hammocking in Logroño

Two days ago my group took a rest day in Logroño, a beautiful city on the Camino. When there, my friend Ashley and I decided to adventure around the city in search of a place to hammock (yes, I did use hammock as a verb). After attempting to hammock in the city and getting asked to leave by the police, we searched for a park! We found a perfect little park. We set up our hammocks as curious locals watched in awe, as many of them had never seen ENO hammocks before. Shortly after relaxing in the sunlight, four curious little boys between the ages 8-11 approached us. We let them try out our hammocks of course and I even played soccer with one of the little boys for awhile.
It was such a special, wonderful time. It’s moments like those that I am truly thankful for, the simple moments. Hammocking. Meeting locals. I will strive to embrace all of these precious, beautiful moments.
Every part of this trip has been amazing, I couldn’t be more thankful already and I’m only about 150 miles in! More stories to come. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.

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new friendships

Throughout this immensely spiritual journey I have met various pilgrims. I never expected to have conversations that were as deep and enlightening as those that I have had with the other pilgrims. At first, it was difficult for me to talk with individuals as there are sometimes obvious language barriers. After the first few days on our journey, however, I began to meet many pilgrims whom I could fully communicate with in English. Though I’ve met many pilgrims, two in particular stick out in my mind.
The first pilgrim that stands out in my mind is Erin, a teacher from Charleston, South Carolina. I met Erin in Roncesvalles at our hostel, but I did not get to know her well until my journey from Estella to Los Arcos. As I was walking I saw she was sitting and resting, as I approached she offered me a granola bar. This act of kindness immediately revealed to me that Erin had a generous heart. When walking we talked about our passions, I told her about Pepperdine, and she began to tell me about her job. Erin explained to me that she has been teaching art at a failing elementary school in Charleston for 3 years. She explained that when she first entered the school she was motivated and excited to make a difference, but over time she realized how difficult the job truly was. I not only loved and embraced her vulnerability, but I appreciated her honesty. It’s people like Erin, those who strive to make a difference and withstand difficult daily trials without seeing any tangible positive results, who are modern day superheroes. I learned so much from Erin, especially since I want to work with distressed and hurt children in the future, just as she does. Her story revealed to me that helping others and trying to make a difference will be emotionally draining and more difficult than I can imagine at this point. But, I know Christ will pull me through, just as He has pulled Erin through.
I realized too, in my conversation with Erin and other pilgrims, how similar we all are. I loved hearing all the different reasons that people decided to embark on the Camino. Our path may be the same, but everyone has a different journey with different motivational factors and a different purpose. For Erin, she explained that she decided to walk on the Camino to think about a career change, yet what she found so far was different than what she thought. She realized that her Camino, her way, was similar to her job with the impoverished, abused children. Everyday is difficult, but when you press on and work hard, you will make it to the next city, to a place of rest that will prepare you for tomorrow. She believed the Camino was revealing to her that she should continue her work with the failing elementary school. When I think about my conversation with Erin I think about how Christ-like she seemed, to jump into such a difficult situation and push forward with perseverance, is definitely powered by God. I will remember Erin in my thoughts and prayers during my Camino. It’s people like Erin, who push on through difficult situations in life and press on, that will make a difference in the world. I truly cherished our conversation together.
Another pilgrim that I have gotten to know is Elida, a 23 year old girl from Croatia. I met Elida on the path from Cizur Menor to Puenta La Reina. Elida and I have become dear friends. Though we have grown up in different areas and have had different experiences, we are extremely similar. Elida loves plants and animals, just like me and alike with me she has been vegetarian since she was a child. Elida and I talked about various subjects, one conversation that sticks out to me though is about the different stereotypes that she has heard about americans, it was so interesting. Elida also opened up and shared her background with me, she explained that after she was born she and her family moved to Austria, where she grew up. She told me about the challenges she faced as a Croatian growing up in Austria, her vulnerability was so beautiful. I am so blessed to have made such a beautiful, kind, hilarious friend.
Elida and I visited a church in Estella together, it was so beautiful walking through the church and admiring the beauty of the building. We then attended mass together, it was so interesting attending a spanish mass with a friend from Croatia. Throughout my time with Elida I’ve learned about new perspectives on the world and I’ve found a person with a similar spirit to my own, it is definitely a friendship that was orchestrated by God.
Elida and I are planning to get together in Italy when I study in Florence later this year, which is so exciting. I am blessed in meeting such a kind soul like Elida. One thing I truly cherish is that we can both talk about our families, our beliefs, and values together. The Camino truly unites and connects people, I will forever be grateful for my new friend.
I cannot wait to meet other pilgrims and see how they too, alike with Erin and Elida, will influence me, broaden my perspective on the world, and help me grow in my faith. This pilgrimage has already impacted me in such amazing ways. I cannot wait to continue to learn about the world as I meet and converse with other pilgrims.

