THE CAMINO IS CALLING AND I MUST GO.
AND, SO MY JOURNEY BEGINS... on the Camino de Santiago...
The Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James in Spain is for most, a spiritual journey that pilgrims of all faiths and backgrounds have traversed for over a thousand years.
For me, walking the Camino will be a 'Journey of Faith'. One of the great lessons a person may learn on the Camino is that we are all able to do far more than we think we can - if we just try. Even though the journey of the Camino can take a vast amount of time, the way will build faith in yourself; seek to rehearse positive outcomes, think confidently, act confidently, maintain a positive mental attitude, do not seek perfection, trust that the Camino will provide for you, swim in the essence of the opportunity granted to you along the way, look fear straight in the face and yell, “I WILL OVERCOME!!!,” and visualize success in reaching Santiago de Compostela.
Pilgrims do this journey for many reasons; some may do for health, cultural, or historical reasons, while others may simply be hoping for a miracle along their way; however, whatever your reason for walking the way, you will be touched by the beautiful landscape Spain offers, you will gain a greater appreciation for the magnitude of emotion that you will encounter in reaching your goal, and you will have accomplished a far greater task than you ever thought you could.u gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do. — Eleanor Roosevelt
The most popular route is the Camino Frances, which crosses the Pyrenees Mountains along the Spanish-French border starting in St. Jean Pied de Port. Although you can avoid the mountains by beginning in Roncesvalles, the first town across the border of Spain.
I plan to start my journey in St. Jean Jean Pied de Port, France so I can cross the Pyrenees Mountains. I will do this entire hike for religious purposes and other various reasons. I trust and have faith in my personal Lord and Savior to guide 'my way.' This trek is all about me. This is my way. This is my journey of faith. This journey of faith will happen. I cannot be responsible for anyone other than myself. This journey is about me and what I wish to gain from it just as this journey should be about the person who chooses to do it. This is my life. After all, you don't choose a life, you live one.
The Camino France route covers 800 kilometers (500 miles) that traverses an idyllic northern Spanish countryside.
By following yellow painted arrows marking the journey, I will hike 12-15 miles each day so that I may reach the next town for the night. At this pace, I will reach the Cathedral de Santiago in 32 days to attend the Pilgrim's Mass which is held at noon each day. (I will take 35 days for this journey though however, so I can get acclimated and have rest days in between hiking days).
My journey has begun now and I have already started making plans to fly from Atlanta, Georgia to Frankfurt, Germany to visit my sister and uncle for 4 days. On day 4, my sister and I will depart Frankfurt, Germany and take a 5 hour train ride to Paris, France where we will spend 3 days. On day 3, my sister will take a train back to Frankfurt, Germany and I will take a 7 hour and 45 minute train ride to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to finally set my feet on the Camino de Santiago.
This is a huge digital map that the only thing you can really see are the arrows; the one to the right is where I'll start my journey and the one to the far left is around where I'll end part of my journey in Santiago de Compestella; however, it will officially end on the outer limits of the Galician coast in the northwestern corner of Spain in Finisterre.
Along the way, I will encounter other pilgrims from all walks of life who will speak a different language, have different religious beliefs, and eat different foods. I know those I meet on the Camino will be lasting friendships for me.
I plan to stay at the Parador in Leon - the one in the movie, The Way, where a single pilgrim's rate is $80E, (less than a Holiday Inn here in the states), and the next day I will have a huge breakfast.
I will see a different side of everyone since everything each of us owns who does this journey will have to be carried on our own back. I will see a different part of the world, sleep in albergues, refugios and casa rurals that cater specifically to the thousands of pilgrims of all ages that take this journey each year, and I will immerse myself in the Spanish culture, the Spanish local food, and the Spanish history dedicated to this once in a lifetime experience. I will take photographs of people, places and things I may never see again...
WHY THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO ALL THE WAY OVER IN SPAIN?
I have never been away from my family for more than 3 days and this journey will not only be challenging in that I will need to walk daily to get from one point to another, but I will pray to my Lord to guide my way; providing me all that I will need. I'm frightened to leave my family for 35+ days; frightened of what may happen while I'm out of the country, frightened at a whole lot of everything (but I have to let that 'frightened' feeling go and have faith all will work out), and yet I am truly excited at the same time. I am really looking forward to this journey, and I cannot wait to fulfill this chapter in my life and experience all the Camino has to offer!
I am an independent person; however, the life I live can be super chaotic; it is filled with daily rituals where I need to make sure my son is being properly cared for, make/return phone calls, create/reply to emails to clients regarding photography, take care of a house full of pets, take care of a husband, clean house, wash clothes, pay bills, etc. and yet with this adventure, I will let go of all of that for only 35 days and I will carry myself and my faith into a completely different realm of my life.
I need this journey to regain a morsel of my existence. I need this journey to see the world through different eyes, to understand a greater power in the universe, to appreciate life and to live. Now I am not saying here that I do not appreciate the life I have. Of course I do. I am a very blessed person. I have a family I love and adore, friends I can call on at any given point of the day or night, a roof over my head, food on the table, and yet something is missing. No, I am not going through a mid-life crisis. I am not sure if I even believe in those. I know there is a whole other way of life out there and I want to experience what pilgrims have experiences for over a thousand years. I want to live that life. I want to have a purpose for doing something for myself for a change and I want this goal that I have set before myself to capture my inner spirit and allow it to soar to greater realm of my own understanding.
