Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
I'd been reminded of this truth while preparing myself for walking the Camino de Santiago almost five years ago. This came to mind again recently because I have re-evaluated my plans for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
There have been a number of reasons for this. The deciding factor was the issue of the length of time I would be in the Schengen Area following my original plan. While the 90 day tourist visa would be fine for a non-European walking the Via Francigena, my plans included a minimum of an extra thirty days beyond that -- walking from Rome to Bari and then following the Via Egnatia across northern Greece. I looked into getting a long stay (National) visa so I wouldn't have to worry about deportation, fines of thousands of Euros, or being banned from entering the Schengen Area for up to five years.
In order to apply for a long stay visa within the Schengen Area, one needs to provide an address: a hotel reservation, or family residence, or perhaps something arranged for by a sponsor. This I cannot do, since my goal is to be in a different location every night. Most North Americans planning to spend more than three months in Europe are likely there for one of two reasons: school or work. There were a few other requirements predicated on this assumption which I simply cannot meet. The hefty visa application fee is non-refundable, so I attempted to contact two different consulates in Toronto to get advice, even if that was to forget about it. I was rebuffed by both, although the Italian consulate was at least politely unhelpful as opposed to rudely incredulous.
Rather than take this as an indication to give up on my crazy dream of walking to Jerusalem in time to celebrate Pascha in 2015, I've refined my plan. Within the next few days, I will be buying a ticket for a flight leaving Toronto on Oct 8 with a 24 hour layover in Ponta Delgada before arriving in Paris. From Paris, I'll hop a train to Switzerland and begin walking to Rome from there. I expect to arrive in the Eternal City by mid-November. No matter how long I stay, I know that I will not have spent enough time there, and the 90 day deadline will still be running. I'm hoping to do an overnight trip to either Florence or Naples from my base in Rome, before continuing on to Bari.
Once I leave Italy, the timer stops until I re-enter the Schengen Area at the Greek border. That means I can take a few days in Ohrid without feeling rushed. Perhaps I'll see the New Year in from Thessaloniki, before continuing on to Istanbul. Once I'm there, I'll have about a month to kill before continuing on my way to Jerusalem. I could simply leave Toronto a month later, but I'd like to avoid snow while crossing the Alps on foot, and Istanbul is as good a place to rest and relax as any. (Although..... round trip flights between Istanbul and Beirut are quite cheap. Perhaps I'll be able to see my Lebanese friends after all!)
In order to arrive in Jerusalem in time for Holy Week (which follows the western Christian celebration by a week in 2015), I should be leaving Istanbul by the third week of February. Orthodox Christians begin their journey of Great Lent on 23 February in 2015...
So, there is the revised plan. If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this.