Friday, October 13, 2017

2-Year Reflections!

Today marks the 2-year anniversary of the successful completion of my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella across the Camino Frances.  When I completed my journey I was asked several times if I would write a reflection at some point, today seems the perfect time.  As I sit and reflect on the transformation my journey has had on me, my mind starts to spin as I still am trying to wrap my head around everything.
With my daughter Lee...  Kinda her fault all this started.
This journey all started in the summer of 2011 when I heard the first whisperings of "Camino de Santiago" uttered during an orientation program for my Daughter Lee as she was considering a prospective college.  The concept of a hike that could take months to walk (as they left from Paris) across France and Spain just wouldn't shake from my head and if anything slowly grew.  Months later, purely by chance, Tina and I happened to watch the movie (that movie) "The Way" and the dots started being connected.  By the following morning the committment to walk it was born and unlike other smaller tasks, this one did not die from neglect but grew deep (deep) roots and the thought soon became a plan and the plan a committment.

In fairness, there are many times in my life I have desired something, but for a multitide of reasons the seeds never grew and the ideas died...  I never had blasted off into outer space in a spaceship....  But THIS seed...  THIS seed wouldn't be neglected and as that idea grew the calling started and with this idea having grown from the summer of 2011 till I started actually walking the Camino Frances on September 5, 2015, that calling became an outright shouting borderline on a screaming!

As I planned for my journey, I joined a gym weighing in at a heafty 270 pounds (122.4 kg) and much to my surprise I stuck with the gym, loyally!  In 2 1/2 years of prepping I managed to lose a grand-total of 10lbs (4.5 kg), not a lot by any means, but what I did gain was muscle strength and endurance which I was so going to need.  As the departure neared, I started working heavy with my pack and working on endurance, hiking mountains I never thought I could do and walking distances I never thought I could in my shape at the time, but the proof was there at the end of the day with each increasingly challenging hike completed and new friends made as a bonus.
First mountain conquered solo.
Now, it is said that the pilgrimage starts when you commit to the journey, so my pilgrimage started in January 2012, but the actual pilgrimage journey to Santiago de Compostella started on September 3rd, 2015.  That day was one of the most emotionally challenging days of my life, I was leaving everything in my life that gives me comfort and safety to travel solo for the next 49 days to countries I have never been to and languages I could barely read, nevermind speak.  I sat in the international terminal at Logan Airport, just sitting there wondering what the hell I was doing and thinking that it would not be unreasonable to not go...  Going was madness, if I stayed I'd be knocking some sense into myself...  Yeah, I kept saying that even as I boarded the plane for Spain.
Well, committed now.  No turning back.
The Pilgrimage across Spain is well documented in this blog and does not warrant repeating, suffice it to say challenges were thrown at me, accepted, and overcome.  I met wonderful people, made a Camino Family who are still very much part of my life and very important to me.  I learned what is really important to me and what is not.  I learned who I am.
Oh Yeah, I owned it.
October 13, 2015 after 39 days of walking and 500 miles (800km) across the Pyrenees and northern Spain the cumulation of my journey to Santiago de Compostella completed.  As I walked into the courtyard which marked the final destination of my pilgrimage 4+ years of emotional buildup exploded out in a burst of joy and excitement!  My pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella was complete, the journey I had though beyond my abilities 4 years earlier I had not only embraced and comquered, but owned.  I was still the same ol' Kevin as I was before....  But I wasn't the same Kevin...  I finished with confidence and determination.  I had learned to be humble but at the same time proud of my accomplishment.
Getting my compostella - Proof of the journey.
I had earned the name "Destroyer", not only for the multitude of BaƱos destroyed but for destroying my own inhibitions and destroying stereotypes...  I had destroyed the old Kevin and rebuilt myself the same but improved.  Yeah, there was the physical changes, I had dropped to 225lbs (102 kg) and my muscle tone was at a peak, but my mind had changed even more.  Walking for so long gives you time to think, I mean REALLY think, and one of the major conclusions I came to was I really enjoyed the company of people and when I returned I wanted to continue to be socially open and engaging with people.

The journey, 500 miles, which had a few weeks prior seemed such a large undertaking, was now easy and do-able.  Not that the entire journey was a cake-walk, there was plenty of challenges, but by taking it it pieces one day at a time, I conquered the challenges and persevered.  If I could walk 500 miles solo across a foreign country without the safety and comfort of home, I could conquer so much more.

