It was a very good year!

Time flies when you’re having fun.

And, since 2013 seems to have flown by in a blur, I must have been having one heck of a good time.  I certainly hope so, because there is so much of it that I’ve already forgotten.  What’s up with that?  It’s a good thing I never go anywhere without my camera.

They say that looking back in gratitude at where you’ve been helps you adjust your sights on where you want to go next.  With that in mind, and with much gratitude to those who made my journey through this year the thrill ride that it was, here are just a few highlights from my 65th turn around the sun.

My 2013 Mandala -

My 2013 Mandala –

In January, I set my intention for 2013 during a Mandala Workshop at Via Artistica.  My words for the year were passion and risk.  The tarot card I drew was the Chariot which, among other things, signifies travel, change and movement.

Everyday Magic

Everyday Magic

I challenged myself to find a little bit of magic every day through the lens of my camera.  Thanks Tammy Strobel for inspiring my creativity this year with your brilliant online classes.

Published an article

Published an article

I officially became a published author.  Thank you Mark Chimsky for inviting me to take a very scary leap with my writing.

It's mom with FOOD!

It’s mom with FOOD!

I became a “grandma” when a momma Junko built a nest and laid 4 tiny blue eggs in the lettuce bowl planter on my front porch.  Yep, those are 4 tiny, wide open baby bird mouths.

Doing our best Vrikasana at the gate to the Japanese Garden

Doing our best Vrikasana at the gate to the Japanese Garden

Hubs and I participated in our first (but not last) Urban Adventure Race.  Thanks to my husband and partner in crime for (almost) always saying a hearty YES! to my hair-brained ideas.

Two weeks worth of Medicare Love.  XO

Two weeks worth of Medicare Love. XO

I signed up for Medicare.  Yep, I’m that old.  Thank you to the Government for providing this safety net.  Now, please quit trying to de-fund it.

And the race is on!

And the race is on at the Milk Carton Boat Races.

I participated in the 2013 Word Count Blogathon and blogged every day in June with the theme 30 Fun, Funky and Fabulous Things to Do Within 30 Miles of Portland.  I love this town!  Oregon ~ Things Look Different Here.

NancyCaminoI celebrated my 65th birthday by walking 65 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Looking back over this year, I’m reminded once again that “Life should not be measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.”

I am grateful for every breath I take these days, and it is my fondest wish that 2014 leaves each and every one of us absolutely breathless on more than one occasion.

Cheers! 

Nancy

 

Going with the Group ~ Yes, it’s still adventure travel!

I never tired of views like this.

I never tired of views like this.

First things first.  I am not now, and probably never will be, a tour bus kind of traveler.  I’m way too independent and not really a very good group participant. I am not one of those lucky people who meets up with a bunch of strangers and leaves a few hours later with five new BFF’s.  I’m more of a go-it-aloner.  And I’m really good with that.

I am pretty sure, however, that if I had not stumbled on the website for Marly Tours last year, there’s a 99% chance that my boots would not have gathered all that dust walking the Camino de Santiago.

So, why the change of heart?   In my opinion, Marly provided just the level of support to give us the confidence we needed to step a tiny bit beyond our comfort zone.   And, for the most part, we weren’t part of the “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” mentality of a larger tour.  We had a lot of freedom and a little more piece of mind.  We were able to dip our toes into the water of adventure travel without fear of falling off the bank.

If you are newly-minted adventurers like hubs and I, a first-time-single traveler, or even well-seasoned world travelers who are ready to take it a little easier, the Marly approach might be just what you are looking for.  As the designated family travel agent and tour guide, I can honestly say that once I had the basics in place – air reservations, hotels in Madrid, post-Camino itinerary, I didn’t have to worry about anything.  I actually got to relax and enjoy the entire trip.  Since this was the first two week vacation I have taken in 20 years, it was a gift to sit back, settle in, and enjoy the journey.  Marly had my back.

