LEARNING IT THE HARD WAY: PRACTISING FOR THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO | #1 TOO COLD FOR TOUCHSCREENS

When I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, I immediately planned a “practice week”; a week in which I would not only walk several consecutive days but also practice with my gear. That week was last week. Because the Netherlands can become quite cold in winter, there are only a handful of nature reserves in which you can camp throughout the year or where, as it is stated on the website of the organisation maintaining these reserves, you can “stay with the ranger”. I chose to go to Borger, a tiny village in one of the Northern provinces.

I ran through my packing list one last time to confirm every item was in my bag. It was. And boy, was that bag heavy. Somewhere halfway I met up with Mum for a little coffee and cake celebration, as it was my birthday a few days before and I love celebrating things. Her words that it was not possible to prepare for everything resonated with me once I sat in the train to Assen. Once in Assen, I had to take two busses to arrive at a bus stop after which it took me another 45 minutes walking to reach the campsite. Side note: it was cold. And with cold, I mean just above 0 degrees cold.

I had a look around the campsite. Apart from one other tent there was no one on the terrain. I ignored my feelings of dislike and walked towards the information column. According to the email I received when making the reservation, it was here that I had to check-in. Great… a touchscreen computer. The screen was cold, my fingers too. After fifteen minutes of pressing the same damn button, I finally received a label that I had to fix to my tent as proof of my reservation. On the label it said I had camping spot number 9, which happened to be all the way on the other side of the terrain. I walked towards it with the front part of my feet already frozen.

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Proudly seated in the entrance of my tent – that I had pitched relatively quick seen the ice-cold state my hands were in at that time – I was boiling some water to make myself a nice cup of tea, when I saw someone walking towards me. Soon I figured it was a man and by his posture and tread I had decided he was the ranger. He kneeled down in front of me: “So, are you not going to be cold tonight?” “I’ll experience that tonight. In case it will be cold, I have got many layers to put on.” I told him I was practising for the Camino de Santiago. “Alright. You have a Therm-A-Rest pad, those last for about 10 to 12 years.” I nodded. I knew that, I had done my research. “My name is Rennon.” “Hi, I am Querien.” We shook hands. “You might want to consider a lid for your pot, so you don’t have to fight the wind. Here, this is what I’m sleeping in.” He showed me a picture on his phone  of bivy sack and a tarp. I told Rennon it looked impressive, which it did, although I was not really sure whether I would exchange my tent to sleep in that situation. “I saw some good trees over there. I am going to set up my tarp. Good luck!”

He took off, leaving me behind with a strange feeling that something was about to happen and I was not prepared to face it. Definitely not the ranger, I thought, and had a sip from the tea of which the water had taken way too long to come to a boil.

Curious? This blog post will be continued next week! See you then : )

Love,

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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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