The call of the Camino
Hello, friends! After a few months of silence from my end I’ve got an important update. I’d like to share an upcoming solo adventure I have planned, one for which I’ll be departing in just 30 days from now.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the Camino de Santiago? I know at least a few of my readers have firsthand experience with it. It is among the most famous walking routes in the world, and while many think only of the so-called Camino Francés (or “French Way”) it’s actually a collection of various routes. While that route is very interesting to me, that’s an even longer path that Lorri and I plan to walk together at a future date. This March I plan to walk the second most popular route, the Camino Portugués.
The route I’ll be walking will likely be around 180 miles, depending on the particular way I end up going (current plan highlighted above). A month from now, I’ll drive up to San Francisco, fly to Lisbon, then catch a train to Porto. After a day there to acclimate, I’ll start walking up to 20 miles a day for two weeks, until I end up at the famous Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. This is the church where Christian tradition suggests the bones of the apostle St. James were buried. And while this is a religious pilgrimage for many (as it has been since the 10th century), it’s not for me.
This will indeed be a trip abroad but it’s far from a “vacation”. While I do like walking long distances and achieving challenging goals, this trip is clearly something else. I’ll be hiking most days, carrying all my belongings on my back, sleeping primarily in very basic, pilgrim shared lodging, and taking minimal time to see any sights. I’ll be away from my family and friends for three weeks, leaving most of my creature comforts behind. So why at this stage in my life would I choose this over anything else?
In fact, the “why” of this trip is difficult to explain, yet also why I wanted to write this piece. If you’re someone who knows me, you might guess I had a hard time broaching the idea of this journey with my wife and son. It would be a difficult request to make under any circumstances, but at this time in particular. Without oversharing the details of private family conversations, needless to say there’s a lot going on this year for us. The timing of my request isn’t great. Some in my life have chastised me for even this idea - and yet I still feel this is the right time for me, and so I asked. Why?
It’s now been more than 3.5 years since I left my career in biotech behind. I blogged for several years about that transition, and have made 75 videos relating to this journey with Eric via Two Sides of FI. Those projects have been, and continue to be, incredibly rewarding. I’ve learned much about myself through them and in engagement with the FIRE community, and have only become increasingly comfortable with this next phase of my life. I use the word “retired” much more often now, and that feels like real progress. As some will know, I’ve also been exploring mental health and wellness in recent months, and feel like that hard work is bearing fruit as well.
And yet despite all this, I still feel the call of the Camino. It would be easy to dismiss this trip as yet another in a long line of infatuations of mine. I freely admit that I’m the king of picking up hobbies, obsessing over them, only to seemingly forget them within a short period of time. I thought that might be the case early on as well - as I consumed every book, website, documentary, and podcast I found on the topic. But still I felt the draw. Many who’ve walked the Camino have talked about this calling. Was it this? Initially I kept the idea to myself, being unsure of how real a pull it was.
But now here I am, plans in place, the last few items I need now ordered, and I’m writing this post. In short, I feel that I’m at an important and exciting inflection point in my life. Much has changed over the last 3.5 years, but so much more is still to come. Lorri and I will be empty-nesters in less than seven months. Our many discussions over the years about long term travel we hoped to do now are becoming real. It’s simultaneously scary, sad, and exciting to contemplate “what comes next”!
As I’ve written before, my time spent on long walks, just thinking, has often felt like the most productive, invigorating experience to me. And so, perhaps it’s as simple as I just want a megadose of that, coupled with a challenging, uncomfortable experience, to work through some more of those things I have on my mind? I can’t say for sure. My “why” truly is hard to put into words. What I do know that this trip feels incredibly important to me, and I’m more excited about it than I feel able to express. I have often described my recent efforts as a journey to become “the best me that I can”, and I feel like this trip will prove to be an essential part of that.
Above all, I’m so thankful for the support of my wife and son in this endeavor. They certainly wouldn’t choose this option - let’s be clear. And yet despite the sacrifices involved in me taking this time away, I know I have their support - and I’m so grateful for that. I don’t even know how to tell them just how much. They truly are amazing people, and I love them dearly. I will miss them very much on my trip. I am truly a lucky man to have them in my life.
And this has gone on long enough. I’ll conclude by saying that I have many ideas about how I’ll document my upcoming journey, so stay tuned here. Please consider subscribing if you’re interested in that content. Thanks so much for being here. I appreciate you all. Mahalo. 🙏