When was the last time you did something you have never done before in your life? Bungee jumping, zip-line, walking on hot coals, parachuting, white-water rafting, riding along in a police car, starting a fire without matches – you get the idea. (By the way, I’ve done none of those things) There are so many things to do, yet we choose not to do anything outside of our comfort zones.
Fifteen months ago I did not know a thing about the Camino de Santiago. I am not a hiker, nor mountain climber. I am not an outdoor adventurist. I don’t mind visiting foreign countries (been to 60 already), but I am not fluent in Spanish (I can speak a little tourist Spanish). I’ve never carried a backpack for more than a few minutes. I’ve never walked more than a couple of miles. Yet, my wife and I decided to walk the Camino Frances.
The Camino Frances starts in southwestern France and meanders over the Pyrenees mountains into Spain. The rest of the journey parallels the coast to Santiago de Compostella. It’s 500 miles (800 kilometers). The vast majority is walked off road.
We studied the Camino de Santiago. We talked to many people. We joined a local support group. We got our questions answered. We bought the right type of equipment. We started practicing a year before we went. We saved up the appropriate funds based on what we thought we would spend (boy, did we guess wrong!).
We did what we thought it would take to be successful at a task that would take a month to complete. And, we did it. It was hard – much harder than we both imagined on a bad day. Training in Houston did not prepare us for the off-road paths, hills and other obstacles that we would face. We succeeded in some areas where other, more experienced, hikers failed – we did not get any blisters.
We were slower than just about everyone out there, but we learned some lessons and eventually passed a few other people slower than us. Not bad for two people celebrating their 70th birthdays on the road, so to speak. We got stronger as evidenced by our stamina and recovery times we experienced during the last week. I don’t know what really triggered our minds to even think about doing the Camino. Regardless, we did something we have never done before.