Why I Wouldn’t Survive a Post-Apocalyptic World (And 4 Other Lessons from El Camino)
It’s only hour 4 on day 5 of El Camino de Santiago and I’m already hobbling like a sweaty, rustic geisha. The blisters on my pinkie toes have grown blisters. While Mike popped his, I stubbornly refused to so now they’re full of black goo. I’m considering removing my pinkie toes altogether or having Mike do it since I can barely remove a splinter. But that’s not why I’m limping. I’m limping because it feels like someone took a hammer to my right heel so that every time I take a step, it screams: You Suck!
My moment of truth comes when a hostel owner in Noja tells us he has a room but no hot water. As a lover of scalding hot, take-your-skin-off showers, this would normally be a deal breaker but I can’t face walking up the hill we just descended. I take a lukewarm shower before telling Mike to leave me behind. He does and I go take surfing lessons in Zarautz.
Still, I always thought I was tough, capable of whatever physical feat I put my mind to but there I was minding like Jedi knight and, fuuuuuck, it hurt. It occurred to me that I might not be up to this challenge and, if I wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t survive a zombie apocalypse either.
First, I’m blind. Like naked mole rat blind. After Judgment Day, I imagine 1-800-Contacts will no longer be in service. Second, I’m always, always cold. Unless I find myself in purgatory on a semi-deserted tropical island, I’m toast. Third, I’m hypoglycemic which means I get hangry every 2-3 hours. In the unlikely event I survive a meteor crash, if I’m not snacking regularly on Snickers bars, no one’s going to hang in their bunker. Finally, I have to pee like 40 times a day. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker but it will make escaping from zombies, warlocks, terminators, Smokers, aliens, vampires, cannibals, apes and Sally a little bit harder.
While I may not make it an end of the world scenario, I probably could’ve kept going on El Camino with a little more planning so here are my top 4 lessons from NOT walking the St. James Way.
Never underestimate the power of good shoes
A no brainer but this isn’t like walking on a track, treadmill, beach, trail or jogging path. This is mostly pavement day-in and day-out so make sure you’ve got comfortable shoes with enough padding, support and gel inserts to go the distance.
When six girls from Ireland blew past us on the trail sporting only Jansport backpacks, I nearly cried (and then really cried later). If the Camino is part of a larger trip, consolidate your stuff or you can also hire a taxi driver to take your bag to the next town on longer, harder days.
It’s the journey, not the destination
Part of the lure of the Camino is the physical challenge but easing into the hike, especially if you haven’t had an opportunity to train for it can determine how far you actually get. We ran into many people who were only doing parts of the trail. One woman from Zarautz walked one week a year for four years.
Know when to stop
Or at least when to take a break. If you’re hurt, pushing through generally leads to more hurt and sometimes stopping altogether. See exhibit me! No pain, no gain is a nice exercise motto but this isn’t an 80’s workout video. Knowing your limits is a good way to guide any outdoor decisions.