Treading Water

For a fat kid i was pretty good at swimming – especially good at treading water. Perhaps it was the added buoyancy of the extra fat layer, or maybe i had a predisposition for staying in one place for long periods of time. Regardless of the reason, it was one of the few physical challenges at which i excelled as a kid.

treading around the drain

Here we are, about six months into a global pandemic, and i have no basis for complaint. Move the arms, kick the legs, stay inside, wash your hands, wear a mask, avoid crowds. Repeat. Hopefully just for another six months, but i’m not that optimistic given the willful ignorance of so many of my fellow citizens. There is also a pandemic of stupidity here.

At best, and with a good bit of luck, we’ve got 80 or so years on this planet.

The first quarter of our lives are spent being whisked along a trajectory that is largely out of our control. How we navigate that first quarter depends on what zip code we’re born in, and how our parents are doing in their second quarter of life. We are gifted (or cursed) with our genetics, and move through the educational system, while building our value systems.

Second quarter of those 80 years? Our 20’s and 30’s usually have us taking our first real risks, making the decisions (and non-decisions) that make us adults. Careers, trade school, marriage, children, buying cars and houses, sometimes hitting a reset button and taking a mulligan to find another route. Our lives are our own, and yet we sometimes don’t realize the lasting impact of the choices we’ve made.

By the time we get to the third quarter, much of our daily existence is managing the consequences of all those decisions we made in the previous quarter. Kids growing up, houses falling apart, work and career stress, paying bills, doing what we can to get the spawn going on their own trajectories. Taking care of aging parents? There’s one we didn’t really think about before! Not a lot of freedom of choice in our priorities. We ride that wave through our 40’s and 50’s. In my case, i stepped off of one roller coaster onto another, and started over with a divorce and new home just as my nest emptied.

If we’re lucky enough to get to our 60’s reasonably intact physically and financially, we are facing the final quarter of our lives. Last call. Not just circling the drain, but we can see the drain from here… i turned 58 this summer. Hi there, drain! How you doin’?

i’d been wrangling with this concept pre-pandemic. If i’m lucky, 20 years left. Maybe a little bit of overtime, but looking at my family history, not many elders made it to their 80’s, at least not with any degree of mobility. i’m staring my final quarter right in the face.

But wait! Pandemic! Yay! Let’s spend an entire year treading water! One year out of 80? 1.25% of my life? That’s not so bad! Looking ahead, it’s one year out of the 20 or so left for me. A whopping 5% of my remaining life — if i’m lucky — treading water, as i circle that drain.

Can’t say that i haven’t done anything this year. Not only did we earn our Technician Class Ham Radio Licenses, but we kept studying and moved beyond the entry level license and are now General Hams.  Bought kayaks and took a class, and have enjoyed paddling around on the waterways.

The grand adventures we’d planned were abandoned, but we still have managed to get out of the house a bit. Hiked about 300 miles so far – mostly in local parks. Camping is the very definition of social distancing. We have taken three trips this summer – just returning from a 3,000 mile adventure which included a brief visit with The Boy and his family out west. Two more National Parks checked off the ‘to do’ list.

Move the arms, kick the legs, stay inside, wash your hands, wear a mask, avoid crowds. i’m lucky, and recognize that i’m living through this from a position of extreme privilege. But i see that damn drain, man….

Can i get a witness?

We were both tucked comfortably into our respective bedrooms, swilling wine using our time at home to catch up by video chat.  Gintia moved away just over a year ago, and we hadn’t talked in a few months.

Comparing notes, we acknowledged the privilege of being only mildly inconvenienced by a global pandemic. We have not lost income, are reasonably able to procure food and supplies we need, and do not have to go to work “on the front lines” – healthcare, grocery, delivery, fire protection, law enforcement.

The weight of a global health and economic crisis was still threaded through the conversation, and i voiced my feeling of general helplessness – given my demographic, what can i really do to help?

“We are witness to history. Perhaps journaling, writing… somehow documenting what this feels like, what it looks like…”

Witness.

Yes, that is the word. She nailed it. We can witness. From where we are, with what we have, with what we see. What we feel.

