Post-Camino Zombie Phase

I have officially entered post-Camino-zombie phase.  After Camino number one in 2009, I had one full day at home with my family before boarding a southbound airplane and launching into a “getting to know you”-new-job situation. So as strange as I feel now, I am grateful for the silence of my living room, the promise of at-home work (which will hopefully be more than “promise” soon), and the freedom to be a zombie.

There is one part of my mind that is still seeing the rolling hills and endless wheat fields, and another part of my brain that is desperately trying to remember the details of everything that happened there.  I attributed my last post-Camino crash to a pretty lousy break up that commenced two days after reaching Santiago, but now I wonder if this feeling happens either way.  I just feel lost, confused by the silence around me while I’m home and confused by the chatter when I go out.  I’m used to heading into a town square and knowing half the people around me–if not by name, then by nickname–like “the twins with the hats” or “Irish guy with rolling backpack.”  We were known as a variety of things as well–Jersey girls, academic girls, and who knows what else.

On the Camino, you can learn the deepest, most intimate details of someone’s life before knowing their name.

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So I was on a podcast…

Amidst the absolute madness of the past several weeks, I received an early light at the end of the tunnel in the form of an email from Dan Mullins.  Dan hosts a podcast based in Australia that interviews pilgrims from the Camino, and he found my xoJane article from last year on the experience.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t had the guts to listen to the full episode yet because the sound of my own voice makes me want to hide under a rock, but I’m making progress!  Dan did such a beautiful job with the interview, and the experience itself was not only a bucket list item, but also generally exhilarating.  After I finished the interview, I may have jumped up and down around my house and couldn’t go to sleep for a while.  Wine helped though.

My main hope is that the episode will inspire more people to go on the trek themselves. Buen Camino, all!  And if you’ve found your way to my blog via the podcast or Camino forum, WELCOME! And thank you so much for visiting!

Also, a huge thank you to John DeSilvestri for selling me his excellent mic that saved the day!

Feel free to have a listen, and definitely go check out Dan’s past episodes on Facebook!

My Podcast Episode!


54 days!

Two Months Before the Camino

I’ve always had travel anxiety.  I dream about going on trips, and save up for years for these types of things, just to feel horribly anxious before I actually leave.  And the moment I decided on a date to return to the Camino de Santiago, I knew that this happy/terrified anticipation would begin even earlier than it did the last time.

Because this time around, I know exactly what I’m getting into.  I know how hard it will be on my muscles and joints, I know how long the days can feel, and I know how hard it is to let go of the dependable day-to-day life that you’ve been used to for the past several years.  But I also know that this is the whole reason I’m going.  My brain is like a dusty closet, filled more and more everyday by the little, persistent needs of my house, my job, my career. With too much dust, I forget what it’s like to sit down and think clearly for more than a few minutes at a time.  Even when I take a break in the middle of the day or go on a weekend trip, I see the impending end to that break on the horizon.  And this is exactly why I did not choose to go on a traditional vacation with my saved pennies.  This is why I need to spend this time moving as slowly as possible across a great distance. I haven’t found anything else that breaks up the cobwebs in my head like a challenge of this sort.

So with my building anxiety–and the countdown dwindling–I want to use this blog as a place to write where I stand, literally and mentally leading up to my second pilgrimage.  So I’m writing for three purposes:

  1. Help people who are considering/leaving soon for the Camino themselves.
  2. Vent about my feelings and pre-trip anxieties to make myself feel better.
  3. Prepare for the writing I hope to do on the trip itself.

So here’s where I stand…

Hiking during San Fermin.  Yikes.

Logistically, I have learned that hiking the Camino overtop of the running of the bull is a bit of a nightmare.  Pamplona, the fourth-or-so town on the Camino Frances (when starting in St. Jean Pied de Port), fills up for a week with revelers for the San Fermin festival.  So here comes a vegetarian and a girl that fears large crowds hiking right in the middle of the bull run.  Yeesh.  The hardest part is finding a hostel in or around Pamplona.  I know there are ways around the city, but I am worried these roads will not be well marked, and the last thing I want to do is get lost. Luckily, this morning we booked a room.  It was about four times the amount we will normally pay for a hostel, but alas, better than getting lost in the hillsides of Spain.  Hit me up in the contact section if you need suggestions of where to stay, we saw a few additional options in our journeys.

