I started traveling through Europe at the age of 15 years old with limited funds and only my determination and will to keep me going. For me travel has been an all-consuming passion for most of my life. I love the adventure, doing something new and proving that no matter what, you can.
Each day is brand new. I wake up each morning very early, thinking, “What’s for breakfast today? What new worlds and adventures will I find and explore?” I travel light and love the nomadic lifestyle. I truly love meeting people and seek to understand their culture, lifestyle and what drives them.
Because my mother and father worked for TWA, I took advantage of the tickets offered to employees and their families. It was with a great deal of reluctance that my father and very worried mother let me. I used savings from doing dishes at Nickerson Farms, a local restaurant in Platte City. I took a backpack, and a map of Europe. At the last minute in the Boston Airport, I found Arthur Frommer’s guide book: Europe on $5 a Day.
I had a student rail pass good for 2 months and train travel through 13 countries, a big dream and instruction from my English teacher to visit the great museums of Europe. I visited 13 countries and spent my $385 in savings which lasted two months by using student discounts and sleeping on the trains.
I finally made it home two weeks late for the eleventh grade with great stories and amazing memories. I was ready to go back for more so I immediately did the very next year and then pursued an adventure around the world after graduating from high school.
Why did I decide to visit 13 countries throughout Europe for two months where I knew no one and could not even speak any of the languages?
For me the reasons were simple, I wanted a life of adventure, and to accomplish something big at an early age. I also wanted to challenge myself. I was very shy and I wanted to build some confidence. I always considered my father to be adventurous and heroic. I wanted to be like him and of course to have pride in myself and to have him be proud of me.
Now, I’m 56 years old and living in Camden Point, Mo. I’ll be again seeking the same adventure, set to walk Spain’s ancient pilgrimage path known as the Camino de Santiago — covering more than 500 miles of Spain’s northern provinces.
I first heard of the Camino de Santiago while traveling through Southern France In the late 1970s.
I was staying the night at a youth hostel and was talking to some college students who were going to start their trek across Spain. I immediately became intrigued about their adventure and their story appealed to me because by then I had been traveling through Europe for a few years.
I didn’t think about the Camino until many years later when a movie, documentary and several books started coming out about the journey.
The Camino de Santiago — “Way of St. James” — is a pilgrimage route to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, located in northwestern Spain. This location is the burial site of St James the Greater, one of Jesus’ apostles. Since the Middle Ages, pilgrims from all over Europe would walk hundreds of miles from their homes to pay homage to the remains of St. James, who came to Spain to preach and teach the gospel. He returned to the Holy Land in A.D. 44, and Herod Agrippa had him beheaded.
Two of his disciples brought his body back to Spain where it seems to have been forgotten for several centuries until 813 when his grave was discovered and the first church was built and Santiago de Compostela was born. The present cathedral was begun in the year 1075.
The earliest records of pilgrims walking to the shrine, dedicated to St. James, date from around the eighth century.
Pilgrims walked for months from their homes to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. As of today, tens of thousands walk or cycle the Camino de Santiago each year in a journey of more than 500 miles.
The traditional pilgrim way is on foot carrying all your belongings and necessities.
People continue to walk the Camino de Santiago for many reasons. Some are motivated to journey for spiritual or religious reasons.
Some people seek the adventure or wish to discover the culture and the history. Many pilgrims left home for one reason and found themselves being inspired and changed along the way.
I had been planning this trip for well over a year to walk 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port in southwestern France at the foothills of the Pyrenees across northern Spain. However for some months, I was short of breath when walking, hiking up hills and working around the farm so I went to the cardiologist who informed me that I had a bad aortic valve, and it would need to be replaced.
This was May 2014.
I met with the cardiothoracic surgeon and told him that I had a trip planned to walk across Spain in four months. He said the surgery could get me across the Pyrenees and all the way to the Atlantic. However, I didn’t feel like I had my endurance back to be ready by September so put my trip off till the Spring of 2015, and I then canceled again because of a foot injury.
Now after hiking with a 30-pound pack on the back roads and hills of Camden Point, the trails at Smithville Lake, the trails and bluffs at Weston Bend State Park, I feel prepped and ready to start my pilgrimage to Santiago toward the end of August. I plan for the journey to take me about 37 days.
As I contemplated this endeavor, I started thinking about my family.
This journey signifies a way to honor and pay tribute to my parents. A primary tribute is first to my mother, Loretta Larimer, who was tragically killed after a newly licensed 16-year-old driver was texting and lost control of her vehicle and hit my mother head-on. This occurred on Sept. 26, 2011.
My sister, Sheila Tedder, died of cancer about a year before after a five-year battle. My niece’s daughter died of cancer just after mother’s death and my father died of cancer within one year of diagnosis in 1990.
The Camino became a very important journey to honor the lives of these very important people.
For a very long time myself and my other family members have continued to struggle with coping over the senseless act that caused my mother’s death. For well over a year I went over the reports from the investigating detective, the autopsy report and the 82 photos of the inside and outside of Mom’s car. I did not find any answers.
I only discovered more pain from the photos and reports.
I especially want to explain further how incredible my parents and family are to myself and to others and why I am dedicating this incredible journey in dedication for their lives and the impact they had while they were here and even still how they inspire others while they are in spirit.
I am dedicating my Camino walk and journey to my parents, sister Sheila and niece Harley. I will wear my mother and father’s TWA service pins on the front of my backpack and place photos of them at specific holy sites along the trail to commemorate their powerful personal journey and path while they were here.
I will constantly be thinking, writing, and talking about their impact, example and love along my travel.
Now I’m off to Paris and then by train to Bayonne in the south of France, from Bayonne I will take the bus to St Jean Pied de Port where I will start my walk across Spain. I will write each week about the people and other pilgrims I meet, about the medieval villages I pass through, the history, culture and interesting things I find along the way.