TURNING SHIT INTO GLITTER: WALKING THE CAMINO ON A TINY BUDGET

My worst nightmare came true. Nah, joke. That probably would be something different. However, it definitely felt like my entire endeavour was off the table, when my housing corporation informed me that subletting my house wasn’t allowed according to my contract. With one simple email they flushed one third of my budget down the drain.

Fantastic.

After the initial drama phase, in which I sat on the couch in disbelief surrounded by chocolate, I reviewed the situation and decided it was not all that bad. “It’s all part of the journey Q, it’s all part of the journey. You can still go! Just do the Camino on a budget!”

So… Walking the Camino on a budget will mean two things:

  1. During my camino I will have to keep to a tight budget.
  2. I will have to find inexpensive alternatives for the gear that I had chosen in the first place without compromising too much on quality and comfort. (Just so we are clear: I will not in a million years part with my boots.)

If I may say so myself, I am pretty good in budgeting, yet, I must admit that for a long distance hike budgeting is not easy. Flowing forth from the unexpected nature of this activity, you simply cannot keep account with every possible situation you will end up in. Therefore, you will have to make sure you allow for enough financial space to roam in.

Heaps of websites about the Camino offer information about the costs that are involved. The Dutch Sint Jacob Society has an extremely handy tool to calculate your expenses when journeying from the Netherlands to Santiago de Compostela… and thus, I just realised, not so handy for everyone ; ) Nonetheless, from what I have read, you can make the Camino as expensive or as low-cost as you want. Tent, albergue, hotel, supermarket or restaurant? The food and accommodation choices will be the main factors that determine the overall costs of your pilgrimage.

I have decided to pack a tent and camp as much as possible. The first month will be a challenge since not all campsites are open yet, so for this month I will have to factor in extra money for accommodation. Furthermore, there might be nights that I want to treat myself with a hostel room just get myself sorted at times. Foodwise I will bring my own stove, which means coffee (no. 1 priority), breakfast and dinner are mostly covered. Likewise, I plan to pack my own lunches. Naturally, once in a while I would like to eat out and enjoy the local cuisine, after all, eating is a dear hobby of mine.  Other things that cost money are laundry, small repairs, maps and who knows what else. Let’s make a calculation:

daily expenses

According to the majority of websites, a Camino on a restricted budget will cost €20-€30 a day on average. Keeping all the above considerations in mind, I have budgeted €30 per day (of course, hoping to be spending less!). With the current route and estimated kilometres I will be walking daily, walking from Amsterdam to Santiago will cost me around €3780 in total.

emergencies 

As we all know, unexpected things may happen. To be prepared for the actualisation of some of the what ifs, I have budgeted €250.

gear

Gear can be expensive, very expensive. Although I already have purchased certain essentials in the past – think sleeping bag, backpack and a stove – I will need certain things to make my trip easier, like a tent, a rain jacket and a hydro pack. The above described shitty setback, has diminished my initially budgeted €1500 budget for gear to €1000. Purchasing all the things I need and staying within this budget will become the challenge of the upcoming months.

ticket back home

Once in Santiago, you will have to go home. Even though I do not want to think about that yet, I estimated to spend €150 for a ticket back to Amsterdam.

grand total

So yeah, the grand total of my Camino de Santiago, if calculated correctly, will come to €5180. My expenses that will be made at home made while gone are excluded, think the rent of my studio, phone bill, health and travel insurance. While I still have quite a bit of saving to do, I am confident I will eventually get there.

In an attempt to turn this shit into glitter, I have thus decided to do my Camino on a tiny budget. Even with little money, I will be walking. Guess it will turn this journey even more into a priceless adventure.

Love,

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LA CREDENCIAL DEL PEREGRINO OR THE PILGRIM’S PASSPORT: WHY DO YOU NEED IT AND WHERE CAN YOU GET ONE?

One of the first things I read about when researching the Camino de Santiago is La Crendencial del Peregrino or the Pilgrim’s Passport. Although strictly speaking not part of your wearable gear, you will definitely need (and want) one of these in your backpack when walking the Way. But why do you need one of these in the first place and where can you get one? I’ll be telling you all about today : )

why do you need a Credencial del Peregrino?

The Credencial is the camino memento – a memory of your journey materialised as a cardboard passport filled with all sort of stamps. Local churches, refugios and albergues, which pilgrims find on their way to Santiago, provide these stamps. Your stamped Credencial eventually serves as a record of where you have been, which is important at the end of your pilgrimage; only those who have walked 100 kilometres and performed the pilgrimage with a religious or spiritual intention are able to receive a Compostela. The Compostela is a certificate stating you have completed the pilgrimage. An alternative certificate is available for those that have completed the Way with other motivations.