I’m losing patience with emails

My work email has a little notification feature that pops up on the top right part of my screen whenever a new message comes in.  As someone who needs to get into a zone when they work, I have been less immune to frustration as each one pops up.  I’m having real-world senioritis.  One of the best things about the Camino is a disconnect from technology, from usual rhythms and patterns of your day, and from a constantly shifting focus.  I feel the most resentful when I am pulled in several directions and incapable of finishing one specific task because of it.  I realize these are all “first-world” problems, and one of my whole purposes for returning to the hike is to reorganize my brain and not become instantly frustrated when several people need things from me at once.

A Week of Happy Crying

I have a suspicion that I’m going to happy-cry my way through the first few days of this trip.  Yes, I know I’m anxious as all hell now, but once I get my butt on the airplane and fall asleep, I will actually be able to say that I can truly rest. It’s strange to think that walking for five weeks is “truly resting,” but this is my sort of freedom.  I look forward to days and days of being out in the sun, opposed to looking at it through an office window. And I look forward to a community of people that find little reason to fall into the trap of negativity–a great listen for my own brain.  All that matters on the Camino is safely getting from one place to the next while looking out for the people around you.

So much support!

As I mentioned in one of my past posts, I’ve had such a different reaction to my trip announcement this time around. In 2009, the Camino was not as well known and the world was simply in a different mindset. I said that I wanted to drop everything and disappear for a few weeks, and everyone assumed I was doing a drunken jaunt through Europe to be wild and crazy. I was also told that it was too dangerous for a young woman to take on. This time though–nothing but positive thoughts from everyone.  I’ve even received a whole bunch of phone calls and emails from people asking about how to plan their own trips.  The world may feel like shit right now on the whole, but I applaud everyone’s newly opened mind to the idea of personal and spiritual pilgrimages.  You don’t get a big golden award at the end or some giant recognition on the news.  You do it for you, and you go home.  The fact that something of this sort if gaining popularity is a good sign for society.


We’re at 61 days.  And counting.

Day 21: The Infamous Rome Story from Hell

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

This story does not have any related photographs…nor does it deserve any.  Good luck reading, friends.

Part 1: Murphy’s Law

If there is one thing I learned during my early years as a young traveler, it’s that listening to your body can make the difference between a disappointment and a complete disaster.  A week before traveling to Rome during my semester abroad, my body was telling me that something was wrong, and I did not listen.  Instead, I figured pushing through the impending flu-like symptoms was the smartest way to make them go away.  At 21, you think that one good night sleep and a good dose of ignoring the problem is all that it takes to carry on.

Three quarters of the way through my London semester, with one of our longer holiday breaks on the horizon, my friend Helen and I planned to head over to Rome for a few days, our second unguided trip of the semester (and our lives, really).  But that weary, woozy, heavy feeling began to hover as the trip approached.  In my head, the Ryan Air flight–which was probably only like 30 Euro–should not be wasted over a mere fever.  We were going to make this trip happen.

The night before the trip, a stabbing pain developed in the back of my throat, which was quickly followed up with a heavy resonant hack to go with it.  But no, this was going to happen.  We had Italian dreams, and again, the money shouldn’t be wasted!  I figured a solid nap once we reached Italy would push me back into Healthy Land.

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New Camino Post on xoJane

Good Morning!!  If you check out my post from yesterday, I was in a hell of a slump.  But an article I wrote for xoJane was published last evening, and so far seems to be going over pretty well!  It was definitely the boost I needed after a poopy day.

If you are just finding my site because of the xoJane article, welcome!  I’ve noticed that many people in the comments are either discussing their own Camino experience or interested in going sometime in the future.  If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I love to talk about it, and though my trip was seven years ago (and I’m sure a lot has changed with the growth of technology since then), I can definitely get you started.  I even have a packing list saved that I wrote up for a few friends of mine.

Also, just for the record, the Camino was not all about shaking fists of rage and cursing the stars.  It was also about choreographing interpretive dances, singing The Proclaimers in the middle of the desert, and drinking one-Euro bottles of wine with people from all over the world until you’re told to go to shut up and go to bed.  It’s grown-up summer camp, with a lot of walking.

The backpack dance

The backpack dance

The Native Navigator Launch Date: March 23rd!

Yahoo!!  Remember that time last fall when I decided to start a new website?  I sure do–because ever since then I have learned many a lesson about the trials and tribulations of launching a website. Turns out there’s much more to it than buying a URL and having a super lofty idea about traveling.

