I have a long bucket list running in my head and I have a feeling most of them would (undoubtedly) be left unfulfilled.

But. I. Don’t. Care

My life hasn’t exactly been an easy one. It had no qualms sticking its middle finger at me, repeatedly, over the years. Regardless of what I do, it finds its way to screw me over and over.

Enter 2020. The biggest jackass of them all. I tried to escape my life many times but this time it actually did nothing to personally shortchange me. It might even be dumbfounded by its luck: I got screwed without its own doing. Imagine that…. I. Got. Screwed…without lifting its finger, all because 2020 did the job! I bet life is laughing at my misfortune just like the jerk it truly is.

My life and 2020 should marry each other.

Well, I have news for these douchebags 😂: I’m not easily let down by their antics. No matter how hard they push me, I keep getting back up from the fall. I know how to protect myself. I know how to make myself happy even if life keeps bringing me down. And 2020? It’ll soon expire and a new one will arrive to give me a reset button. The pandemic has brought a catastrophic impact on the whole world. And it feels almost too personal, as if life’s and 2020’s curse was meant mainly for me. But unfortunately for them, I have persevered and my strength carried me through.

Wine and bath—the best kind of self-care

I kept myself busy by being creative with my time. One of them was fulfilling a bucket list I may not be able to do in real life but I can do it now—virtually. Let me bore you for just a bit to explain what it is (I promise it’ll get better)!

Walking the Camino de Santiago is a bucket list that may be difficult to accomplish due to time constraints, although not entirely impossible. It’ll take at least a month or so to complete the walk, definitely a time consuming commitment. I was excited to find a challenge that can check this off (sort of), walking all 480 miles as I would be doing in the actual pilgrimage, but in my own timeframe and terms through the Conqueror, a virtual mission challenge. For about $40, I downloaded the My Mission app to record my progress— syncing my favorite device (Apple watch) to log in my miles. It also shows my virtual surrounds on Google Street View.

This is where it starts—from Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port in France all the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain
Along the route via Google Street View

The fun part is receiving thirteen virtual postcards waiting for me along the Camino de Santiago for every milestone completed. But the best part of this journey is they will donate a tree to be planted for every 20% of the challenge I complete! A total of five trees once I’m done with this challenge!!! What a great deal eh? Oh and at the end, they will mail me a bling: a real medal!

This is what the medal looks like

A few years ago, I attended a class at REI about walking the Camino. They gave us tips on what to pack, the best backpack size to carry or type of shoes to wear, etc. but what I remembered most was what the speaker told us: during his walk, he used the quiet moments to reminisce his time spent growing up with his late dad. The long hikes gave him plenty of time to think.

September

My top bucket list”

I started my walk on September 10. I’ve kept a journal of each day but will only share some of the highlights.

With my forever love and company, my dog T

I unlocked my very first postcard:

“Bonjour I made it to the start line and I’m ready to begin my 480mi journey to Santiago walking in the footsteps of the past. Time to start counting down the miles. See you at the next step. Adieu, Boots

The weather in Texas has finally turned cooler. I decided it’s time for me to begin my Camino walk. Since I saw the movie, The Way (with Martin Sheen) a few years ago, I’ve been interested in walking the Camino. My bucket list is always changing, depending on what I’ve seen, heard or read, I keep adding to the list. But a few remains the same: trekking the Everest region, riding a camel in the Sahara desert in Morocco, riding in a 1950’s classic American car in Cuba, hiking in Macchu Picchu, exploring the wonders of the Persian empire (Iran), and of course walking the Camino de Santiago.

You would think that I would’ve done everything possible to accomplish all those goals but because of my impulsive nature, I’d plan a trip based on my current mood. After having a few margaritas with my bff one night, we planned a hiking expedition in Patagonia because not too many people (that we know) have been there. Patagonia wasn’t even on the top of my list at the time so go figure 🤷🏽‍♀️. When I went to Morocco, I didn’t do the Sahara desert because my son talked me into cutting it short to spend a couple of days in Madrid. The thought of Spanish food lured me.

Speaking of bucket list, I am on priority waiting list for April 2021 at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. If you remember in my last post, I wrote about this. But I’m definitely doing it in September, if I don’t clear the waitlist in April. It’s a 12-week certification course and I’m super excited to embark on a new journey in my life. I love to cook and hoping to use what I learn from there for exciting opportunities in the future.

“I dream of dead people”

After my walk today I noticed dozens of black birds on the ground and I remembered that a raven represents death. I became worried as I’ve had strange dreams lately. I’ve had dreams of dead people: my dad, my grandma, my uncle and my aunt. I’ve also been scared and worried that the people I love might die at the wrong times and because of this, I’m forced to take my anxiety pills at night. I’m superstitious sometimes and a lot of my dreams have had meanings in the past.

When I was pregnant with my younger son, I woke up from a nightmare and found my face drenched in tears. In my dream, I was begging (someone or something) to give me my baby back. Then I saw the number 5.