Perhaps, more importantly, the Credendial does not only function as “proof” of your journey; it also identifies you as a pilgrim on their way to Santiago. When showing this identification to someone, it asks the reader to lend support and aid if necessary. In this way, it provides the bearer with some form of protection. That could mean, for example, a cheap or free overnight stay in one of the albergues.

where can you get a Credencial del Peregrino? 

The Credencial is not hard to find, you can obtain one at your national St. James Society. Believe it or not, but your country probably has one! Usually the Credencial does not cost a great deal, think a couple of euros. Is yours full and haven’t you reached Santiago yet? No worries, you can purchase one on the road as well.

I received my Credencial after joining the Dutch St. Jacob society, which is called Het Nederlands Genootschap van Sint Jacob. I became a member to support all the work they perform and information they provide to help pilgrims on their journey. Receiving the Credencial was something special. As my name was written on it, it felt rather official… all of a sudden the idea of going on a pilgrimage became a reality!

Therefore, even if you are not interested in acquiring a certificate on completing your Camino, you might want to bring a Credencial to collect some beautiful stamps and capture the memory of your Camino journey.

Love,

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FROM BRUISED RIBS TO BRAND NEW WORKOUT ROUTINE: TRAINING FOR THE CAMINO WITH AN INJURY

December has hit (including the first snow) and March is coming faster than I had ever expected. I was keeping pretty well to my workout schedule to get my body ready for walking 20 kilometres a day… and then I fell. Nope. I wasn’t cycling and it wasn’t freezing or slippery. I just tripped and fell (sounds familiar right?). When I got up I assumed from the scratches on my hands and knees that they broke most of the fall. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case: my ribs did.

I deem myself pretty lucky since it could have been way worst, however, when I could not lift my hands above my head and breathing deeply was painful, I completely freaked out. The most basic yoga poses all of a sudden became an impossibility and how was I going to RUN when breathing hurts! There was nothing I could do about the circumstances, so I accepted the fact that I am a little clumsy in general and gave myself a few days to see how things would develop. After a while I went to the doctor – just to be sure – and she told me to give my upper body a rest.

What was I going to do! I’m leaving so soon, I have to train! After the initial panic subsided, I asked myself: What will you be doing most on the Camino? Answer is simple: walking and carrying a pack. Based on that answer a new workout routine emerged:

  • On average, I will still be cycling two times 15 minutes a day, since transporting myself to work and other places is not achievable in another manner.
  • My strength training will now primarily focus on my lower body. In the upcoming days or weeks, I will have to tune in and see which exercise I can add to strengthen my upper body.
  • After not doing any for a while (super sad face), I will ease back into yoga, gradually increasing the intensity of my practice.
  • Due to the current circumstances, and due to the fact that March is around the corner, my running routine will now turn into a walking routine. As I will be walking six out of the seven days a week, I want to prepare for being on the road regularly. One or two days a week I will do a shorter walk (in my previous schedule I’d run these two days). Since I want to increase my training days and walk for longer periods of time, I will add two longer walks. Uphill training will be incorporated during these walking days (stairs, stairs, stairs). And then… it will look a little something like this:

 

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Probably you all know where I am going with this. With or without injury, listen to your body and act accordingly. There is no use in forcing yourself. Just try to accept where you are at and adjust as far as it is possible. I must admit that the above visual of the twelve remaining is a bit daunting. Not long now before I will embark on my journey to Spain and so many things are yet to be done! I’d better get a move on ; )

Love,

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BOOTS, CHECK: FINDING THE RIGHT FOOTWEAR FOR YOUR CAMINO

Considering I was going to hike 2500 kilometres, I was well aware that I would probably need some specific gear. Though not entirely sure what “specific” would imply I figured that, as a pretty experienced camper, it couldn’t be that difficult to sort out what I would eventually take with me or not. Three nights and two mornings of online activity later, I discovered that the resources providing information regarding “hiking gear” in the broadest meaning of the word, seemed to just never end. Ranging from lightweight self-inflatable mats to sporks, 3-season tent reviews, the benefits of merino wool, non-gtx advocates, intriguing layering systems and walking pole discussions… I had about 55 tabs open and thought I was going mad. It was just too much information and I did not know where to start.

So I asked myself: After your first hike, what was the thing you wished for most? Besides more food, which does not really qualify as gear, the first thing that came to my mind where shoes. I required a good pair of shoes. Bingo. I asked Google:

“hiking shoes”

“hiking boots or shoes”

“hiking boots shoes or trail runners?”

“hiking two seasons boots”

“gore-tex wiki”

“hiking long distance gore-tex or not???”

My online search for shoes continued for about a week. I read up on what shoes would be most appropriate for my journey, I read about ankle support (“Is it necessary?”), the discussion around gore-tex (“Your feet will get wet anyway!”) and discovered all hiking shoes and boots were not going to make me look any better, so I decided not to worry about aesthetics. Reading the diverse and, often, contradicting opinions and arguments on a wide array of forums, I concluded that there was only one way to find the right footwear: to fit some.