So this brings me to today:
I have gained a whopping 2lbs (>1 kg) since returning.  I still go to the gym loyally and have increased the intensity of my workouts to not only keep myself in shape, but to push my fitness higher.  I continue to try to look at obstacles as challenges that just need to be overcome.  I still do computer support, but not really...  I now support people who are experiencing technical issues.  I have journied with Tina to Italy and felt comfortable walking around outside of the tourist zones and engaging the locals.  My love and committment to my family is as strong or even stronger than before.  In short, my inner-pilgrim lives strong and keeps guiding me in life...  I might not be walking the pilgrimage, but my journey is for life.
Keeping the pilgrim in me alive in Quebec City.
Keeping the best for last, the multitude of thanks that goes out to everyone who supported me on my journey.  The top of the list, my wife Tina who, while not understanding, still supported my journey and was there every day back home sending me love and support.  My daughters Lee and Jasmin who likewise supported me and helped support Tina back at home.  My mother, brothers, and sisters with a special shout-out to my brother Kelly who kept sending encouraging posts along my journey.  My in-laws who likewise supported my journey and talked to me on the phone a few times keeping the encouragement going.  My supervisor Matt, manager Fred, and my companie's HR team who all supported and made my journey possible.  My former co-worker Arne who was ever so instrumental in helping me plan and ready for the physical journey.  My co-workers left behind who had to pick-up the slack (OK, Ray got out of it, but getting rear-ended in a car is not really a desirable means of getting out of it - Thankfully, he is OK and doing well and back to work).  There were former peregrinos I met while training state side, of the most notable are Ross and Kathleen Fields who helped me train and provided daily encouragement.
While I was in Spain I formed a Camino Family who were my immediate supports and provided the necessary encouargement to not only keep me going but helped me grow as a person.  Ray Gibbs was cheering me on as I walked into Roncesvalles after conquering the Pyrenees - we walked as family from then on.  Nancy Earl joined the family and became our spiritual advisor about 10 days in - she also walked as family from then on.  Also along the way my Camino kept colliding with Alabama (Melanie Causey), my Camino Sister - we never walked, but we always seems to bump into each other - we destroyed Leon!...  And Santiago!...  And Finisterre!!!...  Then there is the multitude of pilgrims in the extended Camino Family that traverse the glove.  Ed and Pat from Florida, we walked the Pyrenees, the sheep were scared.  Tom and Gwen from California, translators and helpers of the down.  Marge and Bella from Australia, kept me sane while I was separated from Ray and Nancy.  Sue, Susan, and Beth, the trio that just wouldn't stop and provided encouragement to the rest of the family.  Tim and Lexy from Massachusettes who were also there supporting me (Lexy thought the whoo-hooing was cool!).  Charlton Slack from Wales teaching me to say "Well, that's fare" when life hands you a curve-ball.  The list goes on and on, people in New Zeland, Australie, Canada, South Korea, Germany, England, and all over the US, all supporting each other!
Worth menting again, if it wasn't for Tina, Lee, and Jasmin for their support, all the other support in the world wouldn't have mattered :).


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Leaving Spain

Well, today is day 50 of my Camino trip.

I had high expectations before leaving for Spain and walking Camino, but I was not prepared for the depth this would go.  I made friends, some casual, but a few with very tight bonds.  I bought t-shirts, got carried away, but I bought them :).

I learned many be Spanish words and learned that trying to properly pronounced a Spanish word almost always gets help and smiles.  More then one conversation was me attempting Spanish as they attempted English - they were almost universally better at English then I was at Spanish.  I also learned that English is the universal language, everyone migrates to English in mixed languages (not an excuse to learn another language).

I learned how tiny this world really is and while we are different, we are more alike then not.  I met people from over 30 countries and in doing so, experienced firsthand how much we are similar and how little we are different.

I learned that I have the drive and commitment to chase and accomplish my dreams.  Millions upon millions of people have walked Camino over the centuries, and for conveinence, today's modern world grants many conveinences to Peregrinos (modern albergues, supermarkedos, technology, etc.), but the trail largely remains the same trail and is no less physically demanding then earlier Peregrinos experienced.  Walking 800km+ (500+ miles) is absolutely doable and can be quite enjoyable, you just do it one step at a time and don't be afraid to call upon other Peregrinos for support and provide support for other Peregrinos.

Most importantly, I learned you have to let Camino happen.  Don't overly plan things, allow yourself to flow WITH the Camino and doing try to fight the natural flow.  Peregrinos who has aggressive schedules and many days planned did not allow themselves to reply get immersed into the Camino.  As much fun as it is to meet new friends, if the places doing match, don't fight it, another Peregrino is around the corner who matches your pace better.  You can always catch up at the end of the day, or at least the next big city.

I could go on and on about all the thingsi learned and experienced, I think it is best summed up with this was a life changing event.  This isn't like going to see your favorite band in concert, this goes way war deeper, like getting married or having a child.

