My good friend Peter from Chicago & Cancun, Mexico who just moved here to Thailand gave me some “strong” advice. He said I am spending too much time on the computer and have no time “to go out and play!” He is right; I am helping many no-profits (at no charge) and am starting to get out of balance, and that I don’t want. So I will be sending out this blog every two weeks instead of weekly. I will still be working on my five other projects. So, I added another commandment to my short list; “thou shalt not get burned out.” When I get closer to my walk date, I will go back to my weekly report.

On this end here in Thailand everything is going well for my preparation for my little 484-mile stroll. Actually, the physical part is easy it’s the mental portion is my biggest challenge.

This week’s response to people who want to join the BIG HEARTS” gang was fantastic. I love you guys! For you that have not joined the “BIG HEARTS” gang the only way to do this is send me an email saying “YES.” jimideaman@netzero.net

When you say yes that means you will donate $4.84 toward my walk that is just one penny a mile. That may not sound like a lot of money, but if I get all 1,000 of you to say yes that’s $4,840. Can you imagine when I started writing my blog a few years ago I only had five people and now am over 1, 000?

100% of the donations collected will go to my friend Farah, who has started an orphanage in one of the challenging countries in the world and in the most difficult areas, the slums; and yes, your $4.84 will cause a change. I am doing this walk with no money or food, forcing me to beg for  food, so I can have enough energy to complete my walk. However, my task is  minimal compared to the challenge Farah is facing in Kenya. So I will be walking with no money for money, from you, for her!

Now on to my story for the week, it is about a friend of mine whom I have not met in person, but we have many common interests. We are from the same  small town in Illinois, La Salle-Peru, and we even went to the same high school. Plus like me; he loves to add adventure to his life.

Jim Twardowski (yes there are other “ski’s in this world like me, and it’s not true that it means insanity?) He has just completed the “Camino de Santiago” and lives near Houston, Texas. He is a Graduate from Southern Illinois University with degrees in both  Marketing & Journalism.

Today he is a professional parachute demonstration performer and has been for over 30 years. He is a founding member of the Liberty Parachute Team, the premier civilian demonstration team performing at air shows and large  venue special events nationwide. This August marked the 29th year in a row as the opening act at Airveture  Oshkosh, the largest air show in the world. He holds an ‘Expert’ skydiving     license as well as the elite ‘Professional’ rating.

Literally; He spends a lot of time in the air. I know what you’re thinking  this qualifies him for what some people call “the insanity group” that  choose to make the Camino walk. However, his lifestyle goes far beyond, taking risk and overcoming fear. It is the “LIFE LESSONS” he has learned about living life, to the full degree!

Below is an email, he sent to me, giving me some advice and sharing some of his experiences during his walking adventure. Buy the way all the photos you see are from his Camino journey. Love & Stuff…Jim

Greetings Jim, I’m also a ‘Ski’ from LaSalle-Peru!

I returned from Spain and the Camino last week, just put my Compostela (a certificate you receive when you complete the walk) in a frame for proud display in my office.
I had read a bit about ‘The Way’ several years ago, and as we often do regarding such adventures…simply thought ~ that would be interesting to see & do ‘someday’.

Following the release of the movie last year the ‘bucket list’ interest was reinvigorated.  The initial intent was to make the  pilgrimage in May of this year…keeping an eye on the weather there, the trip was postponed until late summer. It rained 27 days straight during May, Though heat would be a consideration in August, I had much rather hike hot than wet having done plenty of both.

For several months prior I read books on the Camino, selected gear and went about some basic training to assure myself I would be not only physically up to the challenge but also that the things chosen were suitable., durable and actually necessary.
A skydiving friend from San Diego had done the Camino last year and gave me some insight as to the ‘unromantic if you will’ realities…I’d like to pass a bit of that on to you as well Jim.

Physically prepared; My friend told me there is not a way to ‘train’ for the Camino, that the physical requirements of walking a marathon a day for weeks on end cannot be duplicated at a gym or during a nature hike, no matter how far the distance or what you have on your back. I was skeptical on that advice, at age 55 and though healthy, fit & active …I’ve dinged myself up pretty good a few times.

Skydiving, BASE jumping, motorcycle crashes and competitive full contact martial arts have left a ‘hitch in my git-along’ that I wanted to be sure could handle what I envisioned the Camino would hold. So I did do long walks with a full pack over all kinds of terrain.
I quickly realized that the hiking shoes I had selected for comfort and weight would not work, when fatigued my ankles turn to something with a consistency of hot taffy.  A pair of Salomon lightweight hikers fit the bill.

On the Camino remove your shoes every time you stop for a break, even if just for ten minutes. In the morning cover both feet liberally with Vaseline and wear actual hiking socks, got a few pairs at REI. They wick moisture and fit tightly enough so as not to slip around in the footwear. A major blister reducer to be sure, after 12-15 miles I would feel my knee getting weak so I started using an ace-brace there when I would feel any pain. Did the same on the Camino and no problems…very glad I had known to expect that, and was prepared to deal with it.
To ME anyway, that is ‘training’ for the event and I recommend you do that early & often.

