I am wondering what Rumi would do in my situation? I can feel the signs of mental exhaustion setting in as the almost daily scramble for food, a place to rest my head, keep my technology working, and negotiate traffic has taken its toll.
Thankfully, I have a couple of days to reflect on this. Thursday, I arrived in Giovinazzo (not Ginvinazzo, as I guessed before. I might have been subconsciously been thinking gin and tonics!) when I opened the message from Monastery Stays about my two day stay being cancelled. They actually had sent it the day before, but I hadn’t opened it partly out of busyness and partly because they had a habit of sending daily messages to confirm, reconfirm and remind!
This once again left me scurrying to rethink my plan. Bari was just 15 kilometers south of where I was staying and also has a ferry route over to Greece. I decided that there was no sense in riding all the way to Brindisi without accommodations. I wound my way through the quieter streets of Bari (which was no easy trick this time!), located the ferry terminal, and purchased the first available ticket to Greece (Friday at 8:00 p.m.). With a little luck I found a reasonably priced hotel within two kilometers of the terminal. Today I will have about ten hours in town waiting for my departure time and will use that to gather my thoughts and take the edge off of the disorientation that I am feeling. Plus I am hoping to find some gas or propane for my backpacking stove.
Basically, what I have to work through is that when I planned this pilgrimage I was very intentional about wanting the rhythm to be “ride and reflection, ride and reflection.” In Rome I got the reflection part right in that I stayed in one spot for four days. I also have gotten the riding part right. With the exception of that one mother of a hill riding up to San Giovanni Rotondo, the riding has been physically easy and enjoyable. The wrinkle that hasn’t quite gotten ironed out yet is how to diminish the effects of the daily logistical scramble in order to have time to reflect and ride.
What I don’t want is to get to Konya and only be able to say, “I made it!” I want to arrive there as if it is only the “Amen” to a long, thoughtful, soulful prayer of gratitude. Right now there is too much risk that I will arrive beaten, bruised and exhausted.
I am going to stay open to the fact that Greece may provide a different experience. The word from cyclists is that there is lots of space for wild camping. The people are very accommodating and the monasteries are known for allowing pilgrims to camp on their property.
Italy has been great in many ways and I look forward to processing the experience in coming days. But, there were only two sections where I felt at ease about not worrying about where I would stay that night—along the west coast where hotels and campgrounds were numerous and in a small section just before San Bartolomeo de Galdo where I considered setting up my tent among the forested hillsides that appeared to belong to no one, but God. The rest of the time I have felt like I have to keep moving. The towns and cities are too expensive to stay long and stealth camping is virtually impossible in this populated country.
I wrote early on that on this pilgrimage I needed to “Train for Enjoyment” and today and on the ferry I plan to take the time to establish a plan that provides for more opportunity to enjoy what is before me rather than to feel the need to overcome the obstacles that show up. And, of course (this is part of adopting a Rumi-esque perspective), I need to discern how much of those are real obstacles and how much is only my attitude toward them! I may need to change my circumstances. I may also just need to change my perspective. Rumi reminds us in “The Guest House”: “Be grateful for whatever comes, for each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
Here is what I do know for sure at this point:
- I want to see the monasteries on the top of the cliffs in Meteora.
- I want to ride as far into the sky as they will allow me on Mount Olympus.
- I want to visit the historic sites of Thessalonika and see the legacy that the apostle Paul left.
- I want to experience the shift from West to East in Istanbul as I encounter the Greek Orthodox Church and the Blue Mosque of Islam.
- I want to arrive at Rumi’s Tomb with a grateful heart and a soul full of song.
Now the question is how to do that! Ten hours on a park bench and fourteen hours in the ferry may be just the gift I need.