Final Ramblings

I know in the past I have regaled you with things that I’ve learned so far on the Camino, but as our adventure winds to a close, I have a few more things I’ve learned that are, at least in my opinion, slightly more important and have certainly been more transformative for me. I suppose there is something to be said for that whole “Twenty-something self-discovery” thing or whatever. And while I won’t treat this like a diary and share with you everything I’ve learned about who I am and who I want to be, I do want to share some of the small insights the Camino has given me.

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First of all, you should know that this past year at school hard. It was certainly one for the books. (To get the depressing details you can read my old blog posts) It was a year of sadness and lostness and pain and hurt. 8 deaths of friends or friends of friends, 2 incidences of sexual harassment, physical impairments, mental breakdowns, broken hearts…you name it, it happened this year. And I came into the Camino with a mixed attitude.

Part of me was excited about an adventure. I’m 21 and vying for any adventure this life can take me on. But honestly, mostly I was excited for the 2 week trip FOLLOWING the Camino that my dad and I have planned in Italy and Austria- that was the adventure I really wanted. Part of me was like let’s just get this thing over with and then go party for real. And part of me was absolutely terrified of the Camino because that’s a long time to spend alone with your thoughts and I really just didn’t want to deal with my own thoughts. After a year like the one I’ve had, I wanted nothing more than to sweep it all under the rug and move on as if nothing bad ever happened.

But there was no sweeping.

I was confronted with memories, questions, pains, and hurts from this past year. Why do people we love get taken from us so early? Why are people so unkind to each other? Why do people think it’s ok to violate another human in any form or fashion at all, let alone in a sexual capacity? Why do such awful tragedies occur on a seemingly daily basis? Why? Just why?

And as I’ve processed the brokenness of this year, I’ve decided that I believe 2 things for certain.

  1. I don’t believe in a God who orchestrates tragedies.
  2.  I believe in an enemy who does.

Thankfully, my heart hasn’t been the sole heart on the chopping block these last few months. By and large, I’ve been the witness to the heartbreak, pain, and suffering of those I hold most dear. And on the one hand, I’m glad that it wasn’t just me, as selfish as that sounds. But on the other hand, my compassionate heart has been broken right alongside my friends and family. Their pain became my pain, their suffering, my suffering. I am an empathetic being, and I hurt when you hurt.

As I’ve been with my sweet friends through their trials and tragedies, there is always a common theme in their pain- they want to know why. Why him, why her, why them- why?

And as I’ve thought about this over the last 32 days and processed the “why’s” I’ve decided that if I’m going to hold anything close to my heart it is the belief that God isn’t a puppeteer who pulls the strings on hands holding the triggers to horrific, painful events. He doesn’t design tragedies. It’s not in His “plan” to have your best friend killed, your cousin raped, your mom diagnosed with life-threatening cancer or whatever other terrible thing you can of. I think that’s an unfortunate and hurtful concept that is perpetuated especially within the Christian community. Times of hardship or pain are met with comments like “It’s all part of His plan” and “You’ll understand why this happened one day.” And I just don’t believe any of that. That’s not the God I know, and I refuse to believe that His character is anything similar to that.

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I do believe in an enemy who does all he can to rip our lives to shreds- to tear us away from love and joy. An enemy who thrives as we fall, who trips us just as we get back on track, who lives to destroy. And I have no doubt in my mind that every horrible, awful, heartbreaking event in our lives is at his hand. It’s an unfortunate consequence of the gift of freewill. If we are free to do whatever we want as humans, we are free to fall into the snares.

However, that being said, the 3rd belief I hold true is that our God is a God who lives and works among the brokenness. He is a God who can bring healing from pain, wholeness from brokenness, joy from sorrow, life from death. And in every tragic moment in our lives, He is there. He is there in many forms- words or people, smells or hugs, song or silence- He is there. And He will always bring you out of the misery the enemy leaves you in.

You just have to let Him.

Which needs me to the next demon I faced.

Self-worth.

If you read my last blog post, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I’ve had issues with self-worth in the past. Who hasn’t?

I’ve gone through many phases of Rach in my life and I’ve never been totally satisfied with any of them before. I’ve always let the enemy sneak into my heart and take up residence- tell me I have no worth and that I am unworthy of belonging and love. I’ve let that little voice inside me scream out that I’m not good enough for a long time- that I’m not strong enough or smart enough, pretty enough or fit enough, funny enough, or kind enough. I was never enough. The little voice inside me told me that I had no worth and that I was unworthy.

But here’s what I’m learning: we’re all flawed. We’re all terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people at some point or another in our lives if only for seconds at a time. We make mistakes. We do the wrong thing. We hurt other people. We hurt ourselves. We’re flawed. That’s just how it is. And you can beat yourself up over and over about your flaws until you’re a self-loathing disaster. Or you can recognize your flaws and love yourself anyway.

Because while we’re all terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people at some point or another in our lives, we are also insanely wonderful, beautifully strong, resilient, fierce, loving creatures. And, thanks to Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, I’ve come to view the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad parts of people as just hungry monsters to be fed. The more you think about how terrible you are, the more you fixate on the bad parts of yourself, the more you feed the monster. The monster inside you thrives on hearing how terrible you are and yearns for you to hate yourself.

But cut that little bitty off. Ain’t enough food in this world to feed that thing, amiright?

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Remember that you’re an insanely wonderful, beautifully strong, resilient, fierce, loving creature who don’t need to take no crap off the monster inside you.

You are strong.

When faced with hardships, in the wake of tragedy- remember this. You will not be defeated by your circumstances.

Destiny is for losers. You’re captain of your life. You wake up and make decisions and choose how to live your life- you choose your actions and your reactions and you’re in charge of you. Destiny is hogwash. You’re not the victim of forces beyond your control. You decide. Figure out what you want and get after it because, like I said, you’re an insanely wonderful, beautifully strong, resilient, fierce, loving creature, and you can do anything you set your heart on.

You have worth and you are worthy.

You’re the captain of your life. Don’t let the monsters inside you stage a mutiny. Take charge and believe in yourself.

Be kind and do good.

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That’s the next bit of advice life has thrown at me on the Camino.

On the Camino you interact with dozens and dozens of people. I’ve met people from 23 different countries and 19 different states. There are dozens of languages spoken, a bajillion different brands of clothes and gear, different looks and different cultural norms- but in spite of all of our differences we pretty much all treat each other the same.

On the Camino, no one gives a flying flip how you look. If you’re not dirty and sweaty are you even doing the Camino? No one cares what your GPA is or what your extracurriculars are. No one cares how much money you make or what your Christmas bonus last year was. No one cares what car you drive or how big your boat is. I’ve met millionaires and homeless people- college kids, and businessmen, miners and high schoolers, retired people and little kids. No one cares. No one cares if you take 17 minutes to get up a hill or 2 hours. No one cares if you’re old or young, fat or skinny, gray haired or blonde. No one cares what brand of gear you have, whether you’re using walking sticks, or if you even have a pack. We just don’t care. You’re a pilgrim and I’m a pilgrim and that’s the end of it.

All the external factors, societal pressures, surface level BS we deal with in the real world falls away. You know what we do care about on the Camino? If you don’t say “Buen Camino” when you pass. If you’re rude and impatient to the local Spanish people. If you cut someone off without even acknowledging them. If you don’t tell someone when they dropped a sock. If you don’t get someone’s attention if they’re going the wrong way. On the Camino, we care if you’re kind. We care if you do good to other people.

That’s a lesson I hope to carry with me forever- be kind and do good and let the rest fall away.

Next, the Camino has taught me that time isn’t money.

