Day 1 – Porto to Vila do Conde

57,000 steps and 24.3 miles after leaving Porto I’m finding myself sitting at a cafe with Laurel and Craig drinking a refreshing Super Bock and waiting for the rest of our Camino family to head to dinner. Today was a the longest day of walking I’ve ever done. I’ve run a marathon before but never walked that many miles. My longest training day before this was 14 miles. Honestly even though I’m tired and my feet are sore, I feel good for putting in a 24 mile day.

It was foggy as we left Porto this morning, so much so that we couldn’t see the other side of the river as we left town. It was foggy through half the walk today so the views were limited. In the afternoon the fog lifted and we had some great views of the ocean. We passed beach after beach and several beach villages.

During our walk we met three other pilgrims all from Germany, but each walking alone. By lunch they had all joined us. Two of them were headed to our same village today and ended up booking our same hostel.

As we arrived in Vila do Conde the locals had arranged a parade for us. Well, I guess they may have had their parade with or without us, but it was nice to arrive into town with a marching band playing for us.

Tomorrow is another long day so we will be headed to bed early. First up is looking for dinner.

Normally I’d want to explore a town more but I think after today’s distance I’ll stick close to our hostel.

Porto

It’s late and I have to get up early tomorrow to walk day one of the Camino. I have fallen in love with Porto over the past two days. Fitbit tells me I’ve put in two full Camino days of steps while exploring this beautiful city. It’s rich with so much culture, amazing sites and sounds, great food and wine and filled with some of the nicest people you’ll meet.

I’ll keep this short for now but check back as I hopefully add more later. Tomorrow we get up at 6am and start walking our 21 miles to Vila do Conde. We get one last chance to see this beautiful city as we walk to the cathedral to start our pilgrimage.

Travel day

Today has been a long day. And it’s still going. Our plane was a bit late leaving Seattle and finally took off at 8:30pm. We arrived at Heathrow where we met Justine and Maurice. I can imagine it’s not the easiest for a 16 year old to walk up to someone who is nearly a random stranger in an airport and hang out with them for 5 hours before her cousin shows up. But Justine rolls with the punches and it seemed like her and Maurice were already getting along.

The moms as I’m referring to them (mine and Justine’s) insisted on photo proof that we all successfully met up. So there it is.

We knew our flight on TAP airlines from London to Lisbon has a reputation of being late so we knew there was a possibility that we wouldn’t make our train connection. Well that happened. So we are now sitting on one of the last trains to Porto tonight that feels like it’s moving at a glacial pace.

The silver lining of us missing our intended train was that we got to spend more time chatting with my friend Bruno. He’s been so incredibly helpful in the planning of our journey and was kind enough to give us a ride to the train station today and help us get our new train tickets sorted out. We do wish he was joining us on our walk. Another time.

We’ll be getting into Porto around 1am and meeting up with Laurel and Craig at our apartment. After catching up on sleep some of us plan to head to the cathedral in Porto to get our credentials stamped and meet up with our friend John. Tomorrow is a day to explore Porto and late in the afternoon I’ll be hosting a geocaching event. I’m hoping to see some friends from the geocaching world that I haven’t seen in a while. Really looking forward to seeing what Porto has in store for us!

Today is the day.

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often though, they hurt.” – Anthony Bourdain

Today is the day. Today I will go to work, probably be stressing all day about my flight later this evening but will do so with a big smile on the inside knowing that I am headed back to the Camino. Months of preparation, saving money, travel planning and training have brought me to this point. I am ready to start walking. As with my last Camino, I’m a bit nervous but even more I’m excited about the adventure that awaits me and my fellow pilgrims.

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 7.54.21 AM.png

Three weeks to walking.

21 days to walking. 17 days until boarding the plane. Things are starting to get extremely real now. It’s crunch time for training. Almost crunch time for last minute packing the items we will carry on our backs for our walk.

Minus a few last minute essentials and snacks for the plane, I’m ready to go. Mentally I’ve been ready since I finished my first Camino two years ago. Physically I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I feel great on my training walks. Even better than I did while training the last time around.

