Posts Tagged With: Spain

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Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows

A memoir and Camino de Santiago adventure by Reginald Spittle

Illustrated by Sue Spittle

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Illustration: Sue Spittle

They call it a pilgrimage, but for Reginald Spittle the 500-mile Camino de Santiago was the test of a lifetime.

A professional journalist and a gifted educator, Reg projected an air of confidence to those who thought they knew him. Recently retired, Reg’s new life of leisure included morning coffee on the front porch, bike rides and day hikes in nearby Yosemite National Park, followed by an evening glass of wine (or two) next to his backyard pool. However, painful childhood memories filled with relentless teasing, insecurity, and loneliness cast shadows on his adult life, undermining feelings of self-worth, trust, and friendship.

Tragedy brought him to reluctantly accept his wife’s challenge to carry his red backpack across Spain on a trail traveled by millions for centuries.

Self-reflection, humor and a recurring cast of characters create the backdrop for Camino Sunrise — Walking With My Shadows. Join Reg as he sets out with anxieties about the lack of privacy in communal dorms and about competition from younger, experienced backpackers. But his journey would also lead him to places far removed from daily Camino life. As each new day reveals lessons in camaraderie, acceptance, and hope, Reg is forced to confront disturbing emotional shadows from his past.

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Categories: Camino de Santiago, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 60 Comments

Hip, hip hooray for Marion!

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.

Ian and Marion journeyed from their home in Oxford, England in spring 2013 to tackle the 500-plus mile Camino de Santiago. We met them on our first day out from Pamplona, Spain and we quickly became friends, enjoying laughs and stories over coffee, drinks, and meals.

Ian and Marion take a break during their 2013 Camino trek.

Like so many other Camino trekkers, Marion battled blisters. She doctored them each day, but they got worse and worse. More than most people, she was determined to conquer the Camino.

Then, she suffered a stress fracture of the shin, but continued to trudge on. Finally, after several hundred miles, she hit the wall. Sue and I were so sad when she and Ian returned home, but we were not nearly as disappointed as Marion was.

You see, Marion had tried and tried when many trekkers of all ages would have quit.

Last month, Marion laced up her boots to try again. She and Ian returned to finish their Camino, taking on the Galicia section, marked by many mountain climbs and descents as well as spectacular scenery.

We eagerly awaited Ian's eloquent e-mail reports and were happier than the Camino cuckoo birds when they made it to Santiago de Compostela.

But we were not surprised. We knew Marion would succeed.

I now raise my gin and tonic and say, “Cheers, Marion!”

 

Categories: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Life’s path redirected by chance meeting

 

When James and Gitta unexpectedly crossed paths, a new journey began for them both.

 

 

 

Much like a well-worn trail, life provides a beautiful journey of highs and lows. We smile easily from the mountaintop where possibilities seem endless. It is when we gaze up from below, unsure where our path will lead, that our optimisim is challenged.

We met James and Gitta while hiking the Camino de Santiago in April of 2013. Both far more experienced walkers than we were, they taught us how to embrace the Camino Spirit…and not to walk over 12 miles each day!

We learned that Gitta had completed her first Camino several years earlier, walking from her home in Copenhagen, Denmark, through to Santiago, in celebration of her 60th birthday. The trek took her six months. We were in awe! Now she was back, accompanying James as he completed the missing segment of his first Camino.

As it has done for hundreds of years, the Camino continues to provide modern day Pilgrims with a sense of purpose; to ask questions, to seek answers, to reflect, express gratitude…to take a chance.

One evening, James shared with us the story of what led him to originally walk the Camino, and how that chance decision changed the path of his life.

It was at his late wife's burial that James' good friend suggested they walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago together. Standing at one of life's many crossroads, James immediately agreed and their plan was set in motion.

Six months after their return, James and his friend made plans to attend a meeting of fellow Camino Pilgrims. However, at the last minute, his trekking partner was unable to attend, leaving James with a decision to make: Enjoy an unexpected quiet evening alone or step into a room filled with unfamiliar faces. After some thought, James took a chance and made the decision to attend the meeting solo. As luck would have it (perhaps it was destiny or the magic of the Camino) Gitta too, chose to attend that same meeting where, at some point in the evening, she crossed paths with James.