There are a variety of ways people choose to experience the Camino. caminomarlywalkers Some load up their backpacks and head out from St. Jean Pied de Port in France, hike over the Pyrenees and walk across Spain stopping at a variety of albergues that are set up just for Pilgrims to eat, sleep, shower and sometimes do laundry.  Albergues come in all sizes and with varying levels of comfort.  All require the ability to exist in close quarters with strangers and most require the ability to sleep nose to nose with people you’ve never met, many of whom snore.  Not my cup of tea!  So, while I had the Camino on my bucket list, if that was the only way to walk The Way, it probably wasn’t going to happen.   A lot of folks go the Albergue route and love it.  I am in awe of those folks and still believe that they get a much richer experience and the true understanding of the spirit of the Camino.

Typical albergue on the camino

Typical albergue on the camino

Some people do the Camino as vacation allows.  Walking a few weeks each year.  A few  even choose to do the Camino on horseback.  This can make for very interesting walking along some of the narrow dirt paths.  Between the cows and the horses, we called it poop camino on more than one occasion.  Some people bike the Camino.  This is becoming more popular and almost dangerous at times as flocks of bright yellow spandex sneek up from behind and whizz by on narrow roads and paths causing walkers to jump back into the unknown of the tall grass and bushes.   Some walkers choose to make their own route, stay in either small B&B’s or Albergues and have their backpacks/bags transported from place to place.

By deciding to go with Marly Tours for our first long walking experience, here’s what we chose:

1.  A small group of no more than fourteen.  Usually with a mix of ages and nationalities, Ours was all over 45 and from North America.  Side note:  There was a lovely Canadian couple, Ange and Laura, in our group.  When we introduced ourselves, Laura and I found out that we had gone to the same elementary school (Ionview) and high school (Winston Churchill) at the same time.  It is a very small world.

2.  A small but comfortable support van with a driver and a tour guide/spiritual guide/cheerleader/medic who were there when we needed them but gave us plenty of space if we didn’t.

A friendly smile, a high five, a hug and a bottle of cold water.  Support just when we needed it.  Perfecto!

A friendly smile, a high five, a hug and a bottle of cold water. Support just when we needed it. Perfecto!

3.  Lots of first hand and interesting information about the Camino, the history of the churches and buildings we passed each day and points of interest along the route.  Much of this information we would probably not have learned if we were on our own, weighed down by packs, worrying about where we were going to sleep that night.

4.  The knowledge that if we needed them, Victor and Jose Luis were only a phone call away and it was OK to ride in the bus if you had to.  We didn’t.  But it was good to know that if one of us fell or fell ill, we didn’t have to limp for miles and miles to get to civilization.

Calling Dr. Jose Luis!

Calling Dr. Jose Luis!

We passed many people with problems, but one young woman truly touched my heart. Hubs and I were in the last half of a very long, very hot, uphill walk to Monte de Gozo and I spotted her up ahead.  She was shuffling so slowly, using her walking stick, bent over from the weight of her pack, that she was barely moving.  When we came alongside, I could see the pain on her face and in her eyes.  I stopped to ask if I could help her in any way.  She was French but spoke some English.  Tendonitis she said.  She asked how far to the next stop and we talked a bit.  She thanked me for stopping and said she didn’t need help.  I wanted to call Victor to come and give her a short ride on the bus, but it was her Camino, not mine, and she had to walk it – every painful, shuffling step.

5.  We had charming private rooms in absolutely stunning old homes (with lots of history of their own) that have been converted into posadas.  Warm showers, free flowing wine, tasty traditional food, a good night’s sleep and breakfast were waiting for us at every stop.  The evening ritual included getting to know our fellow Pilgrims, swapping tales of the road and Jose Luis tenderly taking care of blisters.  Our bags were waiting for us when we arrived.  A couple of us enjoyed a massage.  Two of our posadas had pools and one even did our laundry.  Washed and line dried. caminomarlytourshotel caminomarlyhotel1 Looking back, I’m glad we went this route.  I know we’ll do it again.

