Every Step Is A Step Of Strength

   20181017_105850.jpg      The title of this blog post is a corny quote from one of my favorite aussies, Duncan. He is better know as one half of the Hitch and Dingo hiking duo. And also one half of my favorite engaged couple, Kate and Duncan. They continue to amaze me by traveling around the world, hiking and not killing one another. They have hiked The Appalachian AND The Pacific Coast Trail, so I shouldn’t make too much fun of him. Little did I know I would soon need his silly, trail wisdom after all.

     October 11th, I was finally on my way to St. Jean Pied de Port. I left Vic on the CORRECT train at the ungodly hour of 5 am headed for Barcelona. Because i respect your internet browsing time I will make a short story even shorter. Just imagine the wannabe backpacker having a quarter life crisis sitting on a completely packed train, not being able to see around Big Berth ( My backpack). And yes, of course there were overhead racks for such an occasion… but of course I didn’t notice until it was too late. I couldn’t even see out the window to see which stop we were at so I had to ask people around me. When I arrived in Barcelona, I discovered that the train I intended on taking to SJPP was full, and I’d have to take one 5 hours later. This, like a lot of other mishaps could’ve been avoided. But for some reason I have a huge problem committing to something so simple, like buying a 30€ train ticket. So, I wait until the very last minute, every. Single. Time. I think this probably stems from overwhelming anxiety of anticipating that I’ll experience FOMO or fear of missing out. Very technical term there. I always dream up that I’ll meet some wealthy sugar daddy type on the way, fall in love (instantly) and he’ll whisk me off to some bed and breakfast in New Mexico. Oh wait, believe it or not that actually HAS happened! Therefore, my anxiety is valid. He also had multiple kids, and probably a secret wife. Ughhh… men are the worst. But that’s a story for my future best selling memoir.

   Anyway, I made it to SJPP, and I was feeling pretty good. I checked in, and prepared for the camino family dinner. All 14 of the guests gathered outside on the patio not knowing what to expect. There were a slew of Brazilians, a Finnish man, a Swiss lady, and another young American girl. We all introduced ourselves, and gave our camino a short title. Some of the group members said things like “Finding myself, “Proving to myself that I can do it”, “Stepping away from life to think”, or even “Stepping away from life to not think”. Being the creative, witty gal that I am, I thought of many (inappropriate) ideas. But when it was my turn I ended up going with “Figuring it out”. Looking back now, I really didn’t know and still don’t know what the title of my camino is. In all reality all of those titles said by others could fit for me, but, really I have no idea. What am I figuring out? I guess for a lack of better words, I’m still figuring out, what I’m here figuring out. It’s a hard question to answer, but I’m glad it was brought up because now I’m constantly thinking about it. We ate, shared, and then went to bed anticipating the first day of our camino. Boy, I had no idea what I was in for.

    I woke up early, ate some breakfast, and only drank a little bit of coffee because honestly the hiking master (Duncan) had made me nervous about having to poop on the trail. He asked if I had some poop tool, that I had never heard of, and didn’t have and then sent me some link (that I didn’t click) to some website. After breakfast an angel that worked there, adjusted my backpack in which I am forever grateful for. Had he not, I would have been wearing it all wrong and been in a lot of pain. Who knew your arms go through the straps and not your legs?? Despite what I had heard, I originally thought I’d do most of the walking alone. I have a lot of stuff to “figure out” and I assumed that was best done solo. But that morning I started getting very nervous when I realized that I really didn’t even know which way to turn when I walked out of the front door. So, I shyly asked the other American Girl named Lucy if she wanted to walk together, at least for a little bit. I am SO glad she said yes! We would end up walking and basically spending the next 4 days together. But that day in particular I was so incredibly grateful for her.

     The beginning of the day, though not something I would call easy was pretty uneventful. We walked, gossiped about boys, and got to know each other a little bit. As we made our way into the Pyrenees Mountains, that create a natural border between France and Spain… SH*T GOT REAL! The steep climbs were nothing compared to the speed of the wind that day. This wind was something I would only imagine happens during hurricanes or tornadoes. There were many, many times that Lucy and I had to completely stop and hold on to each other to prevent from blowing off a cliff. There were so many little old ladies hiking that day too, and I haven’t the slightest clue how they stayed on the ground. The wind really slowed us down, and made a long day even longer. Roncesvalles was already anticipated to be about an 18 mile, 7 hour hike but  turned out to be over 8 hours, and by far the most difficult thing physically I’ve ever done in my entire life.

     Although, we were equipped with a sandwich for lunch you can imagine the thoughts going through my head when we got wind (Punny, huh?) that there was a “food truck” maybe half a mile ahead about 5 hours into our hike. Being from Denver, my mouth was watering at the thought of tex-mex street tacos, huge fried chicken sandwiches, or even a hot, greasy grilled cheese. The disappointment that washed over me when we walked up to find a grumpy man selling Lipton Ice Tea in the can, hard boiled eggs, and nasty knock off, chocolate, Little Debbie snacks out of his van was indescribable. If you can’t imagine, I was pissed! Not to mention that this a$$hole had a sign on his dumb van that read 1km up, 5km flat, 5km down. Ok, I don’t even know the conversion between kilometers and miles, but that seemed pretty doable. Well guess what?! THOSE MEASUREMENTS WERE NOT ACCURATE!!! I’m not sure if he has that up as a joke, but it WAS NOT funny! Everytime we got up one steep hill, and turned the corner… there was another one waiting for us. Not to mention the multiple times, one or both of us weren’t paying attention, and almost went the wrong direction. I was so tired, my feet hurt, and honestly had it not been for Lucy I don’t know if I would have been able to finish that day. The first freaking day! My feet felt like they were going to fall off and I started considering taking my hiking boots off and trying barefoot. I’d soon learn that toward the end of each day is when it turns into a mind game. Inner Jillian starts thinking about all those races I ran in high school in which I was sure I couldn’t finish, but ended up pushing myself and getting a personal record. This is also where I start audibly cursing things, and even on occasion crying. Sometimes the only thing that gets me through is dreaming about all the food and wine I can have at dinner, IF I make it.

     I’m happy to report that day 1 has been the hardest day thus far. The first week and roughly about 100 miles is now behind me, and I can’t explain how exhausted, but proud of myself I am. Something I was explaining to other pilgrims one night at dinner is that in my current life there aren’t very many wins. And that’s not to say that there are only losses, because there aren’t too many of those either. But accomplishing something new, that I never even knew I wanted to achieve is a HUGE win for me. So much so that on day 2 when Lucy and I willingly walked into a thunder, lightening and rain storm, and my dumba$$ put my 72 hour old new phone in the wrong damn pocket of my rain jacket and it got soaked and stopped working; or on day 6 when I realized I have definitely have tendonitis in my achilles tendon and will have to take a few days off for rest, it didn’t faze me one bit. Lucy kept saying how shocked she was about how calm I was about that phone. I don’t want to put any negative energy out into the world but what really can faze me at this point? Every day, every town I reach, every step makes me feel stronger physically, and mentally than I have ever felt in my whole life. So, Duncan was right. I’m not sure what the rest of this camino has instore for me but I’m excited and optimistic that I’m a little bit closer to “figuring it out”… whatever it is.


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