Another lap around the sun in Galicia
I am 750km into my trip and it is the morning after I turned 40 - one is not supposed to talk about age, but who cares, I am not one for conventions. (I do count and re-count and try to find the mistake though, but there is no way around. I am 40). I still feel almost the same as the day before yesterday, no surprise, just sorer, and that's why I am resting today (by the way, you can see approximate days' journeys on the maps below).
Galicia is beautiful. I crossed the border very unconventionally - as I like it. There was a jetty outside my campsite, and a man who appeared out from the bar next door (he must have just finished his pint). He dropped me at the beach on the other side of the river for a fiver, and I was welcomed by torrential rainfalls. It kind of suited the rugged and remote landscape, but I was also glad to stop for a break in the pretty village of Oia. I had tapas, a nice chat with the waiter, a delicious red wine from the region and a table on a private balcony, the ideal setting for dining whilst social distancing. I stayed not much further up the road right next to an old windmill. Crashing waves with all their Atlantic force and roaring wind gusts made it a very romantic setting from the outside, and for a sleepless night (and a failed Zoom conference call) in reality.
I was delighted to be greeted by clear skies and sun in the morning, so I set off on a long day cycling along the beautiful coastline. My first stop was Decathlon, as I urgently needed new gas for my cooker, which for some reason is not sold in other stores. Had I known that Decathlon in Vigo like Sleeping Beautie's castle hidden on the highest hill around, I would have considered buying a new stove. Besides hills and more hills, I was sent down a highway for a few kilometres, had my inaugural shoe-clip-fall and cycled an extra 20km to find a place for the night. All ended up well (even the fall - not even my ego was hurt).
The next day I reached Santiago. Upon recommendations by the lovely Glenyce and Dawn who know every Camino like the back of their hands, I lodged in a little cubby hole under the roof at the Hosteria San Martin. I also set out on a little quest for them, finding the restaurant manager of a Tapas Bar they usually dine at, to send her some greetings, a micro adventure very well received.
Then the day arrived, my 40th birthday. I had the romantic vision of celebrating it overlooking the Atlantic ocean with a glass of Whiskey in my hand celebrating my maturity (don't worry, I am still myself, and still all the other things as well. I can talk incredible nonsense, do weird things and generally not seem my age). So I set out on another 70+km ride to reach Finisterre - the 'End of the World' (as they knew it I suppose). Galicians love their wine, and beasts, so there are vineyards and cornfields as far as the eye can see.
There are also a lot of hills. Something I like about going up long hills on empty roads - it feels a little bit like diving under water. You set a low gear, totally focus on yourself and your breathing, and just go. It may be a long ride, but all you can control is how your body reacts to it. You push hard, you get tired; you keep pedaling along slowly without much resistance and you get to the top eventually. It is like the act of complete surrender; accepting and letting go and has a very meditative aspect to it.
I reached my destination, and as if they had known, there was a table right under the setting sun waiting for me. I did not have the time to buy a bottle of Whiskey, so the universe made sure to place a bar next to the lighthouse that served a good drop.
As I was watching the sun bid her farewells to the European continent, I wondered again at the beauty of where we live. I have cycled through some fascinating and jaw-dropping nature in the last days, and traveled to amazingly beautiful places in my life. I have sat on edges of the world and roamed far and wide - walking on Tierra del Fuego in Patagonia, watching over the most Eastern Point in mainland Australia, sleeping 3000m below the top of Mount Everest; and I can assure to those who are still not sure, the earth is a beautiful planet to live on. Nothing lasts forever of course, and so even this earth will have an end. Hopefully we can still do something to slow it down, so that not only our children, but many other generations will be able to enjoy it just as we - or people before us - do.
I have been writing about what it means to me to be free, and about taking responsibility. Turning 40 means to me that I am kind of getting the hang of this life, and things finally start to make sense. I am committing to living my life responsibly, and the best way to do this is also to live sustainably. Like pedaling up those hills, it makes it easier or more enjoyable to get to the top. It also means that I will take care for the things around me. I think I already live quite aware - avoiding single-use plastic, drinking tap water rather than buy water, etc etc. But of course, there is always more one can do. There is social responsibility and environmental responsibility, and thinking about all the things we SHOULD do to keep glaciers from melting and the climate to change is so overwhelming, that more people maybe end up doing less, as they know they won't be able to change it all, and hey - what is one more tiny plastic straw to the world?
I got many messages from people around the world sending me birthday wishes. Overwhelmingly many, it filled me with so much love and I will probably spend the next days answering them all. I thought to myself; what if all those people shift just one of their habits that may help keep our planet as beautiful for longer? I am committing to 2 things I want to change to start with. From now on, I will always carbon offset my flights that I travel on (because I am convinced that we will fly again at some point). I have traveled so much especially in the last 3 years, and occasionally carbon offset my flights, but never committed to it fully. Once I got the hang of it, I will also look into the other means of transport I use and the carbon footprint they leave. Secondly, I want to be more aware of how the clothes I wear are produced. I have been reading the book 'Let me People go Surfing' which talks about the business philosophy of the brand Patagonia, and realized that there is a lot I can change in my shopping behavior. Many people set fundraisers on Facebook for their birthdays, and I want to try this - is there any small habit you can commit to changing in your daily life? Can you use a re-usable coffee cup, or cycle to work more often (once you will go back to the office)? Whatever it is, pick 2 things and feel free to share them with me! Imagine how many of us can do something little, that could potentially have a big impact on something that is worth changing to the better...
Sitting at the edge of the world, celebrating my 40th round around the setting sun, celebrating this awesome journey I am on, life choices I have made, life lessons I have learnt, people like you I met and an amazing amount of fun I have had - I am truly happy to be here, and do not want to be anywhere different. It is my responsibility to make this a happy place for others too, and I want to do a lot more to make it so.