A second short story about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

My current part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage ends in Burgos, Spain. I’ve had many grand human encounters along the way. I recommend attempting the trek just for this reason. Talking to people from every conceivable part of the world, and listening to their stories, reaffirms your faith in the human condition. And after all, isn’t that what it’s really all about.

I confess, I’m stopping at this current point due to an extreme apathy. I just don’t know why I’m really doing it or what I thought I was going to get out of it. Even in this short run, I’m absolutely sure that I got more than I thought I would. There’s a truth in walking that you find along the way.

(A half-dozen other pilgrims waiting on a train out of Burgos. Doing a section of the Camino is quite fashionable.)

Now, In all practicality, I made a bunch of miss-steps. I hadn’t planned on the trails being what they were. When the guide books showed nice smooth gravel paths they were being overly kind. There are large section (especially downhill) where the trails is a loose scree of sharp gravel rock more akin to a outback mountain trail. The section of old Román road is particularly daunting! The percentage of paved path is optimistically high, and mainly applies to through-town section. The trail is legit.

I came equipped with a pair of Columbia walking shoes/trekking shoes. These were not the right choice. With the sharp gravel, you want something with a sturdy sole on it. Otherwise, the rocks start to push through, which they did. Also, I literally started to walk the stitching out of them. Tip …. don’t short your footwear!

My next major miss-step was weight. My pack was much too heavy for an extended excursion like the Camino. You definitely want your weight at the absolute minimum. I need to cut my weight by a good 5 pounds or more. That being said, I saw many people suffering along with packs obviously heavier than mine. I wish them Buen Camino!

On this baggage front, there are numerous companies that will transport your bags from town to town. And many pilgrims utilize this service. This seems (to me) missing the point of the Camino. If you want a leisurely walk through the country, there are other numerous options in both Europe and America. That’s just my opinion.

So, I sit at the train station. Sore feet on both sides. Right foot tore up from wearing my Tevas instead of my shoes. Left foot tore up from a blister in the middle of the ball of my foot (which I walked on for several days). My shoulder bones are sore from the pack (not the muscle, the bones), and I am running on low ambition.

Safe to say, I have learned a great deal about what not to do. These lessons were hard won, and won’t be dismissed any time soon.

I don’t think the Camino is done with me yet? I had trouble not putting my pack on and walking this morning. Still, I plan on waiting out any further attempt until I have better feet to carry me.

Lesson. Know when to concede. There is no shame in stopping. There is shame in injuring yourself being stupid. As I have said before; if James had of found a horse, he would have rode it!

Peace. Out.

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A couple days into the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage.

Since I came up with the idea of becoming a pilgrim, and maybe finding out something new about myself in the process, the idea of the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage has changed and shifted in my mind. A simple walk across Spain, to potentially learn/experience something new. A chance to . . . Encounter faith. A way to experience new people and points of view. Exercise.

Where I have found every one of those things over the previous days, I have also learned some things about the Camino itself. Trust me when I say, the undertaking isn’t what you think it is.

(The parapet wall behind the cathedral in Pamplona. Tye architecture of the city is still amazing.)

If all you’ve seen about the undertaking has come from YouTube, I can say that’s those portrayals are all pretty accurate. They’re all a little tainted by personal opinion, as is mine, but their accurate enough.

I think the thing that’s most shocking about the whole affair is the lack of actual pilgrims. There are a lot of people walking along a path that is surprisingly well marked and vendor-laden, but I don’t think any of them are out looking for much more than a stamp in a booklet and a bed for the night.

(A realistic picture of the modern pilgrimage.)

To be fair, I’m one of those people. I’m not overflowing with spirituality. I assume this is because I understand too much about people and their motivations. Still, an actual pilgrim, now and again, that would add so much more to the experience.

The initial days under foot have all been ones of decision. The decision: to continue this craziness or stop and go to the beach? Everyday I quit. I’m going no farther. This was a bad idea. And everyday I end up having a conversation with someone I never expected to have which continues my persistence. I still want to quit. Right now. As I type this. But, I’ll get up in the morning and continue on toward Logroño, My pack on my sore shoulders.

(The alter area of Santa Maria, in Los Arcos. A reason, in-and-Of-itself, to walk the path.)

I may have another conversation there that will continue to push me on. I hope I do. That would be great! We’ll all just have to wait and see.

(Your pilgrim’s credential. Your access card to cheap rooms and cheap meals.)

On another note, some logistics. I flew into Pamplona from London, in Iberia. Got the one-way ticket off Expedia for a reasonable price. I stayed at the Hotel Castillo de Javier. Booked it on booking.com. It was centrally located in town, and quite accommodating, though a bit loud.

