pilgrimgravy

Evolution

O Cebreiro > Santiago — July 1, 2015

O Cebreiro > Santiago

I can’t describe my current state. The last part of my journey has been amazing. I truly feel that I have evolved. I know that I will not be the same. Something has changed, and it is for the better I assure you…

My Camino network is amazing. Beautiful people that have educated me. They have taught me great lessons about myself and the world.I have struggled to determine how I could write about a certain part of my evolution. Worried the words would generate concern, but I feel I need to share…

The United States is a terrible country. Trust me, it is… So many people from all over the world have the same opinion, so there must be some truth. I am ashamed that I have been one of the ignorant, turning a blind eye to what is taking place in our world.

The energy outside of the U.S. is a bit unstable. There are many amazing people that are fighting to ensure the future world will be a place of understanding. It’s a revolution and it is overwhelmingly beautiful. As Americans we sit back and have no clue that this is a time of great change.  

My eyes are now open and I can see. 

I will no longer allow the media to pour whatever cocktail they generate into my way of thinking. I will work to be more educated on the impact we have globally.  

I am now part of the revolution.

The weight is on our shoulders. How we raise our children and how we treat others is most critical. If we wait for someone else to take a stand it will be too late. We must not let our children carry this burden, we are responsible to ignite the change…

I look forward to coming home and making a difference, we can not continue this way…

Outside of this, I really can’t say that I have ever spent so much time with myself. It has become evident that the work required of a healthy relationship applies just as much to the relationship you have with yourself. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of work, and when it’s a priority…it’s truly great.

It’s easy to make oneself the lowest priority. It’s a given trait of my existence. But last is not the place to be. Putting yourself first is not selfish, it’s critical to ones health. When you are your own priority you will be better for those around you, it’s just the right work to do…

The next steps I will take are uncertain, yet they will be purposeful. The Camino did not tell me what to do, but gave me the clarity to make proper choices.

The revolution is near, I would enjoy your company…

Step by Step, Love to All

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Foncebadon > O Cebreiro — June 23, 2015

Foncebadon > O Cebreiro

I can not describe the beauty of this town. It’s almost overwhelming. I feel like I am in a mountain range that goes to infinity. The camera does not capture it, I have to commit these visions to heart. It almost brings me as much peace as the ocean, and that is saying a lot…

Only 1 week left till Santiago…that’s just crazy. Almost surreal.

It feels like I have been on this journey for months and not just a few weeks. I have learned so much about myself and I know these lessons will stay with me. These memories will remain. I’m happy to think of coming home, but I will miss this way of life. I will not miss the pain and I wish that was not part of my time here; however I know my strength to push forward was just as much part of a lesson I needed to learn.

It’s hard to think about walking into Santiago and going through the process of getting my compestela. I will continue further to see the ocean, but the end will be set at that point.  
I did decide to have a couple of celebration days before returning home. After completing the Camino I will head to Barcelona for two days and then to Naples, Italy for a day. Afterwards I will land in New Orleans the night of Independence Day.
I look forward to sharing my experience of entering Santiago as well as the fun days that will follow. The end is near my friends.
Step by Step, Love to All…

   
   

Reliegos > Foncebadon — June 21, 2015

Reliegos > Foncebadon

As I type this I’m sitting on the top of a Mountain, one of the highest points yet. This Albergue is amazing with beautiful views. The dinner offered is also vegetarian – what!!!

Speaking of food, I have to share the number one question on my mind – why am I not a size 2 yet?

Before I left I often joked that I would return a size 2, I know this would not be a reality – but I did think some weight loss would take place.

This much physical exertion accompanied with a lack of food options should be producing some results. I guess I have to take note that my bread intake has drastically increased.

The Spanish love their bread. Good thing given the endless wheat fields I walk through on a daily basis. In the villages you can see the pano trucks flying in and screeching to a halt in front of bars and stores to deliver the daily bread. Soon after, Spanish men and women are running from every direction into these establishments to get their bread and then run home. Like for real running. I wondered if they wanted to get it home quickly to ensure their family has fresh soft bread for breakfast. I was quick to learn this was not the case. They like their bread hard. Like you could easily use it as a weapon. I’ve almost lost teeth trying to consume the smallest piece. So what’s the hurry? It will be just as hard tomorrow…this proves to be a puzzle I shall not solve…

Anyway, hopefully this hard bread is not causing my lack of weight loss. I would rather Thai, Indian or Mexican quinine to be the blame. Mexican…oh my long lost friend. I’m an American idiot that assumed Mexican food was in some was derived from Spain. Nope. The country of Mexico has their very own heritage, something I should have understood as obvious. So here I am, not sure what a tortilla chip even tastes like anymore. I could go on forever describing my pornographic fantasies of guac and queso, but I’ll save you that rant.

