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:

 

13487614_10209572939502580_1678867753_n

(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.

 

IMG_0848.jpg

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.

 

IMG_0983.jpg

(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?

IMG_0895.jpg

(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.

IMG_1032.jpg

Advertisements

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?

Unknown

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.

IMG_0506.jpg

(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…

IMG_0814.jpg

(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

IMG_0386.jpg

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.

image

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.

image

(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

IMG_4618

“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)

IMG_0154

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!).

IMG_0579.JPG

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.

IMG_1304.JPG

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.

IMG_0582.JPG

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).

IMG_0054.JPG

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.

IMG_0058.JPG

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!

IMG_0064.JPG

IMG_0063.JPG

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!

IMG_0095.JPG

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.

IMG_4615.JPG

We tried to order food. We did our best.

We ended up with cow intestine.

IMG_0593.JPG

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!

Buen Camino

 

Well, well, well wouldya look at what’s finally arrived…

Sunshine, sweet tea, aviators, grillin’ out, shandys, sleep-ins, and bonfires can only mean one thing.

It’s summer time, kids!

And while part of me wishes my summer would consist of sweet tea, aviators, grillin’ out, shandys, sleeping in and bonfires, I can confidently say I won’t get most of that in these next few months.

BECAUSE I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!!

This Saturday, May 28th,  my Ma and Pa and I will board a plane, fly to Spain, and backpack El Camino de Santiago.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 1.23.29 PM.png

El Camino de Santiago, known in English as The Way of Saint James, is a pilgrimage. It has roots as an old Roman trade route, but has since become somewhat of a spiritual journey to the reputed burial site of the apostle, Saint James. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims walk the Camino each year and story after story surfaces about how this journey has changed them.

We first heard about the Camino after watching the movie, The Way, several years ago. After watching the movie my mom, dad, and I left excited and curious. What was this Camino really like? What was it all about? (If you haven’t seen this movie, you should probs go watch it. Like rn. It’s on Netflix)

Fast forward a few years and here we are. Backpacks packed, cameras ready, hearts excited.

The route we’ve chosen is about 440 miles of walking that we’ll do in 6 weeks, including one day a week to rest. This whole adventure is part of Fr. Dad’s sabbatical, so it was very important to us to have a Sabbath each week. If you know anything about the Mills family, you know that we are busy-bodied humans and finding rest isn’t exactly a strength of ours, let alone figuring out how to “enjoy” this so-called elusive rest. So while it sounds like a leisurely restful journey of walking, all of this “down” time is definitely going to be challenging for us…in all the right ways!

Our plan is to wake up each day and do some yoga (we’re walking 440 miles, a girl (and a priest) is gonna need some yoga, amirite? Lol bc none of us know how to do yoga and we can’t even touch our toes #pray4yogees2k16), walk until we’re hungry, stop for some coffee and breakfast, then walk until lunch, and stay in some sort of hotel or hostel for the night. We plan to walk about 15 miles each day, which when coupled with early risers, leaves ample time to explore the little villages we’ll walk through and be in awe of this crazy adventure we’re on.

Following the Camino, Pops and I are staying to do a little backpacking in Italy and Austria before we coming home at the end of July.

We are beyond excited and so so so fortunate to have been given this opportunity to go experience God and His creation in another place, in a way we’ve never encountered Him before. I have no idea what’s in store for us these next two months, but I’m looking forward to every second of it!

As we travel, we’ll all be blogging about our experience and we’d be so happy if you tuned in to our little narratives and joined with us on our pilgrimage.

As the pilgrims say, Buen Camino, friends. See you in 2 months!

 

 

Neverland

I’ve been having this weird sensation in my heart.

And while I could tell you everything from the pacemaker potential and impulses of the sinoatrial node, to the flow of blood through the chambers of the heart, to the micro-anatomy of cardiomyocytes, I couldn’t quite explain what’s going on in my heart.

995e0bdbead9e35abe84d07a8813ea0f.jpg

I’ve tried a lot of things in an attempt to figure it out. Long walks on the beach with my best friend in the world, running, working out, time in Scripture, church, conversations with mentors and the people who matter most, drinking, dating, being intentionally single, throwing myself into academics, dying my hair blue, removing myself from my faith, throwing myself back into it, and finally, pretending that the weird sensation wasn’t there at all.

And that’s kind of the one I settled on. In my last blog post, I mentioned the trials and tribulations of the Term of Tears, and that had me pretty well occupied for a while. My soul cried out and I told it to shh for several months and put a lot of bandaids over it.

I also mentioned in that post that I’ve been working hard to deal with the inner ramblings of my soul. Trying to heal it, not just put a bandage over it.

And all the while I’ve been having this weird sensation in my heart.

