“Attention all passengers,” the Captain said over the loud speaker. “We will be arriving at our destination in one hour.”
As I returned home from my far off adventures in Europe, I was filled with excitement. Today was the day. I would be able to hug people I’d known all of my life. Love overflowed for them and I gazed out the window, lost in my thoughts.
Looking down, I realized we were soaring over majestic Lake Tahoe. The sun was setting as we glided across the lake and over the mountain passes. It was so beautiful I was afraid to blink; afraid to breathe; afraid to miss a single moment.
A vision played across my eyes. Braiding the lessons I’d mastered during the course of the Camino de Santiago together and bridging them with surfacing passions as I arrived home. I saw myself teaching toddlers yoga. I laughed to myself. That didn’t even make sense.
Did something like that even exist?
The plane swerved left, my entire window displayed the entire range of the Sierra’s. With the sun setting, the mountains lit up in vibrant orange and pink. I had my answer.
Upon my return home, I enrolled and pursued earning a certificate teaching yoga to toddlers. The result? I absolutely love it.
The most important age of a child’s development occurs between ages 0 – 6. It’s important to develop healthy habits as early as possible. A foundation in strength-building, balance, flexibility and focus is helpful in giving children a solid start.
We live in a physical plane and physical health is the first step in a happy, successful and meaningful existence. Toddlers, as it turns out, are not too young to begin connecting the body, mind and spirit. In fact, 3 – 9 is the perfect age for our youth to fall in love with a healthful practice that will serve them for a lifetime.
by Jessi Lohman
This weeks adventure brought me to Donner Lake to spend time with family. After spending every day surrounded by nature for over a month, it’s been tricky adjusting back into life, surrounded by a concrete jungle. Answering my prayers to remain connected to nature, my family found a peak overlooking Donner Lake. Hills, wind and altitude were on the agenda.
We took a path known as Emigrant Pass. Our first stop took us to jagged cliffs where double teams of oxen raised old wagons up the mountains. The energy is amazing. The strength of the settlers who were brave enough to travel to this unpredictable distant land of California. Knowing themselves, their families and their animals would suffer- for a chance at something better.
Stories of The Donner Party and the brave Chinese who built the railroad remind me how humble and small my life is. To then take it to the next level, walking where they walked; seeing what they saw. So many have sacrificed so much.
Oh the blessing of living during a time when I can enjoy fun, laughter, great food and peace with people I love. I can do yoga on mountain tops with stunning views that will have my heart humming for days. I’m not freezing in the snow without shoes. I don’t have to watch as my animals starve after I’ve worked them to death. I’ve never had to risk my life, blowing tunnels in mountains for railroads.
Sometimes we don’t know how good we have it.by Jessi Lohman
While in Portugal, Chazelle and I had the opportunity to raise our consciousness and commit to the discoveries we made along the Camino.
Mooji, a guru for millions provided a warm and inviting environment for us to step into the fire of self discovery. Living in Portugal, he encouraged us not only to determine our own truth, but also to recognize what is true an untrue; real and unreal. His sweet sense of kindness and tenderness, coupled with humor and vivid lessons we could take to the heart provided the perfect way to finish off our amazing trip.
You don’t need to focus on changing the world. Change yourself. Honor yourself. The light that shines when your heart is full will always make a bigger impact than trying to change others.
Just as we knew it made no logical sense to walk 707 kilometers (440 miles) across a country we hardly spoke the language, we believed it would bring us closer to our truth (and further from cellulite).
Focusing on our physical health led to a flowering of our mind. The flowering of our mind brought on various joys of spirit. This will benefit our lives until we take our last breath. Even more important, the relationships with our loved ones are more rich because of this experience.
The experience of being wrecked on the Camino, reborn into a beautiful sense of surrender and then strength, followed by the teachings of a wise man all contribute to a bright future. More important, it creates a beautiful ‘present.’ Every moment can be treasured and enjoyed, regardless of the stepping stones of the past or the unknown of the future.
In this time and place, with a full heart that pours in all directions, there is no feeling or experience more beautiful.by Jessi Lohman
Now that Chazelle and I have completed our epic adventure, it’s time to head to Portugal.
