I’m Going to Walk the Camino… With My Toddler

I am a misfit blogger. It’s been half a year since I’ve posted!

So what have I been up to? I’m busy working as a freelance writer and book proposal coach, being a mom, discovering the best hikes and the best beer here in my new hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, and trying to beat back the weeds in my beautiful and overwhelming yard. Thus I spend hours of my day and my old blog continues to be neglected.

There’s such great hiking around here. It’s one of the many reasons I love Asheville.

There’s such great hiking around here. It’s one of the many reasons I love Asheville
In August I’m headed back to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago again

In August I’m headed back to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago again – but this time Juniper, my two-year-old, is coming with me! My best friend from high school, Jenny, will be joining me for the first week and then Brian will be joining me for the last two weeks, so I will not be without help.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking about walking with Juniper since she was just a few months old. When I reached Santiago the last time, I told myself that I’d come back every 5-10 years, or at each new phase of my life, to contemplate endings and beginnings, to take stock of my life, and to plan for new adventures.

Certainly much has changed since I walked five years ago. In 2013 I was nomadic. In 2018 I’m a homeowner living in a new part of the country. In 2013 I was fancy-free. In 2018 I have a nearly-three-year-old daughter, bills to pay, and a life to maintain. In 2013 I dreamed of making a career out of writing. In 2018 I wrote and published a book, built my freelance portfolio, and started my book proposal coaching business.

This is the life I hoped for, one that Brian and I built with a mixture of good luck and a stubborn eye for the vision we had for our lives. It’s a life that I love. It’s also a life that sometimes gets bogged down with deadlines potty training and the typical worries about jobs bills and car repairs. And every once in a while I think it’s important to step back from all of that, to see life from a different angle, and remember that nearly all of the things that consume my day-to-day are inconsequential.

Walking long distances makes me feel like I am able to know a little more about myself and the magic of life. Walking long distances makes me feel like I am living. It makes me feel alert and alive. One of my favorite quotes by Walker Evans goes, “Die knowing something. You are not here long.” When I walk I feel as though I am inching closer to knowing and understanding something essential about the world and my place in it.

Why now? And why walk the Camino de Santiago again?

I went back and read my posts from when I blogged every day while walking the Camino and I suppose, much like giving birth, I’d completely forgotten about all of the pain. The sore muscles, the aching feet and blisters, the cold showers and all of the snorers and farters in the albergues. How much will this be heightened with a toddler? How will I get through?

I can’t explain exactly why I want to go back. The truth is I’ve tried two other times to go

I can’t explain exactly why I want to go back. The truth is I’ve tried two other times to go. The first time, I pitched the idea of walking the Camino with my then one-year-old to my publisher. They thought about it and then told me they didn’t think anyone would buy that book.

A few months later I was a finalist to write a Camino guidebook for a well-known guidebook company. But they gave the job to someone else. I began to wonder if walking the Camino with my daughter just wasn’t meant to be. It almost felt like Spain was trying to keep me away.

I got swept up in other things. My book came out. We bought a house and moved states. But I didn’t stop thinking about the Camino. And then one day while walking (of course!) it occurred to me that I’d been waiting for someone else to give me permission to go. I’d been waiting for a “good” reason. But I already had a good reason. I wanted to go.

So I bought the tickets. It’s so shockingly easy to grab an adventure, once you decide to do it. You book the ticket. You don’t miss the money. And suddenly, everything looks a little bit different because an adventure is on the horizon.

I am walking again for many reasons — only a few that I can really articulate. I think I’ll know more about why I’m going once I’ve gone. But I do know I’m going to reflect on my role as a mother and I’m going to find some space and silence in my life, too. I am going because I want to show my daughter the world, and this seems like a good place to start. But I am also going simply to walk. The Camino is a place for profound reflection, for silence and open spaces and intention. But it is also a really long footpath with beds and showers and warm food and kind people. I am going to walk because I really love walking. Sometimes life just needs to be lived at 3 miles per hour.

The details

I hope to write another blog post with more details before I leave — because, certainly, logistics are more complicated when walking with a toddler. But here are a few of the major details.

After much back and forth, I’ve decided that I’ll push Juniper in a BOB running stroller

I’ll push my daughter in a stroller

After much back and forth, I’ve decided that I’ll push Juniper in a BOB running stroller. At first, I was going to carry her in a backpack, but the stroller will, I think, be more comfortable for her over the long haul. She’ll be able to lay down to take a nap, read books, and watch the iPad (yes, I’m bringing one. I’m not a total glutton for punishment, people.) It will also provide more protection from both the sun and the rain. Plus, I can stash all of her toddler crap in the stroller pockets and carry our clothes and other essentials on my back.

Juniper will walk as much as she wants to

When Juniper wants to walk, she’ll walk. We’ll stop in villages to play. It kind of kills me to say this, but we will take the bus if we need to. While I obviously hope to walk all of the miles I’ve planned, the main goal here is to enjoy myself, bond with my daughter and, yes, walk. But not at the sake of her happiness or my mental sanity.

We’re starting in Pamplona

We’re starting in Pamplona — I decided to skip the Pyrenees for two reasons

I decided to skip the Pyrenees for two reasons. First, it would be difficult (but not impossible) to get over the mountains pushing a stroller. The main reason, though, is just due to time constraints. I’ll be in Spain for a month. While I’d love to take as much time as needed to walk every step, that’s just not feasible with my job as a freelancer. It hurts the pocketbook to skip a month of work, and I didn’t want to stretch it any further.

I’ve pre-booked rooms in private albergues

Last time when I walked, I just stopped where I wanted to stop and grabbed a bed. This time, however, I can’t risk going without a bed. It’s a comfort to know that Juniper and I can take as much time as we need each day and still have a place to sleep each night. That said, I’ve only managed to book about 2/3 of our rooms, so we’ll still be playing 1/3 by ear.

I won’t be blogging but I will post on Instagram

Finally, if you are still reading this, cheers! You have persistence and grit! Unlike the last time I walked, this time I will not be blogging along the way. I will, however, post daily updates on Instagram and probably on Facebook as well, so if you’d like to follow along please find me there!

Wish us luck and Buen Camino, friends!

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