Every seven or eight years, I get a hankering for an adventure. These adventures generally aren’t planned, per se, they’re opportunities that arise and I think, “Hey, that’d be fun.” And then I’m on a plane, not sure about what comes next.
In 1992 I was offered a job in Kuwait. I went to the San Francisco public library to check out a book on Kuwait, to see if it was something that I wanted to consider. There were no books on Kuwait, but there was one on Iran. I figured that was close enough (in hindsight, not at all the same…), read it, and decided to go.
In 2001 a friend said, “Let’s bike through Cuba!” I bought a used bike and attempted to buy a nice seat for it (the bike store employee said he wouldn’t allow me to buy such a nice seat for such a piece of junk) and that was the extent of my planning. As we rode from town to town in Cuba, I realized that a few practice rides in San Francisco might have helped me…
In 2007, I had to travel to Nepal for work. I decided to hike the Annapurna Circuit over 21 days. The first night of the trail, other hikers sat around the table, talking about how they had prepared for the hike. When one person talked about carrying a backpack weighted with rocks and running up and down stairs, and the others nodded in agreement that they, too, had done so, I wondered if maybe I should have done more than simply requested vacation days…
All of the adventures turned out fine. More than fine, really. Pretty spectacular, actually. I’ve always been a “Let’s see what happens” type of person, and generally appreciate that there’s a lot of good.
I’ve decided to walk el Camino de Santiago in March and April this year. And for some inexplicable reason, I’ve felt the need to plan. Maturity? Maybe. Lessons learned from past experiences? Maybe. Surprisingly, the planning has been gratifying.
I’ve researched ultra-light clothing/sleeping options. I’ve tried on backpacks and hiking shoes. I’ve started walking longer distances.
Today my neighbors and I set out for a 15 mile walk, more or less the distance I’m aiming to do daily on el Camino. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that is satisfyingly meditative. We walked from our homes in the center of the city to the ocean. On the way there, we noticed a hummingbird, sitting on a bush. I’ve never seen a hummingbird not in flight. We all stopped, transfixed. The bird sat there. For minutes. We watched, silent. It flittered to another bush, flittered back in front of us, then flew away. We walked. It rained. We inhaled the fresh air of a forest after a shower. On the way to lunch, we noticed another hummingbird, just sitting there on a bush. The bird turned its head and we were treated to a splash of vibrant pink on its head. We watched. It sat. We mentioned that this must be a sign. It flew away. We stopped for lunch. We chatted with strangers. We laughed. We wished each other well. We walked along the ocean, then through Golden Gate Park. At mile 13 my feet began to feel tender. We walked a little slower. When I got home, I looked up the significance of the hummingbird.
From this site:
The hummingbird generally symbolizes joy and playfulness, as well as adaptability. Additional symbolic meanings are:
• Lightness of being, enjoyment of life
• Being more present
• Bringing playfulness and joy in your life
• Lifting up negativity
• Swiftness, ability to respond quickly
• Resiliency, being able to travel great distances tirelessly
I don’t know if I’ll see any more hummingbirds between now and when I depart for Spain. I’ll remember today’s message, though – to be present, enjoy life, and celebrate joy.