“It’s not often in life you get to have some true alone time, whether or not you really want it, it can be some great space for reflection.” A few weeks ago I received an email from my son Jake with this piece of wisdom. I am preparing to leave Maine after 3 incredible months of time with family and friends and head off alone on a journey that could prove to be the time of my life, well for this year anyway. I’ll be travelling for a month through Spain, Belgium and Italy, balancing my time between weeks of being alone and meeting up with my sister and some good friends. My journey begins in Spain as I make my self-guided “pilgrimage” along the last 100k of the Camino de Santiago. This trip is my gift to myself, to celebrate my 65th birthday. My life has been filled with adventures, some ordinary, some extraordinary, many amazing, others heartbreaking, but all lessons on my path.
To be really honest, the biggest challenge I’m facing right now is how to pack everything I need (or want) for a month, in a carry on bag. As the years have clipped along I have accumulated lots of “stuff” and I’ve schlepped that stuff around with me from adventure to adventure. Twice this past year my suitcase was lost by the airlines, only to be reunited with me a week later. In both cases when the bag arrived and I opened it to find it filled with my worldly possessions, I wondered why I needed any of those things, since I seemed to be getting along fine without them. This trip forces me to bring only the necessary items. I’ve read all the articles about how to pack, folding vs. rolling, how to mix and match several outfits and change them all by adding a scarf. With all this knowledge I’m still faced with too much and not enough space. That’s about the extent of my reflective behavior at the moment. I ponder what I need and what I don’t. The older I get, the clearer it becomes that downsizing is the way to go. When family and friends ask what I want for a birthday or an anniversary I usually reply that whatever it is, it should be eatable. I don’t want to accumulate anything more at this point.
I suppose when I was in my 20’s, 30’s 40’s, and even my 50’s, this journey might have brought some soul searching for the next epiphany about what the next big step on my path would be. This time my thoughts are of meeting interesting and interested people, listening to some great books on tape, eating great food, drinking good wine, and the physical challenge of walking many miles each day for several days. I imagine that Advil and Arnica will be my new best friends. I am not going with expectations of what will happen or how I might change. Instead I’ll focus on the gifts before me.
I feel incredibly privileged to have the time, resources and support of a loving husband to do this journey. I also feel enormously grateful that I am in good physical shape, able to walk and move from place to place without assistance. I am a healthy, independent, adventurous 65-year old woman and that is something to be both proud of and grateful for.
I will take to heart the wisdom that my son Jacob has imparted on me and know that it is a gift to have this time alone and even when I might wish for someone’s familiar companionship, I won’t forget that it’s a great space for reflection. In the amazing words of Hafiz:
“The wind and I could come by and carry you the last part of your journey, if you become light enough, by just letting go of a few more things you are clinging to…. that still believe in gravity”
Here’s to lightness of being, letting go and allowing the adventure to unfold.
Stay in touch and I will too.
With love and gratitude,