That said. I headed to an outdoor shop here in Amsterdam, walked in and told my story to one of the employees. I explained her about my doubts concerning shoes with ankle support, my preference for shoes without gore-tex and also provided her with the information that I was going to walk 2500 kilometres and would be carrying about 10 kilograms on my back.

I was in there for two hours (!) before I made a decision.

During these two hours, I fitted a f*** ton of hiking shoes, boots and trail runners and this is what I figured out whilst actually wearing the footwear:

The (low) hiking shoes and trail runners did not do it for me. I do admit their weight is ideal, however, the absence of ankle support whilst standing and walking didn’t feel right. The slightly heavier boots with the ankle support on the other hand, immediately influenced my posture and made me feel more grounded, which I consider being a plus when carrying weight on your back.

I personally prefer leather shoes over waterproof shoes. Why? To be honest, I cannot really put my finger on it generally eating a plant-based diet. Anyways, the two main reasons are the durability of leather boots and their ability to naturally repel water.

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Every shoe or boot has a different fit and every foot is different. The front part of my feet are wide whereas my ankles are relatively small (yeah, picture that, how odd), This meant that I did not fit the boots of certain brands, some of which were highly promoted amongst hikers on the Internet. What I am trying to say is that, even though there is lots of useful advice online, try to find the right shoe for you.

Eventually, I went home with the Tatra Lady (leather) from the German brand Hanwag. The boots fitted my feet perfectly, they provided excellent support and I will be able to use them after walking the camino. To make sure that these were the right ones, I have tried them on at home a couple of times and I can tell you, these are absolutely it!

Love,

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WHICH WAY ARE YOU GOING?: ROUTES TO SANTIAGO

In order to walk somewhere you need a route or at least some directions. When trying to figure out how I was going to reach Spain, I initially got a little lost in the vast network of European pilgrim routes – there are just so many of them! In addition, most Dutch pilgrims depart in France, so the majority of the information online only provided half of the route to Santiago. Then, I discovered a website that made me do a little dance. Santiago Routes made planning your camino route into something super exciting! Using this website I have been able to (partially) plan my way to Santiago, let’s have a look shall we?

from Amsterdam via ‘s Hertogenbosch to Visé/Wezet

Since I live in Amsterdam, I will start my journey from there. As far as I could find, you can take five different routes when kicking off your pilgrimage in the Netherlands. In order to arrive in Belgium, I will commence my journey on the pilgrim path (Pelgrimspad). Why? Firstly, because it starts in Amsterdam. Second, it is an established long distance walking route marked with blazes, thus, easy to follow. This last point is very vital as, in the early stages of my walk, I do not want to get too lost ; )

from Belgium to France

My choice to walk to Visé limits my route options when proceeding to France. When walking to Visé you have already found your way to the Via Limburgia; a pilgrim route that will take you through Belgium to Rocroi in France. Just so we are clear, at this stage the total amount of kilometres will be about 616. When walking on 20 km on average, I will probably arrive in France after roughly a month of walking.

from France to Spain

France has so many walking options, you might experience some stress when picking. My decision was motivated by me really wanting to say hi to Jeanne d’Arc in Reims (her statue that is), one of the most inspiring historical figures. Likewise, I did not want to walk through Paris. You go on romantic weekend trips to Paris, walking through it sounds horrid. Consequently, I have decided to travel from Rocroi to Vėzelay – a commune where lots of pilgrims begin their camino. There are several options after Vėzelay: You can either walk to St. Jean- Pied-de-Port via Périgueux or Rocamadour, the latter of which appears to be slightly more physically demanding. As I am not sure in what kind of mindset I will be at that stage, I will decide when I get there.

routes in Spain

About 1705 kilometres later you have arrived in Spain. In Spain there are eight main routes, however, coming from St. Jean- Pied-de-Port you can either choose to walk the Camino Frances, the Camino del Norte or El Camino Primitivo. The Camino Frances is the most popular route to Santiago and tends to get pretty busy during the summer months. The Camino del Norte is dubbed the coastal route and seems to be quieter and more difficult. To spice things up a bit you can always divert from the previous two routes to the El Camino Primitivo. This route is the first of the routes to Santiago and is known to be rather challenging. Although many advice the Camino Frances as the preferred route for first timers, this choice too, will largely depend on what way I feel like going at that stage of my journey and, not unimportant, how my bank account is feeling about that particular way ; )

Due to the uncertainty of the weather in March, as well as in preparation of the imagined challenge that this first month will bring, I will predetermine my route from Amsterdam to France. When arriving there and – hopefully – having acquired a daily walking routine, I would like to let the Way unfold more naturally. As you have seen here, there are many roads that lead to Santiago; the route I am describing here is just one option. Choose the route that you would like to walk, it’s your journey after all!

Love,

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image credit: wikipedia.org