BECAUSE WE ARE ALL WONDERING: PEEING AND PERIODS WHEN WALKING ST. JAMES’ WAY

How will I pee when being on the road and what do I do when I am having my period? These were two of the first questions I had once I decided to embark on my foot journey to Spain. (What am I going to eat? was the very first one – and probably my most frequently asked question in general – but we will not cover that one in today’s post). So let’s talk about peeing and menstruating when walking St. James’ Way, shall we?

I drink a lot, which means I use the bathroom a lot. Unfortunately, bathrooms are not always available when you want or really have to use one. That said, you can do several things:

  1. You can ignore the urge. This is probably not something you should make a habit out of, as the stuff really has to get out. Attempted this during my first practice walk and it messes too much with my brain; I’d rather pee and stay sane.
  2. You can squat. This generally works fine, unless you are in an open space and you are uncomfortable bearing your butt or, alternatively, there is lots of wind going on and you do not want to walk around with wet shoes or pants. I have tried this technique multiple times and I must say, whatever squatting position I employ, I never accomplish a situation in which I have an empty bladder and dry clothing.
  3. You can use a Female Urinary Device (F.U.D.) – otherwise known as a pee funnel – which enables you to pee whilst standing. Sick. Yeah, thought so too. I used the biodegradable cardboard ones for a while and they work fine. Do note that in public places an upright peeing female still seems to be considered as odd. Recently, I purchased a reusable one. It is dry in a sec, easy to use and… it’s purple ♥️ No more bare butts or wet pants, just do your thing whilst standing. Genius.

Periods are a next level problem though, especially when you flow is heavy and lasts longer than a few days. Not having constant access to a toilet, or a bin for that matter, makes using tampons (or pads) a pain since you have to change them every so many hours; taking your waste along in a bag and messing with toilet paper and disinfectant hand lotion just seems too much work. Yes, there is an easier way: menstrual cups. Insert it, be absolutely amazing for up to twelve hours without giving a single fuck about your period, remove it, empty it, clean it, and repeat. * Easy as.

Who would have thought? The pee funnel and the menstrual cup: two, at first sight perhaps slightly odd, creations that could solve your peeing and period problems in the blink of an eye. Buen Camino! ; )

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*Before use always read the detailed instructions in the user manual provided with your menstrual cup. It will take a bit of practice, but it is worth it!

LEARNING IT THE HARD WAY | PRACTICING FOR THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO | #3 PORRIDGE AND JÄGERMEISTER

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. This is the third part of the blog post about my practice week; here you can read the first part and the second part.

It was like waking up from a nightmare and then realising it actually happened. Although, I must admit that, when opening my tent zippers the sight was pretty amazing. The grass was completely white frozen and the winter sun peeked through the trees. My body, however, did not feel as amazing as my surroundings looked and if I did not just have the night that I had, I would have ran to the heated toilet building (Yes. Throughout the night, I had the idea to sleep in this building. In hindsight, I probably should have.). I opened the door and saw Rennon packing his backpack with the energy of someone that fell asleep in a five-star hotel and woke up with a champagne breakfast. “Good morning!” “Morning.” I replied. Ok, I might have given him a bit of a death stare. “How was your night?” It took me a lot of courage admitting to the horror that was my night but deep inside I was aware that Rennon already knew my night was going to suck hard when he saw me sitting in the opening of my tent, boiling water in a pot without a lid.

“What’s for breakfast?” I answered with a question, as I was wondering whether I, as a rookie, might have brought the wrong breakfast despite my extensive research on nutrient-dense, dehydrated foods. “Porridge with dried fruits?” Pass. He asked to have breakfast together in a shelter on the terrain. By the time I gathered all my bits and pieces, he already ate his and was busy making some tea. As I ate my porridge, he gave me valuable advice on apps, gear and hiking in general and promised me to send his packing list. I thanked him for the advice and before he took of, I told him I would survive another night. He thought so too. An hour after Rennon left, I decided I would not.

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I stood in the toilet building crying as I felt like I was giving up and because I could not feel my toes anymore. Then I realised that my dad and stepmother were staying in Otterlo, a village in the Veluwe where I had done one of my previous walks. I called dad, deconstructed my tent, moved all my crap into the toilet building and hysterically packed my bag. Once packed, I walked to the bus stop and travelled to Otterlo. A steaming hot shower, a couple of Jägermeister and a good night’s sleep got me all set for the days after.

