It never fails that just when you think you’re ready for a new upcoming adventure, something happens to remind you that preparation does not always lead to a perfect trip. Being prepared doesn’t guarantee that the trip would even be undertaken.
Recently, a Camino pilgrim died.
I keep thinking about this person, someone whom I didn’t know. He was a 43 year old Canadian male, initials GCJ. Unfortunately, his journey ended just as it got started: he fell off a cliff on the Pyrenees trail, very close to Roncevalles. Speculation is that he became disoriented from trekking for hours in the snow and perhaps hypothermia set in. Visibility may also have been a factor. Whatever case, he lost the trail and wandered into dangerous territory. He probably slipped and slid right off the cliff.
I think this is a good reminder that there are times when one cannot be TOO prepared, especially when undertaking something that takes you into unknown and tricky territory as well as tests your body to limits you normally don’t ever come close to reaching. Training is important but research is just as equally important. Research gear, research clothing and shoes, research the land you’re about to enter, research the weather. Once you arrive, ask locals about things like the weather and listen to their suggestions. If the mountain people tell you “don’t take that trail”, then don’t take that trail.
The death of this pilgrim is also a personal reminder for me to park the stubbornness and pride at home. Yes, I’ve been wanting to come on this trip for almost 7 years now. Yes, I had to take a cut in pay at work as well as spend money for this trip. Yes, I like to think of myself as mentally and physically strong, not to mention an independent loner. But at the same time, I need to remember that it is important to listen to those around me and listen to my body: if the trafficked road is fogged over, stay put until visibility is good and one cannot just “walk off” tendonitis. I’d rather get back home in one piece at the end of a successful trip than enduring a shortened trip with damaged/missing body parts or making my mom have to come fetch my body in Spain. So it will be important to take my time and to make smart choices, not just ones based on convenience.
But, in the end, it is important to also keep in mind that despite all the preparation I do, adventure is still a leap of faith. I trust in the research I’ve done and I hope that I’ll do what is necessary to have a successful Camino even if it hurts to give up a goal such as walking the whole way without the use of 4-wheeled transport. My motto: live life but be smart about it.
RIP Pilgrim GCJ.