The rest, as they say, is history!

 

 

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Big Screen Illuminates The Way

 

Take a walk along the Camino de Santiago...

 

 

 

Reg had been tracking the whereabouts of Lydia Smith's documentary Walking the Camino – Six Ways to Santiago for months, hoping to locate a showing close to home. It has been nearly a year since we set out on our own life-changing adventure along the Camino Frances, so we were anxious to revisit our memories.

The film documents the journey of six very different individuals who have unique reasons for making the 500 mile trek along the Camino Frances.

Would we recognize ourselves in any of these pilgrims? Would they experience the same joys, the same doubts? Would they overcome obstacles, both real and imagined, and conquer their fears? We were eager to find out!

 

 

The pageant Theater is a Chico icon.

 

 

Mid February found us seated at the Pageant Theater in Chico, California, awaiting show time. As the lights lowered, we found ourselves transported back to the Spain we remembered, spellbound as the individual stories unfolded. The scenery was breathtaking.

Based on our experience, the documentary presented an accurate picture of life along the Camino. Through a series of honest and often emotionally raw interviews, we watched the pilgrims push forward through their good and bad times, all determined to complete their journey to Santiago.

Because no two journeys are alike, the film won't be a spoiler for anyone planning their own Camino. It will, however, serve as an inspiration to those who seek personal fulfillment along this centuries old path. Buen Camino!

 

 

 

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Travel theme: Work

A fascinating part of travel is the opportunity to see work in other cultures. Here are some people in various countries we have visited as they toil, often in the service of tourists. The theme for this post was suggested by wheresmybackpack.com, a blog we follow.

Sue found an accordionist in Rome and was enchanted by a piper at Glen Coe in the Scottish Highlands.

A calligrapher paints our name in Shanghai, China. A woman on the Li River in southwest China brings our tour boat fresh food for lunch.

Men in Spain operate a transplanter next to the Camino de Santiago during our trek last spring.

 

 

 

Categories: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiences pale with bucket list

During a bike ride to Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe, California, we took an unscheduled gondola ride up the mountain to a surprise lunch spot.

What's on your list?

How about New Zealand, Italy, Machu Picchu? Or sky dive, bungee jump, climb Half Dome?

If you are having trouble with your bucket list, visit a bookstore or look around online and you will find almost limitless suggestions. Or visit the App Store.

Why do we compile bucket lists of must-sees and must-dos to accomplish before we die?

I have read about many people who are tossing their bucket lists in favor of a more live-in-the-moment approach. If you are a traveler, think about one trip at a time, they advise. Who knows what is next? Does it really matter if you never see Machu Picchu?

Can a bucket list keep a person from some of life's great discoveries?

Last year, Sue suggested that we walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. “Definitely not on my list,” I thought to myself.

“Why not?” she asked when I questioned why we should walk 500 miles.

It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. She was right, it was a matter of one step at a time. And this year we are going to Scotland for more long-distance trekking. We will also visit friends we have met from Scotland, England and Denmark during our travels. So much for Machu Picchu.

So, taking a more micro view of travel actually helped me see a more macro view.

There are also bucket lists within bucket lists.

While in Rome, you have to see the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps…or should the list be your top priority? How about wandering the narrow, meandering streets, pausing for coffee or beer at a sidewalk cafe to watch Italian life go by?

It is not just where you go, but how you see it. Shall we be travelers or tourists?

One traveler advised us that the first thing you should do when you arrive at your destination is sit down and have a cup of coffee. You don't need to rush out to see the world. Relax and watch it go by. As a boss once told me, “Take time.”

Sure, there are times we want to book a place, such as the Vatican Museums, because we know we will wait in line for hours without a reservation.

But, for every iconic place, there are many hidden treasures that will remain that way unless you take risks and explore without a plan, and, perhaps, by leaving the map in your pocket. Or at home, if you dare.