And dare I say it, I think it is a…uh….a….f….fee….a….um….ahem….feel….IT’S A FEELING, OKAY?!

cbf889da08144c5458ee86218f527def.jpg

Alright, I said it, I’ve been having a Feeling in my heart for a long time GET OFF MY BACK!

It’s a Feeling I’ve felt for probably close to two years. I had inklings of it before, but being the professional Feelings Mortician that I am, I warded it off rather successfully for quite a while before it weaseled it’s way into my heart, bought a house, took up residence and formed a Homeowners Association for a bunch of it’s little friends.

Anyway, so this Feeling. Two years. I couldn’t figure it out. I broke up with my longterm boyfriend, I cut my hair, I changed my wardrobe (go ahead guys, scoff. But every woman out there knows that these signs of massive life changes) I got into the party scene, I got into trouble, I got out of the party scene, I had the lowest GPA I’ve ever had, I threw myself into my relationship with Christ, I fell out of it, I tried dating, I got my heart broken, I fell back into the party scene, I crawled out. I restored my relationship with Jesus. I’ve tried a lot of things.

But I couldn’t figure it out. And there have been moments where I was closer to figuring it out than others. There have been moments where I thought the Feeling was love, where I thought it was anguish, depression, anxiety, self-hatred, insecurity, loneliness. And there have been moments where I was truly happy in spite of this nagging, curious Feeling, and there have been moments where I was genuinely sad because of this nagging, curious Feeling.

Anyway, getting closer to the point, I was driving home from work the other day and this song came on and at first I was like what even is this depressing nonsense?  And I kid you not, my hand was on the dial to change the station and I paused because I heard “Run, run, lost boy they say to me, away from all of reality. Neverland is home to lost boys like me, and lost boys like me are free.”

c0c7e334c887faa838ad8d6a2d58db6c.jpg

And for some unknown, psychotic reason, I smiled. I mean this isn’t like a happy- go- lucky song, kids. It’s a little haunting, actually. But I smiled. Alone in my car, wearing my Build-a-Bear uniform, I listened to three lines of a song about a boy, a make-believe place and escaping reality, and I smiled.

You know those moments when you have an itch and it’s just beyond your reach so you have to ask someone else to scratch it for you, and they finally do and it’s like heaven on earth?

Those words scratched the itch in my heart for just a few wonderful, glorious seconds. And in a desperate attempt to keep scratching until it no longer itched, I listened to the song on repeat for like 3 weeks. It didn’t help. But on the the bright side everyone in my family now knows all the words to it…

So I did what I do best and sent obscure, wordy texts to my best friends then promptly went back to ignoring the Feeling.

That is, until Starbucks Day. Beloved, perfect, seemingly insignificant Starbucks Day. What a glorious day it was, folks. In the spirit of being festive, I wore what one should always wear to Starbucks- leggings, a flannel, boots, a fluffy scarf, and hipster glasses. I was nothing, if not well dressed for Starbucks Day.

Anyway, on this renowned Day, I went with my old man to, as he calls it, sbux. And we pulled out our computers and began to plan a trip.

Background: there’s this pilgrimage called The Way of Saint James, or El Camino de Santiago in Spain. You walk 923u50294u50 (that’s a precise number) miles every day and stay in hostels and backpack and it’s really cool. And we’re doing it. My Ma and Pa and me, we’re doing it this summer. It’ll take us about a month to walk it and we’re stoked. But this is not the trip we were planning.

Good ol’ Daddy Mills and I were planning a trip for after the Camino. I wanted to stay and backpack around Europe for a few weeks after the Camino because….well…why the heck not. And Papa decided he’d stay and go with me.

So on Starbucks Day, we planned our trip. We decided what cities we wanted to go to and what we wanted to see and we drank coffee and we researched all there is to know about some of the most beautiful places on earth. And as I sat there I felt the Feeling heave a sigh of relief. The Feeling was excited about this trip. The Feeling was finally getting some attention on this fateful day.

So Daddio and I left Starbucks and went on with our lives for a few days. I tried to ignore the Feeling. I really did. I read some books and watched some movies and worked a lot and worked out a lot and did all that I could to ignore the Feeling. But it was becoming a rather pesky, intrusive little Feeling.

It was all I could think about. I was reading books for my education classes and one of them talked about how everything we do is done in an effort to find satisfaction of some sort. And so I began to think about all the things that I do and why I do them.

Untitled.png

Why do I run, why do I lift, why do I fly to Florida to visit friends from middle school, why do I lead SI, why do I work in the biology prep-lab, why do I go to Intervarsity, why do I have a personal relationship with Jesus, why do I sabotage every romantic relationship I can, why am I friends with the people I’m friends with, why am I going on the Camino, why, why, why? Why do I do the things that I do? What am I satisfying by doing them?