Nevertheless, I have decided to take the plunge and give myself a deadline.  After almost a year of futzing, researching, learning how to use a camera, and getting over my fear of interviewing people (well, I’m still working on that one), I have at least the beginnings of The Native Navigator.  So let’s break it down (in what somehow became an interview with myself):

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I Love New York, But I May Never Be A Good New Yorker


Creative Commons Wojtek Witkowski

Creative Commons Wojtek Witkowski

I may now live in North Jersey, but I put in my time living in Queens and Jersey City (which we considered a borough of Manhattan- I mean seriously, it is) for seven years.  I have also worked/trained/performed in NYC since my dad started taking me to auditions when I was ten.  Back then, I had the right to be terrified of NYC.  It was the mid-90’s, and no one wanted to spend a lot of time lounging in the delightful place it was then.  At that age, Manhattan was about large pushy crowds, walking much farther than I thought my little legs could carry me, intimidating auditions, and tunnels that kind of smelled like pee.  Going into work with my dad was always fun, and yes, I did love acting, but if these two things could have been outside of Manhattan, I wouldn’t have been heartbroken.

Another twelve years passed and the time finally arrived- I had to move to NYC.  I have always been an actor, and since the energy of LA will never be my style, I knew this was my destiny.  I started an internship with a wonderful company in 2010, and eased my way into the NYC life by commuting from home for several months. Then in September, I had take the leap.  I found roommates on Craigslist, put a deposit down on an apartment (more cash than I have ever handed over in my life up until that point) and settled into Astoria on September 1st.

I have to say, I was very lucky during my transition.  I had two part-time jobs going in (the internship and at Crumbs Bake Shop), and a fantastic boyfriend who lived exactly 11 blocks from my apartment, who had lived in NY for many years.  If it wasn’t for Ben, I would have shuttered myself in from the noise within a week.  Thus began my love/hate relationship with my time in NYC.

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Greetings from Fleischmanns!


It’s amazing how a little town in the middle of New York State can remind me of my hike in Spain. Fleischmanns, New York, is a tranquil gem hidden among the Catskill Mountains, off a winding two lane “highway” freckled with an almaring amount of “Former Site of {insert town name}“ signs, depicting the complicated tale of lost towns during the redistribution of the NYC reservoirs. Fleischmanns, however, seems to have held on to its spot since the mid-19th century.

Room in our hotel named after one of the towns that was reallocated for the reservoir...

Room in our hotel named after one of the towns that was reallocated for the reservoir…

After winding through the mountains for 30 minutes, I told my husband to look out for the turn onto Main Street, that according to the map, was supposed to appear after very few signs of life. It seemed unlikely a Main Street could exist out here. But there it was, and there was Fleischmanns, a collection of about 15 shops, half of which long-abandoned with “for sale by owner” signs adorning their dusty windows. And yet, as I said before, I am reminded of the towns we hiked through on the Camino, and so it is not a place of desolation or sadness. As tiny as it is, the shop owners I chatted with seem enthusiastic and pleasant, and most importantly, proud of this strange little haven separated from the noises on the city.

When hiking the Camino, we often passed through small villages that once clearly experienced their heyday, and this just wasn’t it. And yet you can’t help feel that someday soon people will return to make this mecca a of writers, or skiers, or bee lovers. Whatever it is, its energy remains positive and peaceful, and no one seems to be put out by the town’s temporary hiatus from being a hip place to go.  I do have to say that is a beautiful area to lay out with a book and prepare for an afternoon wedding.


Fleischmanns has several art galleries, a museum, a library, and a whopping three Mexican restaurants – one of which is apparently a gas station that sells terrific tamales. There is a town debate over the best tamale on Main Street.  How a town gathers such eclectic variety of businesses says a lot about its people. Though its population hangs around 350, I’ve been sensing it’s a mixture of New York hippies who escaped the city back in the 80’s, an Amish community, a Latino community passionate about Mexican-American food, and a large old white dog that we suspect is actually the mayor of the town. The dog trailed Ben and I for part of our walk but showed no interest in affection. I think he may have just been surveying his land and collecting property taxes.

Ben and I are staying at the River Run Bed and Breakfast, which if you enjoy staying in a real home, it’s the place for you. I’ve stayed at Inns where each piece of art is so delicately chosen and arranged that you are afraid to sneeze in the wrong direction, in fear of altering the Victorian vibe they’ve worked so hard for. Luckily, we often find places like this one here, where the owner and his basset hound will sit with you and tell you the story of the town throughout breakfast. I enjoy sleeping in
places that feel like someone has opened their home, and the mutual respect of space is expected and appreciated.

Painting for Barney the Basset Hound

Painting for Barney the Basset Hound

I went for a walk this morning and saw two very adorable young boys riding bikes, one older lady who must have been 102, a shop owner who tried to convince me to buy the house across the street, and of course, the large white dog. I bought one lemon and one book of travel poems, published in 1967.  Together, they were $2.  After this, Ben and I may go on a tamale mission and see what all the hype is about.