I would seriously caution one against too heavy, or stiff of footwear. Over half the people I saw during the trek was sporting nothing more than well broken in athletic shoes. If you do not ‘need’ the ankle support go with something lower, lighter, cooler and more comfortable. Your feet WILL thank you!

Every once counts; I put together what I thought would be a lightweight and minimalist selection of 21st century ‘must haves’ for the trek. Loaded pack weight was just less than 30 pounds. By the third day I totally redefined the term minimalist and chucked 1/3 of it. I would buy things I needed along the way, it’s not the outback.
You however Jim will need to carry more than I did considering your method and goal for completion. I am imagining you will want to carry reserves of food & water, stocking up when it’s available without cost…
Which brings me to a delicate point…I understand your motivation & desire to embark on a pilgrimage in terms of its truest nature. That is both admirable and honorable; I salute you and genuinely hope you realize success.  However…that very well may require a certain amount of logistical planning that will be extremely difficult without prior knowledge of what is ahead of you on any given day.

People travel ‘The Way’ for a variety of reasons and in many different ways. There is adventure, religious pilgrimage, rite of passage …the reasons are endless. That is the ‘romantic’ slant, and to an extent one can find fulfillment in most any personal motivation.
But make no mistake, it’s the 21st century and Spain like all the European Union is facing difficult times economically.
The Camino de Santiago which 150,000 people start annually is a monetary cash cow for the northern part of the country. As a tourist attraction it’s a marketing manager’s dream. Some of the more remote areas seem to depend solely on pilgrim commerce for their very existence. Even the most basic comforts such as access to indoor plumbing is sternly relegated to ‘paying customers only’ at a majority of strategically placed rest stops along the Camino.

Even the least desirable indoor sleeping ’dorms’ are 7-10 euros a night, camping though the least expensive option is not necessarily always free, safe or practical. Even things like water need to be looked at; the guidebooks say portable water is available in village & city fountains along the way. I encountered several unfortunate people with severe intestinal distress, at the most inopportune times and places that would disagree with just how portable the water really is. Lol

I bought bottled and carried one large & two small bottles, which were replaced 3-4 times a day. I would always hold the last small bottle in reserve as there are areas in which you will be walking five hours or more with nothing available at any price.
You will be burning major calories at a rate you’ve likely never experienced before. I am relatively active and intake 2500 to 3000 daily maintaining a steady weight and strength level. On the Camino I was burning three times that and losing weight. Getting that kind of sustenance through the reliance of others on a needed regular basis may be on practical & realistic terms much more difficult than envisioned.
It may very well be possible, but you seriously need to keep in mind your primary goal is survival with health intact, completion however noble the cause is secondary. And compromising your general health in any way will significantly increase the odds of failure regarding the secondary goal. Not trying to discourage you, just giving ‘food’ for thought.

On a personal and reflective level.  I am not a religious person, I enjoyed interaction, for the most part, with people hoping to find God or improve their relationship with him. Some did I believe, some probably never will. I met many extremely interesting people from all over the world, the stories they told were as different as they were fascinating.  I am a people person and cherished the moments shared when there is a realization of underlying commonality regarding matters of the soul ~ all political, geographical, religious, age, ethnic and general ideological differences dismissed without prejudice.

There is the same basic goal in each of our hearts and the hardship incurred during the pursuit creates a solid unspoken bond.
At the most basic level of humanity, the comparison of life’s dynamics and the trials of the Camino are clearly obvious. One cannot help but wonder what the world would be if the leaders saw things through the exhausted eyes of a Pellegrino. I came away from the Camino more reassured than changed.

I’ve always been pretty secure in the understanding of my place within the universe and my significance regarding the overall scheme…I’m a ‘we are bugs on a rock spinning through space’ kind of guy, and I am good with that. It makes me value each minute I am alive and take the problems of life in stride.

Walking into St. James Cathedral in old town Santiago… tired, smelly and sore at the end of an unquestionably challenging endeavor, gave me a deep appreciation for those who’d come before me under much more difficult circumstances. Call it, though in a small way perhaps, a sense of belonging somewhere very special. A place of reverence made significant by the unwavering faith humans like me fostered from within, toward beliefs held dear regardless of the consequences. It also gave me a sliver of pride in that as younger less cynical men, I had always approached difficult situations logically & methodically.  I have the tendency to assess accurately my abilities, resources and liabilities then operate within and to the fullest extent of those guidelines; usually with success.

There were times as a younger man whom I had misjudged the scope of the task or my actual ability to address it. Years ago, there was a part inside me that flipped a switch and from whom knows where a burst of small-town Pollack from down by the river, perseverance would magically appear and against logic, odds and even physics, I would find myself without conscious thought …fighting forward.

I have not seen that part of me in quite a while, I am grateful to the Camino for reminding me I can be better than I think I am, that I have more than I realize or admit even to myself …maybe the IS some ‘enlightenment’ there after all?!

I wish you Buen Camino Jim!   JIM TWARDOWSKI


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: