Taking A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago changed my life. I realize that everyone cannot take 45 days and fly to Spain for a pilgrimage walk. A “Camino” is really about putting yourself in any situation that is outside of your comfort zones. Growth occurs on the edge of the bubble, not inside! Try to incorporate mini-journeys into your daily life by mixing things up.
Several months ago, Julie (a stranger) from Portland emailed me about speaking to her book club. I asked her to generate more engagements by contacting local community groups, libraries, hiking stores, bookstores, and local corporations. She hit the jackpot and lined me up with a full week of presentations. The main events were speeches at several of the local libraries. This trip was about one week after my Himalayan adventure, so I shipped 60 books to the library administration offices in September. Three days prior to my November departure, I sent them an email asking to have 1/2 the book sent to the first library and the other 1/2 to the third night. She responded, “I will be glad to when we receive them.” After some investigation, they did receive them, had no idea what to do, and proceeded to donate them to the local friends of the library program. Instead of flying with carry-on luggage, I now had a 50 pound box full of books.
Fortunately, the public transit system has no baggage limitations or fees, so I boarded the Max train with my rollaway luggage, my briefcase, and my boat anchor of books. To save money, I use Priceline to bid on cheap hotels and always stay at mystery places. The Max train dropped me off about two blocks from Hotel Rose-A Piece of Pineapple Hospitality. The delightful hotel was ideally situated and had a nice trendy vibe that fit well with Portland. I spent the afternoon walking along The Willamette River. Two homeless women began stalking me and finally tugged on the back of my shirt and said, “You look pretty cool, want to party with us?” Welcome to Portlandia.
Julie picked me up at the Rose Hotel and it was our first face to face meeting. She is a spectacular lady with unlimited energy. She drove me to my first night’s presentation and took me for appetizers after the show. It was nice to meet several of her friends that joined us after the lecture. The next morning, my friend Susan picked me up and drove me about 20 miles to Sherwood where I was the guest speaker at their local chamber. The early morning drive provided a great opportunity to see Mt. Hood at sunrise. The chamber meeting was held at the local police station. I began the presentation by saying, “I would like to thank Police Chief Dan for inviting me into his house. I have never been to one of these places unrestrained.”
During most days, I spent some time working out at the local 24 hour fitness and then walked around the city. This is a foodie town, so I visited many eclectic restaurants and coffee shops. My passion for photography was fulfilled daily with an endless variety of subjects including sculptures, people, buildings, and nature. I am sure that Dean Koontz is driven by limo to his talks. Kurt Koontz takes public transportation or relies on friends. On my second night, I rode the max train about 40 minutes and then had a mile long walk to the library. It was freezing cold, a bit of rain, a stinging wind, and a long road. The library was a stones throw from Mr. Peeps Showgirls. The Peep Hole, next door, is the video rental portion of the business. Welcome to the glamorous life of an aspiring author/speaker.
Julie took me to Voo-Doo doughnuts after lunch on the fourth day. This Portland institution has long lines and an edgy marketing campaign. Their main slogan is plastered on all take-out pink cardboard boxes and says, “Good Things Come in Pink Boxes.” I devoured my Portland Cream doughnut and saved room for a bite of Julie’s Bacon Maple Bar. Click HERE for a look at their entire menu.
At the end of my fourth night of speaking a lady approached me after the room was empty. She introduced herself and said, “We communicated by email about a year ago.” I get quite a bit of electronic communications from strangers, so I asked for some clarity. After about three words, I froze. Last year, she sent me a note and told me that she found my book and read half on a plane flight from Portland to MA. She flew there to say goodbye to her dying mother. After the service, she read the second half on the flight home. We emailed back and forth for about a month and I was deeply touched to be such an intimate part of her life at such a devastating time. She told me that after things settled down, her best friend died. The Camino called and she answered by walking 500 miles on the magic dirt. There are no coincidences in life.
Whenever the opportunity to journey presents itself, take the leap. Accept everything as is and do not get bogged down in the trivial crap like lost books. Open up and enjoy the magnificent ride!
For Christmas, I am selling a signed copy of my book, the recently released Camino Documentary (Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago), and expedited shipping for $39.95. Click HERE for details.