To Our New Camino

My friend summed it up the other day when she said ‘the best and worst thing about travelling is that it makes you want to travel more’. In a way I think I’m lucky that I’ve been away from home for so long, because while there are many places I have yet to explore I know that at least for a while my love and joy for being in Canada will be able to tackle my wanderlust. But this won’t always be the case, and I doubt it will be much more than a year before I’m back out on the road again.

In the age of technology it’s easy to believe that you can discover everything you want to do online. Prior to this year, if you gave me an atlas and told me to list everywhere I wanted to go I would have been able to jot down an organized list in no time. Not on that list would be places like Spain. This is how travel changes you-I walked across a country I had no particularly strong compulsion to see, and I fell in love with it. Moreover, falling in love with Spain made me fall in love with dozens of other places I had never given much thought to. Once the traveling bug bites you it doesn’t let go. It seems like for every place I go and every experience I have, two more places and experiences get added to my bucket list. It has the potential to be a dangerous trap. The one thing that’s become clear to me is that wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you need to be appreciating it and milking it for all it’s worth. It doesn’t matter if your bucket list ever gets finished. What matters is that you pay attention in the here and now, and you lead a life you can be proud of. My aim in life is to be someone who grows up with stories to tell, but you won’t have any good stories if you’re too busy dreaming of the next great adventure to properly experience the adventure you’re on now. So live each day like a new camino, don’t shy away from new experiences, and make sure people know that you love them.

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Day One – Santander 12/05/13

Me no hablo espanol

Flying into Santander definitely leaves an impression. The plane’s wheels skim the water of the bay and out the window are lush green hills. Santander itself doesn’t disappoint. Food is hard to come by in the center, but that’s fine because every second shop is an ice cream parlour. You definitely get the impression that the Spanish are very social beings-you can hardly walk a block without coming upon a new plaza or park, and everyone just seems very relaxed and unharried (although this may just have appeared to be the case given that they’d just come off a 3 hour lunchtime siesta). I’m sure all of the vitamin D has something to do with it.

Speaking of the people, they are EXTREMELY friendly. I had so many people stop me to give directions that I had to specifically look up how to explain that I actually knew where I was going and didn’t require any help- can’t say I’ve encountered that kind of language barrier dilemma before.

Settling into the albergue (9 ruamayor) was a similarly interesting experience. Not a hint of English anywhere in sight, let’s just say that after this trip I will kick all of your asses in charades. Luckily a-you guessed it-Irish lad! with sliiiightly more passable English came along and between the two of us we were able to figure out the credentials situation. The albergue was nice enough, and had WiFi in bed! (I know, I’m so western). I realize it sounds entitled but I was a bit disappointed that other than Ireland and I no one spoke any English (or anything other than Spanish, really). I enjoy figuring out ways to communicate with people from other places, but when there’s no middle ground it’s hard to get past anything but the absolute basics.

Basically spent the night figuring out where to go next before turning in around midnight. Slept like a log though, thanks sleep dep?

Change of Plans…Again.

Hola amigos!

…aaand that’s about the extent of my Spanish. This next month should go well.

So some of you may have noticed that this blog’s undergone a name change! Trying to navigate the waters of independence while still very much being part of a family unit is hard. Which is to say that the famjamily weren’t terribly impressed by my summer plans.

I will admit that the trip I was planning on taking (and will do! someday!) was pretty ambitious. I’ve also been away from home for a long time and am getting to the point where I’m excited for this summer’s treks, but I’m equally excited about getting to laze around the house for a month AFTER these treks (especially now that we have a hot tub! My feet are excited). The culmination of these two factors is that rather than finding my own way through Iceland, I’m going to do slightly more well-established hikes in Spain, Norway, and Iceland.