Here’s a glimpse of my world these days:

  • Routine: i’ve been retired for almost 3 years. i liked not having a routine! Once quarrantined, i was drawn to a schedule. My morning  – language lesson (Turkish, using Duolingo) in bed with my morning coffee. A ‘plank challenge’ with a group of my SCUBA friends on Facebook. Studying for my HAM radio license. Daily walks – meeting Studley daily, between 3-5 miles. Sometimes around the neighborhoods, sometimes in a park.

Duolingo One Year

 

  • Rescheduling Trips: Three trips between March and June (so far) are being replanned. An inconvenience. A privilege to have the flexibility to reschedule. We are not going to complain. So it goes…

one of three

  • Doomsday Prep: For many years, i’ve been preparing to die. We’d started sorting out our affairs last fall, but given current events this has become more time critical. We found an attorney who could update wills, and sort issues related to property disposition. Lots of sorting, shredding, and filing in the home offices to get our other information up-to-date.

where there's a will

  • Pantry Raids: To be good citizens, we grocery shop every other week. Leaving the delivery services to those more in need, we are stretching the fresh goods, digging into the freezer, and doing more aggressive meal planning. Baking? You bet! Don’t let those bananas go bad – mash ’em up, and turn them into brown butter banana nut bars! i’ve done more cooking and baking in the past three weeks than i’ve done since Christmas.  Sometimes it’s like playing the home edition of “Chopped” – “Hmmm, what can i make from a half jar of artichokes, a can of SPAM, two apples, and quinoa?”

blueberry apple crumble

  • Porch Drops: i’m not the only one baking! Studley dusted off his mother’s ‘devil dog’ recipe. Other friends are doing cookies and breads. Rather than bash them in isolation, we’ve started doing ‘porch drops’ – containers of cookies, coloring pages, notes of encouragement, a shared bag of flour. Every few days one of us will drive the circuit. These deliveries bring a good bit of joy.

got your backside

  • Video Connection: With my children and grandcritters far away, i’ve gotten comfortable using vid chat. Beyond mugging for the littles, i’m now doing more video time than ever. Weekly (or bi-weekly) ‘meet ups’ with friends – we’ve done an on-line game night, and have watched movies “together”.  i’ve set up a weekly chat with my sisters. Catching up with friends, like Gintia, who are distant – she noted that there was absolutely no reason we couldn’t do that before the pandemic. She arranged a “group crafting meet up” via conferencing. It was lovely to meet new people, listen to their stories, while i was trying not to sew my fingers together while making face masks!
  • Random Mental Health Exercises: Since so many events have been canceled, we took a cue from a local cosplaying friend, and decided to get dressed up anyway. A stroll around the neighborhood, and through the cemetery, in steampunk gear… because why not?

steampunks

That’s what the days feel like here. What are your days like? How are they the same, or different, than they were before the advent of an historic global pandemic? What will you want your descendents to know about your experience?

Care in the Era of COVID-19

i’m taking it seriously, but not panicking*…

Coming back from Turkey in February, i watched Heathrow airport go from “Busy, multi-national transportation hub” to “Refugee camp” within minutes of the flight cancellations due to weather. The news from Wuhan, China was coming out, and some people standing in the lines were wearing masks, but the vast majority weren’t. Things could go from ‘normal’ to ‘extra-crunchy’ very quickly.

When i got home, Studley and i started adding a few extras to the weekly shopping cart, thinking about what we’d need to manage being stuck at home while battling the flu for a couple of weeks. We made soups, and filled our freezers. Not panicked – prepared.

On Thursday this week, our Governor announced dramatic closures across the state as a pre-emptive method of limiting the spread. Schools closed for at least 3 weeks, no public gatherings greater than 100 people. Major sports leagues canceled seasons.

More people paid attention, and then the run on the grocery stores started.

i looked for places to volunteer. One major concern nationally is that so many of our children rely on school lunches for their main meals of the day.**  With prolonged closures, the state, school districts, and community volunteers rallied to come up with a means to get food to those in need.

Going to the page for volunteers, i started to put in my info as a delivery driver. i was stopped cold by “Must be under 50 years old”…

That was the first time it occurred to me that at 57, with a somewhat compromised immune system, i’m….. uh…. i’m a little more at risk than others.

Later that day, i got a text from a young friend – Oktay and his wife are originally from Turkey. i met them at a local gathering of Turkish immigrants. We’ve stayed connected – they coach me on my Turkish, and i bring them treats when i visit!

