Lourdes guide book ‘inviting and comforting’ declares GoodReads review

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In a recent GoodReads book review of Spiritual and Walking Guides: Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port, Adrienne Morrison wrote, “I found the daily guidance and sacred quotations both inviting and comforting.”

“I was moved to go further; set fears aside; reach higher. Whether we plan a Pilgrimage on our own two feet, or take those steps within our hearts, we will find guidance here,” Morrison continued. The Lourdes guide book directs Camino pilgrims along the physical terrain from Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port, France, helps them reflect on their inner journey, and supplies tools to heighten their spiritual journey.

The spiritual guide that contains daily devotions for the Camino pilgrim is available on Amazon at http://bit.ly/LourdesCamino

Read the full book review by Adrienne Morrison below, or link to the GoodReads review by clicking here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1922841478?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

When I started reading Stacey Wittig’s Spiritual and Walking Guide I had no idea what was about to unfold. Soon, I became gracefully swept along a path of Pilgrimage. I have never contemplated, nor ever imagined such a journey. Do people today really do this today? Indeed. I wasn’t even sure where this journey takes place, or why one would consider going there. But, now I understand. And, I learned you can go with grace, knowing, and beautiful guidance from one who has actually walked the pathways from “Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port.”

Stacey Wittig shares herself in these pages. She helped me see that, once we set our modern life aside long enough to seek another path, our lives can change. Once we go outdoors and walk, hike, or even sit quietly to read—once we consider the spiritual meditations offered in this guide—we can find new understanding. And, to those who literally make this journey, I know you will appreciate having a trusted friend like Stacey along to guide your steps and your thoughts.

Yes, this guide is meant for the actual Pilgrim, with specific recommendations for food, shelter, and camaraderie along your way, but it also leads the reader to a greater closeness to God. The passages and scripture create an opening for us to experience God’s wisdom and love more deeply. I found the daily guidance and sacred quotations both inviting and comforting. I was moved to go further; set fears aside; reach higher. Whether we plan a Pilgrimage on our own two feet, or take those steps within our hearts, we will find guidance here—an invitation and pages upon which we can journal our progress along life’s path.

Put the book on your Amazon “Wish List” or purchase it now in paperback or Kindle at http://bit.ly/LourdesCamino

Lourdes pilgrim ‘thrilled’ about guidebook

“I walked the Piemont route from Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port in September 2015 with only a French guide book, and I don’t speak or understand French!  Needless to say, it made the journey at bit more challenging.  So I am thrilled about your book and hope to walk the route again this year with your guide book in hand.  And what an incredible, beautiful route it is!” said Fred Bovenkamp, on Camino de Santiago.me forum today.

Spiritual and Walking Guide front-cover

Learn more about the Lourdes, France, to St Jean Pied de Port  route by viewing the Camino book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: Lourdes to St Jean Pied de Port, on Amazon at http://bit.ly/LourdesCamino. By Stacey Wittig, Camino pilgrim.

The only English version spiritual devotional and walking guide for this part of the La voie du piémont pyrénéen. Available now in paperback or Kindle.

Road Trip Jordanian-Style

I love a good road trip. If you’ve followed my blogs for awhile you know I enjoy muddin’ in Louisiana bayous, road tripping through New Mexico and off-roading around Arizona backwoods. So when my new friend Mohammad Qamhiya suggested that we take the Namaleh Road – or King’s Highway – on a sort of pilgrimage to Petra in Jordan, I said, “Heck, yeah!”

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“We just called in and learned that the backroad to Petra is open today,” announced Mohammed. “It is our good fortune as the mountain pass is not always accessible.” Who knows who he called to get that information? I was surprised to learn that there was cell service out here in the back of beyond. We’d just spent a candlelit night at off-the-grid Feynan Ecolodge in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan’s largest nature reserve. True Bedouin country with camels, goat herds and sunbaked rock sans electricity except what little was produced by the lodge’s solar panels. The compound was designed around internal courtyards reminiscent of the ancient caravanseri or inns on the silk routes through the desert. Adventurers from around the world come to the inn to spend a day with a goat herder, hike the slot canyons and ancient ruins or learn traditional Bedouin coffee rituals from a shaykh (tribal leader). Explorers like us are willing to give up the luxuries of a five-star hotel for a star-lit experience.

The previous evening, we lay on mats on the lodge’s panoramic rooftop terrace looking up at a field of stars. Suleiman “Starman” Al-Hasaseen guided us through the heavens pointing out stars that could be seen with the human eye which were used by Bedouins to navigate passage in the desert. Then he got out a high-powered telescope, and we stood to peer into the state-of-the-art astronomic device to view Jupiter’s moons. I was tickled by the anachronism: traditional Bedouin starwatching versus modern high tech astronomy.