Upon reflection of the trip…from a sanitation standpoint…we found the Thieving Gnomes to be more common for us than lice or bed bugs. The Thieving Gnomes have visited us in several Albergue’s during the past several weeks.
They do not steal the types of items people do…such as wallets, passports and smart phones. Oh, no. Thieving Gnomes fancy more interesting tidbits such as personal treasures. I’m pretty sure they have a crush on Chazelle, because she has lost more items than myself.
The first thing to go missing was Chazelle’s hair band. She loves that thing and so do I. It looks fantastic on her and makes me want to go to Africa. Second, her iodine to clean her blisters went missing.
The funny thing about Thieving Gnomes is they get tired of what they have and seek new treasure. Apparently they are only only able to hold two items at one time too, because they are sure to bring them back when something new is taken.
Now the hair band, iodine, Chazelle’s tweezers and the ankle brace I really needed during my shin splint episode have all been returned. Perhaps they are simply Borrowing Gnomes instead?
by Jessi Lohman
Embracing life as a pilgrim encourages the minimalist in all of us to live within our means and even with less if that is possible. Overall, the culture of being a Pilgrim is respected by all. The purpose is peace. Peace among all who make this difficult walk. This is why it is important to honor a couple rules.
Be polite. Not only to pilgrims but especially to the Albergue hosts and hostesses. Most of the time, they are volunteering their time. This is how the cost for beds can be so low. If you want to sprinkle in some enthusiasm, optimism, patience, flexibility and generosity…all the more rich your Pilgrim experience will be.
Having been on the road for over 20 days now, walking from location to location, we have become a good judge of decent and indecent pilgrim behavior. Chazelle, my traveling companion, is one of the most patient people I know. For her to hit a level of frustration she might lose it… That’s the gage I’m using since I’m more of a fireball.
If you go on Pilgrimage…here are 5 things that you can do to ensure you won’t piss off your fellow Pilgrims.
VIOLATION ONE: HEADLAMPS AFTER LIGHTS OUT
Headlamps are designed for outside use. The typical hours of Albergue’s are: Lights out at 10 p.m.- Must be gone by 8:00 a.m. If you’ve stayed out after 10:00 p.m., and you blast around the dorm with a headlamp- everyone will want to poison your water tomorrow. It’s rude, bright, and blinds people, even if you think it’s not a big deal…it is.
Sure, there have been times when we have been permitted to visit beyond 10:00 p.m. by the Albergue hosts, we dismiss quiet and with respect. We sneak in, open our backpacks and retrieve our toothbrush in 30 seconds or less. Some try to get up as early as 4:00 a.m. So you don’t want to be super disruptive when you were given the privilege of the rule extension.
This leads into #2…
VIOLATION TWO: LOUD NOISE AFTER LIGHTS OUT
Snoring is a touchy subject. In many cases, it can’t be helped. In fact, people have no idea they snore until they become Pilgrims…because if they snore and it’s loud…everyone knows and because Pilgrims tend to be an outgoing bunch, they are always happy to tell you. It is embarrassing to be a Pilgrim who snore’s loud…so much so, many of our friends have elected to sleep outdoors at every opportunity, even in the rain… so they would not disturb their fellow Pilgrims. Bless their hearts. This violation isn’t really about them. It’s about another type of violator…
Everyone uses plastic bags for toiletries and laundry and lots of things. So handy because they are durable, reusable and recyclable. However, if you rustle around in your backpack for longer than 30 seconds…your level of consideration is nonexistent.
Anything you will need next, should be in the very top of your pack. Before you abandon your pack…make sure you’ve got it on top. If it’s morning…your clothes for the day and your toothbrush (we even go to the extreme of sleeping in the clothes we will wear the next day in an effort to be thoughtful); If it’s nighttime… Your toiletry bag; If it’s the middle of the day… You plan best having your hat, sunglasses, sun screen and first aid kit handy. If you’re ready to check into your Albergue for the night, have your sleep sack to keep bed thieves at arms length, and Pilgrim Passport ready.
