May 16th, 2014: Today was Day 15… A Huge Push Forward!

By Eric

The Physical and Emotional Push To Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

I realize I have written with mixed levels of enthusiasm in the last few days. Enthusiasm about my expectations of how far Shannon and I will make it on our overall goal of hiking from Lourdes, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. If we even make it all the way.

It makes it much easier for me, that no matter how much I struggle in this journey, I am fortunate enough to wake up to this gorgeous smile every morning.

It makes it much easier for me, that no matter how much I struggle in this journey, I am fortunate enough to wake up to this gorgeous smile every morning.

We have invested so much, both emotionally and financially, in this endeavor. It would be a shame for the physical challenges to impede so drastically, on everything else we have sacrificed in the process. But that is what happens when you set out to accomplish a task that is influenced by many factors, but that can ultimately only be decided by the levels one can, in the end, push themselves.

Our almost daily ritual before beginning our hike: shopping for our meals at a supermarket in order to avoid the high food costs of cafes and restaurants. But we cannot buy too much at a time due to the added weight in our backpacks.

Our almost daily ritual before beginning our hike: shopping for our meals at a supermarket in order to avoid the high food costs of cafes and restaurants. But we cannot buy too much at a time due to the added weight in our backpacks.

I consider myself to be an eternal optimist, constantly seeking adventure, but plagued with a powerful sense of pragmatism, which has been spiced-up with a healthy amount of sarcasm. But I have never before taken on this kind of challenge. The physical strains alone are well beyond the norm for me, but when you add in the emotional and psychological stress involved, it sometimes seems we have gotten ourselves in well over our heads.

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Wherever I am, I try to meet the challenge 100% and with a smile. Sometimes that is easier said than done!

Add to that, the fact that I don’t simply have to muster my own strength, but I have to remain diligently strong for Shannon, and I have often felt, at the end of each day over the last two weeks, that we may be destined for failure.

Although we may be destined for failure, because this pilgrimage is full of so many unknowns, I am determined to not fall prey to the same plight as this poor guy. Success on our journey is of dire importance, but ultimately protecting Shannon is my main concern.

Although we may be destined for failure, because this pilgrimage is full of so many unknowns, I am determined to not fall prey to the same plight as this poor guy. Success on our journey is of dire importance, but ultimately protecting Shannon is my main concern.

Regardless, all I can do is keep on keepin’ on, and I have to ensure that I keep Shannon’s eye steadily on the ultimate prize as well. Whatever it takes, I suppose. Whatever it takes.

We keep moving forward. We keep moving forward. That’s all we can do, or we are doomed. Ever since I had to get rid of my hiking shoes (that were falling apart) in Lestelle-Bétharram, I have been forced to walk all our kilometers each day in my blister-inducing sandals. A not-so-well-thought-out plan! I am hoping, now that we are finally arriving in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a bigger town with more amenities, that I should be able to find some proper hiking boots.

We keep moving forward. We keep moving forward. That’s all we can do, or we are doomed. Ever since I had to get rid of my hiking shoes (that were falling apart) in Lestelle-Bétharram, I have been forced to walk all our kilometers each day in my blister-inducing sandals. A not-so-well-thought-out plan! I am hoping, now that we are finally arriving in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a bigger town with more amenities, that I should be able to find some proper hiking boots.

Today was an amazing day! From an outside perspective, things looked much the same as they have on each of our hiking days. Yes, Shannon threatened once again to quit our pilgrimage and return to Louisiana. Indeed, she also suffered from pains in her feet so much, that she dramatically proclaimed she wanted to die and be left on the trail for dead.

Sometimes we have been afforded beautiful places of natural sanctuary in which to take a much needed break. But other times, like today, we have to take a rest, even if all there is around us is non-shaded, cement farm roads surrounded by the smells of cows and sheep.

Sometimes we have been afforded beautiful places of natural sanctuary in which to take a much needed break. But other times, like today, we have to take a rest, even if all there is around us is non-shaded, cement farm roads surrounded by the smells of cows and sheep.

And yes, once again, we had to hitchhike. So far we have only (ONLY??) hitchhiked about 55 kilometers, but when you consider we have only gone about 130 kilometers (from Lourdes to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port), I am growing increasingly concerned about the idea that we are supposed to successfully hike over 1000 kilometers, not successfully hitchhike over 1000 kilometers.

BUT…. it was still an amazing day, because in spite of all of that, from an insider’s perspective, I can report, that Shannon showed signs, for the first time, that no matter how difficult this pilgrimage will be, that she has the emotional strength to elevate her physical levels to whatever it takes to get this done.

So we do whatever it takes to get this pilgrimage done, including resting on hot concrete, surrounded by the stink of farms, while sweating our patooties off.

So we do whatever it takes to get this pilgrimage done, including resting on hot concrete, surrounded by the stink of farms, while sweating our patooties off.

And we (I) stop complaining about all my blisters, and I switch back and forth from bare feet to socks, in my sandals.

And we (I) stop complaining about all my blisters, and I switch back and forth from bare feet to socks, in my sandals.

In the end, as can be seen in the video below, we hiked today to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Finally! Our last stop before we make our ascent into the Pyrenees Mountains. We had about 31 kilometers to hike today, and yes, we only made it about halfway before Shannon could no longer hike due to foot pains akin to tendonitis.

But today’s hike included some extreme assents into some winding mountain roads fraught with painful concrete. A couple hours before beginning the final assent that would ultimately leave Shannon practically immobile, we stopped at a random home to ask a woman for water. Wouldn’t you know it, after not seeing any cars for a long period of time, when we finally needed to hitch the final way to Saint-Jean, the first car that passed us, and stopped to generously offer a ride, was that same woman, from 2 hours earlier, that had kindly refilled our water bottles. She said she randomly decided to drive into the “big city” from her country village, in order to go to the bank. And she decided to take the steep mountain road we happened to be on, versus the more commonly used (for cars) road that is longer, but flatter, as it winds around the base of the mountain. That seemed strange and synchronistic, but there she was, saving us once again, in the blistering heat.

We somehow continue to be touched by angels on our pilgrimage.

And yes, Shannon cried, once again, and as she has every single day so far that we have hiked. But today, I felt for the first time, that through those tears (that always break my heart!), that she has convinced herself (finally!) that she can actually do this.

So we do this thing. This journey. This special pilgrimage. Because we are now officially pilgrims, darn it! And recognizing that this cannot or should not be easy, is the first step in making each of those steps easier to take.

Distance: 18,564 Steps/ 9 Miles/ 14.48 Kilometers
Location: Musculdy, France to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, 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 16th, 2014: Today was Day 15… A Huge Push Forward!

  1. Eileen W. Eisner says:

    Eric, you are ao sweet and peppy. I am hopeful Shannon doesn’t make you EAT that camera before y’all’s pilgrimage is completed!! 🙂

  2. Mommy says:

    Amusing Eric. But also clear that Shannon is pretty much maxed out. I think those damn hiking boots were not her friends!

  3. Maria says:

    Eric I love they way you try to change Shannon’s attitude by being funny and sarcastic. But I do feel for Shannon with her pain. I am so proud of both of you and know you can get through this.

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