Oktay’s text: I hope you are doing well. Please let me know if you need anything. I will be more than happy to help you. Don’t go outside unless necessary. Again, if you need anything I will go outside for you and drop it to your house. Just text me or call me!”

(sigh)

i had been preparing to call a few of my neighbors, who are in their 70’s and 80’s with the same offer…

it me

Maybe i’m going to have to sit this one out….or come up with other ways to support the community.

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*On the bright side? We’re all learning how to spell new words, like “panicked” and “quarrantine”…

**Don’t get me started on this national disgrace. Food insecurity is rampant in the US. Don’t let our obesity fool you, healthy food isn’t available to all. Processed, filled, corn-based, shit food is cheap, and has to do for many families…

Days for Girls… and Retired Women.

i’m old. It’s been many years since i’ve dealt with menstruation.* When i was new to the cycle, it was a pain in the ass – heavy, bulky, pads, anchored to elasticized belts that were all we had in the stone ages of the 70’s.

The liberation of tampons found me during high school! “You mean i can go swimming at the lake with my friends this weekend? Hell, yes!”

i was privileged. Globally, it’s not quite that simple.

Such conveniences are not readily available, and there are tremendous cultural barriers. Many girls are stuck at home – missing one week of school each month. Many are STILL forced to resort to rags, mattress stuffing, banana leaves, feathers – whatever is handy to manage menstruation.

Celeste Mergens was working with a family foundation near Nairobi, Kenya in 2008, assisting an orphanage.** She recognized that the options for dealing with periods were limited – she first tried supplying disposable pads, but that it was not viable, or sustainable. Days for Girls was born…

Kits, with cloth-based, pretty, washable, and long-lasting components — with education — were the solution. Since Days for Girls was founded, more than 1 million women and girls have been assisted, in over 125 countries world wide.

What's in a kit

Where do the kits come from? Volunteers. A global network of volunteers, organized in local groups, diligently make the kits to a prescribed standard. Other volunteers are trained to do distribution and education.

i stumbled upon a local group about a year ago. Went to a monthly gathering. Fell in love with the mission.  For two hours each month, i join a diverse group of retired women. The group leader has arranged work stations – cutting, ribbon sealing, folding, packing, grommeting. The sewing is done off-site during the month by a cadre of skilled volunteers (not me).

workstations

And now i am the Grommet Queen.

Happy chatter. “How are the kids?” “Has Marge recovered from the fall?” “Did you get tickets to the game?” But mostly we are focused on our tasks. i measure, punch holes, set up the grommet thingie, apply grommets. Repeat.

home of the grommet queen

i was happy this month – in 2 hours i completed 60 pad holders. As i make them, i offer kind thoughts and encouragement to the woman or girl who will someday use this as part of her kit. “You go, li’l sister! Being a woman should not get in your way.”

There was a time in my life where i enjoyed being in a leadership role. Helping re-start a bicycle advocacy group, being on a high-visibility board or two, being a mouthpiece for a cultural organization. What i’ve learned is that there is deep joy, and satisfaction, in being nothing more than a useful pair of hands.

i can’t fix all that is wrong in the world. All i can really do is chip away at it… one grommet at a time.

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*After breeding, i opted for a tubal ligation in 1999. Ten years later, i chose uterine ablation – a procedure which fries the lining of the uterus, eliminating the montly cycle. Back then, i was recently divorced, and decided that the annoyance of a period would be a buzzkill to my aggressive “dating”… (cough, cough). Menopause, for me, was a year of being hyper-emotional, with the occasional ‘thrash night’ in bed, due to overheating. 

** More about Celeste, and Days for Girls at their website.

Housekeeping – Another Surface Interval

Where is daisyfae? Apparently on a road to hell, as i’m seeing pavers marked “good intentions” all around me…at least when it comes to posting regularly.

Still feeling the urge to write, chewing on lots of tasty nuggets that i need to sort out. For the past few months, i have been either in manic travel mode, or mired in winter slugdom, drinking coffee in bed far too late into the morning, wondering where my ‘get up and go’ went.

