I’ve always enjoyed walking. I find it relaxing and meditative. I’m not easily bored. So when I first heard of the Camino de Santiago years ago it sounded really appealing to me. At that point in my life I was married, had three children at home and a couple of cats. Leaving them all behind to walk across Spain seemed selfish and not something I was financially able to do. So there the thought rested, in the back of my mind, for many years. Last summer at Monica and Patricia’s alchemy retreat in Italy I learned that Monica had walked the Camino de Santiago and I talked to her about it a bit and decided that I would like to do it someday. The summer slipped away from me and I didn’t do a whole lot of walking or exercising at all. By the end of August I was back in school wondering, like I do every year, where the summer has gone. On a rainy day over Labor Day weekend I decided today was as good of a day as any to see what it would feel like to walk from one town to another. I live in Mason City and have a small vacation condo in Clear Lake about 12 miles from my home. I got up about eight and grabbed an umbrella and a small backpack with water and some beef jerky and I just started walking. I was barely out of Mason City before my son stopped by my house and, concerned because my car was at home and I was not, gave me a call. His concerns did not seem to be relieved by the fact that I was walking to Clear Lake. He took this as a sign that there was something wrong. I assured him that I was fine and shared my plan with him and that I would give him a call if I needed a ride. He called me an hour later when it was raining pretty hard and asked me if I wanted a ride or if I wanted to stick it out. I appreciated his thoughtfulness but knew that some days on the Camino it would rain and thought this was as good of a time to walk as any. By the time I got to Clear Lake I was tired but in a good way! I was determined that if I could walk that far without being in shape then if I put a little effort into it I would be able to do this pilgrimage! Since then I’ve been walking every day with a long hike on Sundays which is usually about 10 miles with another 20 miles spread out the rest of the week. So basically I have averaged over 4 miles a day since then. Most of my walking has been on level ground, but at least it’s outside so it’s never perfectly level and will mirror the Camino in terms of walking surfaces. I have not, however, gotten much practice on hilly terrain so I signed up for a personal trainer to help me work on cardio these last few weeks before the Camino. She is a student at NIACC, where I teach, and working with me is part of her program. She is very sweet but gets a lot more joy out of seeing how high she can get my heart rate than I do LOL.
One of the most fun parts of my preparation has been the packing. I bought a new 38 L Gregory backpack and put a hydration liner in it. I like the liner but I’m not sure it’s worth it’s weight and I don’t know that I’ll need to carry that much water but there are also pockets on the sides that would easily hold water bottles if I decide to ditch the liner and go that route. One of my biggest decisions was what to do for a sleep sack. Whether to bring just a liner or a sleeping bag. I’ve read that the albergues, where I’ll be sleeping, can be quite cool that time of year. Many of them are in old schools or other buildings and have rows of bunk beds. I don’t want to be uncomfortable and, although I like sleeping in cool rooms, I didn’t want to be cold after a long hike each day. What I eventually ended up deciding on was a thin nylon sleep sack and a down quilt that I purchased from Cosco. The quilt is very light and packs up easily into a stuff sack. Although it looks thin, it’s incredibly warm and I plan to put it inside the sleep sack to keep me warm at night. I’m not a big fan of chemicals but I did buy a can of Peripherin to spray my backpack and the sleep sack to ward off bedbugs. I read that it’s not likely that they would be present that early in the season but I figured it’s a good precaution to take.
I talked to a number of people that are avid runners and hikers and came up with some good ideas to ward off and treat blisters. My coworker Jeanne suggested that I buy some gold bond and rub that all over my feet each day. That works for her and she runs more than anyone I know! My daughter’s good friend who has walked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Coast Trail told me I needed to get a roll of Leukotape, I have used it already, thanks Mitch!
Another dilemma that I had was whether to bring a poncho or raincoat. I’ve experimented with both and they each have their advantages but I’ve decided to go with the poncho. I do have a rain resistant jacket that I’m bringing along so I’m going to spray that with waterproof spray and see if that increases its resistance. My backpack has a cover so that will help for light rains and if it’s a down pour I thought the poncho would cover me and the backpack and keep the straps dry.
In addition to my cell phone and charger I am bringing a very long charger cord, a spare short cord, a charging bank that is fairly small but will charge my phone two full charges, and an electrical adapter for my USB plug. I’m going to bring some headphones and listen to music at night if snoring keeps me awake so hopefully my cord will reach my bunk. I’m bringing a small collapsible cup and a spork. I also have a little container that holds a small pair of scissors, nail clippers, safety pins, mole skin, tweezers and a few bandages. I’ve read that the safety pins come in handy if you wash things out by hand and they don’t quite get dry you could use them to pin socks to your backpack to dry while you walk during the day. Makes sense to me!