Since I stated my Camino in Pamplona, I picked up my pilgrim’s credential at the Bishop’s office next to the cathedral. It was either one or two euro. I honestly don’t remember.

More to follow, if my feet hold up.

(I don’t know what the flower is, but their everywhere along the way.)

Buen Camino!

Readying For Europe 2019

One of my two main goals when I departed Kuwait last year was to spend the summer in Europe. The other was to write a new book (which has already been accomplished), but is unimportant to this blog post.

As with the passing of the clock hands, time has cruised by, and it’s almost time to head out for a summer of backpacking and picture taking. The plan (which is rough at best) is to start by undertaking the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage across Spain. After that’s either accomplished or not, I’m going to be on a backpacking train/plane trip across Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Near East. I say it a little tongue-in-cheek because I’ve changed the route about a dozen times, so far. I have absolutely no doubt that it will also change while I’m doing it. The area has so many options that I’m sure I will get distracted. (Hence the title of this blog. HAHAHAHAHA!)

I’m going to start this “series” of post with some logistical information. First will be on plane tickets. I bought my intercontinental plane ticket in advance. I used Kayak.com to scan ticket prices for all airports in Europe, and purchased when I found a ticket that fit my needs. I am flying into London, England, because it was the first ticket that met my pricing requirements. From there, I’ll connect to the mainland by either train or plane.

The ticket search engines of choice for my trips are as follows: Kayak.com, Expedia.com, and Easyjet.com. I find that I like the kayak search engine, and that easyjet and expedia include the majority of low cost ticket options. I plan to use one-way plane flights to connect disparate parts of Europe, without wasting multiple days on the train. This concession to speedy travel is important, because an American tourist is only allowed 90 total days in the EU Zone within any 180 day period. To fit in maximum travel, I need to limit my wasted travel days. That’s why the internal flights are necessary.

Second is the necessity for general getting around. For this I use the train. The continent of Europe has a magnificent rail system. The different country rail systems are all interconnected, and laced together in the different rail timetables. I use EURail.com to purchase multi-country rail passes before I depart America. You’ll get a significantly better rate using a rail pass, as opposed to buying tickets one-at-a-time. I prefer trains to renting cars in Europe as it’s just more convenient. Once you’re in most European cities and towns, you really don’t need a car. I’ve used several different websites to purchase rail tickets over the years. I happen to like EURail.com best. They have good prices, a website that is easy to navigate, and an excellent mobile app to keep up with the train schedules.

Third is hotels and such. Normally I use hotels when in Europe. Mid-range hotels are realistically priced and clean. I use Booking.com for my hotel reservations planet-wide. I like the way the website is laid-out, and I find the mobile app works without issue everywhere I go. If I can book before departing, I do. With the unknown path and timing of this trip, I will be doing a lot of booking on-the-fly.

The initial part of the trip (the Camino pilgrimage) I’ll be utilizing Albergues and Pensiones, which are basically pilgrims hostels. The state-run units are first come, first served. So, it will all be a day-to-day hunt for a bed. (That should work out well.) For the city traveling that comes after that, I am going to try my hand at renting through Airbnb.com. It’s my first time utilizing them, and I’m excited to see how it turns out. If it’s a good experience I’ll definitely continue, as the prices are well-below hotel rates.

Fourth major task is packing. When going to Europe, I normally pack for a European Holiday. On this occasion, the bag will be somewhat different. With the pilgrimage planned for the beginning of my excursions, I’m packing specifically for the Camino. With the addition of a GoPro and some swim trunks, the packing list is Camino specific. When I’m done, I can change out the pack (Send home stuff I no longer need, and add stuff I find while traveling). I’ll be adding a complete list of my Camino packing in an upcoming post, as soon as I know what it’s finally going to be.

Right now, The planned country list goes something like; England, Spain (multiple stops), Holland, Germany (Multiple stops), Austria (Grand Prix weekend), Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland (multiple stops), Croatia (Ultra Europe weekend), Greece (multiple stops), Turkey, Israel (Multiple stops), Romania (multiple stops), Hungary, Switzerland, and then back to England. I’m sure that It’ll change along the way.

That’s the current plan. The next series of post will be coming from this summer’s European and Near Eastern (Turkey, Israel, maybe Lebanon) experiences. I hope you’ll enjoy the notes-from-the-road.

The continets of my Camino backpack. It’s camino specific, at this point.

That’s the basic logistics of the beginning. It should be a crazy trip. I hope you find some useful information that you can use in your own travels. If you have any ideas/suggestions, definitely let me know in the comments.

Now get out there! Go travel somewhere.