People have been asking how I feel now, how is it to be home, what did I learn during the Camino, what's my next project. I've put off writing any sort of summary because it is hard to summarize the experience. It was 33 days. That's a long time. It was over 700 km. That's a long way. When I start to talk about it, I ramble. But I guess that's what I did during the Camino.
The most general thing I can say looking back was that it was hard. It was harder than I expected it to be. I never once thought "I could do another 10 km today." I never thought "I could do another 5 km." I was always more than ready to be done when I arrived at each day's destination. Without exception.
Yes, I am accustomed to lots of hiking. But not 20+ km day after day with a 12 kg backpack.
And it was harder on my husband than either of us expected. Well, on the one hand, I was skeptical back in August when he assured me my absence would be manageable. It seemed very generous of him to encourage me to be away for so long.
On the other hand, he and the girls had gone a month without me before two years ago when my mother had surgery and I went to Ohio to help out. So they did have experience managing work, school, meals, and the house. So, okay. We were confident they would manage.
And they did. But it's very stressful to be a single parent, juggling work and dealing with daily life, let alone trying to travel with a sick kid at home.
All of the chores I do leisurely over the course of the week had to get done on the weekends. Which is what Ron does during the summers when we are gone. Except now he also had to manage tasks the girls needed to do during the weekend. Sure, in families where both parents work, weekends are taken up with a lot of these chores. But usually both parents are there to share that load on weekends.
This is not to suggest that either of us regretted the decision. But it was a big project, and it was harder than we expected.
I'm very glad I started at the French border. That first day was the hardest thing I have ever done, physically. But it was so beautiful -- it was worth every minute.
Everyone I met felt that November/December was an okay time to be walking. Yes, often nothing was open, but there were also no crowds and it wasn't hot. I was always able to find plenty to eat and drink (there are fountains all along the way, so no need to carry a lot of water). I was fortunate not to have too many rainy days. Some days I walked without seeing another soul. Other days I knew there were as many as ten of us on that day's stage.
The first third and the last third of the Camino Francés were more interesting to me. Maybe in another season the meseta would be more compelling. To me it was largely an endurance test. The Basque country and Galicia were really beautiful -- and both were parts of Spain I had not ever visited before. If you ask me my opinion, I could happily recommend the two.
Before I left I was a bit curious about how I would feel to walk five to six hours a day alone. Hiking is a very social activity for me. I had only hiked by myself maybe twice in my life. Now I can tell you that this was never a problem. Yes, it was nice to come across another pilgrim to talk to, but it was also just fine if I didn't.
I only lost the route twice, and for relatively short distances. It is extremely well-marked, even in the cities. I had apps and maps and Internet access, and these all provided useful information, but you could do it without any of them.
Now that I'm back home, the house feels so warm and cozy (although I'm surprisingly cold often). That said, I walked into town and back today in what can only be described as crappy weather, and I didn't really give it much thought. I don't want to sleep outside or even in a tent, but I am very happy spending a good portion of the day outside.
I can't say I'm restless or thinking about any new challenges. It's nice to be with my family, to cook a meal, to sleep in my own bed, to wear a variety of clothing. Driving the car still feels a bit odd.
In many ways, there were similarities between walking the Camino and my time in Moscow: it was a really interesting experience, I'm glad I had the chance to do it, I had some amazing adventures, but I don't feel the need to do it again. Like learning the Cyrillic alphabet, if I can do it, you can, too.
If I had any profound revelations, it was the degree to which so many of you took an interest in what I was doing. I continue to be amazed at how many people have written to me and said that they were following my progress. And their friends -- people who had never even met me -- were asking about me, too. I provided inspiration for a friend who is a painter. My husband is proud of me, which means the world. And I think I impressed my kids a little bit.
Would I recommend it? In a heartbeat. It was a real once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and I'm very glad I had the chance to do it. Is there more to say about it? Certainly. But I don't want to ramble just now.
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