For our trek this May in Scotland, we had to book accommodations because there are few available and they tend to book up. This journey won't be as open-ended as the Camino was.

We have been asked many times about the wisdom of a two-week walk in a country famous for wet weather. It reminds me of what a Scottish friend told me when I asked him how he could play golf year round in such a climate.

“Why, Reg,” he said. “It never rains on the golf course.”

 

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Startling Rooftop Surprise: Camino de Santiago

We returned to the cathedral at 6pm for the final rooftop segment of our cathedral tour. After climbing 105 steps, we expected to be led out onto a courtyard type area atop the cathedral; a place where we could safely take in the view of the various towers and the surrounding Santiago cityscape.

The views were truly amazing, but imagine our surprise when we found ourselves walking across what seemed to be five inch thick granite shingles! We all quickly took a seat as our guide explained the history and different architectural styles that comprise this beautiful cathedral.

The rooftop tour is not for anyone with a fear of heights. Pilgrims are no longer able to place their hand in the Tree of Jesse, the central column of the Door of Glory. If you look closely in the bottom right photo, you can see the imprint of the hands of millions of Pilgrims who have arrived in Santiago.

 

 

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Sweet Distraction: Camino de Santiago

If you have a sweet tooth, don't miss the Chocolate con Churros while in Spain. It will surely bring a smile to your face!

 

What could be better than chocolate to soothe the leftover aches and pains of the Camino? Prior to leaving, my friend Annie recommended we try the hot chocolate while in Spain. ” It's like drinking a melted Hershey bar,” she wrote.

When a light rain began to fall this morning, we ducked inside a Santiago bar for a double order of Chocolate con Churros.

With a renewed source of energy, Reg and I sped off for a tour of the cathedral and adjoining museum.

We continue to bump into Pilgrim friends from weeks ago. This morning we greeted the brother/sister duo from Texas and then an Australian woman we shared dinner and lodging with way back in Carrion.

We're on the lookout for the arrival of two more Pilgrims here in Santiago, and then I think we will have reconnected with most everyone we've spent time with along the way.

 

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A moving Pilgrim Mass: Camino de Santiago

 

Sue and I sat with New Zealand friends Geoff and Sue for the Pilgrim Mass at the Santiago Cathedral. Seats face the altar from three sides. The giant incense burner is above the altar.

We joined about 1,000 at the traditional Pilgrim Mass at the Santiago Cathedral Tuesday. It was a moving ceremony, highlighted by the swinging of the giant incense burner (Botafumeiro) by six robed attendants. They pulled on ropes strung over a pulley high above the altar.

We sat close to the altar, under the path of the burner, which was originally used to fumigate smelly pilgrims.

A nun's pure, angelic voice and a massive pipe organ filled the cathedral with music. Catholic pilgrims received communion. Pilgrims from all over the world were welcomed.

It was a heart-felt punctuation mark for our Camino de Santiago.

 

Categories: Camino de Santiago | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

How to Say Goodbye? Camino de Santiago

We hadn't seen New Zealanders Sue and Geoff in a week until they caught up with us last night. It had been over two weeks since we chatted with this group of Canadians and Americans. I shared a quick hug with our 22 year old Irish friend. Reg and I pose for a photo at the cathedral in Santiago.

This morning was different. As we tied our shoes and struggled into our backpacks, we knew this would be our last day of walking. Reaching Santiago was always the goal…until we started the Camino. I think we realized, after our first night in the Albergue outside of Pamplona, that this journey would be about so much more than simply reaching Santiago.

We've each had our struggles; everything from blisters to coed bathrooms (it's true!). The Camino tests everyone, and spares no one. But at the end of each day there is a bed (usually warm!), a meal, friendly conversation and laughter…and an eagerness to get up and do all again the next morning.

We walked into Santiago this afternoon with a mixture of joy and sadness. We had done it! But now what? That is the question we Pilgrims are asking each other as we prepare to go our separate ways.

 

 

Categories: Camino de Santiago | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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