In 17 days, Laurel, Craig, Rachel, my cousin Justine and I will be taking off from Seattle. Maurice will leave his home in Philadelphia. The next day John will leave from Ireland and we will all meet in Porto at the end of the day. It feels a bit like cheating to already start our walk with our Camino family formed but I am so excited to see these people who mean so much to me from different places in my life come together and share this journey. I also won’t be surprised if our family expands on The Way.

Our route will start off with a very long day of 21 Miles of walking from Porto to Vila do Conde. We’ve chosen this as it will be a much more beautiful route along the river and ocean instead of enduring city streets and industrial sections on the outskirts of Porto. Many choose to bus out of the city because it’s not pleasant walking, but instead we’ll add some extra miles and walk the first day on the coastal route.

We’ll follow the cities on the map above to Santiago. Because we decided to stay in Porto an extra day for the St. John’s festival, we have only given ourselves 10 days to reach Santiago. We’ll then have a rest day to enjoy Santiago before mostly parting ways. It’ll be a tough ten days but I feel confident in the group to do it and have an amazing time!

I think we are all doing as much training as we can for these last few weeks. As I write this, I’m currently on what I hope to make a 10-11 mile training walk. My goal for this weekend has been to walk 25 miles. It’s a good way for my body to remember what back to back long walks feels like. Between soccer games and my walks to work I’ll have at least three 10 mile days during the week. Next weekend I’ve got my eyes on a hike with a lot of elevation gain.

Yesterday Rachel, Craig and I went on a 14 mile training walk with our packs full. We all had about 20 pounds each in our packs. Ideally a pack should be around 15 pounds or 10% of your body weight. This morning I was going through an eliminating unnecessary items. I’ll likely do this one more time before leaving.

I think all three of us felt a sense of relief that we felt pretty good about the distance and the way our packs felt on the training walk. It was a great test to see what a typical day on the Camino will feel like. Yesterday also made me more excited than ever when I realized just how close we are to leaving.

I think other pilgrims would agree with me that the Camino becomes so much a part of you that the idea of going back feels like going home again. I have a few homes in this world, Idaho, Seattle, New Zealand, Ireland and the Camino. I can’t wait to get back home.

The List – Part 2

For nearly three weeks, with 10 days of it walking the Camino, I will live out of my precious backpack named Kea. She took amazing care of me on my first Camino, as I knew she would. Refer to my original Camino packing list post to find out why Kea is so special to me.

Ideally your Camino pack should only be about 10% of your body weight. The more your pack weighs, the harder your Camino will be. Just ask my friend Maurice about that if you ever meet him. As I was going through my Camino gear this morning, I re-watched the movie Wild and couldn’t help but laugh yet again at the scene where Cheryl Strayed tries to put her pack on before setting out on the PCT. (Side note – I recently had the very fortunate chance to get to tell the Cheryl Strayed how much I appreciate her sharing her story of walking the PCT alone. It’s ever so inspiring to hear about women who take the chance at such big adventures.)

Though my Camino pack was no where near the weight of Cheryl’s backpack on my first walk, I still had a moment of anxiety when I first picked it up completely full with all the things I’d be taking. I quickly unpacked and tried to remove things I didn’t think I absolutely needed. Even with that, day one was still hard. But climbing nearly 4000 feet in elevation without carrying anything would still be hard enough. After crossing the Pyrenees and a few more days of walking, my pack felt like an extension of my body. It somehow felt lighter and lighter as my journey continued even though I was carrying the same amount of weight.

This morning as I loaded my pack, it was lighter and had a lot more free space in it. On my first Camino I learned what I really needed and what I could do without. But more importantly, I learned that while the clothes I brought last time worked well, they were just too heavy to carry. So over the past few weeks I’ve been purchasing all new clothes. Lightweight sports shirts, pants and shorts that take up less space and weigh less than what I brought last time. The nice thing is I’ve been able to find some sports clothes that are sporty but can pass as normal outfits for when I’m not walking on The Way.

The other trick to packing this time is that I’m heading to Scotland and England after I walk to Santiago, so I needed clothes that were versatile for a variety of environments.