Don’t let anyone or anything ever convince you otherwise. Time is not money. Time is irreplaceable. Time is worth more than money could ever buy. Time is a gift. It’s a moment of laughter with a stranger, it’s resting when you need to, it’s getting to know other people better, it’s getting to know yourself better- every passing second is an invaluable present. Don’t waste it.

On the Camino, we run on what we have affectionately deemed “Camino Time.” Everything is late. Stores open late, trains run late, your bill comes late, you eat late. Everything is late. Everything is lazy and leisurely in all the best ways. And in Spain, the siesta is a real thing. All the shops and schools close in the middle of the afternoon. There is a certain disregard for punctuality and hurriedness that I think is so valuable.

Treasure the time you have. You haven’t been given this time to spend it rakin’ in the dollas and forget who your loved ones are.

Run on Camino Time. Take your sweet time at meals and enjoy the conversation. Pause in your day to take care of yourself. Work to live, don’t live to work.

Time isn’t money.

And to go right alongside that, the last piece of wisdom the Camino has given me is that it’s important to spend time with the people you love.

My parents are funnier, smarter, weirder, sillier, cooler, wiser, kinder, and way more humiliating and embarrassing than I had ever realized (I mean that in the best way- if you’re not embarrassing your kid at least once a day, are you even a parent?). They are incredible guardians who are slowly and surely becoming incredible friends. I wouldn’t trade these days with them for anything. They’re my people and I love them wholeheartedly.

Find the people in this life you love wholeheartedly and spend time with them. Walk through their tragedies with them, love them, care for them, remind them of their worth, and never make them feel like they come in second to other commitments. Because at the end of this life, when all is said and done and you’re meeting Peter at the gates of heaven, you won’t have your face pressed against the bars anxiously looking for and awaiting a reunion with your BMW.

God doesn’t orchestrate tragedies. You have worth and you are worthy. Be kind and do good. Time isn’t money. Spend time with the people you love.

It has been a buen camino, my friends. Thanks for keeping up with me.

30 Days of Being Ugly

Pre P.S. Sorry for the long post. Also, enjoy the intermixed ugly pictures of me. 

What a month of being ugly has done to me:

I’m not really a “girly girl.” I never have been. I’ve never been an outright “tomboy” either- mostly because I was never good enough at sports to be considered one.

Growing up you could find me sporting one of my MANY pairs of overalls, hightop yellow chucks, purple rimmed glasses, a bucket hat, boys basketball shorts, and oversized t-shirts tied up with hair ties.

I know what you’re thinking….

Work it, mama.

And, you know, I did work it. I was never overly insecure about it. I just did me and strutted my stuff and cracked jokes and did my homework. My self worth wasn’t found in how I looked at all.

Then middle school hit.

Can I get an amen?

Middle school is otherwise known as the worst century-long 3 years of any girl’s life. The time in which you are a prisoner of puberty, the laughing stock of the male population, the targeted prey of the female population, the captive of your hormone cocktail, the misunderstood ball of emotional rebellion (as seen by your parents). It goes on. It’s the worst.

You define beauty as whatever your mother looks like in elementary school and you think nothing of your own beauty or lack there of. Beauty is something everyone has before middle school.

And then, suddenly, you’re hyperaware of the fact that beauty is no longer your mother, (sorry mom, you’re gorgeous). Beauty is what we see on TV, in movies, on magazines. It’s something that she has that I don’t.

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(My mom is real-life beautiful)

Looking in a mirror becomes an exhausting hypercriticism of everything from your eye color, to hair volume, pore size, and nose arch, lip shape, and forehead span, cheek bone structure, and skin tone evenness.

In elementary school, the only thing that could be wrong with your face is when you were eating Spaghetti-O’s and got sauce all over it. In middle school, hiding your face with sauce is probably better than showing it to anyone- I mean, look at how big your pores are- aliens can see them from their galaxy far far away.

And then high school hits and maybe you’re lucky enough to find friends or have family that sees your beauty and reminds you of it. Or maybe you’re unfortunately surrounded with insecure lady friends who seek validation by bringing you down.

I’m not here to rant on about society and the role it plays in destroying our egos, falsifying our self-images, demoralizing our definitions of beauty, violating our perceptions of what women should look like and so on. Whatever. Society is stupid.

I am here to talk about what 30 days of looking ugly has done for me.

As I said before, I’ve never been much of “girly girl.” Aside from that hideous phase in early high school where I either didn’t own a mirror or thought seven inches of eye liner was cute, I’ve never been a big make-up wearer. I’ve never been ladylike enough to appreciate dresses. I’ve never learned to curl my hair without leaving at least two burn marks on my hands or neck. I have no idea what concealer is and I bought an eyelash curler once because I thought it looked like a tool aliens extracted body parts with (i.e. could be GREAT in science demos as a teacher later on in life) I own a single pair of high heels that I’ve worn one time. I’m terrible at painting nails and I don’t know how to french braid. I’ve never dyed my hair, I don’t know what the word “contouring” means, and I’ve never owned lipstick in my life. The few times I have endeavored to look even semi-decent has been more out of laziness than anything else- like asking my roommates to curl my hair because I wore it up all day and now I want to wear it down but it has that ponytail-lump. Or showering and braiding my hair at night while it’s wet so it looks fancy the next day, but really I just didn’t want to wake up early enough to shower….

My morning routine consists of waking up, showering in under 7 minutes and putting on the top pair of leggings in the drawer and the first flannel in the closet. Divalicious, I know.

Now, at the risk of sounding like a self-righteous, girl-hating jerk, I have to tell you that for a long time, this has been a point of pride for me. I laughed at girls who spend hours in front of the mirror putting make-up on. I scorned the girls who care enough to curl their hair before class. I wondered who they’re trying to impress by wearing dresses. I attributed their desire to look “pretty” to some kind of insecurity and need for validation. I mean did you see her? Cake face. Look at the line of make up on her face. That dress…vavavoom. Who is she after?

I have now spent 30 days being ugly.

I mean, technically one could argue I’ve spent arguably 21 years, 5 months and 28 days being ugly ( I think that math is off, but idc, you get the point). I have some quality double, nay triple, NAY QUADRUPLE chin photos. I can curl my lips in so it looks like I don’t have any. I’m super good at re-wearing clothes and sometimes I forget to brush the other side of my hair. (That’s more out of exhaustion than lack of appreciation for hygiene. I mean, I shower everyday but sometimes a girl just forgets about the left side, am I right?)

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So I suppose saying I’ve only spent 30 days being ugly isn’t completely accurate.

But work with me.

I’ve spent 30 days being ugly.

I’ve been wearing the same 3 shirts and SINGLE PAIR OF SHORTS for 30 days. (Alright, alright, I wore leggings two days when it was cold). I rewash my clothes everyday after we walk and hang them up to dry, only to put them on before bed again so I don’t have to waste time in the morning. Aside from washing my hair and brushing my teeth, I pretty much haven’t participated in any kind of beautification at all.

I wake up and go. I wear a baseball cap. I have no make up on. Its 750 degrees Fahrenheit out here and we spend 6-7 hours a day walking in the sun. I’m also donning a knee brace, an ankle brace, and socks with sandals. COULD I GET MORE GLAMOROUS?!

I’ve spent 30 days being ugly.

And this is what I’ve learned.

