Tuesday is the day I fly to Newark, then Madrid. Like every great trip, once it’s this close to departure, I don’t want to go. I want to stay. I want to stay in Ballard and go to pub trivia and pick blackberries in alleys and drink Trader Joe’s wine with siblings and play piano at church and eat the garlic from my garden. And I want to bike to Sunset Hill after dinner to see the blue and yellow sky over the Olympics ooze into preppy pink, and then coast down in the summer breeze to my house.

I ached for a rush of mossy, sweaty, mountainous, coldwater Pacific Northwest before leaving for Spain, so I went out Highway 2  where the towns are big enough to have Burger King but not Starbucks. At the suggestion of my friend Luke I climbed up to Heybrook Lookout, an old fire tower on the edge of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which is Bigfoot Country.

It was a quick, sweaty half hour to the top, where I surveyed the guts of the Cascades, green this time of year and misty on this morning. I sat in the tower and wrote, “What are my expectations for the Camino?” and then I made a list of my answers.

I’ll tell what I wrote but first I’ll say that I got down to the parking lot in no time and stopped at the World Famous Espresso Chalet, home of the Best Espresso on SR 2.


I don’t doubt it was the best espresso on State Route 2, but it sucked and was therefore endearing. I took the bathroom key which was tethered with a heavy chain to a plywood, to-scale Sasquatch footprint to a locked Honey Bucket and when I returned, the barista was chiseling some ice off a hunk of fused cubes for my coffee. She offered me a pump of hand sanitizer through the window and I said thank you and she said have a nice day now. Then I waited on the road for a long time while they did something to the pavement. I was in the car three times longer than I was on the trail.

I have expectations of this trip. They are mostly high ones. When I did the World Race they always said DON’T HAVE EXPECTATIONS DON’T HAVE EXPECTATIONS but that is impossible. The trick is to know your expectations and hold them loosely so you know what to let go of when something isn’t going according to plan.

So here are the things I think will happen on this trip.

I’ll get tired. I’ll get blisters. I’ll wish I never packed this laptop (but I’m going to and there’s no convincing me otherwise).

I’ll meet annoying people and fascinating people.

Despite my extensive research, I’ll have made packing mistakes.

I’ll get bored but flourish in it.

I’ll get sick of all the Catholic spirituality.

I’ll be freshly enamored of all the Catholic spirituality.

I’ll get bed bugs.

It will be beautiful but maybe not as beautiful as Bigfoot Country.

I’ll spend too much money.

I’ll get homesick and miss my family and pray for their safety.

I’ll be fit enough to do the trek but my hips and shoulders will hurt.

I won’t lose weight.

I’ll have deep and transformative (meaning uncomfortable) experiences with God.

I’ll ford a river.

I’ll get a lot better at Spanish.

As soon as I set foot on the trail, I will become fixated on the question of what will will happen when I come home, and I’ll have to tell myself to stay present a lot.

I’ll get a crush on someone.

I’ll laugh a lot.

At some point I’ll get cold and wear my sleeping bag liner like a scarf.

I won’t know what to do with the spare time I’ve built into the end of the trip.

Despite thorough waymarking, I’ll get lost.

I’ll eat way more meat than I usually do.

I’ll write nice things but take lame pictures.

I’ll immediately ditch the few issues of National Geographic I’m bringing along for reading material.

I am very excited to go. If you catch me in a fit of anticipation, you’d think I just got engaged or promoted or something. I haven’t been this excited or happy in a really long time. I don’t know if I’ve ever planned an adventure more up my alley than this. I love everything about this trip already: its deep history, its religious significance, its worn path of intense spirituality and physicality, the community between strangers it fosters. I already love its  inherent challenges, discomforts, monotony, and unpredictability. I love the discipline and spontaneity it will demand. I love that I’ll be walking through La Rioja, wine country, during the harvest season.

I do not love that I won’t be in the southeast of Spain, where the yearly reenactments of the Punic Wars take place in the fall.

3 thoughts on “Expectations

  1. Bravo Chelsea!
    My cousin did it after a painful breakup and came back a different man – full of the joy of the Lord. He did it during g the winter and loved every minute of it, though it was not always
    easy. I love your writing- you are truly blessed with a talent for vivid description. Bonne chance and many blessings .


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