Looking back at my unsuccessful attempt to walk the Chemin de St. Jacques from Le Puy, I can now see clearly that I made two big mistakes.
The first was in Le Puy. I walked up to the cathedral area from the lower town three times on the day that I was there waiting for Karsten. The second and third times, I had real problems with my breathing. I had to rest a couple of times on the way up. I did not twig to the obvious fact that the altitude was a lot higher than that of Ottawa and that my breathing problem was a matter of less air density and therefore less oxygen in the air. Had I realized that, I could have stayed in Le Puy for a couple more days and acclimatized or I could have made my first few days on the Chemin really short hauls, 10 or 12 kms only. Either solution would have prevented my later problems.
The second mistake was that I allowed myself to be diverted from my aim which was, as you will recall, to walk across France then over the Pyrenees toPamplona. Instead I got diverted by the lovely group of people with whom I was walking after the second day and I accepted their decision of where we would aim for each day. This required me to walk farther than I wanted to each day, thus contributing to my fatigue and general sense of not feeling well. My option would have been to simply say goodbye to them all, including Karsten and to have stopped each day when I had had enough.
Actually, my aim was not simply to walk across France. It to walk across France and to see what experiences unfolded and what lessons could be learned. So in that sense I did not betray myself. The lesson that I learned about how to deal with not being able to do something that I had planned for so long was a powerful one, so perhaps I achieved my aim after all. I could not have done both, it turns out.
And I learned more about relationships. We formed an uncommon level of trust in the group within a day or two. A couple of people in the little group were having some difficulties with their sense of person, and I think that I helped them by a little talking, some gentle suggestions and a lot of listening.