Today’s post is about the preparativos, what I did to prepare for the Camino. Although I had wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago since 1979, everything–or almost everything–I did last year in preparation for the Camino seemed to be done as an aside while I kept busy with the daily tasks of life and work in San Antonio. Aside from my daily 45-minute walks around my neighborhood, I had not done much else to prepare physically. And even that, a mere 45 minutes a day, I feared was not really preparing for the grueling physical demands that the Camino promised. So, I walked the 1/2 Marathon in early November. I didn’t really think I could finish it, but I did and with pretty good time, too, considering I was fast-walking and only jogging sporadically.
By November a year ago, I had made some arreglos for the trip. In October, I had booked my flight to Madrid; thanks to my Frequent Flyer Miles earned over almost 2 years, the flight which normally costs over $1000, cost me under $50! By November 26, heartened by my 1/2 marathon experience, I was also wearing the backpack and my new hiking boots for my daily walks. The boots. The backpack. Both proved to be trusted and dear. Both were investments that required that I devote time and energy. The former I got in New Mexico the latter in Austin.
My traveling companion, an old friend from my hometown of Laredo, Texas, had walked the Camino four years earlier. When she heard of my plans to walk in the spring, she convinced me that it might be a better idea to do it in winter. Whether that was a good idea or not I will discuss in a future post. She had e-mailed me a list of items I should begin gathering, but due to the fall semester rush I had not given the list much thought. So, in early October, while on a trip to New Mexico to attend the investiture of my friend Rusty Barceló as President of Northern New Mexico College, I took almost 3 hours at an REI store in Santa Fe to buy THE perfect pair of boots. The staff at the store were terrific–aside from making me walk, run, skip, and even pretend to climb a hill wearing the various boots I was trying on, they actually MEASURED my feet and I found out I had been buying the wrong shoe size all along! Along with the boots, I also bought some of the items on Becky’s list: 2 pairs of sock liners and wool socks, two turtleneck tops, 2 lined hiking pants, 2 pairs of black silk underwear–normally called long johns–a ski mask, and a microfiber towel. While all these were indispensable, the Keen boots proved to be my best friends on the Camino!
An interesting aside: Elvia had been a member of REI since her student days in Arizona and they still had her in the books over 30 years later! I got my own membership and earned “points” with my purchases. Rusty who has done her share of camping and rugged traveling, including a bike ride from Seattle down to San Francisco, offered her sleeping bag for my use during the Camino! Not only did it save me a bunch of money, the mummy style down filled beauty had a proven record. So, with all my REI purchases, our luggage and the sleeping bag, my green Prius, Tejanita (yes, I have always named my cars, and other inanimate objects around me) was packed to the gills. But, before getting on the highway, Elsa, Elvia and I walked to a nearby restaurant for a late lunch. I know I was glowing. It may have been the altitude, but I felt light-headed. Giddy! My heart sang with joy–it was all becoming a reality!
The backpack? I got back in Texas. Yes, at an REI store. I happened to be in Austin so I made a special trip to one of the two REI stores there. Again, the staff impressed me and after trying on at least 5 backpacks of various styles and sizes (they are measured by weight!) and carrying around 25-pounds to “test” it. I was disappointed that the one that finally fit perfectly and felt RIGHT was not the color I had envisioned, purple. Instead, I got a sky blue Salomon that weighed 25 pounds when fully packed. I loved it!
Now, what about any spiritual preparation? Did I meditate on the upcoming trip? Of course. Did I perform any rituals? Not really. But, I did have dreams about the Camino. I had a knowing that I was doing the right thing. As my reflections unfold, I will also write about the various points of growth and how my preparations, limited as they were, helped me succeed in my goal.