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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?!”

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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.

Last Days of the Camino

I wanted to write this a day or two ago but haven’t had time. At the end of the Camino I stayed three nights in Santiago. It was a fun atmosphere in the city since I knew someone around every corner. Our Camino family had dinner together every night. Knowing that when you see pilgrim friends in Santiago it may be the last time you see them is hard. You’ve spent the last five weeks seeing these faces over and over. Sometimes just in passing and sometimes over a beer. No matter how little you talked to them, they made an impact on your life. 

One day was spent exploring Santiago. The last day I rented a car and took four of my Camino family members with me to the “end of the world.” Many walk the additional 3-4 days to visit Finisterre and Muxia. With limited time, I needed to drive out there on a day trip. Seeing the sea really made it feel like the journey was complete. I was so happy to have my friends there to share it with. 

First we visited Finisterre. The village wasn’t all that exciting itself but the lighthouse point beyond the village was definitely something special. The views were incredible. Many pilgrims burn their Camino clothes there. Wearing the same clothes every day for 5+ weeks does get old. It felt good to be there and just reflect on the walk and the relationships built along the way. 


After that we headed to Muxia – my favorite of the two villages. The views and the white sand beaches around the town are amazing. One of the goals of the day was to jump in the ocean. Three of us did just that despite how cold the water was (it really wasn’t that cold for this Idaho girl). 


Finally in Santiago our family of seven went to a nice dinner together. It may be the last time we are all together (but hopefully not). After dinner we met up with other Camino friends at a bar. It was here that the end became real. Our three singing friends sang some beautiful songs. We shared some laughs, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.



The next morning as I walked around Santiago by myself I realized it was over. I didn’t recognize faces around town anymore. I saw the familiar look of pilgrims every where I went but this was no longer my Camino. The town belonged to the next group of pilgrims. 

I’ve spent the last couple days exploring Madrid and London. Two new cities for me, though I haven’t had enough time to fully explore either. Tomorrow morning I head to Boston for a long layover and then back to Seattle. Though I’m sad this adventure is over, I’m excited to get home. I’m interested to see how this experience changes my daily life. I don’t know how anyone could be quite the same after experiencing the Camino. 

Santiago 

I’ve been trying to process how I feel about this journey coming to an end. I walk around the city of Santiago and left and right I’m seeing pilgrims I know or recognize. I also hear my friends speaking of other pilgrims we know arriving. Lots of hugs, high fives and lots of laughs have been shared over the past day and a half. 

My body was happy to be done but my mind is having a hard time accepting it’s over. When your daily life involves getting up early, walking for most of the day, getting settled into a new place to live and getting dinner with new friends, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. I miss my life in Seattle but still it will be hard to leave this beautiful country and all the new friends I’ve made.

We stayed only 12km outside Santiago, so our walk in yesterday morning was easy. Other than singing songs that have become our theme songs, we were all pretty quiet on the walk in. Maybe it was days of exhaustion catching up to us, or maybe we were all trying understand what this day meant. Luckily everyone in our group is staying in Santiago until the 29th, so we have time to enjoy some last meals and last laughs together. 


We arrived at the cathedral around 8:30. Some tears, some high fives and lots of pictures took up the next half hour. Then it was off to the pilgrim’s office to get our Compostella. We collected stamps in our credentials the whole walk. You only need two stamps a day for the last 100km to qualify but the stamps collected along the way show many of the stops I made along the entire walk. 

After a quick breakfast we headed to the cathedral for the pilgrim’s mass. We were fortunate enough to see the Botafumeiro – which is when they swung incense through the church. This usually only happens on the Friday evening mass, but attendees can pay a hefty fee to have it for their mass. 

Tomorrow a few of us will hop into a rental car and drive out to Finisterre out on the coast. Santiago completes the Camino, but many walk on or take a bus to Finisterre to finish the journey. If I had more time I would walk there, but that will have to be saved for another day. 


I am sad to say goodbye to all my new friends the day after tomorrow. But I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity to open myself up to all these amazing people. I know many of them have become lifetime friends despite living worlds apart. I know I’ve been forever changed by this experience. But only in the best ways – with a more open mind and a fuller heart. 

Day 32 – Arzua to Lavacolla

In my mind today was the last day. Tomorrow is when we reach Santiago, but we only have 12 km to go. Today was the last major day of walking. It’s pretty surreal at this point to think that I’ll be done walking the Camino tomorrow. 

My body feels ready to be done. I was tired today. My whole body was tired. The leg pain was still bad. As Nicki said, your body knows when the end is near. 

My mind doesn’t really want it to be done though. I’m going to miss my Camino family and friends. I am looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces in Santiago tomorrow. There are several people that I met along the way that have already reached Santiago that I’m hoping to see again before I leave Spain. 

The plan tomorrow is to walk into Santiago by 9am. Our group is planning to walk in together. We will get our Compostella and then attend the pilgrim’s mass at noon. After that I imagine we will be celebrating. We all have a few days left together. We are a random bunch that never would have been friends if it weren’t for the Camino. I really hope I get to see all these people again someday. 

I’m excited to reach the finish line but also very sad to say goodbye to this life that has become so familiar and comfortable. 


Day 31 – Portos to Arzua

It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt. That’s what I was thinking to myself a good part of today. The reality was that it did hurt. Whatever my leg pain is hasn’t gone away and walking another 34 km on it didn’t seem to help. I have to count myself lucky though because in 31 days, only at the end on my journey am I dealing with major pain. It won’t stop me. I will walk into Santiago two days from now. 

Today wasn’t as bad as I made it just sound. Though the last few kilometers I was cursing the guidebook author more than I had in days before. Flat he said. Downhill he said. Sure, some of today was flat and some of today was downhill. He forgot to mention that for every downhill there was a major climb back up. Be looking for my honest review on Amazon sometime after I get back, John Brierley. 

The Camino is a different Camino now. It’s no longer just those in it for the long haul (from St. Jean in France to Santiago…or farther). Now it’s the “Sunday Strollers” Camino. Or the FNG group….ask me in person if you really want to know what that means. They started in Sarria, most of them. They have their little daypack. They are fresh and excited about starting their big Camino journey. They are not the “family” that you meet at the beginning of the Camino. You try not to hate these people, but sometimes it’s a bit hard. 🙂 They’re good people too, but their very chipper “Buen Camino!” is sometimes the last thing you want to hear. 


My Camino family had a photo contest today. We were trying individually to get the best picture of the day. I decided to ask half of Spain to pose with me for my picture…