If reading the blog has inspired anyone, I wholeheartedly endorse the journey, just remember to allow it to happen, don't force it.  Oh, and crocks or sandles is very Peregrino fashion!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Back to Santiago

Mission accomplished in Muxia, and not much else going on there, I bussed my way back to Santiago.
Back into the minibus from Muxia to Cee.
Another minibus along the coast to who knows where, we just pull up in a yard "swap to other bus"...
A monster double decker bus, headed to Santiago.
Get to Santiago and take city bus to Placa de Galacia.

Whole journey, €15.50!  That won't get you cross town in the States, and I got a large tour of the Galacian coastline.

Back in Santiago, finally visit the toothpick tapas place I heard so much about...  The word was all good and so want the food!

The rest of the day, just errands and tending to business (like laundry at the pilgrim house).  Speaking of which, time to go retrieve my laundry, dressed in my finest Peregrino clothes
Baselayer pants (might as well call them long underwear)
Tech shirt
Fleece jacket
And crocks!
Nothing says Peregrino more then crocks or sandles.
I would feel out of place, but so many others dressed similarly.

A real quiet day.


Monday, October 19, 2015

My last commitment as Peregrino

After a smart choice to crash in Finisterre for the weekend, I bussed it out to Muxia (no, I didn't bustit out) and arrived to s much rain as Finisterre had, plus plenty of gusting wind!

Quickly picking a place to stay I landed at the SWEET albergue, it has only been open two months.  The beds are pod like with curtains and stairs instead of ladders AND power ports for each bed.  Wrapping up the sweetness, shelves in the bed area and numbered lockers near the bed that actually FIT a backpack!  Ooh, and the doors are all suspended glass doors, many open with electric eye at least on one side and a switch on the other (switches are in the hallways, so you don't walk down the hall and open every door).  The lights are customary motion sensed, but these actually seem to work right.  Large modern stainless steel kitchen...  AND a first for me, a dedicated cleaning lady!  She was even wiping down the railings and making sure everything in the kitchen was properly clean before putting it away!  SCORE!  All the staff here are very knowledgeable and friendly.  It made hanging around the albergue a very pleasant experience.

So, the time came to walk down in the very gusting wind to the Muxia point and let it belt.  Found a sweet spot behind a large rock that sheltered from the worst of the wind and let it rip!  It felt really good to complete the last of my mission.  Of course, only a complete psycho Peregrino walks to a church on a point only to belt out over the ocean...  Ooh, you should have received it around 2:39, give or take a bit! (Early reports that is WAS heard, even in Atlanta!). Came back to the albergue and just socialized with the other Peregrinos and made a few friends.

6:30 I headed down to the ugly metal thing on the waterfront (I assume it is a framework for grapevines to create an arbor of sorts) to meet some friends who wanted to get together for dinner...  No shows, well a cat did, but he wasn't happy about all the wind and stayed under the tree for the most part.

Not relishing the thought of dining in the local establishments I was kinda relieved when no one showed, so of you the local supermarkedo I went.  Perusing the isles I found NACHO CHIPS, yes, seriously, I actually found them AND salsa!  Around the corner Tabasco sauce (which is consecrated HOT in Spain).  A quick trip to the helpful deli and I had nacho fixings!

Back at the albergue they turned out really good, sharing them with friends, were destroyed the nachos!  Passing around a bottle of cream orujo just made things sweet.

The lesson here, let Camino happen and it will provide!

Tomorrow, I take the bus back to Santiago and start prepping for my return home Thursday.  I still rang to visit the bar where you buy tapas cafeteria style and pay by the toothpick, sounds like fun.

So, check out this :
"Ultreia is another pilgrim salute, like the more popular 'Buen Camino!'. While 'Buen Camino' literally means 'have a good journey, a good Camino', the meaning of 'Ultreia!' goes a bit deeper, implying encouragement to keep going, reaching 'beyond', heading onwards.".  It seems very appropriate, more so as my foot travel journey is wrapped up.


WHOO-HOOO Belted Out!

The shout should arrive around 2:39pm EST

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Today is the first time in the whole Camino that I spend two nights in the same place :)!  I decided to camp out in Finisterre for the day and say farewell to Alabama when her tour came thru.

I headed into town for a breakfast then into the waterfront area to scope out anything exciting...  I swear, they have hidden cameras on me ("Pedro accidentally shot off fireworks, but he though we were celebrating his entrance to town, we must do it again! ", " he looked the parade, get some more scheduled quickly! ", and "he liked the marathon in Burgos, three more times should do nicely!") Cause I think the conversation went something like this ("Shit!  He's in town, do something....  No fireworks handy...  All the bands are elsewhere, well get a road race scheduled... Yes yes yes, all the way to the lighthouse and back, no no no, tomorrow morning....  Yes, of they won't die in the race, make them run!").  At any rate, there it was, another road race and quite amusing to boot.  It went up and back down about as quick as the the weekly markets I always seen to hit as well.