The above shot was taken during a Camino presentation at REI in Atlanta on Sunday, July 28, 2013, given by Tom Beck (far right above). This was an incredibly informative presentation.
My gear... Preparations began in late June 2013. I weighed everything and some things I won't be taking of course, but at least this gives me an idea of what to take and what not to take. What is not shown in this shot are my clothes and of course my camera since I used it to take this photo. I will be carrying my camera during this entire trek.
If you visit this link and scroll toward the bottom, you will see the routes I will hike on... http://www.santiago-compostela.net/frances/index_cf_en.html...
You can also visit this link to learn more about the Camino... http://peregrinossantiago.es/eng/
CREDENCIAL or PILGRIM'S PASSPORT
Most pilgrims carry a document called the credencial, purchased for a few euros from a Spanish tourist agency, a church on the route, or from their church back home. The credencial is a pass which gives access to inexpensive, sometimes free, overnight accommodation in refugios along the trail. Also known as the "pilgrim's passport," the credencial is stamped with the official St. James stamp of each town or refugio at which the pilgrim has stayed. It provides pilgrims with a record of where they ate or slept, but also serves as proof to the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago that the journey was accomplished according to an official route.
The compostela is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims on completing the Way. To earn the compostela one needs to walk a minimum of 100 km or cycle at least 200 km. In practice, for walkers, that means starting in Sarria, Spain, as it has good bus and rail connections to other places in Spain. Pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela who have walked at least the last 100 km, or cycled 200 km to get there (as indicated on their credencial), are eligible for the compostela from the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago.
The compostela has been indulgenced since the Early Middle Ages and remains so to this day. The full text of the certificate is in Latin and reads:
CAPITULUM hujus Almae Apostolicae et Metropolitanae Ecclesiae Compostellanae sigilli Altaris Beati Jacobi Apostoli custos, ut omnibus Fidelibus et Perigrinis ex toto terrarum Orbe, devotionis affectu vel voti causa, ad limina Apostoli Nostri Hispaniarum Patroni ac Tutelaris SANCTI JACOBI convenientibus, authenticas visitationis litteras expediat, omnibus et singulis praesentes inspecturis, notum facit : (Latin version of name of recipient)
Hoc sacratissimum Templum pietatis causa devote visitasse. In quorum fidem praesentes litteras, sigillo ejusdem Sanctae Ecclesiae munitas, ei confero.
Datum Compostellae die (day) mensis (month) anno Dni (year)
Canonicus Deputatus pro Peregrinis
"The HEAD of the Holy Apostolic Metropolitan Church of Compostela, guardian of the seal of the Holy Altar of the Apostle James, to all Faithful and Pilgrims from all the earth who come with feelings of devotion or vowed to a cause to the threshhold of the Apostle, both our Patron of Spain and Protector St. James, by authenticating the letters of each and every visitation, makes known that [Name] has devoutly visited this Sacred Church on a pious cause. In whose strong faith this letter is presented, with the seal of the same Holy Church, conferred upon them.
Given at Compostela on the day [day] month [month] year of the Lord [year].
Deputy Canon for Pilgrims"
A Pilgrim's Mass is held in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (above and no I did not take the above shot) each day at noon for pilgrims. Pilgrims who received the compostela the day before have their countries of origin and the starting point of their pilgrimage announced at the Mass. The musical and visual highlight of the Mass is the synchronisation of the beautiful "Hymn to Santiago" with the spectacular swinging of the huge Botafumeiro, the famous thurible kept in the cathedral. Incense is burned in this swinging metal container, or censor. As the last chords die away, the multitude of pilgrims jostle happily as they crowd forward to reach the spiritual highlight of the Mass, the rite of communion.
Priests administer the Sacrament of Penance, or confession, in many languages, permitting most pilgrims to complete the indulgence attached to the pilgrimage upon satisfying the other canonical conditions.
I am proud to announce that I am now the co-chair of the Atlanta Metropolitan Area Chapter for American Pilgrims (AMACAP). We just had our first Meet and Greet at Mary, Our Queen Catholic Church in Norcross and it was a huge success! The honorary Vice Consulate of Spain, Mr. Ignacio Taboada was in attendance cooking up his famous Paella and serving up Spanish Wine.
The finished Paella - so delish!!!
Camino Tom calling out winners for the raffle to win the backpack donated by REI.
Kennette won the backpack donated by REI.
Jeffrey with the honorary Vice Consulate of Spain, Mr. Ignacio Taboada.
It was hilarious watching him drink wine - the Spanish way...yet he makes the best Paella I've ever tasted!!!
Camino Training Hike #1 at Arabia Mountain - 11/9/13
Vivian, Vivian's boyfriend, Barbara, John, Leslie, Keyonna, Carol and Cindy
Camino Training Hike #2 at Arabia Mountain - 11/23/13
Tim, Jana, Carrie, Maureen, Maureen's sister, Leslie, Leslie's daughter, Eileen
Camino Training Hike #3 at Watson Bridge State Park - 1/18/14
Kennette, Barbara, Maureen, Leslie and John
Leslie just arrived back from Spain and LOVED IT!!!