Jesus never made it this far


I'm getting bald. To my friends this is no revelation. I've seen it coming for almost ten years and consequently shortened my hair bit by bit until three or four years ago I went for the full monty. With all your hair gone there is no receding hairline. Baldness becomes a choice instead of a betrayal by your genes. But winter on the road has spurred me to grow a beard and the hair on the top of my head is looking down in envie.

Confrontation is somehow what I've sought, and find it I did. I've walked some 2000 kilometres in the last four months and I still have a small belly cushioning the clip of my backpack. OK, I get to eat a lot at my generous hosts, but you'd think with twenty kilometres of walking per day on average, it should be possible to burn those calories before they have time to settle and make themselves comfortable.

Around the eyes I find little lines etched in my skin. An irrigation system of small grooves with no apparent use. Maybe they are designed to prevent the eyes from flooding with tears, helping them to find an easy way down the face to keep a clear view. It beats wipers I guess, but I find the aesthetics of the whole arrangement questionable. Besides, I didn't have them when I was a baby and I must have cried a lot at that time. So what is my skin preparing me for, misery of biblical proportion?

Today is my birthday. I'm thirty four now. Jesus never made it this far and I am seven years past the age that any self-respecting rock star should die. Let's face it. I'm getting old. The traditional pilgrim stick I carry is no longer only a symbolical reference to my barefooted predecessors. I will need it soon.

To celebrate my joining the elderly, my mother has flown in from the Netherlands and we are now sitting on a terrace in Salamanca.

She is past the age of retirement and no taller than 1.60 meters, but she would have reached Santiago a month before I will. She moves with amazing speed. Walking beside her you always get the feeling there is a train to catch or that it is the day before Christmas and the shops are about to close while not a single present is secured yet.

I've read somewhere that there is now scientific evidence that the pace you walk in after you're sixty five is a good indication of how long you will last. My mom has nothing to worry about. She will live to be a hundred years old if the theory holds true, but for me the outlook is dim. I've been dragging my feet ever since my foot ingury when I just reached Spain.

It isn't my foot though. I actually feel less energetic as the journey progresses. I'm not so sure anymore if the setup of my project is realistic. I want to walk 10.000 kilometres, meet interesting people every night and write about it all regularly. The fact that that regularity turns out to be once every two weeks or so is disappointing by itself, but the combination of these three tasks actually wears me down. I am still in good spirits and having an amazing time, but once I've reached Santiago de Compostela, I may have to decide on some adjustment.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. When starting something you have never done before it is important to remain flexible. To be like water, as the Taoïsts would say. Since I am dead set on writing more than I've done so far, it has to be one of the other elements that will need adjusting. I think I already know what it will be, but I have to think it through a bit more. Today I am thirty four. Nothing more than a number, but I'll humor myself into thinking that with age comes wisdom. I'll find my answers in Spanish fashion: mañana, mañana!

Wijnand Boon