So, I sauntered around town and decided to saunter up the hill to the lighthouse, following the race route with much amusement...  These poor people, hugging and puffing, panting and wheezing, probably should not have ran up and back down a hill.  I reached the summit to find it very pleasantly peaceful.

I had another first also while there, it was bound to happen sometime, might as well be Finisterre - Coin operated toilet paper dispensers!  Yep, €.20 for 1 meter of paper...  Guess they didn't count on this Peregrino coming prepared!  Destruction complete, I moved around the peninsula to see what I missed the night before.  Finding a comfy place to sit, I discovered a clearing in the clouds, due west...  HOME!  Honestly, I choked up for a second out two but then started thinking, add I looked out over there ocean - the ocean that reveals the roundness of the horizon and gives scale to the earth...  I was home.  In the future, should we master space travel, earth as a whole will be h
Pome...  Comforted with that thought I settled into a long comfortable quiet time where I just pondered and thought and came up with : my WHOO-HOOO's should get to Portland Maine in ~236 minutes from the time I yell in Finisterre!

An hour later. I started to hear the chatter of people..  THE BUSES WERE ARRIVING!  I located myself in a nice high spot where I could spot Alabama when she arrived...  You know, when someone on a high spot spots out "ALABAMA!!!" REALLY REALLY LOUD everyone stops!  They soon realized it was a reunion of friends and someone actually took a picture they were that moved.

When it came time for them to depart on the bus we discovered they had another two hours in town for lunch!

I was 1km into a 2.2km descent, everyone jumping out of my way, before the bus overtook me. As a marter of fact, I made it to their restaurant just after they ordered...  Seafood, I didn't partake!

What a great time we had just chatting, like Camino brother and sister.  She even got to such her feet into the Atlantic as part of one of the many traditions.

I wasn't walking trails but my Camino was really back on!  When I went for supper I even bumped into some English and Canadian friends.  Dinner took 3 hours, buy we had fun!

Tomorrow, I leave my mark on Muxia, the shout of shouts and WHOO-HOOO of
WHOO-HOOO's will be belted out, listen back at home for it :)!

(Think I fixed the photo link)

Tonight's signoff is a little different!


Saturday, October 17, 2015


So, recall earlier that I said plans were subject to change...

I left this morning and started out of town not feeling it at all.  I was walking mechanically, but that was all, no heart in it or any desire at all.  I promised myself you finish the days stage and reassess.  Well, I finished the days stage and found myself wondering why I way beating myself over the head on this, I obviously was not enjoying the walking as I had previously, I had my Camino back on for a while yesterday, but it stalled out again.

I decided, much like forest gump being tired of running, i was tired of walking.  I bussed it into Finisterre and along the way discovered I had some people here I knew.  I quickly hooked up with them, destroyed a pizza, and headed to meet then at the Finisterre lighthouse to watch the sunset...

Only it started raining as I made the ascent....  The crazy Peregrino, almost jogging up the slope, walking in the rain...   Hey, I had my pack, I had my gear - I was prepared!

When I got there, just add I got to the lighthouse, the skies opened up and the rain poured down and the wind blew!  Everyone was ruining for cover...  Well, almost everyone...  There was ONE crazy Peregrino walking around talking in the sights!  Funny, I finally went into the museum to look at the actual displays and it was full of people huddling...  Strange people...
They even got out of my way, one would think they were fearful of someone walking around in the pouring rain and bit bothered at all by it!
The clincher was "The last stamp"!  Pulling out my Peregrino passport and paying €.50 for the last stamp (OK, that is actually pretty cheap of then to do that, but still).  Apparently I was the only one in there on real business.

Business finished, I headed back out in a temporary lull in the rain (and I mean temporary), I still had unfinished business to attend to!  Climbing the stairs over onto the cliff overlook and positioning myself properly, I introduced myself to everyone else!
"WHOOOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOO"!!!!  I actually got applause from a group huddled under a pile of umbrellas.  I belted it out back home, you should be hearing it soon, right around 7:30pm, and a second one around 8:00.  I figure it might take 6 ish hours to get there give or take!
Ooh, my friends there heard me loud and clear during the deluge!  The knew I was there, no one else is crazy enough :).

Just as the sun set it cleared up a bit and I reconnected with my friends.  We then walked the 3+ km back to town in the increasing darkness and upon arriving we emptied out packs of excess food and had a Peregrino celebration.

So, what is next?!  Dunno!  I could walk to Muxia in two 15km days..
I could hang in town and wait for Alabama to arrive in the bus and give her a proper goodbye..
I could play and win the Spanish lottery.

My only commitment is to go home on Thursday


Buen Camino!