And as I pinned down the answers to the “why’s,” the Feeling leapt. It was really happy that I was learning about myself. Something about figuring out why I do what I do made the Feeling not suck as much.

So I do all of this deep thinking about the “why’s” of my life, and after a while I get exhausted. I mean, exploring the reasons why you are who your are is tiresome. So I stop and watch New Girl and pretend the Feeling doesn’t exist anymore.

994b5f5cf118b65052366a80af8a6aa5.gif

That is until a few days later. I’m coming home from work after day dreaming with my co-workers about how I can’t wait to be a teacher and how I want to teach at a boarding school in Europe. And the Feeling returns. It leaps at me like it doesn’t speak English and for the first time I just spoke it’s native language.

So I try to brush it off and I get in the car, and what do I hear? “Run, run, lost boy they say to me, away from all of reality. Neverland is home to lost boys like me, and lost boys like me are free.”

And I would’ve been mad at this point because after 3 weeks of the song on repeat, I’m a little sick of it. But then the Neverland- Synergistic-Moment-of-Ephiphanistic-Wonderfulness happens. I’m not sure how many of those words are real words, but work with me here.

It hits me.

I am a Lost Boy.

Maybe a better way to say it is that my soul is a Lost Boy. Because I’m not lost in the sense that I have no direction for my life or that I don’t know who I am.

I think my soul is a Lost Boy, somewhere out there in Neverland, forever hiding from it’s Shadow of responsibilities and growing up. And there are some times when I let my soul shine. And there are times when I am nothing but the Shadow.

And I know that to survive in this world, you have to be a little bit of a Shadow. You have to pay your bills and go to work and adult a little bit. But I hope more than anything, that I always remain a Lost Boy.

I want my soul to forever be tucked away in the trees of Neverland and I hope it always remains playful and resilient and impressionable. And as I take it on adventure after adventure after adventure, I hope it keeps growing, taking in all that it sees. I hope it never stops changing, never stops collecting new passions and never becomes complacent with growing up.

In my opinion, the Feeling that captured me two years ago was nothing short of Jesus whispering to me “You’re trying too hard to grow up.”

We live in a culture that always pressures us not just to grow up faster, but do x, y, and z and you’ll be happier and more successful. Babies have iPads, elementary schoolers have iPhones, kids in middle school are getting pregnant, you’re supposed to know what you want to do for your entire freaking life when you graduate high school, you need to eat this and do that so you can be this size and then you’ll be happier and you’ll be able to attract this kind of guy who has this kind of career so you can have all of the money and all of the cars and all of the things.

55002ae9652b9b6ad8eb926317b07c87.jpg

And I was buying into that culture. I was buying into the need to grow up and do certain things so I could be a successful adult. And this Feeling that captured me two years ago was really telling me to pause and think about who I am and what I want. Will being this size make me happy? Will being in the perfect relationship make me happy? Will having all the money make me happy?

So I went on a run today, thinking about all of this. There was ice on the sidewalks and it was 20 degrees and it started to snow and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And as I ran,  I thought about who I really am and what I really want and I thought about all that I’ve learned about myself in the last two years. And I’ve learned a lot. Perhaps the most important of which is that I have have big dreams to be a world changer, and I have to pursue them.

You can laugh at that lofty statement. You can buy your house in the suburbs and go on vacations to your timeshare in Mexico and you can get your big paying job and your nice car and live in your own little world and laugh at me while I ramble about my soul in Neverland and wanting to change the world.

But that won’t stop me. I want to change the world. I do. I want to explore this vast earth and learn cultures I can’t pronounce the names of and eat food I’m scared of and have conversations with strangers in broken languages and I want to live in a small staff dormitory of a boarding school and stay up too late caring too much about my students and my lesson plans. And I want to never stop raising money and awareness for kids who don’t have clean water and I want to fall in love too fast and too often and I want to never stop seeing the best in people and I want to always wonder what part of me I’m going to find on my next adventure and I never want to stop growing as a person and I want to honor the Lord in everything that I do, every word that I say, every Feeling that I have and I want to keep my childlike soul in Neverland so that it’s never tainted by the grown-up interpretation of success. I want to be free-spirited and I want to change the world.

I want change the world one student at a time. One child who doesn’t have clean water at a time. One friend at a time. One stranger at a time.

37a9eb57b33aa6e2a246967ee6b9c867.jpg

There is a huge world out there- a beautiful earth created for us and entrusted to us with mountains and rivers and villages and towns I have yet to see. There is a huge world out there with billions and billions and billions of people I have yet to meet. There is a huge world out there and I only have a lifetime to experience it.

I hope my soul stays young and free and never stops wanting to learn more about the world I live in and the people I share it with.

Adventure is out there, I better get after it.