Even though it is a simple life to be a Pilgrim, it helps to manage your time in a wise fashion. When others are waiting on you, or trying to recover with sleep after a long day on the trail, it pays to be considerate. Otherwise, instead of a “Buen Camino,” you run the risk of landing a middle finger.
VIOLATION THREE: TALKING ON YOUR PHONE IN BED AFTER LIGHTS OUT
You have all day to play around on your phone. Sometimes you have wifi, sometimes you don’t. That being said…the next time someone is on their cell phone after lights out and is so loud you can hear everything the person on other end of the line is saying…they will get dragged out by the hair and locked outside.
VIOLATION FOUR: IT’S A SHAME I SHOULD EVEN HAVE TO LIST THIS
Masturbating in the dorm….especially loudly…is just not cool. Even if that is the one thing you will leave at the foot of Saint James. It’s creepy, weird and gross. The priests, grandmothers, mothers with their young children, widowers and grieving Pilgrims trying to find peace and solace don’t deserve to encounter that type of behavior.
VIOLATION FIVE: GETTING YOUR PACK TOGETHER AT 5:00 A.M. OR EARLIER
We did a few night walks. We got up early. Did we wake up the whole dorm? Of course not.
The problem isn’t leaving early. In fact, good for you! There is something magical about watching the sun rise among the Spanish hills. It’s fantastic, I want you to see and experience it. The problem is taking 30 loud minutes to reconstruct your pack when you’re the only one up.
Our advice? Take your pack and all your things outside the dorm. There’s a kitchen, a sitting area, a hallway, sometimes a lounge area and if all else fails…a bathroom. It took us one time of getting our pack ready early and waking up our friends to learn its a big offense. Don’t be a jerk, it won’t make your Camino more Buen.by Jessi Lohman
Some people say I’m too fat
Others that I’m too skinny
But if you had any idea
What my body went through
The last two hundred miles
Faithful, loyal, performing
Better than I’d ever expected
It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks
Or what anyone says
My body is perfect
I wouldn’t trade it for anything
**Fair Warning: This post is written a little deeper than most. If you prefer to bask in shallow waters, you may want to skip this week**
I heard it said today, “What you think you come to the Camino for is never what you leave with.” The experience I expected to have is very little the way it has panned out. On one hand, the beautiful architecture and scenery is incredible. The people are refreshing and welcoming. Filled with passion, affectionate and fun-loving, there has not been a morning we were not wished a ‘Buen Camino’ by perfect strangers.
There is another side of the Camino- one which rarely is discussed.
It is messy and deep. The transformation one undergoes while on Camino. There is suffering. Each carries a heavy burden, whether physical, emotional, spiritual or mental…sometimes all. None is greater than another, and you don’t know the full extent of which form of suffering you will undergo. The transformations that take place are nothing short of beautiful. Unique, individual, personal.
There are answers you come seeking, which are answered…as well as many more you had no idea needed answering. For me, pain, fear, resentment and bitterness, buried deep within- has come bubbling to the surface. I needed to be broken physically to such an extent I could hardly move to allow my guard to be lowered and my heart to be opened.
I came to the Camino looking for a challenge, trying to overcome a feat I thought would be the hardest challenge of my life. What I have found is that I am being rebuilt into a better version of myself. A version of myself that has resolved hatred and hardness. Finding peace within rather than projecting my flaws onto the lives of others.
If this has been my experience when only halfway there, what will the true end result look like? I cannot imagine it, I just must live it.
Chazelle’s journey has been one of solitude, lost and alone. Afraid of breaking and finally being consumed by it all- emotional, spiritual, mental and physical. Again, the physical plane led to something greater. Once broken, new light shone to reveal an openness she hadn’t known before.
Alongside us during our journey have been people from all over the world. Many walks of life and durations of Camino- some friends joining us for only a day or two and some for a week or so. Very, very few have we seen continuing the way we have…accomplishing the entire Camino in one walk, at one time.
A bond, no matter what, will be shared in life with our friends among the Camino: Our Camino Moms, Bed Thief and The Brain, Team Ireland, Team Austria, Team Make a Wish, Free Bird, The Professor, The Stoner Group, Stepdad, Purple Wearing Purple, Camino Angel Igor, Spanish Mother Earth, the Tasmanian Hot Pepper, the Spanish Firemen, Team France and Team Romania.
