When I arrived in Fisterra in July, on one of the lucky first dry days in the past weeks, I felt elated, relieved, and pretty sad. I resolved then and there to walk the Camino again, next year, and to take my time then, not rush it, not set a deadline. Just walk.
And I felt something else as well: my backpack was the lightest it had been since I started. Partially because I didn’t bring the usual two liters of water, but also because I wasn’t lugging as many medical supplies as I had just a week prior. In short, since passing St. Jean-Pied-de-Port I’d become a semi-well-known Camino Medic, someone people asked for by name and looked for in their respective town and albergues, because I was rumored to have painkillers, stomach soothers, blister fixers, and bed bug bite removers.
I guess it hit home when people started greeting me as “Doc” as we passed each other. Or when, after having been asked if I was “that Mikka that can make blisters better,” I looked up from my drink and patatas bravas in Los Arcos and saw a line forming.
I am not the only one this happened to. Far from it, I met two others, a husband and wife duo from Sweden, who’d started doing Camino Medicine, and a guy from Chile who saw his day job as an emergency room physician invade his Camino as well (and, like people who know how to play an instrument or the ever-present “Camino Star Chef”, kind of liked it).
So for 2018 I have a plan. Working name: Medicos con Conchas. I’ll start from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in late May and simply walk the Camino, but differently. I’ll bring more medical supplies, and (and this is the first of those attempts) try to recruit others, medical professionals or not, to come with me. Most pilgrims walk between 20 and 30 kilometers a day, so I’ll walk between ten and fifteen. This has the advantage of countering one of the Camino’s greatest but somewhat (for me) problematic features: you see the same people every day, more or less. Instead, I want to see new people, offer my services and my goods for free (Donativo Box comes with, money goes to Doctors without Borders). I’ll then up shop every lunch and dinner, doing what I already did this year: bandage legs, fix blisters, and listen to aches and pains.
The disadvantage is, of course, that this’ll take a hell of a long time. At 10 kilometers a day it’s 80 days, if I were to start on May 15, I’d arrive on September 4th — quite a long time to be away from friends, family, work, and home. I can make the work thing happen, I am flexible, but that friends and family part is a little less easy to deal with. Even if I could, others might not be able to, so I am contemplating sectioning the hike, for me and those who (hopefully) will come with, and take breaks and breathers at home while the rest moves on.
I’m setting up a blog, forum, and likely something on Facebook to get the ball rolling. In the mean time I’ll spend lots of evenings buying my two Spanish colleagues beers to learn Spanish medical terms and convince them to come with me and make restocking easier.
I have a Sello (“Stamp”) in mind (since Stamps are cooler than medicine on the Camino) and already deals with a few albergues to ship medical supplies to them for pickup and get permission to set up. I’ll be talking to Ian at the Abbey to do a two-day there (it’s where all the “second day” pains start), and there’s a good chance we have the guest house in Boadilla del Camino for a longer “Meseta Setup.”
These are all just a few initial thoughts. I think it’d be great to do it, I have been told it’d be great, and I am convinced I can make it happen. What are your thoughts, though? Am I missing something? Let me know.