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Every Journey Begins with the First Step

Every Journey Begins With The First Step

Le Pont de Valentr , a vista along the Chemin de Com postelle, an ancient pil grimage route

My friend Jane wants me to join her on a self-guided walking tour, a two-week journey[1] along the Chemin de Com postelle in south western France. Jane hiked it for two weeks last fall, and plans to under take a com pa rable 150-mile walking tour this Sep tember, con tin uing in the foot steps of long ago pil grims. We will prob ably walk a sec tion of what was once called the Via Podi ensis ( le Puy Way ).

Undertaking this Journey

Should I join her on the trek this year? Can I? And if not, why not? It s a big under taking, both phys i cally and finan cially. For tu nately, we ve both trav eled in France before, including self-guided tours off the beaten track, so we re not intim i dated by the travel logis tics of get ting to our starting point[2].

And then there are the cul tural aspects of preparing for the journey. To truly appre ciate these out-of-the-way places means brushing up on French lan guage skills, reac quainting myself with high lights of France s medieval art and his tory, and the sto ried his tory of the region we d be vis iting. The overall journey, as it unfolds, is more rewarding than any spe cific des ti na tion, so under taking this tour with some appre ci a tion of its his tory and cul tural con text is by far the best way to savor its delights. The journey is costly. Even with a 2-week self-guided walking tour (one that doesn t require us to com pen sate pro fes sional guides or a touring com pany), the price tag is higher than a month s mort gage for many people.

Every Journey Begins With The First Step

Hiking boots will need to become my new best friends

Training for the long walk will require a sig nif i cant time com mit ment, hun dreds of hours of aer obic exer cise between now and then. Despite being a reg ular walker, one who can do 10,000 steps on a rou tine basis[3], preparing for this trek will require me to double or triple my usual walking reg imen. Regaining my French speaking and com pre hen sion skills will require another big time com mit ment. Hun dreds of hours again.

But these are things I love to do, and exer cising these skills will lead to indi rect ben e fits and lasting value in their own right, such as improved health and well being.

The Journey Is the Reward

My yoga prac tice sug gests set ting an inten tion[4] for this under taking. So what should the theme be? At Apple, I first learned that the journey is the reward. For lots of rea sons, that will be my theme for this walking tour the journey of the trek itself, and the multi-month journey to get ready for it. I look for ward to the indi rect con se quences of preparing for the journey: a stronger and healthier body, a nim bler mind, thanks to the mental stim u la tion of relearning French, and a qui eter mind, thanks to the med i ta tive aspects of the jour neying.

The Training R gime

We ll be hiking 10 18 miles each day, across some rugged or hilly ter rain, so the trek requires a level of phys ical fit ness and sta mina that is well beyond my cur rent capa bil i ties. Before starting a serious training r gime, I ll need to recover from a knee injury[5]. That said, with a dis ci plined effort, there s plenty of time to build up the nec es sary strength and sta mina for those chal lenging day hikes between now and Sep tember. Jane rec om mends at least 2 3 months of dis ci plined training before we leave for France. That means a long walk every day, plus one or two hikes up hilly ter rain every weekend. Those long hikes should target 5 8 miles total dis tance, including ele va tion gains.

Rain or shine. Given Seattle s typ ical rainy weather between now and early July, that s no small com mit ment

Parlez-vous fran ais?

We ll be passing through small ham lets, staying in tiny inns or guest rooms out in the country places that lack sophis ti cated tourist ser vices or large num bers of Eng lish speakers. We ll need to be self-sufficient en fran ais. Because we will make the book ings and manage the walking tour on our own, without any pro fes sional guides, French lan guage pro fi ciency will be every bit as helpful as our walking sticks. As I poke around at the online resources that dis cuss and describe le Chemin de Com postelle, it s already apparent that I will need to use French just to make sense of what those resources have to offer.

Today s First Steps

So here s what I ve done today, as the first steps on this journey:

  • Ordered some French-language learning resources
  • Ordered a Michelin guide for GR65, le Chemin de Com postelle
  • Browsed a few pages of a 15-year-old travel guide for south western France, and read about a few of the places we might visit
  • Ordered some summer-weight hiking shoes, with enough sup port for long day hikes, but without the extra weight of my trusty hiking boots
  • Had a long con ver sa tion with Jane, to agree on starting prin ci ples, expec ta tions and values and some early con cepts for a plan
  • Began a tour of online resources to learn what s in store
  • Went out for an hour s walk, up some hills, about 7000 steps total and am happy to report it did not harm my knee

May the journey begin.


  1. ^ a two-week journey (pelerins-compostelle.com)
  2. ^ get ting to our starting point (donohuecompostelle.wordpress.com)
  3. ^ 10,000 steps on a rou tine basis (blog-christinethompson.com)
  4. ^ set ting an inten tion (blog-christinethompson.com)
  5. ^ recover from a knee injury (blog-christinethompson.com)

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