  1. I’ve spent my entire life being afraid of being pretty. I am a very short, very young looking female and I get comments day in and day out about how young I look. “Oh my gosh, you’re in college?! I thought you were 15!” is like the soundtrack of my life. I’ve never fit the standard of pretty. I’m short, a little on the stocky side now (S/O to lifting), young looking, and I have never really “tried.” I’ve been so scared that if I tried to look pretty, people would laugh at my attempts. Boys wouldn’t like me because basically every male claims to like “girls who don’t wear makeup” and that girls would mock me because “look how hard she’s trying.” I’ve never really given myself the opportunity to feel beautiful. Blending in, looking normal, accepting the fact that people will think I’m 12 until I turn 45…it’s all easier. That way, I don’t have to worry if my attempts to look pretty have failed or not. Go unnoticed, Rach. No one can laugh at you for that.

And that’s stupid. No one should be afraid of being pretty for reason I will get to later…

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2. I have been so unfair to my fellow gal-pal, girlfrand, strong lady, ferocious women. SO unfair. Who the heck am I to look at a girl who has put time and energy into looking beautiful and pass judgment that she’s “trying too hard.” Like Rach, just because you can’t freaking remember to brush the left side of your hair doesn’t mean than you are any more of a “woman” than the girl who curled her hair. And just because she can manage to wear a dress AND walk in heels and you can’t even pick out a shirt and flannel that match, doesn’t mean you’re anymore confident in yourself than she is. In fact, the very fact that you’re afraid to even try to look pretty is a solid indicator than you’re probs not that confident in yourself.

Just like there is this skinny-shaming/ fat-shaming culture in our society, I definitely think there is a “girly-girl”-shaming/ “tom-boy”-shaming culture, too. And it’s rampant. Girls who aren’t in to playing dress up and playing with make up at an early age are labeled tomboy, and taught to mock “girly-girls.” If they like those things they obviously can’t be good at sports and they probably don’t like dirt or climbing trees and they’re probably super prissy and basically the worst to be around. And girls who love those things are labeled “girly girls” and taught at an early age to mock the tomboy. They’re just another one of the guys. They’re not refined. They’re not ladylike. They’re probably super crass and gross and basically the worst to be around.

And then we get older and the girl who wears make up and dresses up is trying too hard and the girl who doesn’t wear any make up and who like sweatpants and sports is probably a dyke. And don’t even think about trying to cross over. You’ve never tried to “look good now” so why should you start trying now? And you can’t “let yourself go” now- the boys won’t like you and the girls will talk about you behind your back.

This whole shaming each other thing is awful and disgusting. We’re all just doing our own thang. Y u gotta h8?

As I put on the same outfit for what feels like the 80th time in a row, and as I look at my hot and sweaty, sunburnt face, and as I put on my rockin’ sox w sandals, I have found myself doing what I never thought I would- longing to feel pretty. Yearning to put on something I feel beautiful in. Aching to look and feel like a girl again.

And I’m learning that it’s not because I’m trying to impress anyone. LOL. There are like basically only 80 year old men walking the Camino. But I digress. I’m not trying to fit some beauty standard or attract boys or prove to other women that I’m worthy of their friendship because I’d be a good wing woman or whatever. I just want to feel pretty.

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Day 4 between Estella & Los Arcos

And maybe, just maybe, that’s what all these other “girly girls” have been doing all along- doing their own thing to feel confident in themselves. Maybe being pretty isn’t at all about how you look…but how you feel.

Which leads me perfectly to number 3 (great segway, Rach)

3. Being pretty is a feeling.

I mentioned before that I’ve spent my whole life afraid of looking pretty. I didn’t want people to think I was trying because then it seemed like they would critique me harder. I didn’t want people to think I cared how I looked because I was raised well enough to know that it’s what is on the inside of a person that counts (thanks Mom and Dad, and also probs Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood). But as I’ve spent these last 30 days being grody and ugly, aching to feel pretty, I have learned that like Mom and Dad and Mr. Rogers taught me, pretty, like everything else, is all about what’s on the inside.

And yes, your personality is what counts and your soul is what make you beautiful and all that blah blah blah- I mean don’t get me wrong, that’s an important lesson to learn but it kind of just feels like empty words. Go find a 13 year old girl, just walk up to her and say “hey, it’s what’s on the inside that counts”- guarantee you she will burst in to tears because what what you said is “hey, it’s what’s on the inside that counts” but what she heard is “you’re ugly, but at least you have a decent personality.”

We can talk about the problems with that scenario another time, my point is, knowing that you have a great personality doesn’t make you “feel” any better about how you look. And we can say “looks don’t matter” until we’re blue in the face but we all know that unfortunately, in today’s world they do matter. We’re humans- born into flawed insecurity and until we can overcome it, looks will always matter. I’m not saying looks are the the most important thing a person can have but tell a 13 year old girl who is bulimic that looks don’t matter, tell a 17 year old boy who is anxiously trying to put on muscle weight that looks don’t matter, tell an aging woman who is covering up the gray that looks don’t matter, tell a middle-aged man trying to lose the beer belly that looks don’t matter. Looks do matter. They matter to all of us. It’s a disappointing truth. (Yes, other things matter more but you can’t just ignore that lookism exists and you can’t just invalidate how people feel about themselves because of what we’re taught about looks)

Anyway. Back to prettiness is a feeling:

Ask any girl who has every been cat-called. It’s stupid. Being pretty is having intermediate, fleeting physical characteristics that are pleasing to an individual or group of individuals. Being pretty is a label that other people put on you when they think you have the right combination of ratios and symmetry and other BS. Being pretty is something you can be without your consent, without your emotion, without your approval or input. Being pretty is something that’s up for debate based on each critics personal preferences. “Being pretty” is pretty much worthless.

Ask any woman who has put on her favorite outfit and done her favorite thing to her face and hair, whether its sweatpants, no make-up and a messy bun, or a dress, smokey-eye, and high heels- Feeling pretty is feeling like you are working it. Feeling pretty is feeling confident in how you look and who you are. Feeling pretty is feeling like you deserve good friends and good relationships. Feeling pretty is being aware of your flaws but knowing that your strength outshine them. Feeling pretty is feeling like you are proud of who you are and you ain’t gon’ change fo NOBODY because you like who you are. Feeling pretty is feeling like you got this. Feeling pretty is knowing that you are the only person in the world like you, and knowing that you have something to offer. Feeling pretty is something you get to decide for yourself about yourself, without the input, approval, or validation from any other person. “Feeling pretty” is empowering.

I’m learning that prettiness is about what’s on the inside. It is a feeling more than a physical characteristic. No one person is found physically attractive by all other people. We all have different tastes and preferences and what not. Therefore, being pretty isn’t a physical characteristic. Having green eyes is a physical characteristic. No one will argue, no one will disagree and no one will refer to you as “green eyes.” It’s a physical characteristic that you possess, among many others. You have green eyes. You are not “green eyes.”

Do you ever feel happy (pls say yes. If not, let’s talk)? It’s like a thing that you feel inside you- sometimes people describe it as having a warm heart, or enjoying something- like you just “feel” happy? Anyone?

I feel happy a lot (thank you, Jesus). And when I tell people I’m happy, no one really argues. No one says “no, I don’t think you really are. Her, over there, now she’s happy. But not you.” There’s no conversation about “well in my opinion you’re happy, but I have a huge weakness for this kind of happiness. Jeff, is more of a that kind of happiness guy so don’t take it personally that he doesn’t think you’re happy.”

That would be absolutely ridiculous. When I say I’m happy (and actually mean it- this isn’t a blog about hiding your true feelings and pretending that everything is fine- I have other blogs about that…) by and large, people believe me. Because they’re my emotions. I know what I’m feeling and I’m feeling happy. People believe me. It doesn’t matter if my version of happy is as simple as the sun is shining, and your version of happy is getting a $10,000 raise. It’s all about my definition of happy and my definition of happy says I’m feeling happy. And I get to wear that as an identity. I’m happy.

