I love words and I often find myself looking up word origins or the proper definition of a word. With that in mind, I am defining this current phase of my life as my mid-life catharsis and once I read the following I knew it was perfect.

Catharsis (from the Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning “purification” or “cleansing”) refers to the purification and purgation of emotions—especially pity and fear—through art[1] or to any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration.[2][3]

The last few years I have really started to distance my head from my heart and have found myself not really liking the person I have become. The things in my past that made me proud and centered are becoming a smaller and smaller part of my being. Those things start with being a good friend to others, being creative, seeking and generating inspiration and just generally looking at life as a journey of possibilities. Although I have always been prone to depression, a really devastating heart break and losing a job that had become my identity completely altered my reality. I have become about self-preservation, not rocking the boat, minimal challenge, risk and thus reward. I am often bored and have developed some pretty negative routines that just help me continue this drab ho-hum spiral. That being said, I have tried a lot of things; working with kids, exercising more, moving and moving and moving, open mic nights, committing to making more time for my family, growing a couple of local friendships with amazing people who are not allowed to have any expectations of me, getting a dog, etc…. While these are all beneficial activities, I still find myself on my couch watching too much tv, not connecting with very important people, overweight, insecure, withdrawn and just plain lost. Disconnected feels like the right word.

I have also felt a bit like an elementary school kid thinking “maybe I’ll become a fire fighter!” or “i’ll be a pop star!” or whatever craziness comes into my head. That with my business experience, I’m frequently figuring out how I can market my desire to make some real $$$. But nothing has resonated beyond a brief fantasy and so I continue to work a minimum wage job while (phew!) getting a hefty severance paycheck and feeling like I am putting off “real life”. ??

Last Monday a colleague called me about a job. I thought “I need to take a job in my career field with a good salary and a 401K, etc… etc…” I kept hearing myself saying the word “should” and not feeling any excitement. I promised to send him an updated resume that night. The next day I had not emailed the resume, using excuses that I have a new computer and needed to download Office knowing that if I was passionate and engaged, he would have an updated resume asap. The next day my head was spinning with ideas and I called my mom with less than five minutes to spare and asked what she thought of me hiking the Camino de Santiago. My practical, southern, money conscious mother did not hesitate and said “sounds like something you should do honey”. I said it might take six months, I had no idea what I was saying – I knew nothing about it other than hearing part of an NPR story and seeing the trailer for the movie “The Way”. I spent a good quality thirty minutes on the internet that night and that was all it took for me to know I was going.

The Way of Saint James (a.k.a. The Camino de Santiago) is a 500-mile spiritual pilgrimage across the Pyrenees, through the provinces of northern Spain, ending at the Saint James Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Some people take months, years or weeks to do it.

Since then, I breathe the Camino. I have a phone app that links me to a wonderful forum where people post questions and they get very meaningful responses. I have watched numerous youtube videos, read personal blogs of others experience, and continue to feel inspired, excited and beyond secure in my decision. Fast forward to seven days later and you will find a girl with a plane ticket in September to Paris, France and home from Santiago de Compostela, Spain after an estimated 41 days.

I have said in the last year that I feel like life is courting me but I always have to wash my hair that night. Not sure if that makes any sense. I have been dipping my toe into the water but this feels like I am finally jumping right in. So although this could just be another attempt to try something, it feels so different. It feels real, it feels big and it feels right. I don’t expect it to provide me all the answers but man just to breathe, really breathe – well then it would be worth it.

I knew that I would write about my trip but I decided I would also write before my trip for two reasons. 1) To provide friends and family with information about where I am going, what I am doing and 2) I know this will be a life changing event and I want a record of my hopes, dreams, fears, etc… so I can look back on it with the perspective of someone who has done it. I want to hold myself accountable to life.

Hopes, dreams:
1) Like myself – ie.. find myself, remind myself of who I can be at my best
2) Be a better friend to others and have something to give
3) Be in better shape
4) Have some awesome stories that include sheep and cows
5) Have met some people that teach me important life lessons

So family and friends – welcome. Thank you for taking this journey with me. To many of you I apologize for disappearing. I hope to have much to tell you soon.

