Saturday, June 28, 2014

Turn and Face the Stranger

With one day left of work, two days left living in Madrid, and a lot of uncertainty ahead, you can imagine that things are getting... weird. I'm pretty terrible at processing upcoming changes. Is anyone actually good at that? When I went to Brazil, it didn't hit me until I was alone on the plane. I paused and thought, "Oh. Shit." Last year there wasn't really much need for closure or change because I knew that after a busy summer I was coming right back to Spain. But this time is different.

Yep, I'm moving back stateside. I wish I could impress you with my seamless plans to transition from life abroad to life back home, but I don't know what I'll be doing in two months. I'm still waiting to hear back from various job/internship applications I sent out these past couple of months.

So, lots of uncertainty. Loads of goodbyes. Seemingly endless packing.

There seem to be stages to closing a chapter in your life. At first, there's the vocalization or at least noting of a future change. Maybe you look at a calendar or count how many weeks you have left in a place. You make plans to do all the things you've been wanting to do for months (all those museums...). The weeks go by. Life is good, funner than normal. Then people start leaving. Sometimes without you even realizing it. Other times with heart wrenching goodbyes in the airport. You start to pack. Now, your list of to-dos doesn't seem to interest you (all but food related items. see below). You're internally displaced. Still living in the same place as before, but your old life has already ended. You're in Limbo, just waiting to move on.

Nothing fights depression like a cold beer and a calamari sandwich!
That's where I am. This happened to me in college. I felt like I had mentally moved on to another place but still found myself physically in my college town. Now, although I'm still in Madrid, living in my apartment, it feels like I'm just passing through. Not unlike all the travelers I've met around the city this year. "When are you leaving?" now is a relevant question for me! (Answer: too soon.)

To combat all the uncertainty and and a roller coaster ride of emotions, I've decided to do something that, for me, sounds slightly insane. On Wednesday, I'm going to start the Camino de Santiago. It's a 1000 year old pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. The most famous route starts in France. So, you walk across the entirety of Spain in about 30 days. I'm going to walk the first half of that and hopefully return another year to finish. Here's a map!



This isn't the exact route, but I think the closest one to the Camino is the route at the bottom that goes through Estella after Pamplona. Anyway, I've never done anything like this before. I enjoy the occasional hike, but nothing like 20+ kilometers day after day.

Packing simulation. You can laugh, but how awesome is my hat?

I think it'll be a way for me to achieve some closure at the end my time in Spain. I'll be able to think a lot about my current situation: what I want, where I'm going. Hopefully, I'll be able to process a lot of these emotions I'm feeling. I don't know. Maybe I'll only be able to think about how much my feet hurt! Regardless, it'll still be a way for me to exercise some control over my life. I know it's my choice to move back home, but I still feel pretty unsure about my decision and the future. But on the Camino it'll be simple. I'll get up at 6 am, walk until midday, hopefully meet a lot of people, and get to see parts of the country I haven't seen before. For 15 days. Then I'll come home. Oh, did I mention I get to cross the Pyrenees the same way Napoleon did when he invaded Spain? 

That's the plan. I've decided to not use social networking on the Camino, so no Instagram or Facebook updates. Yes, mom, dad, and loved ones, I'll email you to let you know that I'm alive and haven't been eaten by the packs of wild dogs that evidently roam Spain's rural countryside. ;) Otherwise, I'll see you on the other side!