Walking across Spain may seem like an odd way to celebrate your 50th birthday, but it was the perfect trip for me. In 2015 my daughter turned 20 and my sister turned 30. Together we were 100 years old! We walked 400 miles over four weeks on the Camino Frances, an ancient pilgrimage trail from St. Jean Pied de Port in Southern France to Santiago de Campostella in Spain. Despite the physical challenges, it was tremendously liberating to wake up every day and know that your only task was to walk through the summer landscape. We were accompanied by pilgrims from many countries including Korea, Brazil, Greenland, Mexico and many Europeans. For some, it was a traditional Christian pilgrimage, for some a personal spiritual journey, and for others a secular adventure, but there was a lovely sense of community that developed among travelers who moved along the route at a similar pace. It was fun to meet up with familiar faces and spend hours walking and talking to people from vastly different walks of life. Sleeping in municipal hostels with up to 80 beds in a room was a unique experience that I balanced with the occasional stay at a nice hotel, but I wouldn’t have skipped either.
While traversing Roman bridges that ferry modern traffic, I could not help but wonder if anything we make or build today will still exist, let alone provide a valuable service, 2,000 years from now. I also acquired a deep respect for the Spanish lifestyle. Instead of watching TV at home, people spent their evenings and weekends in public plazas eating, drinking, and visiting with family and friends. Elders were out enjoying themselves along with toddlers who could run around freely while parents relaxed. Some of my best memories were watching the light change on the beautiful architecture while the sun set stretched out languorously past 10 pm.