The 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.