On Our Way

Three days after my retirement and we are on a plane to Paris. A few hours after we land, we will take a train to St.Jean Pied de Port, the beginning of the Camino—the Camino Frances. After a day of rest there we will begin our trek to Santiago de Compostela.

Right now I’m sitting in a cramped plane, just glad to have an aisle seat. How different things will seem in just a few hours. We have thought about this trip for years and planned it for months, but right now it seems a bit surreal.

I always get nervous when I travel to other places. Will I get lost? Can I make myself understood? Will I miss some important deadline? Will I get sick or hurt?

But part of this trip, especially, is about letting go of control. About not having everything perfectly planned out. About not knowing where we will be each night. About not knowing who we might meet. About not having an extensive choice in what we eat. We may be able to control what is in our backpacks, but we cannot predict or arrange what each day will be like. That is part of what draws me but also part of what scares me.

It is good to do it with Lena. Somehow taking a few risks when I am with the person I love and trust most in the world is just a bit (quite a bit) more doable.

I think I am also still in a bit of shock from the last few days. People of Faith Church (and others) were so kind and generous to me as my ministry there came to a close. So many great conversations and bittersweet goodbyes. I’m not even sure most of it has sunk in. I will have lots to think about as I walk the Camino.

What is this Camino-thing?

Two weeks from today we start our journey of 500 miles (or in Eurospeak – 780 kilometers). We will be walking one of the routes of what is referred to as the “Camino,” or “the way.” Our particular route will be the Camino Frances, which starts in the French town of St. Jean Pied de Port and ends in Santiago de Compostela. The route takes us through a good portion of northern Spain, through all kinds of terrain. I heard one person say that we would travel through 89 cities, towns, and villages (and probably see even more Catholic Churches).

Here is a map that gives a little bit of the idea:

There are actually many “camino” routes, many paths to Santiago. Originally, this pilgrimage was a journey that took people to Santiago to venerate the remains of James, the son of Zebedee, one of the apostles of Jesus who ultimately became the patron saint of Spain. People have walked the Camino for well over one thousand years. Today, people walk this path for many reasons, some spiritual, some not. (If you would like more information on the Camino and its history, the web site of American Pilgrims is a wonderful resource.)

A few thoughts in response to recent questions we have received…Lena and I intend to walk the whole Camino Frances. (Though we reserve the right to take a bus every now and then.) We will be taking backpacks, staying in albergues (hostels), and eating food from cafes and grocery stores. We have reservations for the first few nights, but after that will look forward to deciding each day how far to travel and finding a place to stay. We look forward to both silence and conversation and are eager to meet others, to deepening our own relationship, and to relish the silence and simplicity. We are open to encountering the Spanish and French (and other) cultures, but our language skills are extremely limited. We are taking iPhones, but are trying to not be overdependent on technology.

It is a strange but good time in our lives as we are on the verge of many new things. We have never done anything quite like this before. We are glad to share a bit of this with you and hope you will send us your good energy and prayers!