So why, then, don’t we get to feel pretty and decide that we are? Why do people hear that we feel pretty and get to argue with us? No one argues with me over my green eyes because it’s not a “perception,” there is no personal opinion, bias, or interpretation involved in deciding that my eyes are green. It’s a physical characteristic that I possess. End of discussion.

But I decide that I’m pretty and it’s like I’m opening up a debate, as if people should be allowed to weigh in on this. People think that prettiness is a physical characteristic that people either do or don’t possess. And even worse, people think that they get to decide who possess it. But prettiness isn’t a physical characteristic that anyone can possess. It’s a feeling. And people end up thinking that their opinions, their perceptions, their interpretations, their biases are important enough to decide how another person feels about themselves AND they think that they’re decision is so important that they get to label another person with it. People would never argue with you when you say you feel happy, and they would never whimsically force the label of “distraught” on to you without any reason. But people think that they should be allowed to argue with you when you say you feel pretty, and they by and large have no qualms about forcing the label of “ugly” on to you. And people are wrong.

We don’t get to decide who is pretty. Somehow we’ve entered into this alternate reality where we think that we get to determine other people’s worth based on how they compare in our own minds to a set of pre-conceived, ever-changing, media-influenced, impossible-to-reach criteria. And we are harsh in our judgements. Because if we rank them lower, if we decide that they rank lower on the prettiness scale than us, then we’ve just elevated ourselves. If they’re lower, we’re higher. We get to feel prettier by making them feel uglier.

And that’s just it. That’s how I know prettiness if a feeling. Because when your are serving up hot-mama, feelin’ good, struttin’ yo stuff glamour and someone says your hair looks bad or your outfit is tacky or your face is too fat or whatever, you start to think you’re ugly, right? Did they change anything about your physical appearance by saying that? No. But did they change how you feel? Absolutely. You feel ugly.

Prettiness is a feeling, and just like you don’t get to decide if someone feels sad or happy, you don’t get to decide if they should feel pretty.

We have to stop this human/human shaming. You are pretty.

As I’m rocking my pilgrim grossness, I get to decide if I feel pretty. Who knows, maybe I remembered to brush both sides of my hair that day and it sends my confidence through the roof. Who knows. Whatever, I get to feel pretty if I want. When I get home and undoubtedly wear my Goodwill flannel and leggings after a 5 minute shower and I forget to brush my hair, I still get to decide that I feel pretty. And if I decide to wear a dress and do (probs ask someone else to do) my hair, I get to feel pretty.

She gets to wear whatever makeup she wants and do whatever she wants to her hair, and she gets to wear whatever she wants, and she gets to rock those high heels, and she gets to wear sweatpants, and she gets to wear no make up, and we get to do whatever we want to our appearance and we’re still pretty.

Prettiness is something everyone should feel. Everyone should feel pretty and everyone should feel great about feeling pretty. And everyone else should celebrate that other’s feel pretty.

I think in our heads, when we hear someone say they think they’re pretty, little alarms go off. Oh she’s so cocky. Wow, she’s full of herself. She probably thinks she’s pretty than me. Guys probably think she’s pretty, too. Well, I don’t look anything like her so if she’s pretty, then I’m for sure not pretty. Can there be more than one pretty person in a room? In our school? In this state? IN THE WORLD? OMG. I just met the only pretty person in the world. And she’s so arrogant. Ugh, I hate her.

Like, what even is that sickness?

Can we just celebrate? We should be thrilled that our friends have found something about themselves to feel good about. Goodness knows the world is always trying to tell us all things about ourselves that we shouldn’t feel good about. So let’s celebrate! No one knows how hard it is to be a girl except another girl, so why do we make it harder for each other?

In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned that prettiness is a feeling. It’s not a physical characteristic that you either have or don’t, it’s the way you feel about yourself regardless of your looks. In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned that it’s ok to feel pretty without first receiving that validation from someone else. In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned that it’s ok for other people to feel pretty, too. In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned that if other people don’t feel pretty, I owe it to them to tell them why I feel they’re pretty until hopefully they feel it, too.

In my 30 days of being ugly, I’ve learned how to feel pretty.

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12 Facts I Made Up

Buen Camino, my friends!!

Thanks for still reading these blog posts- I’m sure they must be riveting for the five dedicated souls who still do…

Having conquered 20 days and roughly 530 km of the journey, I have given myself permission to feel like an experienced pilgrim. So much so that I’ve drawn up a list of potentially obvious and probably fairly surface-level things I’ve learned so far on the Camino. Some of them are applicable to life beyond the pilgrimage and some of them…well…aren’t.

  1. Walking isn’t running- I’m a runner. I still feel kind of like I’m lying as I write that sentence. Like  if I claim to be a runner, then people might assume that I like to run and maybe even that I’m good at it. But don’t be fooled my friends, I hate running just as much as your average person and I’m very subpar at it. However, I do it. And kind of a lot for someone who doesn’t like running. I recently ran my 3rd half marathon in May. And I kind of assumed that if I can run 13 miles not problem, I should be able to walk 15 no problem- right? Lies. All lies. Walking sucks. Sorry not sorry. It take 3x longer than running and it rubs different parts of your feet and you get blisters such as these:

 

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(Ew. I know. Sorry. They’re ugly to look at but they’re even uglier to walk 15 miles on…)

2. Don’t walk behind horses- in some regards, I mean don’t put up with people who make you deal with their crap. You’ve probably got your own crap to deal with and you don’t need to surround yourself with people who make you walk through theirs.  But in some regards I mean quite literally do not walk behind horses. They make you deal with their crap.

3. Don’t be afraid to say “hi” first- idk what it is in society where we feel like there is this unspoken rule that strangers have to stay strangers unless you meet said strangers at socially appropriate functions where you’re “introduced” or something. It’s dumb. Like we’ll talk to the guy we don’t know in class, or we’ll strike up a conversation with someone at the bar because that’s ok, but heaven forbid we say hi to the stranger sitting next to us on the bus or whatever. Say “hi” first. Be brave. By and large people are all the same in that they want to feel valued and important- granted how that need is met varies, but I think a good way to start is to oh, I don’t know….say “Hi” and introduce yourself. If people were always as friendly and brave as they are on the Camino, this world would be a much nicer place.

4. There’s no right way to do most things in life. There’s the right way for you and there’s the right way for me. And they’re not always going to be the same. So you keep doing you, man. Don’t feel like you need to follow the rules to someone else’s game. We’re all just trying to make our way to Santiago the best we can. Or to happiness or success or whatever.

5. Be a cheerleader- in case you haven’t noticed, this world can be a dark and scary and lonely place and we need more people rooting for other people. This number could be retitled “4b” because they pretty much go hand in hand. Just because our way of doing things isn’t the same doesn’t mean that I can’t cheer you on for doing what you need to do. AND that doesn’t mean that I should feel insecure about what I’m doing. Let’s all just take care of ourselves and support one another. Pilgrims are exceptional at doing this. Oh, you’re continuing on to the next village? You go, pal. Imma find myself a cerveza and camp here for the night. You’re going to take a taxi tomorrow instead of walk? Yeah, bro, you do what you need to do. Keep on keepingon. See what I mean- we don’t have to make the same choices to be on the same team. Team humanity! Lol that was corny. Sorry. (But not really)

6. Stop and look around you and enjoy the little things. I know I just got done saying everyone should be able to do their own thang without criticism, so I suppose if your thang is to get to Santiago as fast as possible, you should ignore this. But I just can’t help but feel that if you blaze through life and don’t notice the beautiful wild flowers or the scenic views or the birds chirping, you are missing out. Slow down, enjoy the little things.

