…but I’ve been to Oklahoma

Is it just me or is it beginning to sound like a Three Dog Night song around here?

Here I am preparing for the Camino and…rats…gotta run out of town for a quick business trip. But I’m back now and, shaking off that disruption, trying to finish getting everything ready that I need for Spain with less than two weeks left. Got extra memory for the camera, got the European plug adapter, got a ready supply of allergy and migraine meds….but more items still to acquire. Not to mention this is the last week of my graduate “Introduction to Emergency Management” class with one more paper to write (yet another distraction from my Camino prep). Wish me luck getting back on track!

In the meantime, I did get to enjoy myself last week in Oklahoma where they have delicious barbecue, juicy steaks (Cattleman’s), damn good fried chicken (Eischen’s),beer served margarita-style (ChelinosChellenosand old-fashioned shrimp boils on back patios spiced up with a visit to a tornado shelter and a little 4-year-old running around chanting “Boomer Sooner, Texas Sucks” to taunt our colleagues from Texas. (Yes, her father put her up to that.)

I also got to have some more Twitter fun @TheFarPlaces with #PenguinAboutTown who – despite his diminutive stature – has developed a fondness for food, beer, and gambling.Penguin_gambling Fortunately he’s too short to drive my car otherwise I might wake up one morning to find it parked half on the sidewalk/half in the bushes, full of empty beer bottles and fast food wrappers. Some people think Penguin is adorable, some think his photo antics are cute, and others think his Twitter appearances are corny and/or dumb.

Penguin_Beer

So…if you’re one of the latter, brace yourself because, yes, Penguin will be going with me to Spain, where he will (temporarily) become #PinguinoEnEspana. (Please correct me if that is a wrong translation for #PenguinInSpain.)

(Sadly, Penguin does not have his own separate twitter feed; #PenguinAboutTown is too many characters long – violating Twitter naming rules, so he has to share mine @TheFarPlaces.) So, please, if you are so inclined, watch for Penguin on Twitter. I will also be blogging here on WordPress whenever I can.

I’d also like to thank those of you who have offered your comments and suggestions, and provided links to your blogs so I can get better prepared. I’m just catching up with myself now, so once I get that last paper written for Crisis Management, I will be checking out all of your helpful information. Thanks!!

Preparing for the Camino

imagesThe first I had ever heard of the Camino de Santiago in Spain was in an article published in the October 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler, written by actor Andrew McCarthy about his experiences with conquering his own fears and vulnerabilities through travel. I thought, I’d like to test myself on that same road one of these days, but it wasn’t high on my priority list so I pushed it aside in favor of other, more remote, destinations like Antarctica. But – as I wrote a couple weeks ago – my friend Xina (journeytaker) recently invited me to accompany her.

While I admit I was a bit surprised that she’d decided to undertake such a journey – even if she had to do it alone –  I realized I shouldn’t be, nor should I be surprised that she came up with a destination already in the back of my mind. Xina is no shy, passive, creature. She takes risks, whether it’s convincing her husband, Dave, and daughter, Brandy, to go on some outrageous month-long canoeing expedition or walking up to a complete stranger (me) in a room full of other strangers and – after eyeing my name tag – says “Hi! I’m in the same writer’s workshop you are!” And only a couple years after that, as we sat eating breakfast in a SoCal Denny’s one day, she asked where I wanted my next vacation to be. I said Antarctica. I remember two things: the way her eyes and face lit up as she exclaimed “Me too!” and the look of abject horror on Dave’s face. He was clearly thinking “Oh god, someone who’s insane as my wife.” Brandy, who was maybe 10 at the time, said, “But Mommy, I don’t want you to go, it’s too dangerous.” So I reassured her with, “Don’t worry, when the killer penguins attack, I’ll throw myself in front of your mother so she can come home safe to you.” We didn’t get to test that promise. Xina wasn’t able to go on my Antarctica excursion, and I managed to narrowly escape those hordes of killer penguins…just barely….

So now with less than a month to go it’s time for us two crazy women to prepare. Xina lives in Southern California and has been out there hiking and walking, testing her shoes and her pack. Me, I live in Northern California, land of the never-ending drought and the onslaught of allergy season which strikes earlier and earlier every year. My attempts to get out doors have been met with misery and despair. red and watery and burning eyes, runny nose, and a sluggish river of gunk draining down the back of my throat. (Don’t worry if you should find me lifeless, looking as if I’ve been asphyxiated – it wasn’t murder, only phlegm.) I must retreat indoors to a treadmill where I’ll have to satisfy myself with adjusting the incline. (Sigh.) It’s no substitute for real hiking, but if I am to survive long enough to reach Spain, it must be done. I’m hoping that past experiences, where removing myself from my normal environment alleviates symptoms, are true in Spain. If not, do they have better antihistamines over there?

And when I get back I’m hoping to catch up with reading the last six months’ issues of Nat Geo Traveler stacked neatly (too neatly) on the end table…I’m sure I could find some other tantalizing destination to ferment in the far corners of my mind until some friend or relative says, “pssst…hey…wanna go here?”

Oh, and Brandy, that promise still goes: when the killer penguins attack us in Spain, I’ll throw myself in front of your mom.

Reasons for Walking the Camino de Santiago

Only reason necessary: because it’s there!

Most people I have told about my intention to walk the Camino de Santiago have the same reaction.

First, there’s the silence. Stunned silence, followed by a piercing gaze, an: “Are you serious?” sort of look. Then, when they see that I am, indeed, not kidding, they take a moment, processing, and say something like, “I see. Why do you want to do this?”

I’m pretty good at dealing with the initial shocked reaction. I get it; it seems to have come out of the blue to most of my friends and family. They don’t know that I first learned about the Camino years ago, while studying history. They don’t know that I’ve been thinking about it since then, because to be honest, I haven’t said anything about it. It’s one of those desires that has lived in my heart in a cocooned state, because of its outrageous nature. Taking…

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