Barbara, Rancho La Puerta’s former on-property nurse, achieved an amazing feat in 2013 when she walked the 790-kilometer-long Camino de Santiago in Spain!
Here’s the story of Barbara’s journey and how working at the Ranch prepared her mentally and physically for her challenging journey (from an interview with our Ranch blogger, Kate Anas).
Kate Anas: When did you decide to go to Spain and what prompted you to do it?
Barbara Abrahams: I honestly can’t say that I decided to go. A couple of years ago I met a woman here at the Ranch – a documentary filmmaker – who had walked the Camino de Santiago and who wanted to edit and produce the footage that she had filmed on ‘her way’. Then, in early spring of 2013, I was out to dinner in Tecate with some friends from the Ranch and one of them turned to me and asked if I wanted to walk the Camino with her and her husband. I said ‘yes, if things work out’—and they did!
KA: Have you ever taken a trip like this before?
BA: Never! I am not a backpacker, world traveler or even particularly adventurous. I once climbed the Middle Sister in Oregon with girlfriends – many years ago.
KA: How did you prepare for the physical aspect of your trip?
BA: I feel as though my time at the Ranch has been preparing me for the trip since I started working here 25 years ago. I really did no extra training for the trip.
KA: Can you describe your journey in Spain?
BA: The physical aspect turned out to be the easiest part of the experience for me. I needed lots of help with preparing for the journey – which I was able to ask for and received from my friends. Once I was in Spain, many aspects of the daily journey became clear – walk, eat, bathe, sleep, wash clothes – I can do those things. In the beginning, it was challenging not to tip over when I turned with the pack on my back, that became easier – then eating food that was not as healthily prepared as I’m used to, that became easier – then bathing in showers where there was nowhere to put your dirty or clean clothes and that became easier – you get the drift. Other pilgrims were, on the whole, very friendly and open about their reasons for, experiences on, and struggles with their Caminos.
KA: Did you encounter any surprises?
BA: Many surprises! Spain is a gorgeous country – the parts I walked through were uniformly clean and orderly. It seemed that every house had a beautiful garden (they must all have green thumbs). It impressed me that old buildings seemed to be retrofitted rather than torn down and a new one put in their place. The animals seemed so well taken care of everywhere. We, pilgrims, seemed to be graciously accepted wherever I went – coffee bars where I had my morning ‘café con leche’, the small restaurants where I ate my ‘pilgrim menu’, the albuerges, hostels, and hotels where I stayed.
KA: What lessons did you learn and how have you incorporated them into your daily life?
BA: I told myself to take ‘my Camino without expectations. I shared with my sister along the way (by WhatsApp on my mobile phone) that I was wondering when my ‘aha’ was going to come to me. She wisely counseled that ‘maybe it would come when I got home and I do think that I’ve had some important insights since I’ve been home. I am much more aware since my trip of how easily I slip into fear and distrust. I manifest this by staying with what is comfortable, staying in situations that are okay or only slightly okay because I’m afraid of what I don’t know. That is not how I want to live my life. My Camino has helped me to be more aware of when I slide into those emotions that don’t serve me, and being aware, I’m much more likely to be able to choose to trust in the unknown or be much less anxious about ‘what if’?’ So far, I think I’m slowly letting myself investigate new experiences, new information, and risk more. I seem to be more decisive internally – allowing myself to be clearer with my personal decisions.
KA: Did your time at the Ranch prepare you in any way for the trip?
BA: Oh my gosh – let me count the ways! My past 25 years at the Ranch helped prepare me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I have experienced risk-taking, transition, self-exploration, change, openness, courage, etc. with so many of our guests who are willing to share their experiences. Since they are so generous and real – so many women (and some men) of all ages – if they can, maybe I can.
KA: Do you have any recommendations for others wanting to take this journey?
BA: Simple – just do it! My Camino was a metaphor for my life and the way I live it. It allowed me to break the 790 kilometers into small steps and get where I was going. 790! That’s so long – I’ll never make it – one step at a time, one breath at a time – focusing on what was in front of me, I had a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience that will stay with me for a long time.
You asked about surprises along my Camino – one of them was that I wore my Rancho La Puerta sequined ball cap almost every day (see the photo that was taken by Dianne in Molinaseca, Spain, on a beautiful bridge spanning the river that runs through the town). I was really happy to return home to my life – my animals, my house, my job. I feel that my Camino has given me increased gratitude for my daily life that I want to hold onto for a very long time.