It’s noon, so naturally the siren is going off, something I haven’t heard since living in Vernon, and reminds me that it’s time to get moving for the wedding at 3:30. If you find yourself up in the area, whether you’re autumn leaf watching, skiing, or would like to try three tamale places in one day, swing by Fleischmanns. I hope to report back later with more tales of the town, hopefully after speaking with the dog mayor of the town.

Greetings from Wildwood

image cred:

image cred:

I have an unnatural attachment to the Great Egg toll booth plaza on the Southbound side of the Garden State Parkway.  Anyone who has spent their lives traveling to the southern tip of the Jersey Shore understands this feeling.  After the inevitable Union County traffic, the pushy crowds of the Atlantic City rest stop, and the feeling that New Jersey seems to be getting longer every time you come down here, suddenly, the land opens up.  The Great Egg toll booth is at the entrance to the a bridge – so close to the water that upon entering it you feel as though a rogue wave may come up say hello to your car (though I’ve comforted myself time and again that we are farther from it than I think).  Nevertheless, at this point, the air finally smells like the ocean.  It’s as if you’ve reached some South Jersey Shore threshold, vacationland is south of you and real life is north of you.  For the next few days, your hair is allowed to be salty and your purse is allowed to be a little bit full of sand.

I am now sitting on the porch of a rented beach house drinking coffee with a scoop of iced cream in it because it’s been a hard week.  As you might had noticed, I really didn’t touch my writing.  The week began with the elegant launching of my tea across my office, demolishing my work laptop.  It definitely wasn’t a good thing to happen, but still, my extreme reaction shocked me.  Instead of celebrating that I work in a  place that will replace the tea covered laptop with…a new laptop…I fell into a pit of panicked despair that I had been enough of an idiot to karate chop my tea mug across the room.  Clearly, it was on purpose.  Things started to irrationally spiral from there.

Jump ahead about 24 hours and after some bumpy family news.  I was talking to my mom on the phone about how rejuvenating their trip has been this year.  They have been in Wildwood Crest since the beginning of this week, a town we’ve officially been visiting for four generations.  My grandpa made it in the brochure of a 1960’s hawaiian-themed motel we use to stay in religiously, The Kona Kai, which was swapped out for silly condos around 2006.   Somehow, for the past ten or so years, I have found an excuse to not join my family on this vacation.  But since my anxiety came to a head around Tuesday night, my mom convinced me to hit the pause button on life, and drive down for a few nights to figure out where my head has been.


It wasn’t until I sat down with this iced cream coffee situation and started writing this post that I realized how much my blogging has been a canary in the coal mines lately.  If I am struggling, my writing struggles.  An hour ago, while sitting on the beach with my niece and nephews, I checked my phone to find a rejection email from a website I had submitted a post to.  It’s fair for several reasons- A. my heart wasn’t in the post itself, and B. the style of the website is not completely in line with who I am as a writer. And yet as the train started to go off the track this month, I began to make compromises.  I worked toward simply getting published opposed to writing pieces I deeply cared about.  I also spent so much time researching the logistics of making money off a blog, that eventually I didn’t feel like blogging at all.  In a nutshell, I lost the artistic balance and burned out.

This afternoon, we will go to Bandanas, the only place I’ve even gone where you can satisfy your craving for both ice cream covered crepes AND burritos.  And after that, probably after naps, we may go back to the beach.  Who knows.  The important thing is that time moves differently in Wildwood.  It is marked by early morning beach time (usually accompanied by cinnamon buns), pre-lunch beach time, and after dinner strolling beach time.  I don’t know of any bars, though I’m sure they exist, and I can’t say that Wildwood is know for its snazzy fine dining, even though it has some great restaurants.  All I know is that occasionally a plane flies overheard while you’re half asleep, sunburning on the beach, with a banner behind it telling you about lobsters.  But you drift back to sleep because lobsters sound like way too much energy right now, and you could really just got for a taco and a crepe.

So long story longer, I’m down the shore trying to feel like me again.  I’m very grateful that this was an option exactly when I needed it, especially since both my writing and general sanity was heading downhill.  This, in the long run, though disruptive to our original plans, will be far more helpful in the scheme of things.  Sometimes, it’s important to realize that taking care of yourself and your family needs to trump all the detailed plans your originally spent so much time delicately arranging.  And with that comfort, I will sit here and finish my ice cream coffee with the satisfaction that I made the right choice.