Chazelle has caught the black toe. If anyone is in danger of losing their big toenail, it’s her. Other than a few blisters- she’s held strong.
I developed a shin splint, trying to save my shoes from uncertain death after their soles broke along the Camino. After six days, my ankle swelled twice it’s normal size and threatened permanent damage if I didn’t stop and honor the injury. A scar blistered and healed, blistered and healed, blistered and healed. After walking in flip flops for 3 miles after my shoes fell apart, the bone was bruised and developed an infection from the blister access. On the mend now, but certainly served as my least of favorite setbacks.
Will check in next week…Adios Amigos!by Jessi Lohman
In my heart of hearts, I am a bit of a thrill-seeker. When I discovered we would begin our Camino at the same time as the Running of the Bulls… I jumped out of my skin with excitement. When it comes to trying a risky thing here and there – I’m pretty into it.
More level-headed, Chazelle asked me if I had watched any YouTube videos.
“No,” I said. “I’ve been looking at images and researching how to stay the most safe – if that’s possible.”
We settled in to review real-life documentation.
Such as the video below:
“I don’t think so,” Chazelle said.
“Will you hold my backpack for me while I do it?” I asked.
Chazelle laughed. “Just do me a favor and try to do a little more research before you commit to it.”
I stayed up half the night, pouring over facts.
Six bulls per day would be released at 8:00 a.m. and chase the brave (and foolish) who gathered before them. The total distance was half a mile. They would be corralled into the arena, where subsequent bull fighting would commence. The bulls would then be tortured by professional Banderillos, Picadors and Matadors, until they took their last breath.
Aside from my family protesting my participation, there was something else that bothered me.
You guessed it.
The Running of the Bulls is a ceremony that celebrates the mass torture and murder of animals for the purpose of entertainment.
Oh no. You don’t get to put hands on my Ferdinand(s). Not without me throwing a fit about it. If these bulls want to smell the flowers, I want to give them every opportunity to do so. (I know, I know. I couldn’t write this entire blab about bull fighting without paying a tad of a tribute to Munro Leaf for being one of childhood story-writing heroes.)
I’m not saying the bullfighters are not magnificently skilled, quick, brilliant and talented. Their strength and bravery is amazing. I see why it is considered such a feat to out-duel a bull.
That being said, how could I possibly stand to look into the eyes of a group of bulls I played a game of ‘tag’ with, knowing they were being paraded down the street to unknowingly participate in a cruel blood sport?
It breaks my heart.
I love Culture and exploring new places, open-mindedly appreciating the mindsets of others.
But come on!
Doesn’t this type of activity belong in history books? Slavery. Crusades. The Holocaust. Have we not grown to a greater capacity as a people…as humanity than to entertain gut-wrenching, hollowing tragedy? I do not believe these events are something it benefits us to celebrate and attend.
Ultimately, we did decide to run.
We elected to run in a compassionate and fun-loving protest to preserve peace and end the bullfights – Running of the Nudes.
Dolled up in bikini’s and gothic make up, we began our Camino in Pamplona with a bang. Packs on our back, hiking shoes on our feet – and horns on our heads.
At least, that was the idea. Until a monsoon flooded the Madrid airport as we caught our connection to Pamplona. Knowing the storm was raging, we wouldn’t make the progress we needed to to complete the Camino if we stayed to run with the nudes.
Before I move on, if you would like an opportunity to do your part and end bullfighting – here is your opportunity….. Click the link below and write a strongly-worded letter.
(Exercise discretion before clicking – contains a graphic and violent image or two.)
Returning to the Camino- we began our trek ( much more difficult that originally aware), plunging out into the storm, climbing mountains, trudging through sludge. It’s been an adventure already and the truth is, we have only just begun.
Way to Rock Star our way through Pamplona and beyond, eh?
by Jessi Lohman
Did you know it’s possible to make it in Paris for less than $20 a day?