My journey begins on El Camino. The St. Frances pilgrimage is one of the most well-known long distance treks in the world, stretching horizontally across Spain for hundreds of kilometers before arriving in Santiago de Compostela. It’s busy though — which is why I’m not going to do it! Instead I’ll be doing a lesser known Camino, El Camino del Norte, the North route. This trek has a number of advantages over its Southern counterpart. It’s less well-known, which means that fewer people will be doing it and it will be easier to find places to inconspicuously camp when the mood takes me. It’s also more challenging, which means that anyone doing it will be there for similar purposes as me. And, decisively, it winds it’s way primarily along/near the coast, unlike St. Frances which sticks to the interior. For being born far inland and having an intense fear of oceans, I definitely have water (coastlines?) in my blood. Being near the shore is invigorating. Technically in order to get your Pilgrim’s Passport you have to be doing the trek for spiritual/religious purposes. Obviously religion is out, but walking beside the sea is about as spiritual as I will ever get. So that’s the first part! I’m still undecided as to whether I will stop in Santiago or continue on to Finisterre (once believed to be ‘the end of the world’– which is funny and so wrong, it’s not even the point that’s furthest West in Spain) before doubling back to catch my flight. I’ll let you know! Either way this leg will be 3 1/2 weeks – 4 weeks.

After that I’ll be doing a little R&R in my home away from home, Belgium. I was thinking of throwing the TMB in Switzerland/France in here instead, but honestly after a month of walking in the Spanish heat it’s almost 100% guaranteed I’ll be burned out (literally). What better than some family, food, and fun (although french…merp) to bring up the spirits! .

Side note: Lien and Maya! My lovely roomies! Turns out I’ll be close to you after all – let’s catch-up and maybe go to that bar you were always talking about and try the gazillion beers and the gin that’s not actually gin!

The good thing about stopping in Belgium is that I’ll be able to stock up on trail food for the next leg, because I love Norway but it has one of the highest standards of living in the world which is reflected in their prices. After a week recuperating in Belgium then I’ll fly into Oslo, where I might chill for a day or two before working my way up to Jotunheimen national park (and wherever else I decide). There’s no definite plan here yet. I’m sure Norwegians themselves have a much better grasp on what’s worth doing/how it can be done, so I’ll just be taking things as they come. Norway has FANTASTIC wild camping laws. Norway, Sweden, Scotland, and with a few restrictions Iceland are essentially the only countries where it’s legal to camp wherever you want, provided you respect the land and respect people’s privacy. There’s a good chance I’ll just wind up wandering around a national park and camping wherever I see fit for a week or two (especially because I’ll have food supplies). Maybe if I get a chance I’ll be a typical tourist and go and tour some of their prisons (because I’m pretty much just always in awe of their prison system. It’s one of my favourite topics of conversation. Norway, man…they’ve got their shit together). After about two, two and a half weeks it will be on to the final (and most exciting) leg – Iceland!

Once again there’s very little plan for Iceland, because it’s something you kind of have to experience in the moment. I’ll be spending a few nights in or around Reykjavik (checking out the hot springs) before heading out onto the Laugavegur trail. This guy’s quite famous, so parents rest assured that I’ll be in good human company in case anything happens. In case you were wondering, this trail takes you right to the foot of that volcano that erupted in 2010 that no one can pronounce or spell and that I’m too lazy to google right now. Ahh, it’ll be glorious. Have a few links: http://www.adventure-journal.com/2011/11/made-in-iceland-chronicles-one-womans-beautiful-month-long-hike/ ; http://www.fi.is/en/hiking-trails/ ; http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/iceland-expedition-feet/ . The trek’s just under a week long, so I can either catch a ride back to Reykjavik and then decide on another hike to do, or, as will probably happen, I’ll double back and do the trail in reverse (so that I’m familiar with it and can really appreciate it). I definitely want to check out Reyk and the other towns as well. It’s pretty easy to catch a plane/train/automobile up north to near Akuryeri, so that might happen as well. The week in Belgium will be spent sorting this out, and most importantly how I’m going to get food up there without breaking the bank.

And then finally in late July I’ll be coming home for the first time in a year where I will proceed to buy out Timmies and then eat my weight’s worth of Gwenny-cooking just in one sitting. Pretty excited, won’t lie.

 

By the way, from tomorrow on I’ll be posting from my tablet which means no pictures:( I’ll try to find PCs to upload some along the way though.