The trips? Since my last travelogue, i’ve been gone a bit. Spent almost three weeks in Turkey last month, living with my daughter and her family. The little one is now a very busy toddler. She would run into my room in the morning, encourage me to sing, and then tell me (in toddler-speak) about how her night was. It was wonderful! They are all doing well, but i missed them before the taxi even got to the airport.

Christmas included a roadtrip to spend the holiday week with Studley’s children – Son, daughter-in-law, and daughter all together for a week of games, booze, trampoline park (i watched!), and time spent cooking. Also included a trip to ‘doc in a box’ due to my unexpected bout with bronchitis. Mellow, quiet, and a week spent mostly in pajamas – and virtually no photos taken.

Visited with my son and his family over Thanksgiving in November. Just flew out and back, but had a good time with the clan, and extended clan. The vampire cupcakes were a success – and Max is already planning what we’ll make on my next trip!

We spent a few weeks in Alaska in September – visiting Studley’s daughter, Pixie! Rented a camper for a week and put over 1,000 miles on it, driving as far north as Fairbanks. Alaska is the place to be if there’s a global apocalypse. The residents there are fierce, independent, and rugged to the core. Got to watch a family butcher a moose. Just something you don’t see every day…

Long camping trip out west in August – started with a few days visiting The Boy and his family, and then onward to see Badlands National Park, and visit Cheyenne, Wyoming. i have a much better appreciation for the scale of the great plains. Corn. Cows. Muledeer. Gigantic skies. On the way back, we chose to get off the interstate highway, and wander the old national road system. To say that discovering roadside attractions has become a new hobby is an understatement. We have seen — SEEN — the world’s largest popcorn ball! Life will never be the same.

Festivals, music, dancing, friends, volunteer work, planning the next trips – i am anything but bored. Perhaps just slugging my way through a touch of the winter blues. Thinking that my recent round of being stuck in bed, drinking coffee, and being unmotivated is another ‘surface interval’ for me.

Apologies for another ‘non-blog’ post, but i’m going to try again. i plan to use some of my ‘slug time’ to get back out and about in the blogosphere – hoping to catch up with my old friends in the ether. i suppose it’s possible to bring the laptop to bed while i drink my morning coffee.

 

 

Trailer Park 2.0

Drinking whiskey and diet ginger ale in a sippy cup, while taking a shower on a Sunday night*, i felt something i haven’t felt in almost a year. The urge to write. Not because something was bothering me, gnawing at my innerds, driving me to hoark it up, sort it out, and blast it into the ether. Not because i felt a sense of obligation either. Just because i missed doing it.

So. Here we are.

Due to the confluence of my engagement with social media, the death of my mother, and a reduced number of active blogmates, i just sort of wandered off. i missed it (mostly the social connections), but i no longer needed it. i also didn’t have much time – still working 40 hours a week, plus travel, i didn’t have much downtime.

The more i’m learning about social media, however, the less i’ve been playing in that space. There is no doubt that we are all being exploited – driven to outrage – as a means to divide us further. Clicks are dollars, and outraged people click the shit out of clickbait articles.

Who is doing this? Does it matter? It’s happening. i want nothing to do with it.

My facebook, and instagram use is mostly for sharing travel pictures, event/charity planning and promotion, farting around, and staying in touch with those i genuinely enjoy. i love seeing my friends living their lives – my favorite days on social media are ‘back to school’ and halloween, because of the amazing pictures people share!

i’ve curated my feed to drastically reduce “outrage” posters – right, left, libertarian, or just the generally outraged. Many in my networks have culled their networks to a like-minded choir. Yes, there is comfort in knowing you’re not alone in your outrage, but it really doesn’t change anything.

The challenges i face these days are no longer complex family dynamics, raising strong-willed and/or self-destructive offspring, balancing end-of-career issues while figuring out how to retire.

What i wrangle with these days are issues of extreme privilege. “When should we plan our trip to Machu Picchu?” “Can we go to the regional burn and still be back in town for the festival we’re working?” “When will i have time to remodel my bathroom with all of the travel?”  Yeah. It’s pretty obnoxious.

Underlying this is something a bit deeper, though – planning the final season of my life. Making myself harder to kill while simultaneously preparing to die. Not a topic that lends itself to social media – unless you are able to guide your life by an endless series of clever memes and clickbait listicles.