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navarra

Throughout my travels in Spain thus far I have been traveling through Basque Country, in Navarra. Here is a brief history on the region:
Navarra, a French and Spanish influenced culture, is a mountainous region in the northeast region of Spain. The main languages of this region are Spanish and Basque. This region of Spain has various small medieval villages, is mountainous, has various valleys, vineyards, and many green pasture areas. Navarra used to be controlled by the Roman Empire and thus was originally inhabited by the Vascones, mostly in the northern mountainous regions like the Pyrenees. The Vascones, a pre-Roman tribe, have definitely left their romanesque mark throughout the region.
One can see the Vascone’s impact in many of the Roman-influenced buildings and aqueducts throughout Navarra. Historically, the southern region of Navarra is a place that various Muslims resided in. The Muslim’s conquest in Spain was in 711 AD, the Christians, however, over the next 700 years worked on pushing the Muslims out of Spain in the Spanish Reconquest. Pamplona is now the region’s capital and this city played a large role in the Reconquest of Spain. Pamplona is now famous for the Running of the Bulls, a festival that takes place in the city streets. Passing through Pamplona was so interesting, especially knowing that authors including Hemingway once walked the same streets in Spain.
There are many medieval villages, castles, and fortresses throughout Navarra because of Navarra’s location. As a border of France, Navarra has various monumental buildings and defenses, however, many of these buildings were destroyed in various fights, including the Spanish Reconquest. The Kingdom of Navarra is considered to be one of the most historically Christian regions in Spain. Navarra’s culture is extremely diverse. From Navarra’s famous wine to their midday naps called siestas, their bull runs in Pamplona, and their various religious carnivals and holidays, this all contributes to Navarra’s unique French and Spanish influenced society.
In meeting various individuals from Navarra I have found that they are kind, generous, and hospitable individuals. For example, when I lost in Pamplona on the Camino various kind individuals took the time to guide me in the correct direction. Even the locals in the small towns that I passed through when walking on the Camino would never fail to smile and wish me a “Buen Camino”.
I definitely noticed that Navarra is extremely different than Madrid. Madrid, a large, somewhat modern city was not as intimate as quaint, scenic Navarra. Though the individuals I met in Madrid were kind, those throughout Navarra seemed to be more laid back and approachable. In Madrid, the culture of late nights, loud noises, and tapas was overwhelming for me, and can be contrasted to Navarra’s beautiful mountain ranges, quiet countrysides, and high quality wine and food. I loved the time spent in Madrid, but it was too fast paced for me, the small medieval towns, mountains, rolling hills, and fields of Navarra are more desirable to me. The time spent in Navarra was wonderful and I cannot wait to return to this gorgeous region of Spain in the future. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.

