The Camino List!

I woke up this morning with a new sense of hope. It is the first time I’ve slept soundly through the night since last weekend, and I’m sure it was partially due to the fact that I was finally able to eat somewhat normally yesterday.  I’m still unable to get back to hiking training, but I feel less like the room is spinning every time I exert myself.

I am also beginning to fully process that I indeed only have two more weeks in a full-time, traditional office setting.  I’ve been counting down my return to the trail for nearly six years, and more recently, obsessively counting down the months and weeks.  This trip represents far more than a career change and “vacation.” It is the end of a three-year push to pay off a mountain of debt, to figure out a new lucrative, freelance career and lifestyle, and most importantly–to learn how speak up for decisions and ideas that truly make me a better, more complete person.

But with joy and realization, comes the inevitable travel anticipation–the total “holy crap moment” that accompanies leaving your comfortable bubble and doing something rather terrifying.

And so to both celebrate this morning’s new-found sense of hope, and to recognize my underlying terror of returning to this physical undertaking of hiking 500 miles, I have begun mentally making the “Camino List of Awesome Stuff”–a list that will keep me going through my final 15 days.

Things I’m looking forward to on the Camino

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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.

You Are My Starfish–A Camino Story

Photo via Unsplash

Photo via Unsplash

Despite the past several days throwing us some curve balls (I fell down the steps this morning–no broken bones but some pretty impressive cuts and bruises), I woke up feeling generally okay. Sure, the heat in our apartment still doesn’t work because our boiler almost blew us up last week. And sure, every day, the news reminds us that the country is crumbling.  And yet, as I tried to express in last week’s post, good things are still happening.  Maybe that’s why I can handle wiping out on my back steps, spitting toothpaste all over the room and nearly breaking my elbow.  I can take that.  Because on the bright side, I still don’t have to live through another November 8th, 2016.

After that terrible week, I felt paralyzed.  I felt that no matter what I did, nothing could fight this national disaster.  But as the days passed, and our clouds of fear slowly parted, many of us started finding very small, very subtle ways of trying to improve the days of those around us.  A coworker approached me about a Secret Santa for local low-income seniors, another friend arranged us to volunteer at a homeless shelter.  While I was there, I bumped into another friend, totally unrelated to the first arrangement, who had come just to volunteer with her husband.  Because she knew she had to do something.  Because of these, and some other random opportunities for acts of kindness, this was one of the most fulfilling holiday seasons I’ve ever experienced.

The country has seen this too.  A record-breaking donation season, a huge increase of women running for local offices, people stepping up to defend strangers, just to name a few.

But I’m not here to pat myself on the back.  I’m actually here to talk about a Camino story (surprise!).

The Camino of Animals

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Ben and I were chatting about this phenomenon last night–people’s call to action after the election.  It’s easy to feel that small acts are too insubstantial when the headlines tell you that no matter what you do, an unstoppable sentiment of hate and intolerance has been reawakened in our country.  It’s hard to feel that leaving a larger tip on someone’s bill, or going out of your way to say something friendly to a stranger really matters at all.  Why donate one place, when there are so many groups that need our attention?

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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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The Native Navigator Launch Day!

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Put on your party hats, friends!  I have finally launched The Native Navigator! It is still very much a work in progress, but as I find my way, it would mean more than the world to me if you either followed the blog, followed me on Twitter at @NativeNavigator or Liked my Facebook page.  I am still figuring out how I want to go about this whole thing, and you have all been the most important and supportive people in the development of my writing and blogging.  So whether it’s still a hot mess or not, I would love your feedback.  Either way, it’s live!!  Wooohoooo!!

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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Finding Your January Beach

Creative Commons Clara Nomen

Creative Commons Clara Nomen

It is very chilly today in North Jersey and something funky is going on with our heat.  And by something funky I mean it isn’t turning on.  Fortunately, because it’s a super old house, the pipes that heat my upstairs neighbors run through our floor, and since those are incredibly hot, they warm our apartment at the same time.  If they weren’t doing this, the cats, pipes, and I would be frozen ice cubes.  I would go join my upstairs neighbors (as they are lovely people), but alas, they are in Costa Rica.  The irony that I am freezing my buns off and mooching off their heated pipes as they lay on a hot beach, is very much not lost on me.  Luckily, I’m spending most of the day at work where it is nice and toasty due to a functional furnace the frenetic angst of middle schoolers.

