Parting thoughts

With less than 12 hours remaining before I leave for France, I’d like to share a few parting thoughts.

If you’re somewhat new to this blog, welcome, or welcome back! If you’re a new e-mail subscriber, please be aware that, when I travel, I tend to ramp up the number of posts I write each day, especially on the days when I spend a lot of time waiting around airports. If you feel like you’re being flooded with e-mails from this blog, you can click on the “manage subscriptions” link in the most recent e-mail and change the subscription to a daily digest — or even a weekly one.

If you’ve already been visiting this blog for a while, you may have noticed a few changes over the past week or two. I had some grandiose plans for a complete blog overhaul, but as my departure date approached, I had to back off. However, I did install a new out-of-the-box theme that checked a lot of the boxes I would have checked if I had rolled my own. I also started embedding maps on certain pages. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, to provide a visualization of where I’ve been. Since embedded maps don’t translate well to e-mails, I decided to stop including the entire content of posts in e-mails. I know it irritates some people to have to click a link in an e-mail to see a post, but it’s the only way of making sure people see all of the post’s content. Long story short, I didn’t get as much done as I’d anticipated, but I’m happy with what I did get done.

You may have also noticed that I’ve come out from behind the pseudonym I’d been using. After a certain global social media network blocked my old blog for no apparent reason almost two years ago, I decided to go into virtual hiding. While it was liberating at first, keeping up the online alter ego was exhausting. In addition to maintaining separate online personas for myself and my immediate family members, I had to scrutinize every photo to make sure there wasn’t a reflection of someone I know in a mirror. Now my avatar is really me — although the photo is a few years old, and I cleverly disguised myself with the same sunglasses I wear nearly every day.

The last week before I travel is typically when I start to realize I’m running out of time to do everything I want to do before leaving, at which point I start bargaining with myself. I did a lot of practice hiking over the past week — the typical hike being a rocky and relatively hilly 13-mile desert loop here in Phoenix — so when I started thinking about this morning’s hike, it was easy to look for a reason not to do it. I decided it would be more edifying to skip the hike altogether and go to confession and Mass instead. It was a good call, I think. My legs may regret the decision when I start walking Thursday, but my mind is at peace and is thanking me now.

I’m usually a last-minute packer, and this time is no exception. To do the practice hikes, I just threw a bunch of random clothing into a backpack. Today, I packed properly for the first time. To my surprise, the pack weighs less than I expected — perhaps even less than the practice pack. While I still have a few more small things to pack, it looks like I’ll stay well under my weight goal.

I’m grateful for the well wishes and prayers of my family and friends over the past few days. I’m also humbled by the fact that some friends have asked for my prayers as well. When you’re on a pilgrimage, prayer is part of the deal. Even if I don’t know you, I’ll be praying for you.

That’s about it for now. À demain