I also know that I’m already looking for our next walking adventure and while we still can do it physically, I think we’ll push ourselves a little bit more next time.   I’m thinking maybe we’ll try the pre-planned but unsupported route.   Where?  Who knows, but the options are endless…

Finesterre - Once considered the end of the world by the Romans.

Finesterre – Once considered the end of the world by the Romans.

It truly is about the journey.  And for us, this one was just about perfect.

See you on the road.

Nancy

Walking in History ~ Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims have been walking the Camino de Santiago for more than 1,000 years.  This year over 250,000 people will arrive in Santiago de Compostela having completed at least 110km of the 800 km journey known as The Way of St. James.  These Pilgrims come from all over the world and for all kinds of reasons, but I’m pretty sure that by the time their tired feet reach the cobblestones outside the cathedral in Santiago, that every one of them (even you, cellphone guy) will have experienced the wonder, the shared connection with fellow pilgrims, and the sense of having accomplished something quite special.  I know I did.  Hubs felt it too.  caminowalk2

Little has changed.  Everything has changed.

We walked on narrow, rocky dirt paths through forests knowing that since the 10th century feet had been tramping this same earth.  Not in high tech hiking boots like ours, but in makeshift shoes fashioned from strips of cloth and hide.  Not with backpacks and camel backs, but with everything they owned on their back or in a cart.  Our journey lasted 8 days.  Theirs might have lasted 8 months… and then there was the return trip.  We flew back to Madrid for a little more museum hopping and tapas tasting.  They walked for penance, a plenary indulgence and sometimes for a healing.  We walked for fun, our health and a sense of accomplishment.  But here’s what I know for sure – the one thing each and every person who’s ever walked this path has in common is that somehow we all find a little magic in the mix.

It’s said that the Camino always provides.  Maybe it’s water when you need it (or a bathroom), the kind word of a stranger as you stand at the bottom of that very long hill.  That moment when you look up from adjusting your shoes and thrill to see a farmer and his herd of cows coming down the cobblestone street – straight at you.  Or maybe, it’s stopping at a tiny church to receive a blessing and have your passport stamped.  These are all gifts from the Camino.  Steeped in history and mystery.  The outside trappings may have changed, but the true magic of the Camino takes place on the inside – if you allow it.

How can it not?

For someone like me who is a take-charge, need to know everything, cross the T’s and dot the I’s type, learning to trust that we could navigate solely by looking for yellow arrows was freeing.  I didn’t have to be in control.  I had no control.  Except to put one foot in front of the other and go for it.  And so I did.  And so did hubs.

Those yellow arrows led us through gorgeous farmlands, up long hills with stunning vistas, down winding paths through 800 year old villages, over stone bridges built by the Romans and finally, at the end of each day to a lovely old manor home where we showered, bandaged our tender feet, drank many copas de vino, ate home cooked local fare, and fell into bed exhausted.

Finding your way on The Way means being in the moment.  It’s the only way you’ll see all those yellow arrows and (sometimes) shells.   And just like magic, one always appears just when you need it…and in the most interesting places.

caminowalk8 caminowalk4 CaminoWalk1 caminowalk9 caminowalk7 caminowalk14 caminowalk12 caminowalk13

Buen Camino!

Nancy

Vino, Tapas y Camas ~ Wisdom from the Camino de Santiago

Hola!

Our time in Spain was absolutely magical and beyond everything I imagined when I conjured up the crazy plan twelve months ago to walk 65 miles on the Camino de Santiago for my 65th birthday.