 

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7. Smiles are international. Except among the Germans….KIDDING. We lived in Germany for 3 years, we’re part German, we’ve met Germans here. We love Germans. But smiles really are international. I speak a very little bit of Spanish. Mostly enough to get us by in broken, un-conjugated Spanglish. But it gets the job done. And I’ve had the unfortunate experience of watching other non-Spanish speaking pilgrims butcher the language and then legitimately get angry that the local people can’t understand them. And instead of being patient and smiling and trying to act out what you’re trying to say or something, they just get mad and grouchy and humiliatingly rude. Don’t be that person. A genuine smile goes a long way. It eases the moment and it makes you feel better. And if you smile and you’re kind to people, for the most part they’re going to be kind back.

8. This is more of a 7b type situation again, sorry. Idk it kind of goes with 3, too. And kind of 4 and 5. Wow, this one is really just kind of all-encompassing. But I digress. Let me start over. Ahem, number 8. Connect with other people. Your life will be richer because of it. Time will go by faster. You’ll learn from people. They’ll be your cheerleader and you’ll be theirs. Smile at them. Connect with them. Amy Poehler talks about how people should know their currency- like how you can make a way in this world- for some people it’s ingenuity or creativity, for some it’s sheer beauty, for some it’s their big sense of humor- I think mine is connecting with people. My dad says when I lock eyes with someone and smile I get a twinkle in my eye- and that’s why I can get a drink faster at a bar and why some people feel comfortable talking to me right away- not because I’m pretty or anything, but because of the twinkle in my eye. (He’s probably lying- he’s my dad- he has to make nice stuff up about me. And you know, as I’m writing this, I’m now realizing maybe this isn’t the compliment I thought it was….anyway. I digress again.) I really love connecting with people. I consider it of the utmost importance to make each and every person I interact with feel valued and important. Because they are! And when you stop to make eye contact and smile and pause and listen to people’s stories, you learn so so so much more than if you run your own mouth about your own boring life all the time. Connecting with people is so important- for you and for them. Do it!

9. Drink more water. Just do it.

10. Always bring food with you. I feel like this should go without saying. And not just enough for you- but probably enough for me, too. Because let’s be real, when everyone is sitting down to have their planned snack and I’m mad because I ate mine two hours ago, I will be hangry enough to enslave the entire planet and wage the first intergalactic war. And win. All before you have time to say “Rach, you’re going to have to wait to get your own food.” I’m slightly kidding with this paragraph. But mostly not. Save food for me. Please. For the sake of maintaining peace in the Milkyway.

 

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(Here’s a picture of me eating- putting what should be 7 to 11 bites of food in my mouth at once- i.e. NOT attempting to wage war. Basically, this is a picture of me saving the world. Nay. The GALAXY. It’s casual)

11. There are gonna be ups and downs- and there are pros and cons to both. The good news is, neither of them last forever. I mean quite literally there are periods of climbing 5000 ft in elevation and periods descending 5000ft in elevation on the Camino. But I also mean figuratively, there are ups and downs. And you don’t want either to last forever. The ups- the good seasons in your life will be less good if you never have not good seasons. Good seasons need to be intermixed with not good seasons. You can’t just be the same kind of good all the time. You should constantly be growing and trying new things and being brave and learning about yourself and striving to be more than you were yesterday and along the way you’ll discover more good things and have more good seasons. But along the way you’ll probably encounter some not good things and have not good seasons and that’s good because they help you realize what you need for good seasons. Good is good and not good is good. We good?

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(Here’s an up. And there was a down on the other side. And it sucked. Downhills are really awful on blisters and broken toes and especially knees. I also ate a Snickers after climbing and descending this bc I was cranky. SEE WHAT I MEAN?)

12. There are some dumb days. There are days when everything is dumb. The heat is dumb, blisters are dumb, swollen knees and broken bones are dumb. Walking is dumb. Spain is dumb. People are dumb. Everything is dumb. And that’s ok. You’re allowed to have dumb days. In fact, I’m actually a huge proponent of dumb days. Unless you’re like Leslie Knope or Mother Theresa or something, I think it would be wildly irrational for you to NOT have dumb days. I think having dumb days is a great way to reset. As mentioned above, the not good helps reset the good. I mean, it’s important to not like set up an albergue and force other pilgrims to have dumb days with you. And it’s important not to live in dumb days. But having one every now and then is ok. It doesn’t detract from the experience, it doesn’t mean you’re too emotional, it doesn’t mean the world is ending…it just means that you’re human. So have your dumb day and wake up the next day and kick it in the butt. Remember, you’ve got cheerleader like me rooting for you.

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Humble Pie

Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m a do-it-all.

You know back in like 3rd grade there was always that one kid who, no matter what you said, even if it was a made up fact spoken in Klingon, knew it already? The know-it-all! They knew everything and they were proud of the fact that they did.

Well, I’m a do-it-all (and also a bit of know-it-all but that’s another story for another time). I like to do everything and I’m proud of the fact that I do.

I LOVE to do it all. Yes, I would love to lead SI for 330 kids, and work the biology prep-lab, and write lesson plans, and yeah I would love to come speak to your class and I’d be happy to speak at your church and yes, of course I want to be a captain for Team World Vision, and I’ll definitely run the half marathon and of course I’ll go to your game, and yeah, I’d be delighted to take you to the doctor and sure, I’ll take you grocery shopping and YAS LETS GET DINNER and brb I have to still pass my 17 credits of classes and hold on, I need to meet Jesus for a little bit but yes, let’s get coffee after, and yes let’s lift together and yes yes yes. Whatever it is, whenever it is, yes! I LOVE to do it all. I WANT to do it all. I NEED to do it all.

And that’s not an exaggeration. I’m not passive aggressively complaining about how much I have to do. I actually really love doing all of it.

I think this “do-it-all” characteristic comes from 3 primary traits of mine:

1. I have a disproportional amount of passion for such a tiny body. I don’t know how it developed or when, but I’m just really passionate about the things I do. I love learning and I love teaching and I love fundraising for Team World Vision and I love being a friend to as many people as I possibly can. I don’t know how to feel half-hearted. Trust me, I’ve tried not to care. It would be SO much easier if I could find a way not to care about people and things as much as I do. But I have had no luck. I just care a lot, ok?

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And I always claim I’m allergic to feelings and I hate emotions but the truth is, I just have a lot of them and it can be overwhelming. I care a lot. So when you need me to take you to the doctor or to get groceries or you want to catch up over coffee or when you need someone to hold you while you cry yourself to sleep, I will be there. In a heartbeat. And if you need help with biology or want extra tutoring or need another worksheet to practice or need help with lesson plans, I gotchu, pal. And when babies need clean water Imma run and spam your Facebook until I’ve exhausted every muscle and every word and scraped up every penny. I can’t help it. Passion. I have too much of it. Take some, please.

2. I’m probably the most stubborn person you’ve ever met. No, I mean it. Really. No, I am. Did you hear me? I insist…

Lol at the number of times my parents have said “you are a stubborn cuss” to me on this trip. I’ve always been stubborn. I came out of the womb with both of my legs dislocated and learned to walk anyway because nothing and no one can tell me how to live my life. I have been known to say “don’t tell me what to do” once or twice in my life…. I’m just stubborn. It feeds right into thinking I can do it all. Couple passion with my stubbornness and you will find a small little hobbit who thinks she’s superwoman. In my own brain, I’m invincible. Shin splints and stress fractures, pshh I can still run. 2 and a half hours of sleep, that’s ample! I don’t care if I’m sick, I’m still going out with you guys tonight! Well yeah, I have a lot of homework, but I wouldn’t miss coffee with you for the world. My stubbornness, I fear, makes me slightly delusional.