For tonight? i’m gonna pack up my suitcase. Joining the holiday air travel scrum in the morning as we head west to visit The Boy and his family**. My grandson has already told me what kind of cupcakes he wants us to bake, and we’re going to bake those cupcakes. There is no reason you can’t have vampire cupcakes at Thanksgiving.

Max makes a cupcake

*i am, in fact, a grown ass woman. i do not judge others for wine in a bubble bath, beer on a patio. don’t judge me for my means of self care…

**A sentence that was inconceivable just five years ago.

Surface Interval

SCUBA diving is a complex endeavor. The human body was not designed to thrive under water for extended periods of time. Nitrogen presents one of the biggest risks – the pressures at depth drive nitrogen into the body (this is bad). To avoid decompression sickness (“the bends”), divers must ascend slowly – allowing time for the nitrogen to outgas from the body. There is also a necessary surface interval between dives – this is to make sure the body has time to release the extra nitrogen pushed into the cells while underwater.

For the past six months, i’ve been gone more than home – swimming in a virtual ocean of experiences. By design, i am home for five glorious weeks! A surface interval to give myself time to reflect on all that’s happened, all that’s planned, and to take care of doctors appointments, contractor visits, and general life maintenance!

The short version/travelogue:

February – Three weeks in Thailand! A SCUBA trip, spending one week living aboard a Junk diving in the Andaman Sea. We spent the second week on the island of Koh Lanta, and followed that with a week on our own in Chiang Mai. i love my Dive Tribe – people of all shapes, sizes, politics, and backgrounds chasing “experiences over things.” Saw my first Peacock Mantis Shrimp! Visited an Elephant Sanctuary. Learned to say “Two more beers, please” in yet another language.

March – Long weekend in South Dakota visiting my son and his family. Had to schedule around two blizzards, but we made it. Making the offer “we can watch the kids for a night if you guys want to go to a hotel…” and not being able to finish the sentence before they were packing overnight bags! They work hard (both working full time, going to school part time, taking care of two small children), and appreciated a night off. We enjoyed a night of chasing littles…

April – The Girl returned to work after her extended maternity leave. Studley and i spent the month living in Turkey, doing Gamma/Opie day care! Babies! They are A LOT of work! This one is exceptionally charming, but we were worn out in the evenings. Threw in a weekend out in the country (by train) to get our adventure fix, but it was mostly bottles, diapers, giggles, and naps!

May – Stopped in London for a weekend on our way home from Turkey, then turned around and headed to Alaska. Studley’s daughter, Pixie, earned a part in a local theatrical production. We decided to surprise her on opening night – and we did! Didn’t really think through the logistics of hiding in a fairly small Alaskan town for a day, but she had no idea we were there until she came out after the show was over – delivering a classic spit take when she saw her father standing in the lobby!

June – Just home after spending three weeks camping our way across the Maritime Provinces of Canada. We’ve had our little camper for almost two years, and it was time to put some miles on her! Five thousand miles, to be more specific. We saw bears, moose, whales, porcupines, and all manner of northern critters. Eaten by gigantic mosquitoes. Hiked some of the most gorgeous terrain i’ve ever seen. Made very few concrete plans, or campsite reservations, choosing instead to wing it most of the way. Added in a couple of visits with old friends and family members. We didn’t smell very good at the end of it all, but had a blast!

What’s next? i’m content to focus on getting my patio deck stained, complete some home renovation projects, and scratch my bits in my own space for a few weeks. The road has many lessons – and i’ve learned that one of my favorite places to go is home!

The Surface Interval. It is quite necessary…

Profundio del Dia

After crossing the Pyrenees, we deliberately took it slow for the first five days of our walk. Training on the trail, we began to settle into a natural rhythm – wake, pack, walk, breakfast, walk, coffee, walk, lunch, walk, find a bed, wash clothes, nap, dinner, sleep.

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Sometimes, we walked in silence, immersed in our own thinking. Sometimes we’d talk. Early on we’d realized that there were a lot of people walking El Camino sorting out serious life issues, seeking answers. We were out there as part of our transition to ‘retired’, but not dealing with anything particularly heavy. Still expecting some insights, self-discovery, we’d joked about stumbling upon our “Profundio del Dia” – “Depth of the Day” as we went about our walk.