I am beyond inspired by so many who have posted videos, blogs, informational websites, etc… but for those of you interested here are a few to give you an idea of what I will be up to soon.

Handy Wikipedia info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Way_of_St._James

Route descriptions (Camino Frances will be my path): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Way_of_St._James_(route_descriptions)

My possible itinerary along with some great info: http://www.30daystosantiago.com/itinerary.html

One of the many wonderful personal accounts: http://www.banxietyfree.com/walking-the-camino.html

Really interested? Check out:


47 thoughts on “Ultreïa!

  1. I’m so happy for you in making these revelations in your life. I think everyone goes through this at some point and no doubt the last job you had was very consuming to an unhealthy level. My brother and several other family members have walked the Camino and it was very life changing for each of them. I can’t wait to hear about your experience and hope maybe one of the times in your in Texas we could visit in person. Best of luck Paige and thank you so much for this blog and the transparency that provided that is the reason so many people love you. : )

    • Yep, you get it Mark. That is so exciting that your brother and other family members have walked it and that it was life changing for them. Part of me worries that my expectations might be too great but then I read about others experience and how it has affected them and I try to allow myself to be excited and hopeful – something I have avoided in the past so as not to be disappointed. I am planning to make a pit stop in Texas on the way back from the trek (October 12th-15th) and am hopeful that I will have lost the shroud of ego that fuels my insecurity and be ready to celebrate my experience with you and my other Texas friends. Your last line really touched me. Deepest thanks for being so encouraging, supportive and genuine. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Dave – hope to have lots to tell you soon. You are such an adventurous and inspiring guy – I knew you would be in total support and I really appreciate it. I will keep you posted!

  2. Paige, you deserve all this and more. I truly wish you great revelations, epiphanies, and moments of soul-stirring clarity on this pilgrimage. May you find the peace and happiness you seek!

  3. Paige, I am so happy for you! The discovery will be wonderful. We are back in Texas so I hope we can see you in October as well. I look forward to reading about your travels! Enjoy the journey!

  4. It is so enjoyable to read such a well written story and the thought process behind this decision. I can’t put my reasons to paper as eloquently as you did. My son said lets go on a walk in Spain and I said ok… We start in September.

  5. Paige – that was vulnerable and so honest. I’m proud of you and although I haven’t taken something like that on – every time I have traveled by myself for a long period of time with little to no itinerary – I have felt so free and like I could really experience things and think for once. I will never forget those experiences and can’t wait to share in yours!!

  6. Wow Paige, I envy you at this moment. At a time where I work my way up the Govt ladder with the VHA to supervisor in only a few short years, making “good” money but being stressed and miserable most of the time while at work, I will be with you in Spirit and always remember the great times we had when we worked together in Eugene as some of my fondness memories ever. May the Angels guide and watch over you on this incredible journey.

    • Thank you so much Lisa. I also feel that working with you was one of the highlights of my life and I feel truly blessed to know you. I absolutely love the life you have created with all your critters – a bond that connects me deeply with you. I had so much fun shoveling horse shit with you in Idaho, sleeping in the tent with your dogs and “hanging” out with your ducks and chickens. I hope one day to create my own farm of critters but I think a good long walk will help to clear out some of those cobwebs first. Thanks for your support and good energy. You are such a beautiful person. Love, Paige

  7. Hi Paige,
    I’m really excited for you. You’ve been under so much pressure for the past several years. During the time I’ve known you, you’ve handled so many challenges and life-changes with incredible grace, always giving so much to take care of everyone else with nary a complaint. You’re an incredible person – without a doubt one of a kind! I’m ecstatic that you’re taking some time for yourself – you deserve it more than anyone I know.

    Best of luck on your journey. I can’t wait to hear stories!
    Cheers from Maine,

    • Matt – I cannot think of anyone who has been more influential in my life in the last five years and your support is incredibly inspiring – especially since recently I’ve fallen off the map. You are on such an incredible journey yourself with your upcoming wedding and life you are building and I can’t wait to share our stories. Your friendship does mean so much to me and your tremendous kindness and joyful spirit spur me on to take risks like these. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. Cheers! Paige

  8. I just finished reading the cross roads and I see how important working on who we are and where we are going is. I apploud you Paige for the decision you made. Thank you for counting me among those who are allowed into these private places in your life. God be with you as you search.

