Day 20: Camino del Norte/Tranquillité

Mileage: 21.3
Total distance: 430.7

If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, “why is this happening to me?”, you’ve probably had an expectation or desire in your life that was unmet or unfulfilled leaving you feeling victimized or defeated. It’s that feeling that something or someone is withholding from you what you rightfully deserve or what you understand to be your logical and rational story or path. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s gut wrenching. It can even potentially be a paradigm shift if enough of your autonomy is built around this idea or perception of your life and the way it is to unfold and then something happens that wrecks your story. What’s important is what happens inside of you in that moment; when reality takes a turn far outside your imagination and leaves you with a million choices to make, or just one very simple choice; trust. 

From the moment I began thru hiking in 2014 I became obsessed with planning and setting goals. I hiked with a group for the majority of the AT and started to create daily plans for myself and everyone I was hiking with and it stressed everyone out including myself. It became an obsession and something I would think through over and over throughout the day as I walked. I would stress over the smallest details and constantly run over mileage and resupply options until someone or something pulled me out of it. 

This became how I would hike when I was alone. On the PCT I had to stop short one day while I was passing a town called Etna because I thought I was going crazy. I couldn’t stop thinking about numbers and mileage and time and dates and various goals I had to keep up to make it all work out. This has been such a huge part of thru hiking for me and the only times I haven’t felt that way was on the Long Trail in Vermont. 

When my plans or goals weren’t met in hiking I would become an absolutely horrible person; manipulating other people or situations or neglecting myself necessary care for my mind and body in order to remain healthy. Its like I had these goals and nothing would stand in my way of achieving them and in the reality of that mindset I have ruined friendships on trail, hurt my body, burdened my mind to the point of breakdowns and lost sight of why I fell in love with hiking in the first place. I’ve never seemed to naturally rest in the current of a trail and allow the journey to be my joy rather than my goal becoming my only focus. 

Now I believe there is something to be said for being goal oriented and fighting to achieve those goals. I am proud of my accomplishments and what I’ve had to go through to get there, but often the mentality behind it and the choices I’ve made in the process are harder to stand behind. There is a fine line between being driven and being an image guarding control freak. I haven’t learned where that line is and how to not cross it. I have been so stubborn and when things have stood in my way or even gently conveyed a message for me to relax, I have literally turned a deaf ear and abused myself and others who care about me in order to ignore any threat to my goal. 

So far on this trail things haven’t changed much in me. When I’ve been confronted with obstacles I have immediately found ways to deal with them and adjust to keep control of my trail and my goal. I’ve been learning lessons every step of the way with every issue that has come up, but every time I have began to learn to enjoy the moment and he journey, I have reverted back into the same controlling pattern of doing whatever it takes to finish this trail as if it were the only thing that matter, as if my entire identity were wrapped up in this one achievement, as if everyone I knew would judge me based on my success or failure, as if it were all I had to prove myself. Instead of loving the journey and the experience for itself and loving/accepting myself in the process, I have again placed my worth in an idea or goal that no one cares about except for me. 

After all of the mental games and strategic planning I have done to achieve something that wouldn’t bring me joy and peace but would influence an image or give me a stamp of approval from no one but myself, I have pushed myself to the limit. At the end of my hike yesterday (my first day back without the longboard or shin splints) I noticed a small, sharp pain on the inside of my shin, but didn’t think much of it. When I woke up today my shin felt hot and within my first steps the pain came back. I tried to ignore it and began my hike, but within five miles I knew something was wrong and found a place to rest. 

Now, I don’t know exactly what is wrong. After research and conversations with people who know more than I do about hiking injuries it sounds like it could be a stress fracture, which seemed impossible to me for the amount of hiking I have done, but when I think about the 0-60 style of hiking I do on pavement with a new shoe style and pushing a longboard with shin splints it seemed plausible. It could also be another form of shin splints and a few days of rest could heal it up, but only time will tell. 