yellow arrows

7 days. 106 miles. Here. In this moment I sit in Logrono. A different person, even from yesterday. This trip has been life changing already. My perspective has changed in ways I never imagined. My faith stronger everyday. This experience has definitely been spiritually, emotionally, and physically tiring. But tiring in the previous sentence is used in a positive way. I have not been drained, but I have been stretched, molded, and changed which is exhausting in a good way.
Every step, every pilgrim I encounter, every medieval village I enter, every experience, is unique and changing. I have felt all spectrums of emotions as I have walked. Sometimes I walk alone. Other times, I travel with others. Every step, whether one of sadness or joy, I make with purpose. I take every step with a longing for growth, for renewal. The pure moments of peace that I have been feeling on this trip are new. I have many new feelings, new emotions, new thoughts.
Yellow arrows. All I must follow for the next four weeks are the arrows on my path to Santiago. These yellow arrows lead the way, they guide me, they keep me from straying from the correct path. Without the yellow arrows I would be lost.
What are the yellow arrows in your life? Are you following them?
I believe God will lead me in the right direction, that Jesus is the yellow arrow that will lead me to my destination. He will lead me to Santiago. He will lead me home.
But will we follow these sometimes invisible arrows?
When in one village a few days ago, an albergue used yellow arrows (similar to those on the path of the Camino) to lead pilgrims in the direction of their hostel. These deceptive arrows made it difficult for me to stay on the right path.
In life how will we know which yellow arrows to follow, when there are many around us, leading us in different directions?
Personally, I search and pray for the correct yellow arrows on my lifelong path to be made visible, to be clear. Sometimes they are difficult to see, but with yearning, open, faithful eyes I hope to see and follow the correct path, my path.
I’m sure the arrows in my life, like those on the Camino, may be lead me towards challenging routes. Even then, with determination, persistence, and the strength I find in Christ, conquering the mountains throughout my life, will be possible.
So. As I continue on my journey following the yellow arrows ahead of me, I challenge each of you to do the same. Even if each of us were to take a similar route or path, I have learned that our journeys would still be different. Our perspectives unique. Our steps divergent.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.

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day one

Day one of Camino is complete. I’m sitting in a small cafe in Roncesvalles, our first stop from Saint Jean in France. My feet are sore yet my soul is at rest. My normally racing mind, is now at peace. My heart is full and so contented. My happiness cannot be contained. This journey has begun and is better than I have imagined. Today began at 6am and we left for the 16 mile hike over the Pyrenees at 7am. My excitement could not be contained when our hike began, everything was surreal. But as we hiked up the steep mountain realization that this journey was really happening began to set in. As I traveled today carrying my 25 lbs. pack, it was definitely not an easy task. But as I became deep within prayer, I began to offer up the current pain. After the first 5 miles of intense incline the hike became very relaxing, the views breathtaking. My heart was whole as I walked along these paths, the ones that thousands of others have hiked before me. Every step I took I longed to make purposeful. I could not stop thinking about what a blessing the trip has already been. As I continue to open up my heart to The Lord, He keeps filling me up, making me new, giving me a new kind of purpose.

Today my one agenda will be to walk, for the next 5 weeks the agenda will remain the same. Walking. What a beautiful thing that is. Today I conversed with various individuals from the group I am traveling with, I could feel God’s presence within every conversation, every word spoken, in every thought. I also met various other pilgrims on the way, pilgrims from Germany, from France, from Spain. It was so amazing to see all of these people, who each have separate lives yet we come together to hike the Camino. The views on the Camino were breathtaking with rolling hills, mountains, grazing cows, horses, and sheep, the beauty of the flower covered prairies, I was constantly overwhelmed by all of these sights. I was unable to take many pictures today on my camera because the battery was dead, but this turned out being a blessing. I got to truly experience the Camino, indulging in every moment, not distracted by trying to capture them. I did take a few images on my cell phone, which I will share in this post.

Today pushed me in ways that I have never imagined. But getting to Rocesvalles felt like such a great accomplishment. 16 mikes down and 500 miles to go. I can’t wait to see where this path leads me, where God leads me. I can’t wait for all of my new friendships to grow, to flourish.
My heart is so full at this moment.
I know that this journey will be challenging but I will trek on, I will carry my cross with me as I go, striving to better myself, to grow spiritually, to pray for the needs of others.
Day one of my journey is finished but many more lie ahead.
Days of joy, of trials, of renewal. Days filled with purpose and of faith. I will carry on through it all, in the hope that Jesus brings. I pray that each of you will carry on as well.
Though each of our journeys are different we are all connected as pilgrims, our trails may vary, but our treasure lies ahead. Let’s live in thankfulness never forgetting the deep meaning within life. Always move forward, and always walk on. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.