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“Seriously, are you up for taking Namaleh Road? We’ll ride in Bedouin Jeeps on a rough, dusty, primitive four-wheel-drive road,” Mohammed warned with a frown. Mohammed seldom frowned. The King’s Highway, so named because it was a trade route of frankincense and spices from the southern Arabian Peninsula through Petra towards consumers in Egypt, Rome and Greece. Huge camel caravans made their way through mountains and deserts on this track.

He must have predicted our answer because when we walked out of the desert compound, four local men each with a well-used vehicle waited to take us over the desolate mountain pass to Petra. I didn’t see a Jeep among the fleet, but rather 1980s-vintage Toyotas, Nissans and Mitsubishis. I snagged the front seat with Abdullah in an extended cab Mitsubishi pick-up – old but meticulously wiped clean. He drove us over rutted, bumpy roads from the ecolodge to the nearest village. He pulled up into the on-coming lane of the dusty two-lane road next to another Bedouin Jeep, waving at the driver and shouted across open windows something in Arabic before swinging into a roadside vegetable stand. More Arabic or maybe it was the local Bedouin language as he jumped out of our truck, and from behind the tomatoes appeared a green five-gallon plastic can. “Oh, this is the gas station,” I said to my two travel writing companions in the backseat. The shopkeeper hoisted the heavy can and started pouring gasoline into our 4×4.

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“Why is it I always get the driver that needs to put gas in his Jeep after he picks us up?” I said remembering my white-knuckled off-road trip to tea plantations in Kerala, India, with the gas needle pegged to empty. But here in the remote reaches of Jordan, our gas gauge read ‘full’ as we turned towards Petra on the asphalt highway.

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Oncoming traffic included a robed Bedouin on his camel, a horse decked out in Arabian regalia and, of course, the occasional passing car bearing head-on into our lane. No matter that my seat belt wasn’t functional – I simply prayed. Fields of tomatoes and squash were just a blur as we sped up and over what us off-roaders call “whoops.”

“Oh, my God,” I laughed as my head almost hit the ceiling.

“Don’t laugh – you’re just encouraging him,” said Annette from the back gripping the “Oh Shit” handle above her half-opened window, which wouldn’t go up or down, BTW. Abdullah turned to me grinning and motioned to the road ahead. Somehow in a split second he communicated, “Hey if you liked that, this next one is even better.” I glanced at the speedometer as we hit the second asphalt rollercoaster: 80 kilometers per hour and I tried to do the math – how many miles per hour? It seemed like a million, and I thought for sure we were going to take air. I’m sure all three travel writers’ stomachs were in our throats as we came down.

“I think he thinks we like it,” Brigit hooted above the wind noise in the backseat – as if she liked it. Soon we were on gravel road and weaving around a construction barricade in the middle of our lane. This evidently was the part of the road that was typically closed, but we passed the sign too fast to see if it actually said, “Road Closed.”

“Yallah, yallah,” laughed Brigid, “That mean’s let’s go! Let’s go!”

Annette remained solemn.

We drove right by the UNHRC work crews and onto the dirt road that switched backed and forth ahead of us like the ominous Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park. Were those United Nations Human Rights Council workers that we just dusted? Before grabbing my own “Oh Shit” handle, I noticed that its vinyl covering was pretty much worn off. I tugged one last time at the flaccid seatbelt – no, it still didn’t work.

vagabonding-lulu-on-kings-highwaycwittig-30Up and up we drove on the mountainous, squiggly two-lane dirt track. Earthmoving equipment was parked catawampus of the side of sharp-angled ditches. They seemed to be laid aside for the preferred method of road building as groups of three or four workers with shovels bent backs in front of the motionless behemoths. We hit the first mountain pass and started down the other side, seeing more mountains rising before us. “This could be like how Berthoud or Loveland Passes looked before they were paved,” I contemplated as I viewed the harsh angle of downward gradient before us. Abdullah started pumping the brakes to slow our descent. The brakes didn’t really seem to be working too well, but he continued to pump.

“Great! This is payback time for the prank I pulled on my flat-lander Father back in Durango years ago,” I realized to my horror. Dad was visiting me after I first moved out West and was working for the phone company in small mountain towns. I had finally gotten used to driving on steep mountain roads without guardrails and wanted to show off my expertise in my sassy sports car. As we whizzed down One-Million-Dollar-Highway with drop-offs on the outside turns, I pumped the clutch, pretending it was the brakes. “Oh no, the brakes are out,” I taunted my Dad. Did I mention he was afraid of heights? Yes, I still feel totally guilt-ridden about that one.

