One foot in front of the other

For me the best part of writing a new book is the preparation, in particular, the research and especially when it takes me to new places or to meet new people.  This week I met an interesting lady, a fit sixty-plus woman who had walked 790 kilometres in five weeks.  I am doing some research for a novel that takes place in Spain, on the Camino Francés, the most popular part of the Camino de Santiago.  Of course I could have done the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela myself (you don’t even have to walk the whole 790 km, you can walk from a number of closer stages, as long as you  walk a minimum of 100 km) but I decided I would talk to someone who had done it instead.
As I sat drinking tea and eating home-made ginger cake, while she told me about her exploits, I was struck by how incredibly brave she was to do this pilgrimage on her own and at her age.  Would I have been prepared to drop everything for five weeks, leaving husband and family at home, to walk across the Spanish countryside with a rucksack on my back containing the minimum of possessions?  The more I thought about it, the more I realised I could not turn my back on my life even for such a short duration.  And as for leaving my computer behind!  Yet there was definitely something appealing in her descriptions of walking alone, in silence, with only her own thoughts for company.  And the camaraderie when she arrived at her destination for the night, meeting people you had met before or making new friends in the local bars, sounded fun.  Maybe I’ll put it on my to-do list, but not too near the top.

Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.