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a night in france

Tomorrow is the big day, day one of the camino. It’s 10:28pm here but excitement has prevented me from sleeping right now. Tomorrow my day will begin at 6am and we will begin our hike at around 7am. I am somewhat nervous but I know with determination the 16 miles should not be too difficult. Today we arrived in St. Jean a small city in France around 4pm.
St. Jean is such a quiet, quaint place, I love the people here, they are so dear. It’s so interesting after one day of travel entering a new country, with a completely foreign language, but it is also so exciting and completely surreal.
On arrival we went to get our first pilgrim stamp which was exciting and emotional for me. It’s such a special thing, knowing that this trail, hiked on by many will soon be hiked by me. I will soon join camino’s pilgrim family. Before getting my pilgrim stamp I picked out a shell to attach to my pack, since that is the symbol and tradition of the Camino. I picked the first shell I saw, one that has a deep salmon color, one that was different from the rest. The other shells, though equally beautiful, were not suited for me, this shell was meant for me, and will be with me on this journey. To me the shell represents the Camino community, these shells, these symbols connect all of us pilgrims together. The lines on the shell represent all of our separate lives that come together on the trail. We all come from different places yet our destination is the same. Our journeys unique but our paths connected. So tonight here I am in France preparing to hike 500 miles across Spain. Am I crazy? Well maybe I am, but I know this trip is the beginning of a new chapter in my life. A chapter of growth, prayer, faith, determination, and new experiences.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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segovia

Yesterday after we traveled to Avila we then headed to Segovia. Here is a brief history of this beautiful city:
Segovia, a city over 2,000 years old, is one of the most monumental sites in Spain. The aqueduct is a symbol of Segovia and was deemed a historical monument in the 19th century. The aqueduct that surrounds the city is one of the oldest and best preserved Roman monuments in the world. In 1492 a cathedral was built in the city, this cathedral served as a new tool for conversion and also displayed the power of the Catholic Church. After having lunch in Segovia we began our tour. We started with the aqueduct, then traveled to view the exterior of the Cathedral de Segovia. The cathedral in the center of Segovia has more of a romanesque, classical style than other cathedrals we have toured throughout our time in Spain. The intricate detailing and tall columns seemed to reflect a time period of eloquence. We ended our time in Segovia with a tour of the Alcazar castle. The Alcazar castle has beautiful artwork throughout the building including stained glass, statues, and paintings. The ceilings throughout the buildings had fine, unique details and distinct patterns. My favorite part of Segovia was touring the Alcazar castle because I enjoyed looking at the detailed medieval art pieces. Segovia is a historically significant city in Spain because alike with Avila, Segovia contains rich history of the Catholic Church. Segovia also displays Rome’s architectural impact on Spain. This Roman influence is shown throughout Spain as Rome’s classical style, like that in Segovia, is common throughout Spain’s architecture. Overall, Segovia is a beautiful city with amazing architecture. I loved touring and learning about this city’s history. I hope that Segovia’s history interests you as much as it does me, it is such a monumental, gorgeous city, I definitely want to go back again someday. Stay true, life justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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avila

Yesterday we traveled to Avila, a city outside of Madrid, here’s a brief history/reflection of the day trip:
Avila is known for its historic landscapes, buildings, romanesque basilica, and is the birthing ground of many saints. Avila is a very romanesque city, however in the center of Avila stands a 12th century gothic style cathedral. This cathedral is not only a religious place historically, but also a military power. Avila has noble palaces, homes constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries, some are quite gothic while others have roman influences. The city has stone walls and over 88 towers that surround the city. Avila is known for being one of the only cities to have complete, medieval stone walls. Saint Teresa of Jesus is marked throughout the city because the saint spent her life here in Avila. When we arrived to the city we first toured the large stone wall surrounding Avila, we then traveled to the Cathedral of Avila, a very romanesque building. We finished our trip with a tour of the Cathedral of Saint Teresa, which was my favorite part of our visit. The large cathedral holds a chapel that honors Saint Teresa. Multiple relics of the saint are displayed throughout the museum devoted to her. Some of the relics include her journal, rosary, and her finger. I have heard about Saint Teresa of Avila and the reformation she initiated in the Catholic church ever since I was a child. Because of this, visiting the cathedral devoted to her was extremely interesting and special to me. Avila is such a beautiful, historic, and holy place, this city has greatly impacted Spain’s religious culture and tradition of Catholicism.
The city was absolutely stunning. As I walked through the narrow brick roads, basking in sunlight, and taking in the beautiful european architecture, I could not help thinking this was all a dream. But this reality is so amazing, this world and her people are greater than I could have ever imagined. I am so blessed that I get to see the world, experience new cultures, widen my horizons.
If any of you travel to Spain I would definitely suggest stopping by Avila. Walking through such a historical city is so powerful, I wish everyone could experience this joys. I will cherish every moment while I am here. As I take off for the Camino, I will walk in thankfulness and in humble prayer.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.