While I’m on the topic of appearance, I guess I should provide an update on the beard project. When I started the Camino I stopped shaving. I’ve never grown a beard due to the fact that some of my face does not produce hair. Guess what, it seems I could go years without shaving and those areas would still be as bare as ever. The moment I realized I could twist the sides of my mustache while not having hair on my upper lip, I bought a razor. No more beard, it’s just not meant to be…

So in summary, anyone envisioning a slim bearded man returning from Spain – not gonna happen. However while the external self will still be the same, I promise a much better internal product.

Step by Step, Love to All…  

Burgos > Reliegos — June 16, 2015

Burgos > Reliegos

So I have decided not to bore you with a play by play…you get the idea. I will post need to know facts and events, otherwise I will only share my self-discoveries as I walk…

I have to say the physical demand is quite great. My knee goes from fine to making me stop in my tracks in agony – it can not make up it’s mind. My pride of not having blisters has gotten a big dose of reality the past two days and they are multiplying. Gratefully only on my right foot, I guess the stress from supporting the left knee is the cause. But on a positive note, I clocked 40k 2 days in a row and am quite proud of myself.

Michelle and I spent a week with a beautiful and authentic Frenchman (from the group I spoke fondly of previously, and it’s not my fav Anthony ;). He is an amazing man and the two of them have become great friends. I assure everyone that she is more than safe in his watch, even safer than in my own. A few days ago we made the decision to continue our journey separately, once again I assure you she is absolutely safe and well protected.

I have actually had many lonely moments on this walk, however they pale in comparison to my current experience of being alone. Physical challenge + pain + constant internal conversations = well, I’m not sure what to call it…

Many people are scared to be alone, many people can not exist without their protected alone time, and some just prefer to be alone. I assume I have never assessed my own existence on this spectrum.

I always stated that I would never commit to another, however I spent 8 years with a great man. I do not regret that time. I am a stronger, better man because of it; and I have endless beautiful memories from this union. Once this time ended, I reinstated my self philosophy of not committing to another. I’m not sure where the desire to be a completely free individual comes from, but I feel like my heart tells me this is my destiny.

I have an insanely large network of extremely close friends and I am the center of connection for a large portion. I can not describe how lucky I am to have this many people so close as family. The love and support that all of us share make me thankful everyday. However, now as I reflect, has my desire to not have a significant other driven me to build such a large network? Subconsciously ensuring that I am not actually going to live my life alone, but surrounded by friends as close as family? That I can care for their kids just as my own to ensure I have the experience of being a care taker without the commitment? Possibly…

These thoughts lead me to the realization that if somehow this was the fuel behind building all of these relationships, then my subconscious was terribly misguided. As I said, I value these relationships more than anything else in my life. I would do anything for any of those in my circle, at any cost. But at the end of the day, I still stand alone. Each of these individuals have their own life, where does dedicating my life to their happiness leave mine?

When I was young and coming out of the closet, I heard many times that the “gay life” is such a lonely life. Is it? This leads me to another realization, you can’t choose to be gay, but you can choose to be lonely.

Being alone has nothing to do with being lonely. Sometimes you will be alone, sometimes not. It’s your choice to be lonely in those moments.

For me, when I am alone, I am lonely. I crave being around others, engaging, feeling needed…

What is keeping me from making the choice to not feel lonely in these moments? If this is the life I am committing to, then I need to figure it out…

Yep, another realization. I’m not comfortable spending time with myself. I constantly pick apart everything about myself. How I look, my weight issues, every choice I make…and the list goes on and on. I don’t think I’m good enough for myself. The fact is the amazing network of mine reminds me constantly that I am a great person, I just have to see that for myself. I have to become comfortable with myself for me to accept my own company when I am alone. Loving myself, what I stand for, and what choices I make will silence the feeling of loneliness and ensure that when I am alone, all is well…

I don’t desire responses to this post of uplifting messages, so please don’t. I’m not looking for sympathy, just sharing my journey.