    • Danna, Thank you for your kind words and you have been very much apart of my inspiration and soul searching in the last year (probably unbeknownst to you) and I feel so grateful you were put in my path. You are a very calming, nurturing and supportive being. I will keep you posted. Paige

  9. Thank you Paige for your blog and thank you for revealing so much of the inner struggle you are going through. I’m much older than you but in many ways I’m finding myself at a similar crossroad. I been doing my job for a long time, 24 years. I love why I do my job and that it positively impacts the lives of babies through out my state. However, I’m bored with the job, I so over some of the people I work with. I have just a few more years to go before I can “safely” retire. I want to go now. I’m ready for something new. I want to start the next phase of my life, my next career. I want to travel, my bucket list is longer than the number of years I’ve got left to live, even if I live to be 90+.
    I am walking the Camino Frances next Sept/Oct 2014. If I don’t get the courage to leave my safe, secure, boring job between now and then I’ll just be walking a portion of it. I’m hoping for a fanancial miracle so that I will have the time and money to walk from St. Jean to Santiago.
    Sorry this is so long and I look forward to reading more of your blog and your posts on the forum.
    Buen Camino, Karen
    aka WayWalker63 on the forum

    • Dear Karen, I am so happy that you enjoyed reading my blog and I completely understand your struggle with the decision of how much time/money etc… I felt like I am in a very unique position to have the time and money and so I would be crazy to pass this opportunity up. I feel very fortunate but it is not without fear about future stability, etc… I do so find that folks that yearn for this particular trip seem to be very deeply connected. Please feel free to reach out to me any time you need encouragement. I bet your bucket list is pretty intriguing and I am thrilled you have one as I have struggled to have any deep desires and am hopeful this will start that fire for future life adventures. Cheers to you and of course Buen Camino, Paige paigehamm@gmail.com

  10. Hi Piage,
    I got your name from Gina Harlow she is a friend of mine and suggested I look at your blog.
    two of my friends and I hope to do The Camino Frances we will be leaving from Austin , what is the best way you traveled there did you arrive in Paris and take a train to St. Jean de Pied de Port? any information you can give us will be most appreciated, we plan on training and go in May 2014.

    Best of travels,

      • Good! I feel like I am pretty ready whatever that means – feel like there is only so much I can truly prepare but I am so excited and am looking forward to it. 🙂

    • Hi Danni,
      SO great to hear from you and a mutual friend of Gina is definitely a friend of mine. I have yet to begin my trip but yes, I am flying into Paris and then will take the train to Bayonne and another train to St. Jean de Pied de Port. The greatest resource of information I have come upon is this amazing forum: http://www.caminodesantiago.me/board/?sid=db5202e05f6a24e01d79e0cbc74e0aac I definitely recommend becoming a member – there are amazing folks that have walked the Camino and have very thoughtful and helpful information.
      Best of travels to you and as they say Buen Camino!

  11. Initially I thought this all meant you were going to buy an El Camino, to which I thought “Right on!”, but it appears that it’s actually something very different. To which I say, “Right on!”

      • No, I can not see Paige driving down Eugene in an El Camino vehicle. Just not her style. But now taking a trip….yes. I can see her doing this and am anxious to know more of the stages and phases of it. It is an adventure to pump up the memories and cherish in your old age. Yes, Paige…go for it but keep us in the loop.

  12. Well that’ll teach me to not check email more often… Sweet Paige, I pray you have an incredible journey. You are in my heart and my thoughts, and I send blessings and goodwill to you. Hugs! Mary

  13. So very proud of you for doing this. God did not put us on the earth to waste it in front of a tv or going through the motions of a boring job everyday. He has such great plans for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. I will be praying for you throughout this journey that He allows you to be still and quiet and hear His voice where He wants to lead you down the next road, mountain, ocean on this great adventure called life. Love you sweet Paige.

