Friday, March 14, 2014

One Year Later...(One Last Post-Camino Reflection)

March 13, 2014

Exactly one year ago, Hugh, the girls, and I (and Flo from Switzerland!) were sleeping in an albergue in Valcarlos, Spain.  We had just begun our Camino, even though it felt like we hadn't left New Hampshire.  The snow was plentiful and the temperatures were identical to our normal Northeast winters.  The four of us felt happy, optimistic, and excited to see what the immediate weeks would bring.

What followed were days of bliss.  Yes, I know, roll your eyes if you must -- but I'm serious.  Yes, there were moments of fatigue, and yes, the sun was sometimes too bright (for this NH hiker), and yes, there was that bunion I developed (and still deal with).  But still.  Our time on the Camino was nothing short of magical.

What made the Camino so special?  Probably the same thing that makes every thru-hike amazing, in spite of the tired feet and aching muscles.  We met, spoke, and broke bread with people from all over the world, we saw beautiful countrysides, and we were able to eat everything we wanted without gaining an ounce of fat -- but the main thing, THE special thing, was the simplicity of our routine.  Wake up, hike, find a spot for the evening, clean up, eat, sleep, repeat.

The simplicity -- THAT'S the magic of the Camino.  I haven't yet hiked any other long-distance trail, but I suspect that's the magic of them all.  Hike, eat, sleep, repeat.  Day after day after day.  When one strips away modern day-to-day superfluousness (anything more than the basic needs of food, health, and shelter) and is forced to live moment-to-moment, outside, in all types of weather, one is left with oneself.  Meaning, there's nothing left but your core.  Who you are and what you value becomes abundantly clear after a couple of weeks on the trail.

The girls, being very young, didn't look at the Camino as any kind of back-to-basics experience.  They saw it as an adventure.  A huge, big, marvelous adventure in which they saw many gorgeous landscapes, spoke to many different people, and ate many fabulous meals.  I hope they remember our upcoming JMT hike in the same way they now remember the Camino.

March 14, 2014

I had to stop yesterday's reflection because of mom duties.

I'll conclude this post by listing the following life changes that were a direct result of the Camino.  I suspect these changes are permanent.

No more wasted time.  I don't mean no more staring at clouds or sunsets -- those moments aren't wasted time.  On the contrary, those kinds of moments are what life is all about.  I mean, no more wasted minutes or hours spent trying to impress people I don't care about or appease the insecure.  No more spending time with people who a) discriminate against...well, anyone or b) participate in organizations that discriminate against...well, anyone.

Simplicity rules.  If I don't need it, then I don't own it.

Letting go of my kids while still actively guiding them.  See my previous post regarding VLACS.  Also, though we will continue to hike throughout the years (the girls show no signs of slowing down), the JMT hike might be our last trek for charity.  Both girls want to continue contributing to society, but both want to "give back" in their own, unique ways.  Alex wants to do serious trail work in the Whites, and Sage is interested in a specific local volunteer opportunity.  This is good, this is important.  Each daughter is finding her own way forward, each is discovering how she can make a positive contribution according to her own individual interests.  So, in sum, our hiking adventures will continue after this summer's hike of the JMT, but future charity work may or may not involve our hikes.  It's important the girls begin to find their own ways forward in terms of volunteerism.

Taking better care of my health.  I lost weight on the Camino, and I've kept it off.  Keeping it off has been rather easy, since we now make a huge effort to eat healthy, home-cooked meals almost every day.  We all continue to get a lot of exercise...and I continue to enjoy the taste of red wine (though I don't drink as much now as I did on the Camino!).

Knowing...knowing...that more thru-hikes/extended outdoor excursions are in my future.  Assuming my health remains strong, I will hike long-distance trails throughout my retirement years.  If my health does not allow for thru-hiking, then I'll bike cross-country.  Or, I'll visit all the National Parks.  There will be something I can do, regardless of my health status.  The earth is beautiful, and I want to see as much of it as I can.  I don't mind tenting, so this kind of travel/retirement won't be expensive.  I'm a low maintenance gal.

I'll leave it at that.  Time to move onward.  Ultreia.


PilgrimSoulTours said...

I love these reflections and I feel I am in a similar place in terms of watching my kids take up their own individual pursuits and thinking ahead to my future of great adventures. If you want a hiking/biking/trekking partner I'd love to join you!

Dennis Paul Himes said...

One thing I've learned from hiking in general, and from my LT through hike specifically, is self-reliance. When something goes wrong, you deal with it. You don't have a choice on the trail. Other people will be big helps sometimes, but you certainly can't count on that. When your gear breaks, when you lose the trail, when you run out of water, you might rant and rave a bit first, but then you deal with it. And then you move on. This is something I've carried over from hiking to my off-trail life.

- Cumulus

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Meighan, it's nice to see how your kids take what you show them and make it their own, isn't it? :)

Dennis, agreed, self-reliance is crucial, both on trail and off. One of the reasons I like to solo hike is so I can practice self-reliance and test my skills. One day, after the kids have grown, I'll do a solo thru-hike.

Unknown said...

Hello, I'm enjoying reading about your trip. I'm trying to figure out when we can do The Way... My wife and I thru-hiked the AT in 98 and our 7 1/2 daughter has done lots of weekend hikes, but nothing too long or too rough. My wife & daughter are Catholic and I was thinking that this would be a neat experience for all of us, but maybe especially for them. Particularly if we time it for next spring for her First Communion. I'm order your peak bagging book, but what books about the Camino (time of year, with kids, etc) would you recommend? I've been reading a few blogs, lots of websites, etc, but... I think I am getting lost in too much information. Thanks for any tips!
BTW, we met a family from Maine thru-hiking the AT this year with their 7 & 9 yo. It is great to see people with kids doing these trips.

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Hi there,

Since you've thru-hiked the AT, I know you understand how difficult walking day after day can be. Therefore, I'm sure you know what your 7-year-old can handle and what she can't. If you were someone who was new to hiking, then I'd caution you against bringing your 7-year-old on such a long venture, since I wouldn't be sure you knew what you'd be getting into.

All that being said, the Camino is nothing like the AT in terms of terrain or difficulty. There are places to sleep (indoors) every night, there are restaurants at the end of each day, and The Way often feels like a gravel (or even paved) road. Also, though we never used this option, there are buses one can catch to shuttle you up the trail, there are taxi services one can hire to carry your pack to the next albergue, etc. As long as you walk that last 100 kilometers, then you can get a compostela.

I don't know of any books, unfortunately. We watched The Way and surfed the web for information. Also, both my kids have been hiking like adults for years, in all four seasons, and I knew they could handle (and enjoy) day after day of hiking (14-20 miles a day) in all kinds of terrain. One thing I try to remind parents about when they read my Camino blog is that Alex and Sage are accomplished White Mountain hikers. Your daughter is a hiker too, and it sounds like you would all enjoy the cultural aspects. Perhaps you could take her on a multiple- day hike, where she's walking ten+ miles a day, every day, and see how she does?