The Journey You Choose

Throughout my life I have challenged myself and sought adventure.  This has been especially true since being blinded.

In 2018, I decided my big adventure that year would be to walk the El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain ending at Santiago de Compostela.

I set out from home with a trusted guide at my side.  We started as a team of two men. 

Two weeks into the journey our team had grown to twelve pilgrims.  By the end, thirty days later of walking, we needed dining reservations for 20 people each night.

It was awesome!   The days were simple, we woke up, we put on our shoes, our pack, placed one foot in front of the other… and chose to move forward.

As we took steps together each day, we shared stories, laughs… dreams broken, and dreams come true.  Each pilgrim walked for their own reason… (healing a broken heart, reconciling with a spouse, carrying grief of an unexpected death… Parents and children walked just to spend the time together). Some pilgrims walked looking for change in their life.  We each had our own reasons, but we had one common goal…to move forward to Santiago de Compostela.

Along the route, at its highest point there is a cross, it is known as La Cruz del Ferro.  It was here that I removed from my wrist the silver KIA (Killed in Action) bracelet I had worn for the last 11 years.  It bore the names of the two soldiers who died at my side on Sept 2, 2006…the day I survived …the day I lived to be blinded.   Running my fingers across their names on that bracelet, I had worn out twice over the years.  

Wearing it reminded me to be grateful to be alive.

Removing it that day marked an important moment in my life of letting go of those two men, Ralph and Justin… letting go of survivor’s guilt but knowing the memories of them will be forever etched in my heart.  At that moment, I made the decision to accept where I am right now.  This is my life now…blind…there IS frustration, anger, sadness … I’m not where I wanted to be…. yet here I am!

As I Descended the far side of that hill in Spain, I realized that my journey did not begin or end in Spain, it continues, a collector of memories along the way.

It’s not the Bulls you Run with or a trail you walk…it’s the journey…. the journey YOU choose!

Bueno Camino Peregrine