    • Thank you Debbie! Although am not religious myself, I am sure open to learning and growing and love and deeply appreciate your support and encouragement. You are definitely part of our Hamm family. Love you too Debbie.

  14. The stories you will tell, the songs you will sing, the air you will breath like a bird on the wing. Paige, you deserve this more than anyone i know. Blessings .

  15. Best to you, Paige. I will always remember the energy you brought to your work when we worked together at USM. Take care. Michael

    • Thank you Michael – You were always so honest gentle and kind and were a great personal and professional mentor. I felt so honored to be invited to your beautiful home. I am so glad we have stayed in touch and look forward to sharing our adventures for a long time to come.

  16. P,
    No one can accuse you of “peeping out from behind the hut” on this day.

    Go for it. Take your experience to the next level!

    I’m sending the happiest of thoughts. =)

    • You are someone who seems to naturally challenge yourself in so many ways and your passion for learning and growth is inspiring. Thanks for your support and friendship.

  17. In the last few years that you have not liked the person you have been I have been blessed to have my friendship with you deepen and grow and daily freaking love the person you are! Strange that at the time you are having the most challenging relationship with self is simultaneously the time when I have taken great joy in discovering how amazing you are. Perspective is everything I guess. What you wrote above in all of it’s vulnerable honesty is a huge part of what makes you so amazing – you are genuine and fearless when it comes to looking at yourself and fierce in your desire to grow. I am so thrilled you are taking this journey knowing that grace will be with you and none of the beauty of the experience will be lost on you. Thank you for being an amazing human being who allows me to be open and accepted in all of my disarray and tormented imbalance! I love you miss P!! Orbit is super pissed you will be gone for so long but takes concession that we’ll get to kick it with Sir Bigglesworth. –

    • I can’t even to begin to comment on that. You have been an incredible friend and you will be on this trail with me for sure. I have no idea how to thank you but damn I am grateful for you. You are a big big part of this for me and I love you so much.

  18. Paige,

    This is Danni, friend of Gina’s, I am so excited for you and look forward to following you on The Camino. My friends and I will leave in May of 2014 so we will have Lot’s of questions. I am still trying to decide what type shoes to buy …boot vs. good walking shoe ,as you travel please let me know what you find out.


    Buen Camino

    • I would love to provide some responses to your questions. I have been addicted to the Camino forum and all the advice can get overwhelming. That is awesome you are going to do it. I will keep you posted!

    • Thank you Johnny! I am so sorry I haven’t been in contact but think about you all of the time and hope your life is going well. I bet you are an amazing father and husband. 🙂 Hope our paths cross sooner than later but I’ll be in touch. Leaving in less than 8 hours. Crazy! Miss you. Still think of our all-night Indigo Girls singing session at the first house. And when I am hiking and the light is just so – I think “this is Johnny’s sister’s favorite part of the day”. So many great memories.

  19. Paige – good luck and thank you for the kind words about my camino site – 30daystosantiago dot come. As further inspiration, I recently completed a second camino in May – this time with my wife and two year old toddler…we started in Ponferrada. what an experience. i posted a new youtube video on my site- we raised money for a great charity that helps orphaned children — called trekking for kids. again good luck!!!

  20. “The lighting bolt of illumination strikes hard, throwing everything into chaos and confusion. This allows for a restructuring based on truth, and releases the personality from false consciousness and depression.” Vicky Noble
    Damn you are brave! in awe!!

  21. Paige, Thank you for the email with the link to this blog. When I first met you I felt an immediate connection and bond with you. That doesn’t happen to me very often. Then after working at the company a while, I realized that a lot, most, people that had spent any time with you felt the same way. You have a wonderful spirit and a beautiful heart. I have been working at another company and everyday I realize your contribution to the sales and marketing team and what it’s like to work for a company without a “Paige”. Never underestimate your talent and ability. No matter what your expectations are for this journey I know it will help guide you to your next adventure. When you get ready for your next adventure, consider Georgia.

  22. Pingback: Oh what a difference a year makes.. | thepaigeperspective

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