Sure, we are on a pilgrimage. That being said, I’d been informed the average cost per day, just to survive, was approximately 100 Euros a day ($140 U.S.). Unless I’m living life high on the hog (which isn’t really my style to tell you the truth), this sounded borderline ridiculous and Chazelle and I hoped we could do better. It can be a little anxious to plan for seven weeks off of work while blowing 100 Euros a day on bare basics… particularly when pilgrimages are designed to be executed on the cheap.
So here are some tips next time you go to Paris to help keep your costs down:
- Rather than go out to eat, shop at the small markets. The food, wine, cheese and produce are fresh and delicious and a fraction of the cost.
- Check out places that don’t have admission fees. Cathedrals, parks and monuments are all over the city. You can spend entire days exploring them and still won’t be able to finish them all.
- Walking is cheaper than the Metro, however, purchasing tickets in packs of ten called “Carnet” gives you a big discount and makes each destination around 1.5 euros ($2 U.S.).
- Tap water is safe to drink. Grab a fresh lemon, strawberry or cucumber from the local market, fill your bottle and stay hydrated.
- If you are here on Pilgrimage, note that the Cathedral of Notre Dame does not have passports for pilgrims (When we asked for passports, they looked at us like we had a disease and asked if we wanted to see the priest). However, Compestelle 2000 does (and within a ten minute walking distance from that awesome Cathedral so you can tackle both while you’re in that part of town). This being said, you can secure inexpensive lodging and meals- even discounts on museum entries.
- Don’t get pick pocketed. Although there is very little violence, theft is rampant. Folks tried to con me four times today alone. Don’t be afraid of them- no one is going to hurt you. Just don’t flash your wallet for donations, turn your back to people or get so distracted you aren’t aware of your valuables.
- Don’t buy nonsensical dustables. These are items that serve no purpose. Easy for me, because anything I buy I must carry 500 miles while I walk the Camino. I still wanted to mention it because souvenirs are an amplified cost we rarely take into account.
Its my hope those items gave you something fun to think about. Next week, I’ll share all about Spain! Talk to you then, au revoir!by Jessi Lohman
“Cheers to biting off more than we can chew,” Chazelle and I departed from San Francisco as scheduled, stopping only to toast our journey with lavender French vodka. Other than a two hour delay and running across the airport like two rabid dogs to avoid missing our connection from Philadelphia to Paris (a.k.a. trek training) our flight was fun, encouraging and delightful.
To make up for the inconvenience, the airline supplied us with multiple glasses of French wine at no cost. We didn’t have to flash our wine snob badge either. In the words of my mother, “France doesn’t make bad wine.”
The warm outpouring of love from our family and friends was emotional to say the least (with the exception of the mean-spirited jerks who tried to keep us up all night worried and laughed at us for attempting to carry our backpacks on board. Joke is on you- security was a breeze). As I sit staring onto the empty streets of Paris after being awake for 35 straight hours, I know this is right where we are supposed to be.
So far, we’ve had a guy explode pizza sauce all over our fronts, mastered the Metro, learned how to kiss on the cheeks (no lips, folks), made friends with all of the local grocers, guzzled tap water to our hearts content without getting ‘le trots’ and borrowed a cell phone from a neighbor to make a local call when we were momentarily stranded.
“I mean this from the bottom of my heart,” my Dad’s final words before my departure. “I hope you find whatever’s looking for you.”
At this rate, how could we possibly avoid it?by Jessi Lohman
A handful of days stand between right now and the time my friend, Chazelle, and I leave on our backpacking adventure. Among the flurry of activity leading up to our trip- planning, spending time with people we will not see for a while, and getting our tickets lined up- there is also the issue of packing.
What do you choose to bring, when you live out of a backpack for seven weeks?
The Answer: Minimalism is the name of the game.
The overall goal is to have a pack that is 10% of your body weight and nothing more. After all, when you are walking five hundred miles, every pound counts. I’ve tried, therefore, to keep my pack at 13 pounds or less.
Here is a short list of the items I’ve included in the daypack I’ll be rocking like a tortoise shell the next seven weeks:
It’s been a blast, trying to whittle down all of the stuff I’d like to take, careful to truly include only the genuine necessities.
All said and done, my pack has weighed in at 16 pounds. Just don’t tell the experts; I won’t tell if you won’t.
by Jessi Lohman