This will be my last night in New York City. Tomorrow night I fly to Madrid, arriving there at around 11am. I feel strangely calm about it. Maybe when I’m boarding the flight I’ll start feeling those “it’s really happening” jitters.
Yesterday morning I had a tooth filled. Of all the things I’d prepared for, a cracked filling wasn’t among them. So let me be the first Camino blogger to add “new dental filling” to my Camino preparation list. Fortunately it’s very lightweight.
I met my friend Lauren for dinner at a gastropub on Lafayette and Prince called Soho Park. She and I took classes together at the University of Central Florida, and now she is a production supervisor here in the city. The last time she visited Los Angeles I was visiting New York (d’oh), though the trips were offset enough that we were able to get lunch.
The weather out of Saint Jean continues to look bleak. But to quote Paulo Coelho, “If you only walk on sunny days you’ll never reach your destination.” I suspect he was being a bit more figurative, but it works.
My plan for the rest of my time in New York? To relax. Soon every day will be a day on the road.
Short answer: probably too much. Camino veterans recommend a light pack, somewhere around 10% of your body weight. Since I’m choosing to carry my camera and a few lenses, along with this tablet for blogging and photo backup, my pack is up to around 22 or 23 pounds, which is closer to 15% of my weight. So if you’re a future pilgrim scouring the internet to see what others are carrying, you’ll want to bear that in mind as you read the list.
For me, although the road to Santiago begins in St. Jean Pied de Port, my camino begins here in the house where I grew up. I landed in Fort Lauderdale airport, momentarily surprised by the warmth and humidity of the South Florida night as I stepped off of the plane and onto the jetway. My parents were waiting for me at the terminal’s exit. The full moon was bright in the sky as we drove home.
My parents have been supportive of my plan to walk, as they’ve been supportive of me all my life. That’s not to say that they completely understand why I want to go (how would they if I don’t?) — my mom wonders aloud how they managed to raise a son who thinks walking 500 miles qualifies as a good time! My aunt takes credit (or blame?) because she once ran away from her home in New York on a Greyhound bus to Florida.
It was late when I arrived, but for me it felt three hours earlier. So after they went to sleep I stayed up to watch the full lunar eclipse. In Earth’s shadow the moon swirled red and black in the sky next to a teensy tiny supermassive blue giant star, while Mars glowed brightly off to the right. What a tease, no?
The next day included more preparation. The undersheet, sleeping bag, pillowcase, and frame pack needed a coat of permethrin to guard against bedbugs. I sprayed the sleeping bag’s compression sack with water sealant, because I’ve gone to sleep in a rain-soaked sleeping bag before and left it a scathing Yelp review. Continue reading →
There we go. The Camino de Santiago is a network of routes through Europe. The map above covers a lot of ground, but the routes continue out even farther to Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and beyond. They wind along and join and eventually converge on Santiago de Compostela, where it’s said the remains of Saint James are buried. Saint James is the patron saint of Spain, known by many as San Tiago (a name ultimately derived from the Hebrew name Ya’akov/Jacob).
As far back as the 11th century, Christians from across Europe made pilgrimages along these routes. By the 12th century, the pilgrimage was well organized with lodging and protection to support peregrinos on their way. As you can imagine, I’m pretty relieved that I’m doing this post-12th-century. Continue reading →
The Camino is also known by a nickname, La Voje Ladee. The Milky Way. At night the galaxy hovers above as if to point peregrinos towards Santiago de Compostela. Medieval myth held that the celestial Milky Way was formed from the dust loosened by pilgrims’ boots as they walked. And though disputed, it’s said that the word “Compostela” may come from Latin campus stellae, “field of stars.” Continue reading →
It was just after I’d graduated from college that I saw Americano on television. I’d come back from a trip through Spain not long before that. A short trip; just two weeks. Not nearly enough time. Americano is set there, in Pamplona and the northern countryside where I hadn’t gone. The imagery grabbed me. Especially the final scene, where — spoiler alert? — the protagonist begins a trek, frame-pack and all, down some trail I’d never heard of through the most beautiful places I’d never seen. Continue reading →