Beth Jusino (shown) and her husband, Eric, stumbled onto the remains of a castle while on the Camino de Santiago trail. (Beth Jusino)

Beth Jusino (shown) and her husband, Eric, stumbled onto the remains of a castle while on the Camino de Santiago trail. (Beth Jusino)

A break from modern life leads to 1,000-mile journey on foot

Learn how you can create an affordable sabbatical at Marysville’s Outdoor Adventure Speaker Series.

Beth and Eric Jusino needed to unplug.

Weary of their technology-driven lives in Seattle, the Jusinos turned off their phones, loaded their backpacks and took a leap of faith on the Camino de Santiago in Europe.

Seventy-nine days, two countries, two mountain ranges and 1,000 miles later, the Jusinos emerged refreshed with a story to tell at the Outdoor Adventure Speaker Series on Tuesday at the Marysville Opera House.

Beth Jusino, a writer, editor and book publishing consultant, will talk about the benefits of taking a break from modern life to venture into unknown territory. Husband Eric is a facilities director at a community center in Seattle.

“I needed some kind of sabbatical to step away and discover something that’s real,” she said. “We wanted this to be a grand adventure — a big recharge.”

Beth and Eric Jusino pause at the gate to St Jean Pied de Port. (Beth Jusino)

Beth and Eric Jusino pause at the gate to St Jean Pied de Port. (Beth Jusino)

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James, is an ancient network of trails across Europe. All of the routes lead to a Catholic shrine honoring the apostle Saint James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, a World Heritage Site in northwestern Spain.

Pilgrims have recognized the Camino de Santiago as a means of spiritual growth since the 9th century. More recently, it has become a popular trek for outdoors enthusiasts, drawing about 300,000 hikers per year.

Though eager for a sabbatical from work, the Jusinos didn’t make the pilgrimage for spiritual reasons. And they aren’t particularly outdoorsy. The Jusinos simply wanted to go on a journey — one that didn’t have to be especially strenuous.

“Europeans treat hiking as a holiday,” Beth Jusino said. “You walk for a few miles, then stop for a latte or a croissant, then stay in guest houses or hostels. You get a real bed, wine and a shower every day. You’re seeing an entire country at a human pace.”

They never rushed — even though their tourist visas expired after 90 days — and took rest days whenever they felt like it. They averaged 10 to 15 miles per day as they crossed river valleys, descended through rocky terrain and climbed to high plateaus with the Pyrenees mountains in the distance.

The Camino de Santiago trail ends at a cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The Jusinos walked 1,000 miles to reach it. (Beth Jusino)

The Camino de Santiago trail ends at a cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The Jusinos walked 1,000 miles to reach it. (Beth Jusino)

On rest days, the Jusinos watched sunrises over beautiful countrysides, visited museums and cathedrals and walked through historic towns.

They spent no more than what was necessary on food, room and board, averaging roughly $30 to $35 per day in France and $20 to $25 in Spain.

“It turns out this is the cheapest way to experience Europe because you’re not paying for transportation,” Jusino said. “You’re relying on your own feet.”

They kept their electronics turned off, even when a translation app could have come in handy. The Jusinos don’t speak French or Spanish, so they picked up small phrases from locals to get by. More often than not, there was one person who spoke English and could help.

Signs and markers indicate the path of the Camino de Santiago trail. (Beth Jusino)

Signs and markers indicate the path of the Camino de Santiago trail. (Beth Jusino)

Sometimes they ran into fellow hikers. They spent their 14th wedding anniversary in the small Spanish town of Bercianos del Real Camino chatting with visitors from South Korea, Switzerland and Mexico.

One day, as the couple walked in the French countryside, a pair of dairy cows came tromping down the road toward them. That’s when Beth learned her husband is deathly afraid of cows. To his credit, though, Eric offered to distract the bovine menaces while Beth sought help.

Eventually, the couple met up with a woman who sheltered them and grudgingly agreed to tell the cow’s owners the animals were on the loose.

Beth Jusino also suffered from plantar fasciitis, which caused stabbing pain in her heel, on the journey. She had to convince herself to walk through the pain nearly every day.

“There were days where I thought, ‘I can’t imagine doing this for two more months,’” Jusino said. “I don’t want to make it sound like a fantastical vacation. Pilgrimages, historically, are about setting aside your life and intentionally depriving yourself of certain comforts.”

“Modern life encourages pilgrimages in that way. Maybe what you’re seeking isn’t penance or God’s forgiveness — but you’re seeking something.”

The Jusinos, close to their destination, stopped in Pamplona, Spain, where the legendary Running of the Bulls festival is held every year in July.

On Day 75 of their trip, the Jusinos reached the Catholic shrine of the apostle Saint James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. (Beth Jusino)

On Day 75 of their trip, the Jusinos reached the Catholic shrine of the apostle Saint James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. (Beth Jusino)

On Day 75, they reached the shrine of Saint James, then walked for another four days to Cape Finisterre. It’s one of Spain’s most western points and is popularly known as “The End of the Earth.”

Beth Jusino took hundreds of photos along the way, while also recording events from all 79 days in a journal. Her notes and experiences inspired her to write “Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago,” published by Mountaineer Books in October.

The Jusinos walked four more days to reach Cape Finisterre, popularly known as “The End of the Earth.” (Beth Jusino)

The Jusinos walked four more days to reach Cape Finisterre, popularly known as “The End of the Earth.” (Beth Jusino)

Jusino’s presentation at the Marysville Opera House will include pictures from her trip, tricks for navigating the Camino de Santiago and, most importantly, encouragement for others in search of their own accessible adventure.

“The book was my way of shining a light to what it was like to have this out-of-the-box adventure,” she said. “You don’t have to be a mountain climber or a rugged outdoors person to give yourself a chance to see the world in a different way.”

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@heraldnet.com.

If you go

What: Marysville Outdoor Adventure Speaker Series

Where: Marysville Opera House, 1225 Third St., Marysville

When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 8

Cost: $5 at the door

More: 360-363-8400 or www.bethjusino.com

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