IMG_3139.JPG

So for my updated list:

  • Arcteryx 37 liter backpack
  • REI backpack rain cover
  • Brooks Cascadia trail runner shoes – goretex
  • Havaiana Flip flops
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Columbia water bottle (lighter than my last Camino bottle)
  • Platypus foldable water bottle
  • Cocoon sleeping bag liner
  • Expander sleeping bag liner
  • Lightweight blow up pillow (splurge item)
  • REI rain jacket
  • Arcteryx hoody
  • Fleece vest
  • 1 pair of yoga pants
  • 1 pair North Face hiking pants
  • 1 pair of North Face hiking shorts
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 pairs of Darn Tough wool socks
  • 1 pair of Smartwool socks
  • 3 quick dry shirts (may lose one of these)
  • 1 quick dry long sleeve shirt
  • 1 tank top
  • Ball cap
  • Lightweight poncho
  • 3-4 pairs of undies
  • Backpacking quick dry towel
  • Toiletries including mini shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.
  • Fingernail clippers
  • Fingernail polish (splurge item)
  • Minimal first aid kit including band-aids, moleskin and compeed
  • Advil, Advil PM, Vitamins
  • Mini toilet paper roll
  • Two needles with thread
  • One safety pin
  • Extra chapstick
  • Mini sunscreen
  • IPhone
  • Fitbit
  • Battery charger for iPhone
  • Charging cables for iPhone, Fitbit and battery charger
  • 2 International plug-ins
  • USB charger plug with two USB ports (charge two things at once)
  • Camino Portuguese guidebook
  • Small carabiners to hang things from backpack
  • Lightweight purse with passport, cards and euros
  • Mini roll of duct tape
  • Clothes pins for drying clothes
  • 2 Reusable shopping bags (for storing clothes)
  • 2 organization compartments
  • Kavu fanny pack
  • Buff scarf
  • Sounders FC Scarf (splurge item)
  • Scallop shell

So on a typical camino day, I’ll take off looking like this:

IMG_3185.JPG

I’m so happy to have the experience of one Camino under my belt so I know how to better prepare for this next one. I learned to appreciate how little one actually needs to get by on the Camino Frances. As you’re passing through villages, you can find anything you might need along the way. It’s important to pack light for the walk as the more important thing to carry with you is the memories of an incredible journey.

IMG_3192.JPG

Camino Connections

The Camino doesn’t end when you reach Santiago. It stays with you forever. Thoughts often lead back to the simple life of walking, first breakfast, walking some more, second breakfast, walking…  The simplicity takes your thoughts to a peaceful place, but even better are the memories of laughing and sharing stories with Camino family and friends. These are lifetime connections – even if it’s someone you just met for a day. They stick with you.

I was lucky to have made so many connections with amazing people along The Way. My Camino Family and I shared so many laughs and tears of joy. It’s great to be able to meet up with them on occasion to keep that connection going.

This last weekend I flew back to Philadelphia to spend time with Maurice (aka Big Father) and Paige (aka The Boss). Maurice has the biggest heart and Paige is as caring and friendly as they come. She felt like an instant friend the first time I spoke with her on the Camino.

Maurice and I joined up with a friend from his American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) group and caught the train to New York City. After about 10 hours and 13 miles of exploring we had seen Times Square, the Empire State Building, walked past Alec Baldwin in the village, reflected at the 9/11 memorial, stood with the Fearless Girl and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for some amazing Pizza. We laughed, told stories of the Camino and genuinely enjoyed one of the best cities in the world.

nyc2nyc3NYC1

Because Maurice and I are adventurers – or gluttons for punishment – we planned to get up by 5am the following morning so we could drive to Washington D.C. for more walking. This time we picked up another APOC friend, Nadine, from Maurice’s local chapter and our Camino family member Paige.

After a long drive in we met up with other Pilgrims at Arlington National Cemetery. The plan for the day was to walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. from his march in 1963 where he delivered his famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.

Our walk would take us past the monument to him and then on through the Capitol mall, around the Capitol building and back to the Lincoln Memorial where Nadine read a portion of MLK’s famous speech. A powerful moment, especially considering the times we are currently living in. Words that everyone in our country could benefit from hearing again.

camino3camino4camino5camino2camino1

It was an incredible day in so many ways. Being able to pick up right where I left off with Camino family, speaking with fellow Pilgrims that become instant friends. These connections are hard to match anywhere in life. These are bonds I’ll never take for granted we understand parts of each other that others may never understand.