I had originally planned to post photos from the Camino but the internet availability was spotty and slow and to be completely honest we started walking around 8:30 each morning and finished around 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon.  I was pooped! I didn’t have the energy.  Instead I chose to shower, slather my aching feet with the magic “freeze” medicine, wander the grounds of our lovely accommodations and meet up with my compadres to sip a few glasses of vino tinto and share stories of our day’s adventures.  Eight o’clock brought a delicious dinner, more vino tinto and then I fell into bed so I could get up and do it all again the next day.  Life couldn’t get any simpler… or fuller.

I took this photo in the village of O’Cebrerio on the very first day of our Camino.  It was my mantra for the week.  Really, if you have these three things, you don’t need much more.  Even a good internet connection.

Wine Food & a Bed ~

Wine Food & a Bed ~

I’m busy editing my photos and will be sharing more of our adventures soon.

It truly was a Buen Camino and I am grateful for the experience.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

Walking the Camino de Santiago ~ unexpected challenges

caminodesantiagoMarlyTours2 “Few people know how to take a walk.  The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, and eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much…”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

My heel hurts!

It started a week ago.  Of course it did.  Because, in exactly one week, hubs and I will be starting the first day of our Camino de Santiago walk.  We’ve been walking pretty much every day since last May.  Some days only a couple of miles (3 times around the mall if its raining) and on weekends longer, hillier, harder walks that topped out at 12.5 miles.  Hubs overcame a toe problem and a back problem and he’s fine.  Me.  I had nothing – until now. 

Really though, we both feel great!  Strong, healthy and ready to go.

Except for the heel.  What the heck?!  I’ve been resting it this week and doing a lot of stretching because I’ve self diagnosed it (I do have some experience here) as  plantar fascitis.  Beyond that, there is really nothing I can do at this point.  It’s out of my control.

Except to trust.   And do the best I can.  And…wait for it… know that it’s okay if I have to ride in the sag wagon.  But I won’t.  I’ll make hubs carry me.

One of the priorities of the Camino is finding your own rhythm.  It’s been said that “We don’t do the Camino we want to do, we do the Camino we are able to do.”  A lot like Life.

I don’t know how my heel’s going to react to the long daily walks, but here’s what I do know for sure.  This walk is not about how I do it or how long it takes or how fast I finish.  It is all about marking a milestone moment in my life and I intend to savor every minute, including the pain if there is any.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the twinges in my heel are reminding me to slow down.  Pay attention.  Be fully present on this journey.  And trust that it will be perfect and just the way it was meant to be.

One step at a time, I’m ready to walk my Camino.

If you are a walker or runner, here’s some great information about the care and feeding of feet I found on the WOW (Wonders of Walking) website.

See you on the road.

Cheers,

Nancy

 

Booked it Danno!

I am so excited I can hardly contain myself!   If I’m dreaming, please do not pinch me.

I have been thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago for a while now.  But, in my heart, I knew I was way past that stage in my life where I wanted to walk all day and then sleep on the ground or in a hostel with the smelly, partying masses of young folk. Not to mention carrying all my belongings on my back. Don’t get me wrong – I love young people.  I used to be one.  Truly, some of my best friends are young.  And, I still like a good party!   I do not think of myself as old and crotchety, no matter what my kids might tell you.  But, when it comes to SLEEP.  Now that’s a different matter entirely.  Let it be known here that I am not nice (and might even be considered cranky if not downright crotchety) when I don’t get my full eight hours – preferably in comfort and relative silence.  So, I wasn’t sure how to make this particular dream a reality.  It was definitely a conundrum.

I firmly believe that there is always a way and a brilliant solution came to me in the form of an article written by a woman who had completed what I like to call the “relatively civilized, not too hard but still challenging, with support if and when you need it” version of walking the Camino.   Marly Tours was our answer!  This discovery made it all seem do-able.  All we needed was a little time, a moderate amount of money and good walking shoes.  As it turned out, I mentioned our idea to a few friends and now we are a party of six.  Hubs, me, my sis and three women friends.  It’s a big year too – my 65th birthday, my sister’s “something that ends in a zero” birthday, hubs and my 10th anniversary.  Definitely a year worth marking in a big way.  We’ll  walk about 10-12 miles a day at our own pace  and meet up along the way. Then we’ll gather together every evening for wine, dinner and story-telling before bed.  We’ll be a small group of no more than 14 Pilgrims + our Marly “wranglers” who will make sure we don’t get lost, carry our luggage, provide snacks, first aid and sag wagon support if needed.

