Melanie & I retired from our jobs in 2010 and planned to spend half our time volunteering, half our time travelling and half our time scuba diving. We figured that should keep us busy for 150% of the time! When in Singapore, we work weekday mornings in Willing Hearts soup kitchen, helping to serve up to 5,000 meals per day to the elderly and poor here. We also work part time on the White Manta boats, teaching scuba diving and guiding divers. That is usually in month long spells in Thailand, shorter trips in Indonesia and lots of weekends from Singapore. That gets me a few hundred dives each year so I am pretty happy.
The last portion of “half of our time” is travelling. We committed to be active and either do a trek or climb one mountain every year. A trekking / charity trip in Ladakh, northern India, in 2010 didn’t turn out as planned but that is a whole other story in itself. One day that will have its own blog page. Other trips recent included climbing Mt Kinabalu, a trek near Katmandu, hiking the hills of Hong Kong and adventures in Laos.
After those travels, we decided to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela from St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrennes to Santiago in northwest Spain, 790km to the west. It was a life changing experience, every bit as much as retirement itself. We were inspired by our friends Wichanee and David who walked the route in 2010 and sent us one of their famous postcards every single day they were on the trail. What the heck were they doing? On the next visit to the US, we saw a documentary on the Camino and realized that is what Wich and David did so we added it to our bucket list. On the following trip to the US in late 2011, Emilio Estevez & Martin Sheen’s movie “The Way” was playing on the plane. I believe in signs so we booked our flights for France not long afterwards. The story of that walk is documented in another linked blog.
After you become a pilgrim of a Camino walk, you are always a pilgrim. There is always a calling to do another walk. 2013 was too busy with diving and family weddings for a month-long walk but we decided to do another one in 2014. For a different experience, we chose to walk the less popular Caminho Portugues from Lisbon, northwards 650km to Santiago. We also greatly enjoyed that Caminho but the main difference from the French Route was that the first 2/3’s of the walk was fairly lonely and with a much lower level of support. It was still enjoyable, just different.
And now we are called again. We expect the Camino Ignaciano to have far fewer pilgrims and much less support but we will see. Despite covering St. Ignatius’ own pilgrimage trail from almost 500 years earlier, it is a brand new trail for modern pilgrims – less than four years old.