36a

We met Barb on our first day. She was walking El Camino to shake off some demons, and reboot her life. She holds multiple world records for power lifting – and is quite strong* –  but still struggled with the endurance required for walking uphill.  Since we were going slow, we invited her to hang with us for a few days until she got her trail legs. We’d start off together with a rough idea of where we’d end up for the day, and then meet up along the trail – walking together, yet apart.

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Third day in, our morning coffee stop was at an outdoor cafe. Just as we sat down, a large group of boisterous Spaniards descended upon the courtyard. Whooping and hollering, the men swamped the cafe proprietor, and filled the tables. We finished up, deciding to get on our way to get ahead of their large, loud pack.

We failed.

They were everywhere – yapping on cellphones, singing, talking at extreme volume! They’d fragmented into smaller groups, and we couldn’t get ahead of them all! Destroying any chance of a peaceful, meditative walk, we finally just gave up – stopping in a field, we waited to get the racket ahead of us.

Rolling into our destination village for the day, we spotted another outdoor cafe on the edge of town. And there they were! Over two dozen loud men – singing, hollering, and infesting the entire outdoor area like giant locusts in futbol gear!

daisyfae: If those noisy bastards are staying here tonight? i’ll keep walking! i don’t care how far it is to the next village, i’m not bunking with them tonight!

We decided to at least stop for lunch. Walking into the cafe, we found Barb, already having coffee and a snack.

37

Barb: Do you see this group of men?

daisyfae: Oh, hell yeah! We see ’em.

Barb: They saved my life today! i was struggling to get up that last hill, crying. They surrounded me. That one? With the bright yellow shirt? He took my pack and carried it for me. And that one? The older man? He walked beside me, helping me keep my head up to make it easier to breathe. They don’t speak any English, but it didn’t matter! They are amazing.

daisyfae: ….

On this day, Profundio del Dia slapped us both upside the head: One man’s asshole is another man’s savior.

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* Training to lift heavy things does not include any cardio training. In fact, she told us that cardio reduces strength, and when training she would avoid it like the plague! 

El Camino – The Highlights

We started walking from St. Jean Pied de Port, France on 20 April. Thirty six days later, we walked in to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, traveling 497 miles (799 km) westward.

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Other than 5 miles (8 km) on horseback, 12 miles (20 km) in a taxi, and 110 miles (180 km) by bus from Burgos to Leon, we have traveled on these feet.

We walked 370 miles (590 km).

We slowed down. We rarely reserved beds in advance, trusting that we’d find something. We woke at 0600, walked for over an hour before coffee or breakfast. We learned to share space with other people – a LOT of other people. We met people from around the world – sharing laughter, tears, a meal, a few days walking together – glimpses of our lives.

We learned to appreciate every moment of peace. We ate when we were hungry, rested when we were tired. We redefined luxury – to include walking in solitude, wooden bunk bed ladders, and cloth sheets on a decent mattress. We carried in our packs a bare minimum of belongings – nothing unused. We washed our clothing by hand. We learned the power of restoration that comes through sleep. We lost an appreciable amount of weight without being hungry. We are harder to kill.

We accepted that the most environmentally responsible option for clearing our sinuses does not involve tissues. We saw enough spindly-legged old men in their undercrackers shuffling about hostels to last us a lifetime.* While many peregrinos leave their fecal matter a reasonable distance** from the trail, others seemed to have no problem leaving it mid-trail, for the rest of us to admire. We learned a teeny bit of Spanish – and although we didn’t always get it right, it was universally appreciated.

After five weeks, we thought we were done walking – even though the daily routine was deeply ingrained.

Arriving in Santiago last Friday, with a week to kill, we hopped a bus for the coast. We spent four days farting around by the sea at “the end of the world” – Fisterre and Muxia. But we were restless… We didn’t feel right NOT walking.
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When we arrived back in Santiago today, our plan was to take the airport bus to our hotel. It was only 12 km – so we walked it – in a chilly, misty drizzle.

It felt good…

Tomorrow, we’re off to fart around in Barcelona with an old friend, who has planned an intense repatriation experience.

And then home, for what lies ahead…

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* One. Exactly one of these is enough to last a lifetime. We saw dozens more.
** If you see an area adjacent to the trail littered with toilet paper? Probably not the best place to have a picnic. Humans can be really filthy animals…

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!’