The Camino is helping me to figure these things out, step by step…

Love to all…

Los Arcos > Burgos — June 10, 2015

Los Arcos > Burgos

I’m not sure how to layout the events since my last post. So much has happened that a lot will be left out, but I will try to convey this recap the best I can. Due to the lack of wifi or just poor wifi, pictures will not be posted much moving forward…

Our first leg of this journey is only 7k so that the knee can have a day of rest. We luck up and found a great hostel. Stopping short we say goodbye to our friends as they move forward. You form bonds so quickly that there is a bit of sadness parting ways, I soon learn this is a cycle that will continue. We must appreciate the moment and take away what we can, that is greater than the sadness felt as these connections move on…

That night in the hostel we make a whole new set of friends. Our entire room actually spoke English, crazy! Michelle even adopted a new grandma from the village. We ended the night watching the sun set from the top of a mountain, I have to say it was a great day of rest.

We set out the next day to complete the rest of the leg that was planned for the previous day, just over 20k. As the pattern seems to go…our Hostel yesterday was great, now it’s time for one with some issues. The facility was great, but owner was intense. Our new bestie Tib nicknamed him the Albergue Nazi.

This is the day I learn that a dear friend is going to pass unexpectedly. The sorrow was more intense that I was prepared for…thinking of how amazing she was and the loss that her amazing web of family and friends will experience, the sadness of not being able to be there for my friends, feeling so disconnected and just hating that I had not seen her more recently…

Another day, another walk. And then (I know I’ve said this before) the best Hostel ever!!! Huge pool, great bar, we love the staff! The Knee is acting up and Tib’s is as well – so we plan to stay here two nights and not walk the next day. So much fun that night! Met some great people, one of them (my favorite – but don’t tell the others) has a Donkey walking the Camino with him, as well as the best dog ever. We make the decision to have a pool party the next day, so much fun!!!!

We make the decision to night walk and save ourselves from the sun. Well a day of pool partying does not really support this. We get 3k, throw our sleeping bags on the ground and pass out. Up early due to the amount of pilgrims passing us. We lose Tib at lunch and I have to release Michelle as well since my leg is causing me to be a bit slow.

Walking by myself was interesting. Some great reflection, a lot of yelling at my knee, and a great interaction with a beautiful woman selling fruit who had lost her cat (but now it’s found 🙂

Michelle arrives at our destination and then returns with a friend to help carry some of my things and walk back with me. So sweet. This damn knee…

We hang with our pool friends again. These seem to be sticking. We are full on camping now and loving it. We can feel ourselves changing, releasing, focusing, becoming a pilgrim…

I set off early the next morning in an attempt not to slow the others down. I get 3k in and stop to try to eat. Also, my knee is killing me. Eating has become more difficult because my stomach has shrunk. So much meat in everything… But I get some fruit, eggs and potatoes down and start to figure out a plan. Maybe a taxi would be best, but I have no clue how to get one. Worried I can not move forward, I think about setting up camp close by and just finding everyone another day. Not having my best moment…

Around the corner comes Anthony (my fav), Martin (his donkey), and Uno (his dog). He grabs a coffee and comes to sit with me. Soon he’s feeding me Advil, Martin is carrying my stuff and we are heading down the Camino. What you need, the Camino will provide. These three have saved me this day…

Anthony is great company, the pace set by Martin is perfect, Uno checks on the knee consistently – great walk. We set up camp and eventually Michelle and friend met us for a pool party, but the weather has a different plan. So now we have a porch party instead. We are seeing the first rain since we started, and it looks like it will be staying.

We rest all the next day with rain pouring down. Now it is also cold, what has happened! But all is well because our little family is together and happy. Tomorrow we walk in the rain.

Love to all…

Estella > Los Arcos — June 2, 2015

Estella > Los Arcos

Day 3 and I am ready to kill it!!! I don’t put my brace on, knowing this is the day I shall return to normal. We are trucking, killing it!!! It’s a great hiking day. (We did leave before 7a because people started getting up at 4:30 and since we were outside, we had to comply).
As soon as we leave town we come across a ministry that makes wine. There is a faucet outside that pours free wine. What! And yes we drank wine at 7:30am, but when will you see an opportunity like that again? We walk on before hearing in the distance “Hey!!! ya’ll speak English?” – what!!!! Is that a southern American I hear, can I control my excitement???? She was awesome, but in search of the wine – we point her in the right direction and continue on. 
  
So pumped, I am getting the swing of this hiking thing!!!!! I’m even leaving Michelle in my wake! We are killing these Ks!!! We start trekking up a bit of an incline…hold on, oh wait, oh no…I can’t walk. We have to hold on while I put the brace back on…now I know it’s working, there for a reason, and it will be staying in place.

