I will have been on the Camino de Santiago for over a week by the time this post is published. It´s been really awesome so far, but I’m not quite ready to tell you all about the Camino yet. (I know, sorry! If you want real time updates of how my Camino is going, be sure to follow me on Instagram.)
First I want to tell you about the pre-trip blues I had before coming here. That’s right, blues. Despite how excited I was for this trip and despite how long I’ve wanted to do this, I still felt a little ¨meh¨ in the week before leaving. Man, feelings are weird. And since I´ve become accustomed to sharing mine with all of you, and since I can´t possibly be the only one who´s ever felt this way, we´re going to get into it.
Don´t worry, it won´t be too depressing. And I promise better Camino content is coming son. But for now let´s talk feelings.
In the week leading up to my departure for Spain I had this sense of glum come over me. Like a gray cloud was hanging overhead. The “pre-trip blues,” I started calling them and wondered if they were normal.
I think I felt the same thing before setting off alone to Colombia and then before my trip to Mexico: Certain I wanted to go, and yet feeling the tug of concern, regret even.
This time around, emotion hit me when I packed up all my plants and brought them to my friend Ann’s house. She and her sister will babysit them for me while I’m away. I didn’t expect to feel anything at all. And the truth for the plants is they will probably be better off—I´m not the best plant mom. But still, carting them out of the house, seeing them all in a box in my trunk, made me feel a kind of sadness.
It’s been just us in the house for as long as I’ve had the house. They’re only plants but they are my only companions some days.
I think part of this emotional reaction, part of the glumness, is the missing of things we love. I often have my focus set forward to what’s next, what I’m working toward. And then when I’m getting ready to leave on that great big adventure, I stop to look around me at all the little things I love. I miss them instantly. I miss them before I’ve even left them.
I think another part of it is that our brains are wired to avoid danger. And the unknown can feel a whole lot like danger to our fallible human minds. Especially when we´re doing something big and new. Change is scary. Even change we want.
I ended up feeling lonely for much of the week before the trip. Craving the comfort of someone old, familiar. Wrap me up and make everything feel ordinary and safe.
I hate feeling lonely. It annoys me to be so basic and human. But I guess I am what I am.
I’m embarking on this journey alone, and I´m happy for that. In the eight years I’ve been wanting to do the Camino de Santiago, I have never once considered doing it with someone else. But even for space-cravers and lonely Wanderers, and the independent-obsessed, doing things alone can be a bit scary. It is a big blank canvas. A huge unknown.
How will I really feel on the road alone for 40 days? Will I love the solitude and feel gratified at the effort in my legs, the miles under my feet? Will it be as magical as I’ve romanticized it to be?
I don´t know. And it is that discomfort of not knowing that bubbled up, causing the gray in my days in the lead-up to my trip.
Smiling through this side of the ride
I don’t think these feelings are “bad” or indicative of a problem. I felt the same way after the offer was accepted on my house. A kind of “Oh shit, do I really want this?”
When I got the job offer from my airline, I felt the same feeling. I actually considered refusing it.
When I packed up my things and booked an Airbnb for my first three weeks in Medellin, just days before I left, I felt it then too.
Starting anything new can feel scary. And sometimes we feel too lazy to step out of our comfort zone. The thought of navigating new countries and transportation systems—planes and trains and buses— it´s exhausting. Do-able, of course, but not without effort and learning and adapting. Not without thinking. Not without change.
The feeling of being new at something, a fish out of water, is an uncomfortable one. And I’ve signed up to do it tenfold on this trip. Over and over. London then France then Spain. Every day a new place on the Camino. A new town, a new hostel. Sleeping with a new person above or below me (and hoping either way that they don’t snore.) Languages, menus, city streets. It’s all new, all the time. It’s wonderful and so, so uncomfortable.
I knew I’d be fine once I left, and indeed I was.
Sometimes we have to wade through the discomfort to get to the joy. Sometimes discomfort is a good sign that we are on the right track.