Camino de Sounders

I’m 111 days out from my second Camino. That sounds like a lot, but the time will go by quickly. With that, I realize the need to step up my training. Haha, get it, “step up?” 🙂

My fitbit tells me I walk a minimum of 5 miles a day, which has basically been a standard for me for the past two years. I can’t stand it if I don’t hit my minimum goal of 11,000 steps a day. But it’s time to start getting even longer walks in on a regular basis. Not every day allows for plenty of time to get a decent amount of walking in, so you have to make that time. I’ve found that adding the walking into my daily events makes meeting my goal easier.

If it’s a work day, I walk the 1.4 miles each way to work and often add detours that make my walk to work closer to 2.5 or even as much as 5 miles. Of course, this means I need to get up and out the door earlier which is sometimes easier said than done. If I don’t get the longer walk in to work, then I make sure I take a longer walk home.

If I need to run errands, I try to see how many I can do on foot in my neighborhood. Not only do I get my steps in, but I get to support local businesses.

If I’m going to meet friends for happy hour in another neighborhood – as long as it’s 3 miles or less, I walk there. Feels less guilty having that beer if I walked 3 miles before drinking it!

One of my new favorite ways to incorporate training is something I call ‘Camino de Sounders.’ Since 2009, I’ve been a season ticket holder of my beloved Seattle Sounders FC. In fact, I love the team so much that I carried a Sounders scarf with me 500 miles across Spain on my first Camino. My tickets are in the supporter section, so I’m often times standing fully exposed to rain – or in yesterday’s case, hail. One might say it’s good resilience training for walking the Camino on less than ideal days.

It doesn’t always work with the game schedule to incorporate a training walk, but when it does, I don’t hesitate to consider taking the “Nike highway” to the game. (Nike highway is a term my friend used in college to mean walking somewhere…guess the term only works if you’re wearing Nikes)

Yesterday my friend Rachel, who will be joining me on the Camino this June, and I walked from my house down to the stadium – stood in the rain and hail and walked home. After the 10 miles roundtrip of walking and our cheering in the stadium, we had nearly a 12 mile day.

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 7.41.03 AM.png

My Sounders lost, but I still loved the day because I had a lot of quality time to catch up with a good friend and got the perfect training walk in. I love trying to find creative ways to train. Walks like yesterday made me not even realize I was getting a 12 mile walk in.

Go Sounders! Buen Camino!

 

 

The Camino is calling and I must walk.

It’s been roughly a year and a half since one of the most life changing experiences I’ve been through. Sure, I’m still the same in many ways, but walking the 500 miles of the Camino Frances changed me – in positive ways. I think I’m more open to new possibilities and I’m often better at reminding myself not to judge a book by it’s cover. On top of that, I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with my Camino family and friends since we finished our journey in Santiago in July 2016.

Since I stopped walking, I’ve had the itch to return. The Camino is a magical place both between the challenge of walking and the amazing bonds you build so quickly. So, this summer I am returning. I don’t have a sabbatical, so with limited time, I’ve chosen to walk a shorter route on the Camino Portuguese.

Typically, with more time, pilgrims walk from Lisbon up to Santiago. I’ll be starting in Porto, Portugal and spending 10 days walking up to Santiago. The whole journey will be roughly 142 miles of walking.

Camino

On my last Camino it was important for me to go alone. I wanted to push myself to meet new people and open myself up to whatever the Camino would provide for me. This time will be different. This time, I’ll be joined by friends from around the world. Some I met on my first Camino, some I’ve known for years in my Seattle world and even one I’ve known for as long as I can remember. This time I want to share this experience with friends who are important to me.

Flights have been purchased and the current plan is to begin walking on June 23rd this summer. So for the next several months I will be training again. Not that I ever really stopped training. Walking is who I am.

The Camino is calling and I must walk.

