We leave for Spain tomorrow morning early. Non-stop from Denver to Miami then Miami to Madrid.  Since we will be traveling all day, I will not make a new post tomorrow, Monday May 13.  I plan to start making daily posts starting this Tuesday, May 14.  We’ve prepared as best as our inexperience allows.  We’ve been relying on websites shared by other Pilgrims who have made the journey and assistance from the knowledgeable staff at REI.  Now it’s time for us to JUST DO IT!  I hope to also update my Preparation Page sharing with you all that we did leading up to May 13.

Our plan is to stay in Madrid this Tuesday then take the 0800 train from Madrid to Burgos this Wednesday.  We’ll stay in Burgos 2 day sightseeing the “Gothic Capital of Spain.”  We hope to be over our jet lag when we start our walk to Santiago this Friday, May 17. 

Buen Camino!

This morning Nancy and I excitedly prepared for a short training hike of only 4.25 miles.  The Denver Chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino was hosting this hike along the beautiful Highline Canal Trail with people who have already completed a Camino or were planning to experience the Camino in 2013.  Nancy and I have done “some” hiking but nothing very strenuous or long distance.  The most vigorous hikes I’ve done are a few 14’ers here in Colorado.  Not exactly trivial but those were always day trip excursions.  This hike was different because we now have nearly all the gear we’ll be taking for our Camino.  Nice trial run to test out the gear and to see how our bodies responded to a short hike.  Back to this morning……

We’re novices at this.  I’m still learning how to properly cinch up my backpack!  We’re both packing our gear, clothes, everything we plan to take to Spain.  I finally figured out how to fill my Osprey water hydration bladder onto my Gregory Savant 58 backpack.  Nancy was struggling getting her water bladder into her Osprey Aura 50 backpack.  I started to help her when I noticed her backpack was wet.  I then noticed water leaking out of the water bladder we were trying to stuff into the pouch inside her backpack.  Nancy lifted the bladder out and there was water everywhere! The water was streaming out!! Onto the floor, backpack, our clothes!  I started to get anxious, frustrated and acted as if Nancy had done this on purpose.  What an idiot I  am!!  All that happened was that she didn’t screw the lid properly.  I could easily have done the same.  I’ve caused much worse blunders in my past.  Then I thought of the Camino.  The sweet spirit of the fellow pilgrims “peregrinos” we will be meeting along the way.  As I was on my hands and knees drying the floor with a towel I started thinking about my behavior.  Haven’t Nancy and I been walking along a similar path during our nearly 34 years of marriage? Yes, we taken turbulent, divergent paths before, but we’re walking tightly on the same path now.  The Camino.  It’s not just the gear, Mates.  It’s the experience and relationships made along the way.

We met many fellow pilgrims today in just that 4.25 mile hike.  A few that I remember by name are Lloyd and Doris.  Doris’ parents were born in Galicia.  I was able to practice my Spanish speaking with her.  She speaks fluently and naturally.  I understand her completely but I’m still struggling.  She plans to walk the Camino the very end of May from Sarria.  She has family in Santiago.  Lucky her!  John and Cacey (very fit couple, he’s ran a marathon before and was born in Tampa, FL like me!) and Linda (I spoke to her briefly, very sweet lady).  I walked with Sandy for part of the way today.  She’s nearly 72, doesn’t look her age at all.  Looks like she could walk 50 miles a day.  She’s starting her Camino in September from France with two other ladies.  Nancy and I met Maria last week at a Scallop Seashell blessing ceremony (the Scallop Seashell is a symbol of the Camino de Santiago) and saw her again today.  We walked with her part of the way.  Maria is full of life with a sweet spirit and discerning heart.  She told me her age and I still think she’s lying!  She looks like she’s in her mid 30’s.  But says she’s 50.  No way, Maria!

It’s not just the gear, Mates.  It’s the experience and relationships made along the way.  I believe our Camino has already started!

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Left to Righ: Joe, Nancy, John, Cayce, Linda, and Maria

 It hasn’t hit me yet.  Oh, I’ve had fleeting moments of reflection, emotions welling inside, but no sustained thoughts on what has just happened.  Today was my last day as a 30 ½ years employee for the same company.  I have effectively ended my traditional working life after 47 years in the workforce.  I retired today with two fellow employees whom I have known and worked with for many years.  Our company treated us royally leading up to this day.  A retirement celebra

tion party was given us last night.  Our Program Manager MC’d the entire event superbly, with warmth and exuberance.  Our fellow employees were gracious.  The food and adult beverages was delicious. 

