This was the big day: the most miles I will walk on any one day, and going up and down mountains. It is also the day pilgrims pass the Cruz de Ferro, where one is to put down some symbol of the burden(s) we carry and thus lighten our load. It is basically a big pole with a cross at the top and lots of rocks at the base where pilgrims have left their “burdens”.
I set off as the sun was rising for this long day. I have nothing to complain about. The weather was hot but dry and breezes and shade all along the way. Today was probably the most beautiful scenery. Well, it should be since I’m climbing and descending a mountain!! Did you catch the tone there? Yes, it was quite a long day. Somehow (see “Preparedness” post!) I didn’t realize I would be climbing and descending mountains on this walk — I avoided crossing the Pyrenees, the traditional beginning of the Camino after all. Nor did I expect that once I made the ascent and decline that there would be MORE ups and downs along the trail. Of course there were. But it made for a long day… I kept singing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in my head. I don’t know how that Von Trapp family did it. I hope Friedrich was a big help and that Maria wasn’t pregnant! Those are the kinds of things you think about walking 20 miles alone…
I did meet and talk to a man early in the day. He is taking a gap year “or more”. Walking the Camino, traveling to Cambodia to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, doing lots of biking trips. Not retirement yet – he will go back to work at some point – but taking the time to do some things that he wants to do. I expressed my concern about finding a job after my gap of three months, and he said a wise thing. That the trust and experimentation that we are experiencing now can be just as easily applied to the job search. He is hoping for one or two more careers in his future — he’s probably in his 50s or so. I would like the same. More opportunities to try new things. Learn something new everyday. Explore, experiment, trust. Our bonus lives don’t have to be experienced as some set time “after” the main career. Like the man I met on the Camino, it can be done in stages, with a few gap years or months thrown in for good measure. It takes trust that there will be employment at the end of the gap, but so does going to bed and trusting we will wake up!! Of course we all have our own circumstances and obligations to meet, but it is something to consider — sprinkling these new ways of living experiments within our lives instead of waiting for a typical retirement time frame.
The biggest burden I let go of today? The fear of not getting to my destination! But I arrived in Ponferrada in plenty of time, even after a nice long glass of wine and water in the town just before — Molinaseca. A perfect metaphor for my journey. I will get to my destination, and I will enjoy it more without the worry. I will find a job when I return. And it will be a better choice if I trust and take my time finding the right one.