I am a retired guy who left the hustle and bustle of the business world in January 2008 when I had reached full retirement age. I was in real estate banking and finance for about 35 years, and that was my second career. I was an English major in college and attended graduate school in Theater Arts, receiving my Master’s Degree in 1969 after I had served two years in the US Army during the Vietnam “conflict”. I bounced around in various jobs in the performing arts trying to make headway in the music business as a song writer, as well as working in community theater for several years. When I returned to California after a six-week sojourn in Europe doing research for a book I wanted to write, I was penniless and decided I had to find something to do that would offer me a better lifestyle. That’s when I entered the world of real estate, and learned a new language, and the rest is history…
I have been married to my wife Heather for almost 30 years, and we live in Fair Oaks, CA in a modest home that I have owned since 1979. Heather has had a long career as a Leader at Weight Watchers where she counsels people in losing weight and eating healthy. I am her biggest challenge in this regard. We have one child, a son Dylan, who was also an English major. He is married to Nicole, and they live in LA at the moment. Dylan is a producer of pop music and Nicole is a singer-songwriter. We love them deeply and wish we could see them more.
In the spring of 2012 I attended a one-day seminar that focused on spiritual contemplation while walking. The idea of creating the space to be “alone with my thoughts” or “talking to God in the solitude of a long walk” had great appeal to me. It is my belief that we are almost always closer to God when we are alone with Him and take the time to pray as well as listen to find out what God has in store for us. At the seminar there were some practical ideas on how to do this which I found very intriguing and well worth pursuing. Returning home, on the evening of that seminar, I happened to watch the movie “The Way”, directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his dad, Martin Sheen. The film tells the story of a sixty-something opthamologist from California who goes to France to recover the remains of his son who has died there in the mountains, having perished in a snowstorm. After arriving and subsequently having his son cremated, he learns from the local police chief that his son had just started to walk the Camino de Santiago when the tragedy occurred. The chief goes on to explain some of the details about the Camino, and the man then decides to make the trip himself in honor of his son. Along the way, the character learns many things about himself, makes some unlikely friends, and by the end appears to be considerably changed by the experience.
When the movie had finished, I had the strong feeling that I had to take this trip, but I kept that realization to myself for a while until I felt ready to announce it to my wife and friends. From time to time, I have been subject to grandiose ideas that never come to fruition, but this was something profoundly different. It just seemed really clear to me that I needed to do this. A few weeks later, I announced my intentions to walk the Camino the following spring in 2013, in the middle of my 70th year, and that I was going to begin preparing for the trip immediately. I must say that it helped immensely that my wife, Heather and all my friends were very supportive of this decision, and were more than encouraging all along the way.
What follows in these pages is partially a chronicle of the 510-mile walk through northern Spain along the Camino de Santiago and partially an encouragement to those over 65 who may be contemplating such a walk to get going and do it. It is my fondest hope that those who read about my journey will be spurred to action and know that it is possible to complete the trek with good preparation and careful planning.
My Camino started in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ended in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. This is known as the Camino Frances, and it is by far the most popular of the dozen or so Caminos that lead from different parts of Europe and make their way to Santiago. The total walking distance was 816 kilometers (510 miles). It took 38 days to get from the start to the finish. Three of those days were spent “resting and sightseeing” in large cities along the way: Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon. I also stayed three nights in Santiago at the end, catching my plane early the next morning to connect with the flight home to the US.