   
             The rest of the hike was great, we pass sooo many vineyards. We found a great hostel with an amazing owner and then met up with friends in the square for vino and great conversation. Happy to have spent time with them because we have made the decision to fall behind. We are breaking the next 30k into 3 days. We are also sending packs ahead so we do not have to carry them. Michelle is stepping up and helping me to understand that if we do not slow down my knee may never be the same again. I’m so thankful for her pushing me to do this. I am a stubborn, goal oriented fool and will stop at nothing to achieve what I see before me. This is not a time to flex this skill…

This must be my first lesson of the Camino. Previously, in my personal and work life, I often sacrificed myself in order to meet the needs of others. This behavior came without thought, just the focus of delivering what I determined was needed at any cost to myself.  

Now that I am removed from all of these things, I am sacrificing myself to meet the goals of the Camino. The problem is that the only goal is to reach Santiago. These goals laid out in the books have nothing to do with the purpose of this walk.

I have to put myself and my needs first. Enjoying this walk and allowing the experience to grant me the clarity I desire is what is important. Obviously this journey is already taking it’s effect.

I will give into our annoying third party and slow down. We have all the time in the world. Clarity is near…

Love to all…

Puente la Reina > Estella —

Puente la Reina > Estella

So you now know that we loved our hostel last night and made all the friends. You may also make a call that wine was involved…

Our Hostel offered a buffet and unlimited wine from 7-10. Um…of course we are choosing that option. After ponying up to an endless stream of vino we head to the bar (still in the same hostel – amazing right?). There is the cutest Italian bartender you have ever seen! We are in heaven!! He met his girl hiking the Camino and moved from Italy to this town to be with her forever. Love Him!!! Well of course this leads to much more vino.
Here goes another one of my side rants. For those of you that don’t know, I have always been extremely proud of my Greek roots. My grandmother’s family came to the states from Greece and they were amazing. The rest of my heritage is mutty, so I have held on to this little nugget and fly that flag for all to see. For example: why do you tan so well – I’m Greek, why are you not a hairy beast – I’m Greek. So now I set off to Europe and I am passionate about visiting Greece and connecting with my heritage! 

“Mom, where in Greece are we exactly from?”

“Son, you mean Italy?”

WTF!!!! I’m Italian! I’ve lived my whole life as a lie! How will I face this world again. I have to honestly say this was a pretty big blow for me. But sitting at this bar talking to a real Italian, I think I might be ok…

Anyway, we got drunk, had a blast, made friends with the fornicators, and now flash forward to a jolting wake up! Michelle is asking when we need to be out of here! It’s not a hotel, but not quite a hostel. Do we need to be out by 8??? It’s 8:30! Well we decide to just grab everything and nap in the library while our phones charge. It actually ends up being a nice set up. We even find a book that we both want to read, so score!

Well, now it’s 11 and we start the second stage of our new way. Guess what, today is beyond difficult! So many hills and mountains. So much sweat. The sun is beating down, making it feel like walking through a desert. The good thing is that it takes us no time to sweat out the hangover. The bad news is we left so late we are not sure when we will finish this leg.

I have to share this and Mom, I’m sorry. I quit smoking at the end of January. Just realized I am celebrating 4 months smoke free. This time it is over and it’s just a fact. I am beyond lucky that it just turned off for me. Well there are these damn lozenges, in the states they are called Nicoret. We found some in London. And I may eat one if I’m bored. Gives you a bit of energy and doesn’t taste that bad either. I have always wondered if they even give off any nicotine. We have been walking forever and I decide to pop one…the next corner presents a vertical climb like no other. Every time you make a turn it is still going up! We finally reach the top and I’m vibrating like the motor on a ’57 Chevy and I finally realize, holy shit – there are drugs in that mint!

 
   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

We finally finish this 22k and make it to Estella, we grab the first hostel and get our beds. We barley make it across the street for dinner and then back to our hostel.  

So as you know we are still learning…

There are hostels run by the churches or government; and then private hostels run by private owners. The hostel we are in is run by a church. Once again we have submerged into one of Michelle’s rings of hell. We will be exploring only private hostels moving forward.

We hang out outside enjoying beer from a vending machine. Yes my friends, 1 dollar for a beer from a vending machine, amazing!

As we sit there a friend we have encountered a few times peaks in, he is at a hostel up the street but it’s vacant and he is checking out the other scenes. His name is John, Michelle and I love him. For lack of a better term he is clairvoyant and amazing and great to talk to…he tells me that he sees me as a writer and have huge things in my future, guess I need to work on getting this blog to be more thought provoking…

He exits and our other friends arrive!!! More vending beer! Thankfully Michelle and I now have the balls to retrieve our items from the ring of hell and use our resources to set up camp outside. Best sleep ever!!!

Love to all…