So… we’re off.  Well not until next September.  Exactly twelve months from this week.    Call me a light weight, call me soft, call me old, but do not call me between September 17 and 24, because I won’t be home.  I’ll be in Spain, crossing one more item off my bucket list – walking at least a small portion of the Camino de Santiago.

Staying in small hotels like this… Sleeping in a comfy bed like this… Sleeping in a comfy bed like this… Walking along roads and paths like this… Walking along roads and paths like this… Now, I just need to find a home exchange so we can stay an extra week to explore the rest of Spain.  I’m working on that too.

These Shoes were made for walking ~

Yesterday, with the promise of food and drinks to follow, I convinced my hubby to accompany me on a hike in the lovely hills of Forest Park.  What a treasure right in the heart of Portland.  We took the easy route, starting on the Lower Macleay Trail and winding our way up, up and up a little more until we found ourselves on the Wildwood Trail not too far below the Pittock Mansion.  The Wildwood Trail (30 miles long) is just one of many trails that wind through the densely wooded 5,000+ acre park.   We’re definitely fair weather walkers, but I try to walk at least a couple of miles every day.  I prefer walking outside.  Hubby has recently joined the ranks of the treadmill zombies at our local gym.  Getting him to walk outside with me is not a task for the feint of heart. Every evening after dinner I say “I’m going to walk, want to go?”  He says (fully reclined in his chair in front of the TV) “No, but thanks for asking.”  My guy is definitely polite, but until recently he has been Mr. Potato Head’s third cousin – Mr. Couch Potato.  Two or three times a year he surprises me and says “yes”, then off we go.  And, guess what.  He always has the best time and wants to do it again…until the next evening when we’re back to “No, but thanks for asking.”

One of the items on my Really Cool Things to Do While I Still Can List is to take a walking vacation.  One that challenges me, but just enough.  I’ve got nothing to prove.  I just want the experience.  Perhaps something like walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  I have been more than a little intrigued by this idea for several years.  A few months ago I saw The Way, a movie staring Martin Sheen about a father who makes the pilgrimage as a tribute to his son.  It’s funny, heartwarming, life affirming and filled with gorgeous scenery and larger than life characters.  The movie started me thinking again about what it would take and what it would mean to have an experience like this.  Well, first and foremost, I’d have to do a lot more walking on a regular basis.  You don’t just get up one day and start a several hundred mile walk across Spain. Second, question.  Could I convince the recently converted walker, Mr. Couch Potato- Head, that something like this could be fun?  An adventure in fact.  I think, just maybe – if   we didn’t need to do the whole route.  Well, a little walking on the internet and I found the perfect option in an article by Alison Gardner, In the Footsteps of a Thousand Years of Pilgrims.  Basically, Alison took a 7 day walking tour on the Camino de Santiago -not the whole route, but about the last 70 miles or so.  Go at your own pace but with two lovely Spanish tour guides, a little van support for the luggage, stops for lunch and refreshments, and overnights in a small inn or home providing the luxury of a quiet, comfortable night sleep and a hot shower for those aching muscles.   Add in the Plan B of being able to ride in the “sag wagon” if sore legs or blisters get the better of you.  Perfect!  Let’s call it adventure light and I like it.  With a plan like this, I think I can convince my walking buddy that it would be worth stepping out together several times a week.  We’re good with 5 or 6 miles these days, so I’m pretty sure we could get to 10-12 with a little steady effort.

So I got me some cute new walking shoes and I’m ready to roll.  Buen Camino!