mercy but with judgement that their pain is less than mine

It is not with these people that I am angry but how I´ve acted towards them in these ways that my anger rises to burn me. I now wish to burn away these reactions that cause my hurtful anger.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Five weeks

Well today happens to be the last day of week five and it is with a big sigh that I write this post. Tomorrow or the day after is the day of arriving in Santiago and the end of this great Camino. I still plan on walking onwards to Finisterre but the end is here.
This past week has been lush and green. Muddy trails through great enchanting forests of trees covered compleatly in ivy and moss with ferns and some eucalyptus. There have been many animals. Fields of cows worthy of milk or chocolate commercials, lambs, hens. I fed an apple to a horse today.
The forest trial opened up to a road where a stand of coffee, fruit and sweet bread lay waiting. Each with prices posted and a box to put money in for whatever you've taken. The honor system in full effect. I took photos of a river with a bridge made of giant stepping stones and there was a nice great mist in the distance and a clear blue sky above us. I love all of my pictures and can't wait to post them.
Today I spent a lot of time thinking about all the people I've met on the Camino and where they might be. One amazing woman I met who is 70 (and traveled the world over once her kids had grown and she'd passed 50) gave me a great recommendation of drinking a little bit of Cognac to get warm on colder camino nights. Cognac here is about 1€ for two shots worth and it does a great job of warming the bones after a day in the rain.
It's been such a life shift to wake up every morning and walk somewhere new. My pace of life is so relaxed and each day I've been able to see beautiful sights. It's a comforting thought to know that no matter what, the camino will be here and if I really wanted I could come back and open an Albergue or volunteer. I think I would recommend the camino to anyone who wants to slow down their pace of life and who likes walking. It has been a great way to get in touch with the North part of Spain and really get a feel for the different regions. It's been a surprise to have so many new great friends and nice to feel so strong that the idea of walking 20k feels like no big deal.
20ish K left to Santiago!