What I do know, however, is that today is my last day hiking the Camino, for now. I am calling it quits and going to take four days to rest before I fly to Corsica. This doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal when I think logically and rationally, but for someone who is so goal focused and controlling of his identity and image, this apparent defeat has felt absolutely crushing. I have spent the majority of the day in overwhelming frustration and wild mood swings from acceptance to denial; from peace to anger. I imagine my reaction seems a bit strange to most people. I imagine it seems over exaggerated or dramatic, but this to me exposed to depth of my desire to control my perception of myself and other people’s perception of me. I have done everything I can to beat this trail to prove that I can do it, but have found myself miserable on numerous occasions and physically exhausted. And for what purpose? My goal for these trails was to find healing and growth and so far I have pushed away most opportunities to do that because of my agenda or fear of failure and today there is nothing else I can do but accept the fact that I can’t finish this trail. And I am so deeply glad for it. 

The most important thing in life, in my opinion, is to love and accept yourself where you are and the process of becoming who you hope to be. I often find myself pretending to be where I want to be and then slowly watch the holes in my fabricated persona be exposed and the truth of my character becomes visible. I haven’t learned to love myself in the present and accept the flaws that embarrass me. I put so much weight on my image that when it comes crashing down I feel like the world has ended. This small and insignificant, physical defeat on the Camino has blasted me into a space of clarity and awareness in what I need to see my life as. And the main thing I recognize is that I have to stop controlling every detail of my life and enjoy the process in trusting the wind to blow me where it will, even if it doesn’t line up with my goal. The beauty of life is found when you accept the present reality and let yourself flow in the current rather than thrash around and wear yourself out getting no where. The wind blows where it will and resting in that is the only way for me to find peace. Forcing an agenda or story has always proved too stressful or fake. In so many ways this trail ending has freed me. It has freed me from the illusion that the only achievement is completion, where in truth, achievement is found in the love you have for yourself in the process of your life unfolding. The shift in my heart today is profound and I’m sure that reading this seems odd or again, dramatic, but you have to realize that I was in deep with my manipulative and controlling mentality over my image and presentation. And now I feel freedom in doing what brings me joy and that being my goal. 

It’s also funny and kind of sad to think that at one point today I was crying because I can’t hike anymore, while I am still in Spain for two more months with countless journeys to experience. What a privileged mentality to throw a fit because I don’t get my way when the alternative is to go bask in the sun on paradise beach for a week drinking wine for one euro with baguettes and cheese handed to me in every direction (literally every bar has platters of small sandwiches that are there for you to just take). 

So that’s a lot of shit I just said. If you made it this far, thank you for reading my thoughts and accepting that this blog has momentarily turned into a personal diary. The next two weeks are incredibly unique for me. I have a ticket to Corsica in four days to hike the gr20 and if I do have a stress fracture I will probably not be able to do that hike as well with the physical demands it requires. In that case who knows what I’ll do, but I guarantee it will be what I want to do because it brings me joy and not pain or stress. I spent a long time talking with friends and family today and after hours of contemplation I have arrived at a place where I have relinquished tightly wound goals for the summer and have decided to loosen my grip and trust. I want to learn to trust. I want to learn to trust other people and myself. I want to love other people and trust their love and love myself and the best way for me to do that is to just have fun and go with the flow. So that is what I intend to do. 

Thanks for reading. This feels like a lot of babbling and dramatic, emotional nonsense, but it has been a wild day and left me in this head space and for my last update on the Camino it only seemed fitting to lay it all out there. So again, thanks for reading. There are more adventures to come and more lessons to be learned. Here’s to being so damn stubborn you have to go and injure yourself before you learn the simple lesson to just enjoy your damn life and live in love. It sounds so simple, but I know that I have so much more to learn this summer and I can’t wait for more to come. I intend to lean on this day as the mark of a new season in which I live in each moment and allow the spirit to guide my steps and lead me into peace and joy with all I experience. 


3 Replies to “Day 20: Camino del Norte/Tranquillité”

  1. If I recall, a few days ago you mentioned the desire to be on this trail with someone you care about. This shouldn’t be farewell to Camino, but a see ya another year!
    Take care of yourself, Ryan!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ryan –
    Thanks for writing! I have enjoyed every word.
    I’m sure this adventure will age well over time. Its’ lessons will be clearer and the memories less bitter as the months and years and other adventures accumulate.
    In the mean time, do take care of yourself, both physically and spiritually.
    Warmest Regards,
    Brian (Petunia’s Dad)

    Liked by 1 person

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