In the days that followed, I did two walks with my backpack that weighed about 10 kilograms. The first was 16,2 km and took me about three hours, the second was 18,2 km and took me almost four hours to complete. During these walks, I did not only realise that I suck at taking breaks, I also discovered a whole new set of muscles in my feet and back. After doing some research about my sleeping bag, I found out that the comfort temperature for a female using this particular bag is 4°C, for a male it is -2°C. No wonder -5°C was a little too cold for me. Finding a sleeping bag suitable for a colder night is now on my to-do-list. I did however manage to sleep two more nights in my tent… this time it was above 0°C and I had an extra sleeping bag.

All in all, these couple of days were a valuable experience, just a little bit of a shame I had to learn it the hard way ; )

Love,

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LEARNING IT THE HARD WAY | PRACTICING FOR THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO | #2 SHOWERS AND EMERGENCY BLANKETS

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. This is the second part of the blog post about my practice week, read the first part here.

The sun had set. I had made myself some dinner that I partially had to slurp out of the holes of my foam pad, as I dropped it there in a hurry to shove it in my mouth (I was really hungry). It was time for a shower. At this stage, it was so cold that I figured a hot shower would be the only way to get myself warm before hopping into bed. Undressed and ready to face the water, I was stoked to see the timer on six minutes. Six whole minutes of showering! And then I turned it on. The water was a lukewarm. Just enough to make you think you are not showering with cold water, but miles away from an actual hot shower. Not a great start of the night. When walking back to my tent, my body remained cold and, in addition, my mood was crap.

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Installing myself in my sleeping bag, I suddenly notice a flashlight shining on my tent. After Rennon, I had only spotted two more guests entering the terrain and since they all camped a lot further from where my tent was, I freaked out a little. “Asleep yet?” It was Rennon. Sigh of relief. “Nah. Not yet. But I’m sort of in bed already.” “We are having a campfire, want to join?” “Nah. I want to get up early tomorrow and I’m pretty tired, so I’ll have an early night.” “Alright.” Truth was. I was so cold, I did not even want to go outside. The only thing I wanted was to get warm.

And I can tell you. I did not get warm. My feet were tucked into my backpack, my mat was folded so that my upper body was furthest from the ground and my water bottle was filled up with hot water to warm my feet. With every movement, I rearranged my sleeping bag and my liner, put my hat back on and wrapped my fleece around my head to seal the opening of my sleeping bag. Around 1 AM, in between tears, cursing and falling asleep for no longer then twenty minutes at the time, I remembered the existence of my emergency blanket. My mind screamed: this is the emergency! I took the neatly folded blanket out of the package and draped it over my sleeping bag. A couple of minutes later, it felt like heaven: I was getting warm again.

With everything that seemed to go right in the beginning, this highlight also did not last very long. Between the sleeping bag and the emergency blanket formed a layer of condense which dampened my sleeping bag and, in turn, made me even colder. Attempts to unfold my stiff body to dry the top of the sleeping bag with my (now completely frozen) towel were merely symbolical, as I already knew that the feeling of being cold would not stop – wet sleeping bag or not.

Throughout the night the temperature dropped to -5. It was the longest night of my life.

Final part will be published on Sunday!

Love,

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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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FROM TWENTY SEVENTEEN TO TWENTY EIGHTEEN: CONTINUE WALKING

When I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago and blog about it, I also wanted to include more personal posts. Up until today I did not really write anything personal, let alone mention my motivations for undertaking this journey. Why not? I guess the answer is simple: I find it difficult and, perhaps, a little frightening to share something that’s so close to me.

The past week, being the last week of the year, I took some time to reflect on all that has happened in 2017. It has been a mix of unusual experiences, big decisions, surprises, frustrations, intense anger, uncontrollable laughter, massive mistakes, little smiles, sorrow, unforgettable moments, personal achievements, confusion and clarity. The year that has come to a conclusion, was marked by the endings of several paths I have travelled in the past. The end of my academic career by obtaining my Master’s degree, the mending of a shattered heart and the long-awaited arrival of my mind here in the Netherlands after my body had already returned from Australia in 2016… to name but a few of those preceding pathways.

However, endings create and encourage space for something entirely new to happen. So 2017 was also full of tiny beginnings, new insights and ideas that still have to grow. You could compare it to the first steps on a trail that, at first glance, looks very promising. Although uncertain where it will lead me, with this somewhat more personal post and in the new year that is waiting to commence, I will continue walking.

Happy New Year!

Love,

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