Saturday, October 24, 2009

Camino Newsletter #1

BEN'S CAMINO NEWSLETTER #1: "Ask and Ye Shall Receive"

West Hollywood, California
Saturday, October 24, 2009

Folks -- Welcome to the first of my email newsletters chronicling my pending trip to Northern Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago ("The Way of St. James").

If you are receiving this newsletter then at some point over the past several years (and even further back for two or three of you) I will have mentioned my Camino adventure.

As you likely know, I will turn 40 on June 6, 2010 and I want to celebrate by doing something outrageous. I have never been camping and I don't speak any Spanish beyond a few stray phrases, so backpacking 500 miles across the rugged countryside of Northern Spain definitely qualifies as out-of-the-box.

I'm doing this because I want an adventure. I am almost 40 and I have spent most of my adult life in service to those to whom I owe money. I want to change that. And I want my relationship to God back. Not organized religion, not even necessarily God-with-a-capital-G, but a sense of connectedness to the world, the Universe, to god/God/Goddess, that I lost somewhere between paying my back taxes, arguing with the student loan people and trying not to chip a tooth or contract swine flu because I have no health insurance.

I'll talk more about all of that in greater depth later on. But first some business: If you don't want to receive any extra email, or you don't want to hear about the Camino, or you're satisfied to wait until my memoir is published (Spring or Summer 2011 at a bookstore near you), then just tell me and I'll delete your name from the list. No questions asked, no hard feelings, I promise. If you're concerned about hurting my feelings, then just delete the email when it arrives. I'll never know.

And if you're reading this online, forget the preceding graf.

(Click the "read more" link below to access the rest of the newsletter. The Blogger linking code is a little buggy...)

These newsletters will arrive once every two weeks until I depart for Spain on Thursday, April 28, 2010. Then they will become intermittent as I don't know what kind of web access I'll have on the Road. Afterwards, they will then carry on periodically until my book comes out, and then...well, that's far enough into the future for now.

One more item of business: I'm looking for sponsors for the trip. I had planned to go it alone and just scrape together the money myself. Then I realized in a moment of embarrassment and horror that my rent, car payments, car insurance and other bills will have to be paid for the two months I will be trekking across Europe.

I don't know why the small matter of how to pay my bills while I'm gone didn't occur to me before now. I couldn't give a flying fig about money, which might explain why I am perennially penniless. But that's no excuse. None of the seven or eight Camino memoirs I've read so far — there are dozens dating back hundreds of years, no kidding! —really talked about money, either. The authors were already wealthy or well-off and/or had someone back home to look after such mundane stuff as the power bill whilst they were having their grand adventure.

As most of you already know, not only am I perennially penniless, but I am also a bachelor who lives alone. And with this realization came the groaning reality that the cost of my trip had suddenly doubled.

I had no intention of explaining this to anyone or asking for help; I was going to do it alone, by gum. I'd find a way. My stubborn, middle-class work ethic did not stop me, however, from bitching mightily to my friends. And so I complained to my friend Don M. one night recently. He quizzically cocked his head to one side as he listened, and when I stopped to take a breath, he said, "Why don't you ask for sponsors?"

My oh-so-oblivious response? "Who the hell would I ask? What corporations would give me any money?"

"I'd give you money," Don replied. And he promptly handed over a ten-dollar bill. "Ben, there are lots of people out here who would love to come with you to Spain, but they can't or won't do it," he said. "I can live vicariously through you and I have no problem throwing you a few bucks to make it happen."

Wow. Ask and ye shall receive. And technically I hadn't even asked yet, so I was way ahead of the game. I should know this. I do know this, but it's a lesson that I tend to repeat over and over for emphasis: I don't have to go it alone.

As I was thinking about what I was going to say for this inaugural newsletter, I recalled a Camino tradition. Travelers on the Road are known as pilgrims. They are a familiar sight to those who live on or near the Camino, and they are typically understood to be on an important quest. Often locals will ask pilgrims to carry a prayer on their behalf to the Cathedral of St. James in Compostela, the ending spot for the Camino.

Thus, as the pilgrim makes his or her way across the landscape, they find themselves carrying the hopes and wishes of many. They are not alone.

And so I am asking for help. I recognize that I am not alone in my desire to refuel my spirituality or to simply have an adventure. If you can afford to sponsor me, any amount will be welcomed. If you have a PayPal account, you can make a donation using this email address:

If you want to send a check, let me know privately. And if you can't spare a dime right now, then I hope you will continue to share in this adventure with me and dozens — soon to be hundreds, perhaps? Thousands? Millions, dare I dream? — of others. It's a grand group.

Oh, and one more thing: Please forward this email to anyone you think might benefit from it in some small way. The more, the merrier.

Back in two weeks. Buen Camino!

P.S. Most of you are aware of my freelance writing jobs. But if you are not up to date and feel inclined to follow some of the links here on this website, be aware that several are probably NOT SAFE FOR WORK (NSFW) and can be a tad racy in content.

P.P.S. CLICK HERE to follow me on Twitter.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ben: Please make sure that I receive your notices on the Camino.

Thanks again Ben

Lisa K

Have a great day