3. I have serious FOMO (fear of missing out). And this is totally related to being passionate about everything. I just LOVE living life. This life is so so beautiful and I am determined to enjoy as much of it as possible. I don’t want to miss out on a second- I don’t care if it’s a second of Netflix and pizza with my roommates or traveling the world with my parents. I don’t want to miss anything. I can’t spare a single second in this beautiful world of ours. I can’t, I refuse to (lol noo, I’m not stubborn at all…)

And there we go, folks, I am a self-confessed do-it-all. I am a delusional, overly emotional hobbit-sized superwoman impersonator.

So naturally, I approached the Camino in such a fashion.

i.e. OH MY GOSH WE’RE GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!! IM SO EXCITED IM GOING TO SEE SO MANY THINGS AND MEET SO MANY PEOPLE AND FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD AND THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE!!!

^ an average conversation with Rach in the past six months.

So the Camino finally began. And I am on an adventure and I am seeing so many things and meeting so many people and falling in love with the world and it is SUCH a cool experience.

So cool that even when I got grossssss blisters, I didn’t care. Even when I broke my foot, I insisted on continuing on. Even now as I sit here typing this and my sunburn itches and I have 3 new blisters on top of blisters and my foot is swollen and throbbing and my knee is the size of a cantaloupe, I want to keep going. I’m superwoman, remember? I love this too much to not keep going, I CAN do this, and I WILL do this.

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(Me in Burgos, ft. knee brace, footwrap, and my incomparable ferocity- the conversation went like this: Me: “Mom, tell me how fashionable I am!” Susan: “…..No….”)

Ok, but here’s the thing, passion in and of itself is really good. Passionate people change the freaking world. And stubbornness can be good. Positive synonyms include determined, resolved, go-getter, headstrong, and leader. It can be good. And what isn’t to love about life? Of course you shouldn’t want a second of it to pass you by.

But these 3 things all mixed together inside my beating little heart have turned me into a proud little lion cub.

Because the truth is, I can’t do it all.  I’m not actually superwoman (but I am hobbit-sized- both of these facts are things I’m continuing to deal with on an emotional level- time and extensive journaling may lead to acceptance one day).

And that, my friends, is what the Camino is teaching me. It’s giving me a big ol’ slice of Spanish humble pie (which is probably delicious because it’s Spanish).

Real talk: If I broke every bone in my body, I would still find a way to drag myself to Santiago with my teeth. And I might be grimacing as I do it, but when you ask me, I’d tell you I was having the time of my life. That’s just who I am and what I do. I love things too much not to do them, and I’m too stubborn to know when enough is enough. I’m also too *insert adjective here- select from: passionate, naive, stupid, foolish, excitable* to realize that maybe if I didn’t wear myself out, the experience could be even more fun. I have a habit of believing un-fun things are fun, and not realizing that they could be even better… but I digress…

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(This is a picture of me trying to smile because literally everything hurt. But I was doing it all by-George!)

I guess I’m just learning that Jesus has so much more in store for me than suffering through a torturously busy and overly committed life because I’m too emotionally invested in these worldly things, and too stubborn to stop and take care of myself, and too afraid that by stopping and caring for myself, I’ll have to say “no” to amazing experiences.

Part of me wants to launch into a rant about how society perpetuates this “always busy” obsession and you always need to do more and be more and try harder and get this on your resume and do that so they like you blah blah blah.

But I won’t. I suppose I’m just learning that there is beauty in slowing down and taking a breather.

It’s ironic because this whole trip was supposed to be about rest, and instead of resting, I’m quite literally destroying my body so I can keep up- so I can see all the things and meet all the people and fall in love with the world- so I don’t miss out.

So, if you’re like me and you have a hard time slowing down and finding rest- if you secretly find shame is resting, take a lesson from beat and battered Rach- IT’S OKAY TO REST.

I can’t do it all. You can’t do it all. None of us can because we’re not made to. We aren’t made to be superwoman hobbits (or whatever the analogy is supposed to be….I got lost in my fiction there…)- we’re just humans. And humans are flawed and incomplete and designed for community and boundaries and rest. Even God- the Creator Almighty- who can imagine galaxies into existence took a day to rest. A WHOLE DAY!!! Not like a cute 10 minute nap on the couch in between commitments but like a whole day (and when you think about how God isn’t constrained by time, a day to Him could’ve been like a whole century in human time. So really….just nap for the rest of your life is what I’m saying….just kidding…)

So this journey is, after all, about sabbath- about finding rest in new ways and rising to the challenge of sitting down and propping my broken, blistered, bruised and bleeding feet up, and just being still.

I’m learning that the best way to preserve my passion, make the most of my stubbornness, and continue to love life with all that I have is to take care of myself. That’s the best thing any of us can do. Take care of you! You are the only person in the universe that is just like you- and that’s pretty neat. You are important! (If we aren’t already, I’d love to be friend with you- see paragraph 6)

So maybe in this ever-busy world we live in, you’ll find at least a moment or two to slow down and to rest and take care of yourself.

 

As for me, I’m taking the day off tomorrow. Someone call me a taxi.

PS here is a picture of Spain being the insufferable show-off that it is

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U-G-L-Y: When Orks Attack the Camino

Remember my last post? The mushy-gusy, this is a free-to-be-you-and-me, grand ol’ time post?

I don’t take back a single word- the Camino is truly an incredible experience.

But, folks, the Camino has an ugly side. And it’s real. Think any Ork you’ve ever seen in any LOTR or Hobbit movie. Or the half of the face covered by the mask in Phantom of the Opera. Or Lyle from George of the Jungle after he falls in elephant poop (this is not the first time poop will be referenced in this blog. Get ready). Or the Voldemort side of Quirrell’s head. Or Toby from the Office.

It’s ugly.

First of all, let’s start with the blisters. Maybe you’ve had blisters before. Maybe you’ve thought they were bad. Maybe you complained about them a little.

Well friends, the blisters I’ve experienced and seen on the Camino thus far have far and away outdone all blisters I’ve ever seen before combined. First of all, I have some sick-nasty-gross blisters on my heels. Like four per foot and they are essentially pockets of fluid from Satan. Idk how many of you walk on a daily basis, but most people start by planting their heels (that’s a true fact that I made up….I mean, that’s how I walk so I’m going to assume, for my own sanity’s sake, that all of you walk this way also). So as you can imagine, walking 15-18 miles a day is somewhat complicated by said pockets of fluid from Satan.

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But I shouldn’t even complain. This one guy from France, I’m pretty sure his entire foot is actually just one huge blister. No exaggeration, it stretches from his big toe and covers his entire arch. This lady from Italy, she made these reaaaaaal nice blisters on her Achilles tendons on both feet in the first days and they POPPED!!! Like she has 3in in diameter open wounds on the back of her feet. So she’s been doing the Camino in flip flops. Idk if you remember but we’re walking in the frickin’ Pyrenees. IN FLIP FLOPS.

So really, my little love bites from Lucifer are almost adorable as far as blisters go…

But then, lets talk about broken bones. Leave it to little Rach to break a bone on the Camino. It’s just the first metatarsal and it’s only a stress fracture. It hurts, but it’s not unbearable. After like mile 3, I just kind of zone it out. Pain, what pain? (What is pain? French bread! Will you ever quit? No! We want some mo’! -The greatest movie of all time)

But as it turns out, when you can’t plant your heel because Lucifer is crampin’ your style, you want to walk on the balls of your feet. But when one of those bones are broken, you really kind of just end up walking like an old, arthritic man crossed with a squid trying to move on land. It’s not cute. I am having zero luck attracting a European male suitor and I blame my squid shuffle.

