2H7C President featured in local newspaper

BGSD employee will embark on 800km walk in honor of twin sister

Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 9:00 am

Joanna Michaud staff reporter

Thirty-one-year-old Crystal Steinmueller has recently been training for a very long walk – a walk that she intends to conquer this June in honor of her deceased twin sister.

The walk Steinmueller will embark on is a solo trek over 800km (496 miles) on the Camino de Santiago, which starts in southwest France and ends in northwest Spain. She will be taking the journey in honor of her twin sister, Jennifer, who passed away for unknown reasons eight years ago.

“The idea came across my path last year,” Steinmueller said. “A teacher I work with was talking about it, and I had recently watched the movie The Way, which is about the Camino. I would say that it found me. It was something different that I really would never have considered doing before, but seemed very worthwhile and fulfilling once complete.”

Steinmueller said it still isn’t quite clear how her twin sister died, as tests that were done came back inconclusive. She said her sister loved science and the outdoors and the two of them were extremely close, almost inseparable.

“Our first time being away from one another for more than one night was when she went to Pullman to attend WSU,” Steinmueller said. “Luckily, I was able to stay her first week with her, since the college I was attending (Portland State) started a month later. We are (were) the only two kids in my family, so I went from having someone I was with, to being alone. It was, and still is, difficult for me to deal with. She serves as inspiration for my nonprofit, 2 Hands 7 Continents, which I founded last year.”

CRYSTAL STEINMUELLER is pictured here with 5-year-old Johnny, who was rescued from begging on the streets, at Elephants World, Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Steinmueller has traveled to more than 33 countries.

CRYSTAL STEINMUELLER is pictured here with 5-year-old Johnny, who was rescued from begging on the streets, at Elephants World, Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Steinmueller has traveled to more than 33 countries.

Steinmueller said she feels the need to walk the Camino in her sister’s honor since she credits her for “installing the travel bug in me.” Just four months before her sister died, the two sisters, along with a few friends, traveled to Paris, London and Dublin together. It was their first time off of the North American continent and Steinmueller said she learned on that trip that there was so much more in the world to see and experience first hand.

“Traveling is a teacher in itself,” she said.

Steinmueller said she chose the “Camino Frances” route of the Camino de Santiago for a few reasons, including the fact that it’s the main route, meaning there will be more support such as clean drinking water along the way, food, housing, etc. Also, she said this route is one of the original routes from Medieval times and this route is recommended for first-time “pilgrims.”

More than 1,000 years ago, the Camino de Santiago was originally a pilgrimage for Catholics who wanted to free themselves of their sins. Only the pilgrimage to Santiago, Rome and Jerusalem could accomplish this task.

Steinmueller has been training extensively for her trek. Her goal was to walk three days a week in March, four days a week in April, five days a week in May and then six days a week when she leaves in June. In order to stay on track with her goal of completing the Camino in about 34 days, Steinmueller said she will need to walk 15 miles a day, six days a week. That will give her one day off each week. Along with training by walking, Steinmueller has also been thinking positive thoughts and aiming to train her mind as well as her body.

As she treks along the Camino, Steinmueller will stay at pilgrim-only hostels along the way. She said most of these are nothing more than a huge room chalked full of bunk beds.

“I am going to leave it up to fate and not plan anything in advance,” she said. “I just hope wherever I arrive at the end of a long day will have a bed waiting for me.”

Although Steinmueller has never made a journey quite like this one, she is no stranger to traveling. At the age of 30, Steinmueller surpassed a personal goal of visiting 30 countries by the time she was 30, making it to 33. While she’s at home in Vancouver, she works in special education at Battle Ground High School as a liaison between the science teachers and the special education teachers. She works closely with students everyday, making sure the science material is modified, explained or reworded for them to better comprehend the lessons.

After she completes the Camino this summer, Steinmueller plans to travel south to Morocco where she will work with an organization to aid women and their rights by empowering them through education.

“I want to volunteer with women and assist them in being able to stand on their own two feet and make a life for themselves,” she said. “This will be difficult, especially given how women are perceived and treated in Morocco.”

Steinmueller said she has definitely been nervous and anxious about her upcoming walk.

“I keep thinking, ‘what if I twist an ankle? Break a leg? Get lost?,’” she said. “Things always have a way of working out, though, so I am trying not to stress too much. If I can keep on track with my training goal of walking so many days a week, I feel my body, especially my feet, will be prepared.”

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