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.

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Roads Not Yet Taken

During the past few months I’ve talked about places I’ve been, but only hinted at all those other wonderful places I’d like to visit on our beautiful planet.  With a new year fast approaching, it has come time to plan…and to dream…of future travels.

I don’t think of it as a bucket list. To me, that’s always sounded like you’re trying to score points in some strange competition just before you die. I don’t want to be one of those people who wait until they’re retired to go around the world (and around and around). After all, can you be totally assured that you’ll be able to travel when you’re 70?  You may not have the finances or the health (the physical mobility). As I once said to friends while explaining why I go the places I go: “I’m choosing the furthest destinations, the most diffcult to get to, now before I’m unable. I’ll visit places closer to home when I’m old and decrepit.”

Not that I won’t sneak in a short hop to one of my dream destinations: Chaco Canyon, New Mexico Image (home to ancestral Puebloan peoples between 850 and 1250 AD). As an archeaology major, I’ve always been fascinated by ancient ruins and what they tell us about the cultures who built them. Visit Chaco’s National Park Service website to learn more about this fascinating place. Maybe we’ll see each other there.

The other place on my short list is Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania). ImageClimbing to the summit  has long been a dream of mine, although I’m not 100% certain of the origins of that dream. I believe I was first introduced to the idea through Willard Price, an author I’ve mentioned previously.  Although I don’t recall his teenage heros, Hal and Roger, ever actually visitng Mount Kilimanjaro, many of Price’s books take place on the African continent (African Adventure, Elephant Adventure, Safari Adventure, Lion Adventure, Gorilla Adventure). Amazing how books we read as children can have such a lasting effect upon us!

While dreams are fun, and necessary!, we can’t just dream. We have to live. So Chaco and Kilimanjaro aren’t just on my list, they’re on my next-five-years list. Planning is under way.

Now, if I can just keep myself from getting distracted by all sorts of other interesting places which seem to continually pop up in travel brochures, National Geographic Traveler magazine, or on Discovery Channel specials. Does this happen to you? I see yet another new place, and my list just keeps growing: Mongolia, Bhutan,ImageEaster Island, Croatia, Churchill (Manitoba), Palau, Key West, Costa Rica, Belize, Midway Island, etc., etc., etc.

Where do you want to go?