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(Ft my squid shuffle- in birks bc swollen broken bones don’t fit in blister causing boots)

So this old-man-squid-squirm along the Camino puts pressure in weird places and so now both of my knees are swollen and agitated. But such is life. As a true pilgrim would say, “Can’t hurt steal, amiright?”

Now, let’s talk about the Camino itself.

This, as any peregrino who shared our path today would tell you, is quite literally the ugliest thing you could ever see.

(This is where I would show you a glorious picture of the sun-filled trail we walked today but the photo won’t load- SO to you wifi- just pretend you can see the beautiful countryside)

Now, sure it looks tauntingly beautiful and makes you drool as you dream about Sangria and Spanish men fanning you on a porch while church bells ring and a cute old lady bakes Spanish bread in a near by village.

But look at it. Notice the hills and the fields and the horizon and the path and the peregrinos. Know what you don’t see? SHADE (aside from the shade I’m throwing at the Pyrenees for breaking my foot).

Homeslices, it was 85 degrees today. And we walked in direct sunlight for 15 miles.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sunshine. Vitamin D does extraordinary things for you- certainly not the least of which is help regulate digestion and pooping (also not the last time poop will be referenced in this blog…).

But 15 miles of it is something else.

It leaves you with weird tan lines and painful sunburns.

Can we all take a minute and just picture little Rach, old-man-squid-squirming with these tan-lines, and a backpack almost as tall as me down these roads?

So the sunshine gets ya. The hills get ya. The blisters get ya. The broken bones get ya.

But probably the saddest, most frustrating thing is relying on a guidebook. Now, some wonderful soul took the time to write the book we’re using, and by and large he does an amazing job. But sometimes you bypass a cafe or a bench because “as de goooood booooook says” (to be read in Tevye’s voice from Fiddler on the Roof) there will be “an adorable cafe on the town’s edge where hot and spicy Jose makes coffee for you, shirtless, as he individually squeezes each hand-picked coffee bean directly into your mouth.” BUT THERE IS NO CAFE AND THERE IS NO JOSE AND YOU JUST KEEP SQUID SQUIRMING.

Ok, ok, the guide book doesn’t ever mention Jose or handpicked coffee beans. But sometimes it does lead you to believe that there is something great ahead when there is quite literally nothing ahead. And maybe at some point in time something great was ahead. And maybe as you sit and read this wherever you are, you think “Rach, its just one little cafe. You’re hiking through the Spanish countryside. Shut up and enjoy it. You shouldn’t need a cafe anyway.”

And maybe you’re right. But also maybe my blisters and my broken metatarsal and my sunburn and my swollen knees need a chair to sit in under an umbrella. And maybe my soul needs shirtless Jose and the hand picked coffee beans.

But truthfully, at mile 11 when you pass up a bench in the shade because the guidebook says there’s a cafe at the town’s edge, and there is no cafe, you are pretty disheartened.

But also truthfully, at mile 11 when you pass up a bench in the shade because the guidebook says there’s a cafe at the town’s edge, and there is no cafe, and you are pretty disheartened you take a minute and remember that you’re in freakin Spain and you shut up and you keep walking. As a true pilgrims would say “Ya get ova it!” (to be read in a Boston accent- shoutout to the couple and the college kid we met from Boston).

And also truthfully, at the end of everyday as you’re indulging in the ever-amazing Spanish food and the even better Spanish wine, and you’re laughing with the peregrinos and hearing stories about how you can’t buy shelled peanuts in New Zealand, the ugly side of the Camino fades away. Your love bites from Lucifer are scarcely detectable since you’re not standing, and the Sangria has numbed the foot and the cool night air of northern Spain soothes the sunburn and the guy who runs the hostel is named Jose, so that’s good enough. And soon enough the ugly side of the Camino is completely overshadowed by the beautiful, unforgettable, incredibly wonderful side- so overshadowed that you’re willing to wake up and do it all over again every. single. day.

(This was going to be a beautiful picture I took this morning that made Spain look like Neverland but WUTERR wifi)

Even amidst the pain, it’s still an unforgettable adventure. And as I lay here on the bathroom floor as my feet soak in ice cold water, aloe smeared across my body, I wouldn’t change a thing. No one ever said the journey is pretty, did they?

Here’s to the ugly side of life!

Now go pour yourself some Sangria and cheers the peregrinos! We’ll be cheersing you from Los Arcos!

Buen Camino, my friends!

P.S. The best part of the story of today is that, as I sat at the table at the end of the day’s trek today, a bird pooped on me. I have 18 blisters, an uneven sunburn, swollen knees, and a broken bone and I can say that on the Camino, I have quite literally been shat on. And the only appropriate response to all of that is to laugh….

The Great Massacre of my Little Feet

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“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do- today these boots are gonna walk all over you” *she sings to the Pyrenees between sobs as bruises form on her hips under her backpack and her feet throb * I LOVE THE CAMINO!

I would say I’m just kidding but all of that is true! Except the crying part- I haven’t cried yet, but I’m not ruling it out as an activity to be done after tomorrow’s walk where we climb 400m in elevation. But I really did sing that to the Pyrenees and I really do have bruises all around my pelvis from Sheldon, my backpack, and my feet throb so bad you’d think my heart fell from my chest and took up residence in them. But I really do love the Camino!

I love it for a lot of reasons. (I also hate it for a lot reasons- some of which are the same reasons I love it- but that’s a different story) First of all, the foothills of the Pyrenees are breathtaking. Literally. Because you’re climbing up them. See what I did there?! HA.

But actually, they are quite stunning and even as you’re panting and sweating, dragging your weary legs behind you, you can’t help but be in awe of God’s handiwork. I mean, dang. (Even if you do find yourself whispering “Could you make your handiwork a little less steep, JC” to the heavens)

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Uphill isn’t actually that bad. It’s the downhill that’ll get you. Yesterday, our first day, we walked 17 miles (if any part of you is saying “Oh, that’s not so bad” consider us no longer friends) and I swear there wasn’t a flat part on the journey. Always up or down as we made our way through the foothills. Side note: the name “foothills” was probably originally “footkills” because they kill your feet, but over time and through translation errors became “foothills”

The first 10 miles were actually really fun. The next 3 were hard. The final 4 made me contemplate throwing myself off the trail and falling down the mountains. Even if I survived and broke every bone in my body, it couldn’t have been as painful as those 4 miles.

Ok, ok that’s a little melodramatic. But the last 4 were not fun. I think the combination of having walked 13 miles already with backpacks for the first time, mixed with the fact that it was the hottest part of the day made for a rough final stretch- but we did it!

The first 10, though, man I was living the life. Yelling either the species binomials of the wildflowers we passed (SO to Dr. Rohrer and Plant Systematics #biomajor) or the lyrics to whatever song was stuck in my head at the time (including by not limited to The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music, The Boots were Made for Walking, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (LOL the mountains I walked through were in fact high enough to keep me from you, sorry not sorry), I Have a Dream, and Edelweiss) until I could hear the rhythmic taps of walking sticks coming up behind us. Then I’d quiet down and wait.

Eventually someone would come along and they’d either match my pace for a little while, or with a quick smile and a “buen camino,” they’d be off (turns out at about mile 7 you start to get really irrationally angry that the old lady from Ireland and the old man from Norway have passed you. Like I just ran a freakin half marathon- I should be in good shape for this. You’re old, stop passing me. And then you try to calm down and mentally give them props for kicking your butt. But I digress.)

