A few months ago, “The Way” was playing at our neighborhood indie theater, The Varsity. (It’s the kind of place that doesn’t even show previews.) Joe and I went to see it partially because, after I studied abroad in London in 2006, I went to Spain and hiked the section of the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail between Leon and Santiago de Compostela, and partially because we love “The West Wing” and Martin Sheen. Although I hiked about 180 miles, my portion of the trip only made a brief cameo in the movie, which should be out on DVD soon.
My high school friend Greg and his mom are planning on hiking el Camino this summer, and so I had the occasion to pull out my travel journal from the trip more than once these past few weeks and retrace my steps in my memory.
I must remember to always write a travel journal – although the things I recorded from this trip (silly dogs I saw in towns, funny conversations) aren’t very practical when it comes to sharing tips with others. I remember having wanted to hike the Camino since I was a young teenager, after I read wacky Shirley MacLaine’s book in which she makes the pilgrimage and (if I recall correctly) has several out-of-body experiences. I was very much embodied on my journey (as heel blisters reminded me), but there’s definitely something magical about pursuing a path that was established many centuries before. Peregrinos (pilgrims/hikers) get stamps in a passport along the way, meet people from all over the world, travel until you’re too tired and experience the Celtic Galician culture, which is different than what comes to mind when most people think of Spain.
I’m at my happiest when I’m just walking, plain and simple, seeing the world at a plodding pace. I’m not a skilled map-reader, so the more well-worn the path, the better. I walked to work today, in this spring-feeling weather, and even that simple little trek set my day on a more pleasant trajectory. In a way, walking is an art. It’s a meditation. It’s getting comfortable with the way your body and your mind move together. Now I sound like Shirley MacLaine!
I need to discover more favorite walks in Des Moines. I think perhaps Joe and I will go for a little hometown hike this weekend!