Five years after my son was born, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Five years again later, at the age of 10, his cancer came back. He and I have always felt something bad will happen every five years. So we were worried that when he turns 15, something scary might happen again. But we didn’t expect that he would relapse for the second time at 14 years old. It may sound weird but we were both relieved that the five year cycle was broken and hopefully the end of that vicious cycle.

Back to the black birds, I googled and found out that those birds weren’t ravens, instead they’re called grackles. I wasn’t too keen on finding out if these birds represent something from the spiritual world. Besides I don’t want to know. I think I am kind of done with bad news!

“Phew, that was such a rigorous hike. It just kept going up and up and up for a full 12.5mi. My legs are wobbly but enjoyed walking in the footsteps of Napoleon and Charlemagne. I think I’ll have a nice long rest at Roncesvalles. Cheers, Boots

I received my second postcard and If I were doing this in real life, I would’ve been on the Napoleon Route. Apparently this hike is quite hard but the route “promises mountain meadows and spectacular mountain views interspersed with country houses. Just outside of Orisson you will come across the statue of Virgen d’Orisson (Virgin of Orisson) reportedly carried from Lourdes by shepherds and if you listen carefully you might hear the sheep bells ringing in the countryside.”

“Death in the Camino

I woke up at around six this morning and I read a woman’s post on the Facebook page of the (real) Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Her husband died suddenly on his way of the Camino (in Burgos). It made me think if this has any correlation to me at all. First, it was the black birds, my dreams, and then this. Hmmm…all of this is making me nervous and giving me the bad vibes. It’s dragging me down so I’ll force myself to think more positively.

I’m happy to see that I’m 11 miles ahead of the challenge. Perhaps I won’t walk today……🤔

“My covid cry”

My feet are aching. I had to wear my hiking boots today so I can walk my daily goal of 3.4 miles per day. I can’t imagine what the pilgrims must feel walking for 4-6 hours a day. I know that when I do this in real life, I’ll wear my hiking boots because regular tennis shoes won’t do it for me.

I had my covid cry again today. I haven’t had those in about a month or so. My older son is leaving in two days and I’m gonna miss him so much. I cried thinking I was supposed to go with him to Oxford and help him set up. But something always comes up to derail my plans. #FML

“Goodbyes aren’t forever”

Today, we dropped off our son at the airport…

But today’s send off was harder than any other times. It’s easier when you know your child is just in another state and can easily fly there whenever you miss them but to be in another country? That’s what made it harder. I sat in the car bawling my eyes off while waiting for my husband to help him with his bags inside the airport. A young guy working at the curbside knocked on my window and asked if I was okay 😭. I was originally going with him regardless of the covid situation but because of the 14 day quarantine required for Americans, it made it too difficult and too expensive for me to go.

As a mother, the hardest thing is to be away from my kids. If there’s any silver lining to 2020 and covid, it was the opportunity to spend six months with both of my boys at home. I’ll miss my son terribly but I know that I’ll be there to visit him as soon as UK lifts the requirement to quarantine.

“My first ‘Camino’ injury”

I unlocked my third virtual postcard

“Hola Boots Whose bright idea was it to go running with the bulls? It was the longest 800meters of my life. Next time more sprint training first. Ole Boots”

Fun fact about Pamplona:

For the fans of Ernest Hemingway, a visit to Café Iruña is a must if for no other reason than to take a photo with his eternal statue standing at the bar. Built in 1888 and the first establishment to have electricity, Hemingway immortalised the cafe in his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway loved Pamplona so much that in a span of four years from 1923-27 he visited it no less than nine times.

Here’s the view after passing Pamplona:

I have now experienced my first “Camino” injury. My littlest toe nail on my left foot is starting to fall off. I’ve averaged about 4.5 miles of walk/run a day and I suppose this is expected. I remember in the movie, Wild, when Reese Witherspoon’s toe nails were black and bruised from hiking the Appalachian trail. Mine isn’t nearly that but I can imagine it happening when you hike all day.

My fourth virtual postcard came today:

Howdy Estela is a mix of diverse interests. Romanesque architecture, fortified settlement, football team and the GP Miguel Induráin cycling race. Do you think they’ll notice if I join in and chug along on a rickety olé mountain hike? LOL later, Boots

“Where I am in real life vs. where I am virtually”

I went to a park and went for a hike alone. Almost got lost in the woods…
And this would’ve been my location somewhere along the Camino if I were doing this in real life.
Looks like I am close to completing 20% and soon a tree will be planted for me!

“My broken heart 💔”

In the last few days of September, I walked quietly carrying a broken heart, crying along my virtual Camino route. I’ve been sad lately, finding to fill the empty void I feel inside of me. I hope that I find happiness in my next lifetime because this one can’t seem to complete me.

So far I’ve walked 90.9 miles! Thank you for reading (and this is quite long!). See you next month and “Buen Camino” as the pilgims would greet each other along the way.

P.S. I made a short reels (see below) during my hike. I hope you enjoy it.