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traveling with friends

Since coming to Spain, I have had to adjust to various things. First off, there is a nine hour difference from here and California, another strange thing is the Spaniard’s eating habits. They wake up late have a light breakfast, snack on tapas (sort of like snack foods but I can’t usually eat them since I don’t eat meat), then they dine around 9:30 or 10pm at night! It’s been so wonderful adjusting and experiencing this culture with friends! Especially my friend Ashley, who has been so encouraging and understanding throughout this trip! I am so grateful for our friendship. In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, he talks about friendships of utility, pleasure, and virtuous friendships. I know that Ashley and I have a virtuous friendship because we both have good intentions, we both love Jesus and I know that she helps me become a more kind and loving person, just as a virtuous friendship is supposed to do. I am so grateful that God not only put such a wonderful, true friend in my life but that He also put us on this trip together! It’s so amazing. I can’t wait to leave tomorrow morning for St. Jean where we will begin the hike on Wednesday morning. I can’t believe it’s almost time to start my journey on the Camino. I will strive to be loving and encouraging to those around me. Today we traveled to Segovia and Avila, two villages outside of Madrid! I will post about those travels in the future! Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.

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The Prado

One of my first days here in Madrid we traveled to the Prado Museum. The Prado holds some amazing classical masterpieces from many famous artists. I decided on entrance to the museum that I would walk through alone. Art is something I want to experience on my own. I feel so because when alone I can let my independent thoughts flow freely as I analyze the art pieces. As I walked through the Prado I came upon many religious paintings, almost every one was quite religious actually, which is of course normal with historical and classical art pieces. I enjoyed viewing each artists different interpretations of Jesus, Mary, and the Holy Family. As I walked through the museum I could not help but to get lost in the art pieces. I wondered what the artists thoughts were as he or she painted these beautiful images. I’m sure that each stroke of the paint brush flowed with thought and determination. Especially with the religious pieces. I wonder what the artists were thinking as they painted the crucified Christ? Was their painting a form of worship, done to honor Jesus? I like to think that is was.
It was not a very famous piece that truly caught my eye and my flowing thoughts though, it was actually a small image. A painting of Saint Monica, Saint Augustine’s mother. In Augustine’s confessions he wrote about his loving, faithful mother who followed him everywhere, praying for him everyday. What a perfect picture of Christ that is, not giving up on loved ones, instead waiting for them in silent and solemn prayer, moreover, in faithfulness.
As I got lost in the image of Saint Monica’s yearning eyes I began to desire the pure faith that was expressed in the painting. I could not step away from the picture. Even when I did leave to view other art pieces, I went back.
I could not help but to write my overflowing thoughts down as I viewed this masterpiece, here is what I wrote:
Her faith, her adoration, pain and sacrifice, solomn prayer and faithfulness, a beautiful and simple nun. She was not worldly but heavenly. Longing to please Christ in all that she does, I imagine her praying for Saint Augustine, I imagine her thoughts, I imagine the painter Tristan’s thoughts. I see myself in her yearning eyes, longing to meet Christ in heaven, I see that she longed all the days of her life to be faithful and true. I long to be faithful like Saint Monica, to have the yearning eyes that she has. Simple and true.
After I wrote the said words, I began to question why this image had such a great impact on me. Why would an image of a praying nun intrigue me so much? I know that God wanted me to see this image because Saint Monica has the faith and devotion that I long to have. I want to live like she lived, devoting every second of my life to God with quiet prayer and adoration. The beautiful image has been on my heart since I saw it almost one week ago. Throughout the Camino which I will begin in two days, I will strive to be like Saint Monica. I will pray for the lost, those yearning for The Lord, and I will strive to serve those around me just as Saint Monica did. I have learned since coming to Spain that the quiet moments of reflection and prayer are sometimes the most spiritual ones. Throughout the Camino I will strive to embrace such moments and meet God in the silence. Right now I am called to lead a prayerful, independent life of faith and hope as I travel. I challenge each of you to lead a life of purpose like Saint Monica. I challenge you to be a loyal person who clings to faith above all else. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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