Almost a year later…

A month from today will mark a year since I woke up at 6am and a half hour later took a step outside my albergue in St. Jean to start my first Camino. I had no idea what I’d be in for over the next five weeks. I figured I’d meet nice people. Probably meet some people I didn’t like too. I assumed I may not sleep well among all the snoring pilgrims. I counted on enduring pain. I figured there might be points I’d be so frustrated, tired and beaten both mentally and physically that I’d wish I could just go home. But I also knew how determined I was and nothing was going to stop me from reaching Santiago.

Nearly a year later, I know that the Camino was the best experience of my life. Walking up and down countless hills and mountains across the Spanish countryside, meeting some of the nicest, kindest people I’d ever meet in my life will stick with me forever. It forever changed me – in good ways. I’m more willing to speak up for myself – more willing to smile at strangers and even say hello on occasion (because I learned it’s always a good idea to say “hola” to other pilgrims on the Way). On the Camino I got to be the person I always wanted to be – which was me, but just a little more confident and outgoing. I feel like that has carried over to my everyday life.

I also walk. I’ve always walked a lot. But since returning I walk more than ever. This morning I’ll take a nearly five mile route to work even though work is only 1.5 miles away. That’s not something I would have done before the Camino. But there is so much peace in walking. There’s so much to see, even in your own neighborhood, that you would never pay attention to if you didn’t come across it on foot. I often take longer walks on the weekends too – calling them my “Camino walks.” Any given weekend day I’ll step outside my house and walk 10-14 miles. It always takes me back to happy thoughts of the Camino.

In 2003 I wanted to get a tattoo to signify my time living in New Zealand. It wasn’t until walking on the Camino that I saw the perfect design to commemorate my walk in tattoo form that I decided I would wait no longer. So as a birthday present to myself after returning, I got both tattoos. I always figured I’d get a tattoo in a place I could hide easily because I didn’t want people to judge me for having tattoos. But after the Camino I knew that I didn’t want the tattoos hidden. I wanted a daily reminder of two major experiences that forever changed my life. These tattoos are part of me. I’ve not once looked at my wrists and said “what have I done?!”

tattoo.jpg

The thing I treasure the most about the Camino is the people it brought into my life and the friendships that were formed. Every day I’d meet new people. Some I’d only see that one time and have a brief conversation with, others I’d see regularly and develop a friendship with. My Camino was broken up into three sections due to rest days. Each new section, Eva and I met all new people and made new friends. On the third section we met what would be our Camino family. Then in Santiago, a majority of the people we met on all three sections were there and the reunions with them were amazing. Seeing the smiling faces of people you spent days getting to know and then not seeing for a few weeks made the celebration in Santiago that much more special.

One of my favorite moments on the Camino was the last night in Santiago before I headed home, sitting outside with my family and friends from the walk, drinking wine, laughing, singing and just enjoying that special moment. I knew in that moment that it was one of the best nights of my life.

My Camino family still keeps a chat group to this day. We share photos and stories of our lives. We share funny memories of our time on the walk. We hope for when we can see each other again. I’ve been lucky enough to have mini reunions with most members of the family and look forward to the day I can reunite with the others. We’ve always been able to pick up right where we left off, laughing and telling stories, listening to each other and caring for each other as family. Getting together with them is something that fills my heart the way it was filled on the walk.

My Camino family and other Camino friends are people I have a special bond with. These are irreplaceable bonds. They understand exactly what I went through and what the Camino truly means to me. Sure, other people are interested to hear about my walk – but they never fully understand the importance of the bonds built.

I’ve been joining my local Camino group for their walks more regularly and have found that even just meeting someone who walked as well, you instantly have a bond with. You can both recall those awful stairs up to Portomarin. You both have stories about people snoring and growing ever so tired of bocadillos.

I will walk the Camino again someday. I don’t know when, but it will happen. I was talking with a couple of my Camino family members this past weekend and part of me fears that walking again will never be as good as my walk last year. It could rain constantly, I may not gain a family and I may not develop lasting friendships. How do you replicate perfection? You can’t. You just have to know that though the experience may be different, it doesn’t mean you won’t get the same value out of it.

I’ll be forever grateful for my experience walking and the people it brought into my life. I’ll always tell anyone who asks me that they should go walk their own Camino. I would love for everyone to get to experience what I experienced. To take the challenge head-on and end with their heart being filled with so much love and kindness. Everyone says “The Camino provides.” It really does.