So back to Abdullah. He seemed to be well-practiced at the brake-pumping thing, so I realized that “this is how they do it here.” No need to worry. As we began to climb again, I watched the mountains outside my open window change from grey to red. We stopped at the summit to stretch our legs and make use of the phenomenal photos ops high above the Jordanian desert below at sea level. We climbed to the top of a rise where we could look down on our Bedouin jeeps.

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“Oh, no what are we going to do?” wailed a travel writer from another truck. “Looks like your truck is broken down. He has the hood up.” I could see Abdullah pouring water from what looked like an skin animal bag onto the radiator.

“No, it’s OK. He knows what he is doing,” I said. I, too have a truck of the same vintage that I must baby like Abdullah was doing with his brakes and radiator. My ‘87 Toyota Four-Runner with windows that fail to rise and an engine too small for the load is like my baby, and Abdullah’s vehicle seemed to be its twin separated at birth. I walked down to where Abdullah stood proudly over the engine compartment nursing his ‘baby.’ I caught his eyes and then patted the fat fender of his truck. When he smiled back, I knew we had a special connection: crazy drivers and their well-worn vehicles.

Enjoy this article? Then go to http://amzn.to/2412teu and read more. #MyJordanJourney #LearnJordan Disclaimer: Jordan Tourism hosted author Stacey Wittig on this trip. All her opinions are her own.

Bootstrapping: Challenges of translating Camino book from English to German

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“It’s an idiomatic phrase that we don’t really have in German,” explained Thomas with a frown. I couldn’t really SEE his frown, but I could HEAR it. I was sitting in my car in Flagstaff, Arizona, talking on WhatsApp to the linguistic expert who is translating my first Camino book from English to German. The young Deutscher just moved to Brisbane, Australia, last month so it is somewhat difficult to set an appointment where our time zones don’t collide. It was 5 pm my time and 10 am his time. I’d just completed my last meeting of the day and could give my full attention to the international call.

“You say in your book that you ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.’ We don’t really say that in German,” Thomas continued. Bootstrapping may just be a purely American thing. “We do say that we pull ourselves up by our hair,” he added.

“That would work,” I replied, and thought, “This guy is GOOD! I am so blessed to have met him in Paris.” Thomas and I had accidentally, or perhaps with divine intervention, met in Paris, France, when we walked a pilgrimage from the cathedral of Notre Dame to the Chartres Cathedral 100 km away. The Christian Paris to Chartres pilgrimage that takes place every year during Pentecost has roots in the Middle Ages. The pilgrimage is called Notre-Dame de Chrétienté in French.

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Even though I was older than Thomas’ mother, we had walked together joking and laughing much of the way. (When we weren’t lamenting blisters, sleep deprivation or exhaustion.) In three days filled with challenges and joy, Thomas and I got to know each other well. When I learned that he was a professional translator, I asked the twenty-eight-year-old about interpreting my first book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: Leon to Santiago. Since publication, many Germans have recommended that I translate the text into their language.

“I could work on it in September, after I move to Australia,” he smiled. “I’ll have time then.” Since Pentecost was in mid-May, I had plenty of time to prepare my manuscript and raise funds to pay for his services.

But last night Thomas wasn’t laughing or joking too much. This translation was serious business for the young scholar and he approached me with the respect due a valued client. “Maybe I am being too German here, but I want to discuss each of these changes with you. You have laid your heart out in this book. And you’ve been very true to the Bible scriptures that you quote. I don’t want to change the words [imagery] without your approval,” he said sternly.

The impossible task of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is analogous to the achievement of getting out of difficult situations through your own efforts. The German version uses “Schopf,” an archaic word for “hair” or “head of hair” and is used in this context because it is from an old proverb. Today’s use of “schopf” means “swamp.”

The excerpt from my Camino devotional that uses the bootstrapping idiomatic phrase:

Seven years ago, during a self-imposed weekend retreat, I heard the Lord whisper, “Walk El Camino de Santiago.” El Camino hadn’t crossed my mind for over a decade; and, in fact, I really didn’t know much about the ancient pilgrimage route. Yet I felt the Lord’s call to take a spiritual journey. The obedient act of walking would teach me to shift my emphasis from trust in a busy calendar to trust in God’s provision. I had to let go of the belief that if only I had enough sales appointments, won enough sales contests, (fill in the blank with your own if only,) then I would be perfectly happy. I thought of myself as self-made, and relished the image of me – a working woman – pulling myself up by my own bootstraps, or in my case, by my own Bandolino Italian leather pumps.