My neighbors are some of the many people on Facebook who have made the brilliant choice to jump ship this January and head for sunnier shores.  Other than the obvious factors of money and responsibility, I’m not sure why we didn’t also find a way to leave town.  Coming back after the holidays is a bit like crawling out of the warm covers in the morning when you know your slippers and hoody are across a very chilly room.  If I could have returned to school wrapped in a  comforter, I would have.  To be fair, last year at this time, I spent most of my time at my desk wrapped in a  Snuggie.  Because I am an adult.

But alas, no matter how much I begrudge the pictures of warm feet on hot sandy beaches (usually flanked by cocktails), I am not going to magically wake up on a tropical island tomorrow.  And so my only option is to make the best of January, and find that Cape May State of Mind I long for this time of year.

A few years back, I took one Intensati class with a friend of mine.  It’s amazing how many times that one class comes up in blog posts.  It was a good one.  One thing we spoke about were desired mindsets- not desired life changes, necessarily, (because so many of those are out of our control) but mindsets–these are much more malleable.  The instructor asked us to pinpoint the part of our lives that caused us the most stress.  For me at the time, this was money.  She then said to imagine that our particular issue was solved.  100% gone.  It felt like such a tease — a mean trick to play on my brain.  I knew when I came out of it I would still be taking a free workout class and going back to a bowl of rice a beans in a moldy apartment.  But I gave it a try.  Okay.  Money issues are gone.  I don’t have to think about where my bills are coming from or how to buy groceries.  She she said to take a look at how this felt.  What changed in your body?  And even more importantly, what else did you brain make space for without the worry in its usual place?

This reminds me a bit like those NY Lottery ads, but instead, you don’t actually have to win the lottery to have these footloose and fancy free ideas.lottery

As cruel as this imagination game felt, she had a great point.  I did instantly begin thinking about things I never had the room to consider.  I had no idea how much I longed to get back into class, I felt how much I tensed my back, and I generally felt less full of self-pity.  Playing this imagination game took practice, but the slow changes that occurred allowed me to make financial independence a reality.

Now I know you’ve heard it all before, the fake it until you make it mantras are all over motivation posters on Facebook.  But the specificity of this exercise was eye-opening to me.  That “magic if” of financial independence had a lot to do with my planting the seeds for my actual financial independence.

 

Which brings me to a larger challenge–finding the beach mindset.  Each year when we go to Cape May, I sit there half the time wondering how I can spend more of my life by the warm sea.  In a magical world, I am someday paid for my writing and I grab a towel, a beach umbrella, and my laptop and call it a summer.  I may be working full-time on the beach, but hell, I’m on the beach.  I know this is unlikely in the near future, and in reality, could get old quickly. But what I do wish for is a way to bottle up that vacation energy, and to mimic the headspace that comes along with the first few days of escaping the monotony of winter.

And so for tonight, I am going to take some time to figure out what that headspace actually entails, the same way I studied what it felt like not to worry about money.  I know, just sitting here, that vacation to me means I do not have to think about immediate responsibilities.  Since that is clearly not true when you are living your life, this game has to be more about matching that feeling opposed to actually dropping everything and everyone that depends on you.  It also can’t mean getting lazy and letting go of standards.  And yet I would love to feel like the monotony of my day-to-day activities are not draining my energy.  Again, it’s all a mind game that takes time.  But a worthwhile one to try out, yes?  If over time, even amongst the toughest days, we have a bit of that beach-brain to venture into the January tundra, I feel that is worth the months of meditation to get there. Also, I feel like everyone would be a little more enthusiastic about seeing each other, and even more generous–the way you feel just before a holiday break.

Ideally, in the end, I won’t need a life on the beach to find that happy place.  There isn’t a ton of theatre on the beach itself, and so staying there all the time would not actually be super productive.  But small steps toward this vacation brain may not only free us from longing to be somewhere else half the time, but also eliminate the resentment toward those that can travel whenever they please.

Feel free to post your own beach photos for inspiration, and stay warm out there today.

Ben on the Beach in Hawaii during our honeymoon in 2014.

Ben on the Beach in Hawaii during our honeymoon in 2014.

The Native Navigator: New Website Announcement

Creative Commons Photo by Barby Dalbasco

Creative Commons Photo by Barby Dalbasco

The time has come!  A website idea of mine has been in the works for a while now, and things are finally getting rolling.  At the end of October, The Native Navigator will officially go live!  The Url is purchased, the hosting is all set up, and I am in the early phases of making it look pretty and fabulous.  Since you have all been such supportive readers, I would like to occasionally post with progress updates and requests for advice.  So what the heck is this website?…

The Native Navigator: The World in Your Backyard

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First of all, many thanks to Antonia Del Corsano, a very witty high school friend, for helping me come up with the title.

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