The farewell wishes were eloquently delivered.  As I listened to their very kind words about what I meant to them and how I’ll be missed, though very touching and humbling, it reminded me of eulogies I’ve heard at funerals.  Very moving, very emotional, but I’m not dead!  At least not yet!  In a way, a profoundly significant part of my life died today.  That part of my life is forever gone.  And like death, only memories now remain of my “working days.”

I walked away today from my “dream job.”  The position I’ve held for the last 6 years represented 24 years of developing, maturing, and growing into a role that I believe perfectly suited my talents and interests.  I could not believe my good fortune.  Yet, in this economy, with so many people losing good paying jobs with benefits, with all the uncertainty with what the future holds, why on earth would I walk away from my “dream job?”

What comes to my mind is a combination of intuition and faith.

At the age of 22, I realized it was time I start being intentional about chasing my dreams.  With 2 ½ years of university studies and working as a commercial roofer, I knew my future wasn’t in my home town of Tampa, Florida.  With a desire to “see the world” and to finish my college education, I knew it was time for me to leave my family’s nest and the comfort and security of my home town.  Like a lot of sons and daughters of blue collar low income working families, I saw my way out through the military.  Leaving my family behind was very hard.  I’ll never forget the look on my Mom’s face as she waved me good bye at the bus depot as that Greyhound whisked me away from my previous life and onto a new one.  Chasing my dreams was much harder than I thought.

For nearly seven years I served in the military learning that they didn’t care what sex I was, the color of my skin, or what letters ended my family name.  They only cared about training me to do my job well and whether I could perform well or not.  They also taught me the value of team work and service to others.  Getting my eyes off myself.  It was a transcendent experience.  However, as positive an experience this was for me, I knew deep down that although my service in the military allowed me to realize many of my dreams, it was time for me to really spread my wings.  I left the relative job security of the military to go into the commercial world.  With a wife and small child, it was a leap of faith to continue chasing my dreams.

At 60 years old and over 30 years working for the same company, blessed with good health and still looking for new challenges, I decided to retire from the working world.  Deep down, I believe there’s more out there for me to learn and grow into that working for a living will keep me from experiencing. 

I’m following my intuition and being faithful that every time I’ve made a dramatic shift in my life, it has always worked out better than I had expected.

The more I’ve thought of doing this, the more I was drawn to the Camino.  I have no idea what I will be doing for the rest of my life.  My intuition tells me the Camino might just show me The Way.  My wife and daughter are joining me.  What a bonus!  11 days from now my wife, daughter and I travel to Madrid.  14 days from now we begin our Camino to Santiago de Campostela from Burgos.

I’m preparing, I’m excited, I’m anxious, I’m open.

Father, Mother, Daughter in Florida.

Joe, Andrea, and Nancy in Florida.

I am building a website to document my first adventure as a brand new retiree.  After working for 47 years in a wide variety of jobs,  I am officially off the treadmill!  However, still blessed with excellent health, I could not think of a better way to start my new life with an adventure of a lifetime.  Are you familiar with the Camino de Santiago?  It is a pilgrimage to the city of Santiago de Campostela in northwest Spain.  Originally, this was a Catholic pilgrimage in which believers from all over Europe braved the long and potentially dangerous journey to Santiago to pay homage to St. James.  Although Catholic in its origin and still a recognized Catholic pilgrimage, the beauty of the Camino is that it is open and welcoming to anyone. 

I am a Catholic.  I believe that human beings are comprised of mind, body and spirit.  I believe that true balance in one’s life is when one is intentional about developing and nurturing these three dimensions of our humanity.  I believe that there are an infinite number of other ways each person strives to strike one’s own personal balance.  I have made my own choice.  Maybe, if you “walk with me” during my Camino, you may find or make your own choice in striking the balance you may be seeking in your own life.

 I am still asking myself questions such as: who am I – really; what can I do to better serve my God, family, friends and community; where do I go from here? 

Initially, I wanted to begin my walk at the traditional starting point at St. Jean Pied du Port on the French side of the Pyrenees border with Spain.  This route is known as the Camino Francés.  It is approximately 500 miles to Santiago de Campostela.  My wife and daughter will be joining me on their own Camino.  However, my wife expressed strongly that no way will she be able to walk 500 miles.  I believe you won’t know unless you try it.  However, I’ve also learned that one way to stay married 34 years is to be able to make compromises.  Therefore, we are attempting an approximate 500 kilometers distance which places us in Burgos, Spain.  Now you know how I came up with the name of my website.

Although I am being joined by my wife and daughter, this is my Camino and my experience.  They too are experiencing their own Camino and will have their own experiences.  My goal is to enter a daily journal, load pictures taken along the way, and basically share our experiences with family, friends, and whoever wants to join us in our journey. 

Buen Camino!