I’m sitting down, very much enjoying a beer at JFK airport, minutes away from boarding a plane bound for Spain, where I am lucky enough to be spending the better part of this August. The itinerary: a pilgrimage on The Camino, a week of World Youth Day, and then two weeks of sweet, sweet vacation.
A series of subway trains delivered me here today, and I’m happy to have this little breather where I can commemorate the beginning of this journey with a drink before the seven hour flight to Madrid and then what will most likely be a month consisting of many trains, bus rides and various other forms of transport, not to mention my own two feet.
Looking around, I realize the last time I was in this international terminal was about seven years ago on my way to South Africa for two years in the Peace Corps. This brings to mind two things: First, even though this trip won’t be nearly as long, I’m still hoping it’s as special and full of memories as those years were, and based on my plans I’m fairly certain it will be. Secondly, it’s a terrible, terrible shame I haven’t traveled out of the country since then.
Because to travel is to be able to journey not just physically and geographically, but internally and emotionally as well. To open oneself up; to open the mind, the soul, and your very heart to other people, different cultures, and new experiences. And I can’t wait to do all that and more starting now.
Making some final phone calls to some family last night and this morning, my brother asked me what my top 5 things were that I was most looking forward to about the trip. Without hesitation I said my number one was The Camino. More on this later, but in short there is something so appealing about taking a nice, long (ie 100km) walk to simply go see a church at the end of the trail. Following that, I listed watching a bullfight in Spain, visiting the Bilbao Guggenheim, going to a Rioja vineyard, and finally exploring the streets of Morocco (a new and different experience, indeed.)
What was obviously missing from this list was World Youth Day itself. It’s not that I’m not excited about it, it’s just that I’m a little fearful. I expect crowds and chaos (two of my least favorite things.) Perhaps it will be too Catholic for me, perhaps too crazy.
But in the end, visiting WYD will be just the same as traveling anywhere, and I will remain open to new people and experiences as they come.
So cheers. Say a prayer for me, and I will see you in Spain.