On to new adventures
Once I booked my flights to London and Biarritz, my hotel in London, and my shuttle to Saint Jean Pied de Port, (All on Saturday, the day before I left), I felt freer.
It felt like all week while I packed and ran errands and cleaned house and did yard work and said goodbyes and prepared to leave, I was click-click-clicking up the beginning of a roller coaster. And once the things were booked, and it was imminent, and we were definitely doing this (no backing out now!) all that was left to do was hang on and enjoy the ride.
I cheered up. I got full-on excited. Not tempered by any worry or gloom. I visited with family for the weekend to celebrate my mom’s birthday and to say goodbye.
I had a FaceTime with my bestie Saturday night before leaving—one she initiated with a panic-inducing “Do you have a minute to talk?”.
Luckily, it was just a goodbye chat. She asked about my finalized plans and said how excited for me she was. We talked a bit about work and said we’d be in touch. “I can’t believe it’s finally here,” she said. “You’re really going!”
I cannot express to you how good it feels to have friends who care like this. Not just when you’re in person chatting. Not just a celebratory card for a job well done. But actual bubbling feelings of excitement for something in my life. For something that has nothing to do with them.
Two days earlier, I’d chatted to my running buddy Meagaan about our impending trips. (She’ll be doing an immersion program in France while I’m on the Camino) I told her about feeling glum, and she told me it was normal. We talked about homeownership and family and therapy, and we wished each other luck on our respective adventures.
I talked to my dad on the phone who wished me well and sounded excited, despite the fact that I’m sure he is very worried about my leaving.
In the airport I ran into friends and coworkers who wished me luck and asked questions. I got to sit first class on my flight to London, and my crew was above and beyond phenomenal. I received words of encouragement and excitement on social media from so many people. And on my flight across the Atlantic, I felt the complete opposite of glum.
It was the sweetest sendoff a girl could ask for. And I landed in London glowing, saturated in love and support, ready to start my big adventure.
Sitting on the train from Gatwick to Victoria Station, I watched the morning sky, the sun lighting the towns we sped past, swirls of white clouds feathered about. Even through the smudged windows, it was a beautiful sight. New things on the horizon, and here I was to find them.
Contentment spread through my body and into a full smile on my face.
I’ve done it again, I thought. A new country, all by myself. Another successful wading through discomfort. Another big adventure.
The support of people around me is just as important as my own stubborn will to do things alone. The people in my life— from my closest confidantes to acquaintances at work—all made leaving for my trip feel like a celebration instead of cause for worry. If you don’t have people like this in your life, who will hold you up, cheer you on, and support you when taking on something big and exciting, then you must find new people.
In the meantime, I am here to tell you that the worry is normal. The discomfort is normal. The missing things and the shaky nerves and the wondering if the timing is right. All of this is normal. You don’t have to know it all. You don’t have to figure it out in advance. Keep walking. Take one more step and then the next. Just go. Just do it. Get yourself through the glum and into the joy.
If nothing else, in the end you’ll know you can do it. And isn’t that a joy in itself?
A sweet sendoff with this amazing crew
I hope you guys enjoyed this post about **sigh** feelings. Have you ever experienced something similar before a big, exciting adventure? I don´t have a single tip to combat this other than ¨Just do it anyway,¨ but if someone else out there does then please share with the class! You can leave a comment below.
I know the timing of this post is a bit tricky because my Camino is probably more exciting than my pre-trip blues. I´ll be writing about it soon, but I´m pretty focused on living it right now. That being said, I am SO excited to eventually share parts of my journey with you- Along with tips for those of you considering walking the Camino de Santiago in the future.
In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by. Follow my daily Camino hijinks on Instagram or check back here in a couple weeks. If YOU have Camino tips for the Frances route—where to stay an extra day, things to do in specific towns (after Pamplona) then please share with me!
Thanks again, yáll. I love ya for reals.