Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Where in the World Is Phil From Australia?

Alex and Sage before the
afternoon rush at Casa Pepa.
We first met Phil at the bar in Santa Marina.  He sat outside drinking beer, waiting for Casa Pepa's hospitalero to bring him his meal.  Dirty and tired peregrinos filled most of the seats and occupied all the other tables, so Alex asked the friendly-looking fellow if she and Sage could sit across from him and draw.  He cheerfully introduced himself and assented, so the girls grabbed the establishment's only two remaining chairs and settled in.

Our wet and handwashed clothes hung on a rack just around the corner, next to the entrance of our private room.  While the girls sat and conversed with Phil (or, rather, while Alex sat and conversed with Phil...Sage is shy and rarely speaks to anyone other than her friends and family), I shuffled back and forth between the drying clothes and our night's habitacion.  Later, Alex told me that Phil was from Australia ("and has the best accent") and that he had asked her to draw him a flying turtle.  Alex had begun to oblige, using the watercolor pencils she carries with her everywhere she goes (even now, even back in los Estados Unidos), but we ran out of free time before she could finish.  We had a strict bedtime of 8:00pm on the Camino; the secret to the girls' strength and stamina was eleven hours of sleep each night and a ton of food every day.

Phil was there the next morning for breakfast, but he was entering the bar as we were leaving.  We waved to him and went on our way.

The next -- and last -- time we saw Phil was on the bus coming back from Fisterra.  He had a happy, dreamy, contented look about him, as did most of the peregrinos.  We had all just finished long, difficult journeys and we were each sitting in our own personal cloud of euphoria.  Phil sat directly behind me and Sage (Alex took her own seat a few rows ahead).  I asked him if he was flying out of Santiago that day or the next.

"I have no idea where I'll be tomorrow," he answered.  "I might take a train to Portugal, or I might take a cheap flight to Norway.  Maybe I'll go to Germany."

The dreamy expression on Phil's face increased as he smiled broadly.

"I've don't have to be back in Australia until July.  I think I'll just show up at the train station or airport tomorrow and get the cheapest ticket to Somewhere."

I expressed my admiration for his sense of adventure and my jealousy of his freedom.  That's the kind of life I want to have once the girls have left home.  I want to spend months of my life traveling, meeting others, exploring the world.  I want to show up at the airport one day and buy the cheapest ticket to Somewhere.

An interesting section of Sweden's Kungsleden.
Image copied from
We said goodbye to Phil at the bus station in Santiago.  I've no idea where he went or where he is right now.  I do know that Alex has finished his flying turtle picture and that we'd be happy to mail it to Australia.  Phil, if you ever find this blog and read this post, drop me a line.

Wanderlust.  Freedom.  Foreign lands and different cultures.  Heaven.

My life right now couldn't be better, and I'm not complaining about my current state of affairs.  I'm able to homeschool my children, and my kids' father is a good man who is extremely supportive of all the girls' endeavors.  We have a strong, loving family and we're relatively healthy.  We're not rich by any means, but we have enough money for the basics (we count pennies during the year so we can afford to travel).

Hiking trail in Iceland.  Image copied from
However, that sense of wanderlust is strong, and it pulls on me after a few consecutive seasons of staying in New Hampshire.  We're not able to travel for months and months at a time right now, since the girls don't like being away from their friends, pets, and normal routines for more than six or so consecutive weeks.  Also, Hugh can't afford to take that much time away from his students or laboratory.  What we can do, however, is take month-long trips every year.  Since we each enjoy the great outdoors and we each love to travel, overseas long-distance hiking (or, in Hugh's case, biking), makes perfect sense in terms of our interests and abilities.

Alta Via 1.  Image copied from
That takes care of the wanderlust...but what about avoiding a sense of entitlement?  Responsible parenting includes instilling/maintaining a sense of humility in one's children.  Both Alex and Sage have always been extremely humble and down-to-earth.  They don't talk about their hiking or our memoir, Up: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure, unless directly asked.  They can see, on their own, how foolish someone looks when they brag about their accomplishments; my kids have no desire or need to puff themselves up.  Alex and Sage have good heads on their shoulders and I want to keep it that way (which is why I turned down an opportunity to have our family be the subject of a reality television show back in 2012, right before UP was published).  Therefore, if our family is fortunate enough to be able to explore some of the world's most scenic trails, then we should use our opportunities and our abilities to do what we can for others.  We should earn our right to travel, so to speak.
Hence the fundraising.  Every year, we will pick a long-distance trail and hike it for charity.  100% of the money raised will go to the nonprofit organization (and not to us).  Just like our 2012-2013 efforts for Global Fund for Women and GirlVentures, Alex and Sage will take large and pivotal roles in the fundraising activities (they worked HARD for our GIRLS ON THE WAY Camino project -- they climbed all night at our Brooklyn Boulders climb-a-thon, they stood outside in the dead of winter at our raffle table, they drew posters, etc. and, of course, they hiked 540 miles).  Hugh and I feel Alex and Sage should grow up doing what they love, but they should simultaneously find ways of being useful to others.
Via Francigena.  Image copied from

I recently asked the followers of my Facebook Page to suggest destinations for next year's long-distance adventure.  The result was a long list of incredible-looking trails (thanks, folks!).  Hugh, the girls, and I have narrowed down the options  -- right now, the strong contenders are Iceland (a variety of trails through and around the country), Kungsleden (Sweden, within the Arctic Circle), the Alta Vias (Alps), and the Via Francigena (from the Italian Alps to Rome).  I know about the 88 Temples hike in Japan...and that is on our radar for the future.  However, for next year, I want to keep the distance between 300 and 500 kilometers so we have the time and money to continue highpointing the USA.  In addition to the fundraising hike next year, we want to summit Mt. Whitney in California, Kings Peak in Utah, and perhaps Borah Peak in Idaho.

So...thank you all for your suggestions regarding not only trails, but nonprofit organizations.  We'll take another week or so to make a decision, then we'll set our wheels -- or rather, our hiking boots -- in motion.

Phil, wherever you are, I hope you're having a blast.  Buen Camino, peregrino.


Dan and Meena said...

Lovely post!

Anne said...

Nello Trish. I have just realized when read your Blog that there is one very interesting trail, mainly through Switzerland called the Walser Trail. It actually starts in the
Italian Alps in Gressoney (Valle d'Aosta) and continues following all the Walser settlements, through Switzerland ( one Walser town is Zermatt - now of course grown out of proportion). The trail eventually ends up in Austria. All the trail is over 2.000 mts, because that's where the Walsers took refuge time back. They have their own language or dialect. When we lived in the Italian part of Switzerland, we often took off and walked segments. There are mountain cabins, somewhat rudimentary, but adequate. You could check up on this fascinating people and their way of life on the Internet, if interested ! Anne (annakappa)

Trekker Dog said...

I look forward to reading next year's adventure, wherever it may be.