i go out walkin’….

It’s been less than a year since retirement. Nine months. We did not want to spend the first year getting oriented to our new lifestyle. Reflecting on past careers. Sifting through travel guides. Let ourselves get mired in “analysis paralysis.”

We decided to put a virtual taser to the gonads and shake shit up.

The key question we’ve set out to answer — “how do you travel when you have more time than money?” We’ve been fortunate to cover a lot of miles – we want to change how we go.

Shortly after retiring, we stumbled our first few miles on the Appalachian Trail last August, thinking that backpacking  would be the obvious means to travel on the cheap. What we quickly determined is that we were in no shape to tackle such adventures. At least not right away. i also was reminded how much i despise sleeping on dirt.

Studley’s daughter, Pixie, was very supportive of our pursuit of an adventurous travel habit. We discussed other options – including El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. “From what I have heard, one of the hardest things about doing the Camino is staying sober – they serve a LOT of Spanish wines during the meals there…”

Studley and i exchanged a glance – and a high five. “Drunk walk Spain? Yeah. We can do that…” We started planning our camino. While still chasing other adventures, staying in Turkey for a month, and living our regular lives, El Camino became a quest.

We started training. And by “training” i mean “walking” – because it’s really just a walk. Doing 30 half-marathons back to back, however, will wear down your body, so we have been walking. A lot. We’ve walked in rain. In snow. On the one warm day this season, we walked 12 miles. Has it been enough? Probably not. But here we are, about to get on an airplane.

i’ve got several friends who have taken on this pilgrimage. They have been our primary resource in thinking through what to pack. My cousin (who has walked El Camino twice) did a gear shakedown – we were pretty proud to show her that we’d gotten out packs down to 15 pounds.

Cousin L [pulling a tiny travel mug from Studley’s pack]: Isn’t that adorable. You know, they DO have cups in Spain.

gear

She was brutal, questioning each item. With her help, we further lightened our loads. Base weight of my pack is 10 pounds (4.5 kg). This is a very good start. With water and consumables, i’ll be at about 13 pounds (7 kg).

One of the most challenging aspects has been preparing to be GONE for so long. Bill paying, mail, home maintenance, appointments. All of this must be squared away so we can disappear. Taking my cat to go stay with a friend was difficult. This is also training…

We’ve walked. We’ve packed, repacked, and packed again.  There’s not much more to do but get to the airport. And start walking…

Rain Gear

For decades my “power word” has been “onward”. When i felt mired in the muck of life, or quicksand of toxic relationships, i have grabbed that word as my shield and plowed ahead. Within Camino culture, there is an ancient equivalent – “Ultreia” (old Spanish spelling – “Ultreya”). Rough translation – ‘Onward! Beyond!’

 

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Canis Interruptis

Sometimes, dogs happen. After a little over a year with Tank (foster pitbull), his forever home was ready, and he rolled on to happily ever after. He was a remarkable dog, and healed my heart after i lost my canine life partner, Mr. Pickles.

i don’t do well without a dog.

Invariably, i mentioned this to my friend who runs a local rescue operation – between long trips, i might be able to handle a short-term foster. Just a few weeks.

So there was this street puppy, just a few months old. Owners had abandoned her, and she’d been found terrified, hanging out in an alley. A neighbor brought her in to get her out of the cold, and now the rescue was looking for someone to level her out and help find a forever home.

Gidget lap.jpg

Meet Gidget.

A puppy. In general, i like my dogs like i like my men – older, housebroken, and with low expectations. She is all puppy. Energy and few social skills. It became apparent within a couple of days that she was totally adorable, and completely deaf.

Not only had i taken in a puppy, but a deaf puppy. A few youtube videos later, and i’m not only trying to teach her to shit outside, but i’m teaching her sign language. She’s a pretty quick study, or this experiment might not have continued.

She seems to understand the sign for “toilet” – meaning “stop sniffing every blade of grass and do your damn business because it’s fucking cold out here”. She is learning “stop that, damn it”.  i’m pretty sure she understands “good girl”, because i’m now getting wags. Because she’s an adolescent, i have also had to teach her “look at me”, because if she doesn’t want to “hear” what i’m saying, she’ll avert her eyes.

Gidget teeth

“Stop biting me, damn it!” is another sign she has mostly mastered. Fortunately for both of us. Have i mentioned that i’m not fond of puppies. Landsharks. Puppies are, in fact, assholes.

Being deaf brings another issue – she has grown to trust me, and as such, i cannot be out of her line of sight for long. At night? She has to be absolutelyupinmybusiness, as close as possible. It makes sense – if she were in the wild, and under attack, she would have to rely on the reaction of other packmates. i am her only packmate, so when i have to get up to pee in the middle of the night, it’s a party.

(sigh)

But she’s adorable. And tomorrow i am taking her to meet her adoptive momma. A friend with a few other dogs which will make this pup feel far more confident. Fostering dogs may be my only responsible option for the next few years, as the long-term travel gigs are starting to mount up.

Gidget sleep

One more night with this sweet, needy gooberdog wrapped around my head. She’s a lucky pup, it’s been a good run, but i look forward to having my own space back as i prep for the next adventure.

Next up? i have no idea what i’m doing, but i’m fully committed. Gonna take a very, very long walk, with nothing but a 15 pound pack on my back…