In 1999, having planned an extensive European trip, 26-year-old American writer and editor Michelle Fiordaliso found out she was pregnant. She decided, however, to carry on regardless and promptly set off. As a single mother, she went on to raise her son in Los Angeles. Then recently, after dropping him off for his first year of college in New York, she set out on a trip similar to the one she took 19 years ago. Starting in Sweden and finishing in Italy with stops in Scotland, France, Spain and the UK and in between, this time around she’s got different reasons for traveling.
“As a mother, an employee, a neighbor and a dog owner, I’ve spent most of the last two decades considering other people’s rhythms – waking up when your child needs to wake up, when the dog needs to go out, when you have to be at work – in a way letting the job schedule, kids schedule, dog schedule, friends schedules dictate the way in which my days unfold. Now, I’d like to have the opportunity to see what my own natural rhythms are.”
It came to her while running the LA marathon in 2018. At that time, she wasn’t living in the right place and her job wasn’t right for her anymore. So Fiordaliso boxed up her home of 13 years, quit her post as vice president of marketing for a global financial tech company, packed her bags and hit the road. “The overall intention with this trip is to gain some clarity on what’s next for me in life, where I want to be and what I want to be doing,” Fiordaliso says.
In Spain, she’ll hike the Primitivo route, the least populated, most scenic and also the hardest of the four paths along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Walking up to 30k a day for 18 days, Fiordaliso says bedbugs, brown recluse spiders (of which there are plenty), inclement weather, unforgiving terrain and the fact that she’ll be at it alone, were never going to deter her from doing the hike.
“This is something I know I have to do, and do it alone,” she says. “People say that you’re never alone on the Camino. If you believe in God, you’re walking with God. If you have people you’ve lost, perhaps you’re walking with them. And you meet people while walking. Nobody will know me there in the way that my friends do. There is something intriguing about that,” she adds, with a glint in her eye.
Published: December 12, 2018