In May 2017, I was staying in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, recovering from a hip replacement. The physical therapist told me I was making great progress. I could now take myself for unassisted walks using crutches. As I maneuvered the crutches down the sidewalk one crisp afternoon, I couldn’t help notice that spring bloomed all around me. Trees filled with young green leaves, and buds popped out in every direction. The light breeze carried their sweet scents my way.
During those days, I could never imagine that less than a year and a half later I would walk a challenging 100 miles on the Camino Portugues. Back then, I didn’t even know about the Camino de Santiago, let alone a Portuguese Camino.
Who knows, maybe I was destined to walk the Camino. From the time I turned ten years old, when my parents put me on a plane to visit a friend on Cape Cod, I’ve always had wanderlust. My parents continued to cultivate my interest in travel by often putting me on a bus and sending me to visit my grandmother in Pennsylvania. I appreciated every chance I could get to travel. By the time I got to high school, I had ridden trains from New Jersey to Colorado and New Mexico, as well as northern Wisconsin. Travel had me hooked.
Back in the early 1960s, I was unusual among my group of friends. They preferred to stay closer to home. During summer vacations, we rode our bikes everywhere. Jockey Hollow National Battleground in Morristown, NJ, about 10 miles away, was about as far afield as we would go. On those hot summer days we almost always stopped at Welsh’s Ice Cream on the way home. It happened that on one of these days, in the shade of a tall oak, that I popped the question.
“Would any of you guys be interested in riding our bikes across the country,” I tentatively questioned. I had read about someone our age doing it, and had already researched it.
“You mean to California?” One of the guys asked. “Yeah,” I answered. Then the laughing started. They didn’t want to hear about my research. “What a hare-brained idea,” one of my friends said.
I figured that if I wanted to ride my bike across the country, I would have to do it alone.
Well, I never did it. But almost every time I get together with a group of my buddies, someone brings it up, and they all have a laugh on me.
I wound up going to college halfway across the country in Michigan. That required taking buses, trains, and airplanes — until I got a car. That enabled me to explore the countryside further. My college sent me abroad to Spain to study in my junior year. Like most students who have that experience, I used my vacations while there to travel all over Europe.
Since then, my travels have taken me on a road trip across Canada, all over Latin America where I adopted two children and built houses for Habitat for Humanity, and to a retirement in the central highlands of Mexico.
I retired to the Lake Chapala region of Mexico in 2014. Lake Chapala is the largest lake in Mexico and is located only an hour south of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. The climate there is like spring time most of the year.
My plan, when I moved to Mexico, included using the savings from living there to travel. So, after four years of only traveling back to the U.S. and the Pacific Ocean beaches, I was getting bored. If there isn’t any focus or purpose to your life, retirement can make you complacent. It was time to shake things up; time to start executing my original plan. Having lived in Spain as a student 50 years earlier, a return visit there sat high on my agenda.
There’s a big retired population living on the north shore of the lake. Several friends who had completed a Camino introduced me to what I would call the Camino “phenomenon.” Their stories piqued my interest.
I had started walking for exercise in spring, 2018. When I walked for long periods of time, I thought of all sorts of things. At some point, during my “exercise walks,” my thoughts turned to planning a trip to Spain. Then, after hearing stories of other people’s Caminos, I got another hare-brained idea of combining my trip with a Camino experience.
So, given my history and penchant for wanderlust, when I told people I planned to walk a hundred miles in Spain, most of the people I knew were un-phased. The most often asked question I got was, why?
My thoughts were, why not?