I decided to bring dry sacks. I bought one for boating a few years ago and it holds my sleep sack, quilt and all my clothes. I figured that it would be something I could carry into the shower with me and put my valuables in while I shower and then change into my clean dry clothes. I’m not bringing a lot of clothes but I do have a lot of layers. I’m bringing two pairs of leggings, two pairs of socks, two pairs of undies, two sports bras, a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve shirt, plus what I’m wearing. What I plan to wear on the plane and to walk at first when it’s cooler is a base layer (thermal pants), waterproof pants that zip off into shorts (I never wear shorts when I travel but I thought it might be nice to have this option if it gets unseasonably hot). I have a micro fleece hoodie that I am wearing and a very light fleece pullover that I’m wearing over that. I can add the long sleeve shirt and the water resistant jacket when I’m hiking in the mornings when it’s cooler.
I always bring a small flashlight with me whenever I travel because it seems like I’ve used it more often than not when electricity goes off or I’m trying to dig around through a dark purse on the plane to find something. Anyway, I thought between that and the flashlight on my phone it would be adequate but I started to think maybe it would be nice to have some sort of headlamp. I didn’t want to bring anything too heavy or bulky but I came across what I think is going to be the perfect solution. I found a stocking cap that comes with an insert that has a 100 lm light. It re-charges with a USB plug. The cap will keep my head warm on cold mornings or as a last resort at a cold albergue at night. I wore it to take Kyle’s dog Sumo on a late night walk and it worked perfectly! I’m not much of a hat wearer, I’ll post a picture later and you’ll understand why. So I went back-and-forth about whether I needed some sort of a sunshade cap. I’ll be walking west and bringing sunglasses so possibly I could get by without but I thought maybe it would also be pleasant to have something to keep the rain off my neck and face a little better than the poncho alone so I am also bringing along a lightweight collapsible hat.
I always bring ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol and a couple of Benadryl tablets. That’s my go-to precautionary medicine for any trip and that has served me well my whole adult life. I don’t take any prescription drugs so that’s it for meds.
As far as hygiene products I bought a shampoo bar and conditioner bar that I’ve tried out and they work very well and smell lovely. I’m bringing a small round ball of anti-perspirant, a collapsible hairbrush, sunscreen, Chapstick, floss, toothbrush and toothpaste. I’m bringing the tiniest little camping towel and a sarong.
The shoes I am hiking in are Hy Tech waterproof shoes. I’ve broken them in by walking a couple hundred miles but the rest of the time I walked in different shoes so that I didn’t wear them out before the pilgrimage. To wear around in the evenings and in the shower I bought a pair of Xero sandals. They are super comfortable and very light weight.
I’m bringing a very flat wallet with my credit and debit cards and I will be wearing in a stretchy waistband that will also hold my phone and passport. My plan is to wear it all the time even when I’m sleeping at night. I don’t anticipate theft, but if someone did steal everything in my backpack I could always just buy new as long as I don’t lose my card, passport and phone.
One of my favorite purchases is a Buff! It is so versatile and I just love wearing it around my neck when I hike.
My physician suggested that I get some hiking poles to walk with. Monica said that she used some as well so I decided to take their expert advice. I don’t usually use the poles when I walk around home but I practiced with them and I like them a lot. I bought some cheap ones that expand and I’m going to check them in a cardboard box to get them to Spain as the rest of my belongings will be in my carry-on bag. If they get lost they’ll be cheap enough to replace once I get to Spain.
I ordered a couple of books about the Camino and I haven’t really read them nor do I plan to bring them along but I think I’ll take some pictures of the maps that are in them so I’ll have that on my phone before I go. And one of them came with a pilgrim passport so I have two copies of that and I’ll bring one along to get my stamps. The pilgrim passport is required to stay in the albergues and it also serves as a souvenir with stamps of all of the places that you’ve stopped.
My sister-in-law gave me a Rocketbook for Christmas that I think I’m going to use for my journaling. You can hand write on the pages and then scan them into your phone. The character recognition translation requires a little bit of editing but it will be a nice record of my trip and I do like to hand write a journal.
The hip straps on my backpack have zip pockets so that will be handy for tissue, coins and perhaps a granola bar. That’s probably also where I will carry my little fossil. Traditionally, pilgrims bring a rock and leave it at the highest point on the trail to symbolize their life’s baggage. It seemed appropriate to me to bring a rock that I had since childhood.
I doubt if I have thought of everything but I’ve certainly thought of enough. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having this to look forward to over the winter and the packing and preparation has kept me entertained and excited about life. If something happened right now and I wasn’t able to go on the Camino I still would’ve had the joy of the preparation.
I’m so fortunate to have children that support me in my travels and in my excitement for life thank you so much Kyle, Tara, and Josh you help make my life easy!
May 13th I will fly to Barcelona and make arrangements to travel to the beginning of the Camino. If the verbosity of this first post doesn’t frighten you off, I hope you will join me virtually!