Sometimes they match your pace for a little while and you try to communicate in whatever way you can- whether it’s grunts and gestures with the old French man, or fluent English with the college kid from Michigan. But eventually you break away from each other and wait for the next part of the world to come pass you by.

And then for the next however many miles, you play leapfrog with your newfound stranger- friends. You pass them as they stop for a snack, then they pass you as you adjust your boots, but eventually you all make it at different times to whatever little village you’re staying at for the night.

Everyone goes their separate ways to the different albergues and hotels and they drop their packs and shower and then everyone reconvenes at the local bar.

And suddenly it’s like a family reunion. Everyone is loudly and excitedly greeting one another in broken languages, happy to see familiar faces. There are bottles of wine and loaves of bread everywhere and music playing and suddenly no one cares about the treacherous walk of the day or the blisters on their feet- they’re just happy to be with each other.

Tables are being shared by 5 or 6 different nationalities as food is passed and stories are told. The stories probably aren’t that funny, but everyone is laughing anyway and you kind of wish you could just freeze time in this moment.

For extroverted, relationship based kiddos like me, this is the best part of the camino.

And then you wake up and you do it all over again. You walk and walk and walk some more until you think every bone in your body will shatter if you take another step, and then you walk another 3 miles after that. Time passes quickly and you marvel over the wild flowers and the hills and the different animals you see and you wait for another peregrino to come alongside you so you can exchange little snippets of your lives.

It’s quite the experience, folks.

There are a billion pictures I want to include but, as a true pilgrim would say “ain’t nobody got wifi fo dat!”

Hopefully we’ll encounter some kind of wifi haven and I’ll inundate the cyber world with pictures of our glorious trek, but until then, google it or something I guess!

As time goes on and the newness of this whole thing wears off, I’m sure the blogs will get fewer and farther between, but thanks for checking in on our little adventure in the footkills.

Buen Camino, my friends!

Eating Intestines

Hiya pals,

Buenos Dias from España!

For those of you who have been keeping up with the Facebook updates, you know that we could’ve arrived in Paris, turned around and went home and would’ve considered that adventure enough.

Here’s a little recap:

The plan, ahh the plan, what a beautiful idea- the plan was to fly from good ol’ Green Bay (go Packers!) to Chicago (da bears still suck), catch a flight to Copenhagen, make a connection for a flight to Paris, stay the night in Paris, wake up, take a train to Bayonne, make a connection for a train to St. Jean Pied de Port, stay the night, and take a taxi to Roncesvalles (the Spanish side of the Pyrenees).

LOL

Here’s what actually happened: GB came through for us (I repeat, go Packers!).

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We caught our flight to Chicago. Leave it to Chicago to ruin our lives (just kidding, the people in Chicago are delightful human beings). We had an 8 hour layover. Now, that might sound like a long time- until you realize that we ended up having a 32 hour layover. 8 hours aint soundin’ too bad amirite?

So anyway, the layover began by waiting in line for 2 hours before we could check in. Which actually didn’t really bother us at all. What’s 2 hours when you have 8 (or 32)? So we check in, make it through TSA without a hassle (God Bless America). And we eat some yucky airport food, make friends with some other people flying to Copenhagen, enjoy some cribbage and just wait for the beautiful giant airplane to take us on our adventure.

Our flight was at 10:30. At 10:15, we didn’t have a plane at our gate. At 10:30, they announced that our plane wasn’t at our gate because our plane was broken. At 10:45 they told us to wait, we might be going after all. At 11:30 they said the Captain was going to check out this “issue” and make the final call. At 11:45 they told us that we would, in fact, not be flying out to Copenhagen tonight, in fact, as far as they were concerned, we wouldn’t be flying anywhere ever. Goody.

What’s even more exciting is that the international terminal would be closing AND there were no vacant hotel rooms in a 50 mile radius. So we couldn’t sleep in the terminal and we couldn’t sleep in a hotel and we couldn’t fly to Copenhagen.

Now, you might think we’d be grumpy as we descended to the baggage claim to reclaim our luggage for the night. But we really weren’t. We were doing ok. The lovely humans at SAS told us there was a number we could call and they would reschedule our flight, no problem. There was also a website we could use to do the same.

As it happens, at midnight on a Saturday (Sunday? Idk), the call center for SAS is closed and in this series of unfortunate events, the website was down, too.

Again, you might think we would be grumpy as we found a nice piece of floor to sleep on for the night in the check-in part of the airport, but we weren’t. We were confident that things would work out in due time.

We all tried to sleep, we really did. But the floor of terminal 5 isn’t exactly 5 star material. So instead we did our best to get in contact with someone who could get us where we needed to be in a reasonable time.

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Eventually, Paris came in clutch. Some blessed soul in the Parisian airport worked a deal for us (10/10 would call again) and we would be on the plane at 6:05 to Paris!

Long story long, we ended up making it to Paris, got a taxi to the train station and made our original train to Bayonne. (Naturally, boarding the train was accompanied by a thousand “Next stop, Hogwarts jokes)

P.S. Turns out trying to speak Spanish to a French taxi driver isn’t as helpful as you might think.

Anyway, here is a beautiful portrait of yours truly admiring the gorgeous French countryside.

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But really, France is BEAUTIFUL. I’ve noticed that everything is so frickin’ picturesque. It doesn’t matter what it is- the French Pyrenees, cute little villages, someone’s trash in their backyard- it doesn’t matter, it’s French trash in a French backyard and that makes it beautiful or something I guess (someone’s literal trash has become my treasure, how cliché).

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We made it to St. Jean Pied de Port, where the Camino really begins. We stayed in the most adorable little hotel and ate, as a true American would, cheeseburgers for dinner.

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Here’s the view from my bed…

Then we slept like it was our job.

We got our little Camino passports the next morning and played around in St. Jean Pied de Port. Here’s what our little passports look like!

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Then, we took a taxi with the kindest most smiley French taxi driver ever. We climbed through the French Pyrenees as Henri shifted gears 7000 times, winding us to Roncesvalles (Bienvenidos a España!)

Here is a picture of the entirety of Roncesvalles. Welcome!

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It may be small in stature, but it is large in personality!

We ate lunch at one of the 3 buildings in Roncesvalles and folks, let me tell you that was an adventure.

This is Alejandro, as my Facebook post says, he is the nicest guy in the world and should be sainted for putting up with us ignorant peregrinos.

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We tried to order food. We did our best.

We ended up with cow intestine.

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HAHAHAHAHA

I didn’t eat it. I’m sure that cow intestine is a delicacy of some sort and that millions of people love it. I’m not one of them.

But Alejandro came in clutch and gave us chicken wings because American.

He also made us Sangria in front of our eyes.

Like took plain red wine and put fresh fruit in it and stuff.

SO GOOD.

Also, in our fumbling stupidity, we probably ended up ordering around 70 euros worth of food.

Alejandro charged us 20.

WHAT A GUY!

Not to mention he gave me his number and his email (do people still email these days- you can bet this girl will now…jk…sort of…I’m blushing…) So, when I don’t return to los Estados Unidos, look for updates on my Spanish wedding.

Just kidding. But really, Alejandro is a saint of a server and absolutely made our day. If you’re ever in Roncesvalles, ask for Alejandro. He will quite literally be one of the 8 people in the village.

So, we’ve had some adventures, made some friends, and tomorrow begins our true Camino.

We’ll wake up around 5am and begin our walk. We’re excited and anxious and ready to go!

Thanks for checking in with us- stay tuned for more updates!

Buen Camino, my friends!