The German translation of that excerpt:

Vor sieben Jahren dann, während eines Einkehrwochenendes, hörte ich den Herrn zu mir sagen: „Begib dich auf den Jakobsweg.“ Der Jakobsweg war mir damals schon über ein Jahrzehnt nicht mehr in den Sinn gekommen und ich wusste auch nicht allzu viel über diese historische Route. Allerdings fühlte ich einen starken Ruf, mich auf eine spirituelle Reise zu begeben. Laufen hat etwas von Demut und ich hoffte, dass mir eine Pilgerreise dabei helfen würde, mein Vertrauen in Gottes Plan anstatt in einen vollen Terminplaner zu setzen. Ich musste loskommen von dem Gedanken, dass ich eigentlich nur genug Verträge brauchte; eigentlich nur genügend Wettbewerbe gewinnen müsste, um endlich glücklich zu sein. Jeder hat irgendwo ein „eigentlich nur“, eine Bedingung für das Glück. Mein Selbstbild war das einer eigenständigen, erfolgreichen Frau, die sich in schwierigen Situation am eigenen Schopf aus dem Sumpf zieht. In meinem Fall an einem aufwändig frisierten Schopf.

Order the English version by clicking here: Amazon.com

German version now available at https://www.amazon.de

A Table on the Road: Saugues, France

Joseph.Jacob.crop.800Correspondence from the Way on April 30, 2016. Le Puy du Velay (Via Podiensis) to Santiago. Reprinted from Pinewood News.

Today I saw a beautiful young Italian woman laughing at the weather with snowflakes clinging to her dark eyelashes. The flakes were large and falling slowly until the intermittent wind drove them fast into our faces. It’s the last day of April near Le Puy, France, and I didn’t expect snow.

Everytime I’ve brought lightweight gloves to France or Spain to walk one of the ancient pilgrimage routes known best in the US as the Camino de Santiago, I haven’t needed them, so I left them behind. Today I would have loved to have a pair. I kept  telling myself that I really couldn’t get frostbite in 20F-degree weather, but it still didn’t help my numbing fingers.

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Today I also saw hundreds of yellow daffodils decorating a carpet of grass through which a small, meandering stream flowed. I’d never seen daffodils, called jonquils here in France, in the wild before and the contrast  between the yellow and the green stopped me in my tracks. That was before the snow started on Les Chemins de St Jacques.

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Later, after the falling snow subsided for awhile, I saw four men in the forest standing, talking and laughing next to a gate in our pathway. It seemed a good spot to stop and talk to the pilgrims who were catching up with us from behind, what with another field of jonquils within sight, this time with their cheery faces turned down towards a bed of snow. Evidently this place had inspired others before us, because scrawled across an otherwise wordless yield sign nearby were the words, “I love mi lyfe.”

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“Would you like a banana?” Pierre offered to each of the other three men and me. It was an awefully big bunch of very long bananas — too much for one man to be carrying in his backpack. “Please, have a banana,” he offered again after each of us had politely declined.

“Well, if we can help you out,” Joseph, the Belgian laughed. Each pilgrim took one and in unison peeled their bananas and took a bite.
“I have to take a picture of this,” I said taking my camera out. They all hammed it up for me and I thought, “What a beautiful and healthful Camino family I have found here in France. If I were taking this photo in Spain, the guys would be lifting their beers, not their bananas.”

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Later at lunch, Joseph showed me a wooden, hand-carved shell the size of a small snail. The scallop shell, the symbol of St James, held a special story for Joseph. “Yesterday, it was hot and I wanted something to drink, and I saw a sign that read ‘NENE.’ After walking to the sign, I saw a man whose clothes were so dirty. He needed a haircut. Normally I would not stop and speak to such a man. But I wanted something to drink.”

“He sat at a table on the road. On the same table that he had a red wine bottle, glass half drunk, bread, cheese, he also collected machine parts, old oil cans, petrol cans and rusty tools. The table was dark and dirty and behind it, he sat in a wheelchair.”

“But the guy was so happy that in a few moments we were exchanging about our families and lives. I spent 20 minutes with the man. He told me that he had a job to install high electric cable all over the world. But then he had an accident and fell.

So he came back here, to his parents’ house in this small village. He told me that it is his pleasure and his life to stay and invite pilgrims for something to drink and talk to them during their pilgrimage.”
“He gave me this shell,” Joseph said fingering it lovingly. I asked him, ‘How much do you want?’ ‘No, it is a gift,’ the man said. It was my first unordinary happening on the Camino.”

“When I finally walked away, within 200 yards of leaving his place I had tears in my eyes. ‘Joseph, do you now understand why you are walking Compostela?’ I heard. This guy opened my eyes. I was wondering why I was on this way. It (the reason) is for exchanging with others. I’m not only walking the Camino for myself but for the community that I find here. I am part of what is making this man’s happiness and he is part of mine.”

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