Antes de salir

When I first mentioned to Stanley my intent to walk part of the pilgrimage route from León to Santiago de Compostela in the northwest of Spain sometime this spring, he was at once interested in being part of it. No one else was, but, all in all, I guess I'm neither surprised nor very disappointed - very few people see these long-distance walks as having any merit at all!

This one may have appeared a bit more daunting, too - in a sharp departure from my earlier walks, there is little planning to be done in the way of reserving lodging or meals - pilgrims just take it as it comes, and we came at it as pilgrims, not knowing exactly what to expect. One harbinger was the website that said "No te preocupes cuando no tengas comida o cuando no encuentres techo, simplemente camino - El camino te provee."  and later "Si su sufre, es parte de ese camino interior del que aprendemos." - "Don't be concerned if you don't have food or when you don't find the way straight and easy - the way will provide for you, [and] if you suffer, it is part of that internal way from which we learn"!

One obstacle we hadn't figured on was the cost of airfare - in years past, travel in May has been reasonable, and with the state of the world and the economy, I figured tickets this spring would be at bargain levels. That turned out not to be the case, and we were fortunate to find a two-day sale of tickets from Houston to London (via Detroit) for $365 round-trip, then tack on to that a $160 round-trip fare from London to Madrid, allowing us to spend a day in London on the way back as a bonus.

We set ourselves the secondary goal of traveling with only carry-on luggage, so we perforce abandoned pocketknives, walking sticks, the U-Dig-It poop scoop, even my first aid mini-scissors (they have points). I even replaced the aluminum backstays in my pack with a piece of plastic cut from a rose trellis. As a result, I was carrying about 19 pounds, Stanley somewhat less, so that was a good thing.

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