May 2nd, 2014: Today was day 1…..it was partly gloomy.

By Shannon

This morning we woke up to rainy, cold, and dreary weather. It perfectly matched the sense of dread hanging over me. I couldn’t quite place the dread. Maybe it had to do with the fact that today is the one year anniversary of Lourdes’ (Eric’s mom) death or that we start the hike in three days. I’m scared. Scared that I won’t be able to do this.

Starting on Monday, we skirt along the foothills of the Pyrenees up to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. At which point we have to hike over a small portion of the Pyrenees. I read that it’s one of the hardest parts of the hike. Eric told me it’s just like hiking Old Rag, a hike we used to do when lived in DC. But I never did that hike with pack on my back. I’ve never hiked more than 8 miles, and I’m about to hike 600.

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Adding my name and information to the book of people who start the Camino in Lourdes, France

Part of prepping for the hike is ditching the things from our pack that we no longer need in an attempt to make our packs as light as possible. Even though it’s just material things, I’m finding it hard to let go. You don’t even realize how all the light-weight small things you thought you could carrying with, will add up to a whole lot of excess baggage. One of the things I’ve decided I have to part with, is my journal. It pains me to send it back to the States because Eric just gave it to me for my 30th birthday and I was intending to make it my El Camino journal. But I know that my laptop will do just fine, and even though my journal only weighs about a pound, each and every pound makes all the difference in the world. So the journal must go.

So far there is only one entry. On 2-17-14 I wrote:

The other day, I realized it’s exactly one month until we start our international travels again. As I think about getting on that plane to Istanbul, a whole wave of excitement and panic washes over me. Even though we’ve done this before and I’ve gotten really good at goodbyes, this time feels heavier. It’s bigger.

Sitting in the comfort of my Mom and stepdad’s house, looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains, the last thing in the world I want to do is leave. I want to stay here in the comfort and safety of this moment forever. I feel grounded right now, after a year of feeling like I was just barely hanging on. Part of the reason this time feels so scary is because I realize this is the point of no return. The next time I return to this exact place I am sitting now, my life will be drastically different. That’s scares the crap out of me.

People are driven to do the Camino for different reasons. For me at the heart of all of my reasons lie self-discovery, letting go, and finding peace and acceptance. Facing all of these things is terrifying. It’s much easier to go through life completely un-self aware, holding onto the past, and being unhappy. It takes so much work to know yourself, let go of the things that don’t serve you, and strive for peace and acceptance. And for me, that’s what this hike is about. Working through the hard stuff so I can get to the really good stuff. I know there are things on the surface (good and bad) just waiting to bubble over, waiting for me to face them. And El Camino will force me to face them.

One year ago today, I was telling Eric his Mom had passed away. I never imagined I’d be the one that had to tell him. I don’t even remember what I said. Today, we are in Lourdes, France. Her name is everywhere. It feels surreal that she’s been gone for a whole year. We went to the Basilica to honor her because she would have loved it here. And even though I am not religious at all, seeing the image of the Virgin Mary touched me in an unexpected way. Partly because all of the depictions in the Basilica are stunning and partly because it is the anniversary of Lourdes’ death, and this was her favorite depiction of the Virgin Mary.

Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary

But standing there in the Basilica, beneath all the tiled murals, looking up at the Virgin Mary, I am reminded of why I am doing this. Why Eric and I are doing this together. And in that moment, for a split second, I felt ready.

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Every pilgrim must travel with credentials/Camino Passport”. You get your passport stamped in the towns you walk through. It’s also required to be shown at the albergues as well as at local restaurants in order to get the special pilgrims meals.

Distance: Forgot to wear my up band.
Location: Lourdes, France

Feeling inspired by our journey? Please consider donating to The Passport Party Project. Your contribution will help 10 young girls, get their first passport and go on their first international trip! Go here to donate and find out more.

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3 Responses to May 2nd, 2014: Today was day 1…..it was partly gloomy.

  1. Congratulations on starting – and on having the willpower to ditch the journal! Hope it’s going well!

  2. Susy says:

    Everyday I will read your entries and every other day I will leave a comment for u on the day I don’t write you I will write Eric. I know how hard it is to leave the safe things and to go into the unknown. I too was there after Hurricane Rita when I came home and found nothing salvageble in my home.I appreciate your perspective and you giving us this private side of you. I know at times I have not been charming but I am skitish of letting people see who I really am so I hope you bear with me as I get to know you. Buen camino mi amiga

  3. Mom says:

    I know I am your mother but regardless of that I was so moved by what you wrote and how you are willing to put yourself out there. When we were hiking as a family when you were young, you weren’t all that enthusiastic. But now, wow! You will have walked in the coming days more than I have hiked in my entire life. I love you and admire you darling.

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