In my November recap, I included a travel quote from actress Shirley MacLaine. Since then, I’ve been thinking about other travel quotes which inspire me. Between screenshots saved to my phone and an out-of-control Pinterest board, I have quite a few.
I had big plans to train and research, but then I went home to Michigan for the summer. Of course, summer always flys by. Before I knew it, I was back in Spain with the trip just days away.
Fortunately, it’s still possible to do the Camino without a ton of preparation. I’m living proof!
The Camino is refreshingly straightforward. Essentially, my trip itinerary was: walk, walk, walk, sleep then wake up and walk some more.
Many pilgrims agree part of the beauty of the Camino is its simplicity. So, embrace it (if you can)!
If you find yourself with the opportunity to walk but aren’t sure you’ve had enough time to prepare for the Camino de Santiago, read the following and take comfort in the fact that I managed over 200 kilometers with next to no prep. Perhaps you can too.*
*Before starting the Camino, please check with your doctor and clear the Camino with them before beginning. Like for real, I don’t want you to die.
Due to budget, I attempted to keep my Camino purchases to an absolute minimum. You could get lost in the forums discussing Camino gear. Major rabbit hole and some of us just don’t have time for that. I decided to keep my packing list as simple as possible. However, if you’re going to spend time on anything, spend time researching a backpack. The wrong backpack could potentially ruin your Camino.
Transportation and Accommodation
I purchased a round trip ticket between Madrid and Santiago de Compostela for the totality of my transportation preparation. Bus tickets for additional travel were purchased day-of. The tourist information desk at the Santiago airport was incredibly helpful.
As for accommodation, pilgrims walking the Camino stay in albergues. Municipal albergues, which are run by the local government, don’t accept reservations, which effectively eliminates planning out accommodation. At 6 euros per bed, municipal albergues are very popular among pilgrims. You better walk fast if you want a bed!
I want to start by saying this: walking should not be underestimated. Especially when you’re averaging 15 miles per day. Only consider undertaking the Camino “without preparation” if you already have a solid base level of fitness.
Just to give you an idea as to my level of physical fitness, I’m a runner who’s completed one marathon and several half marathons (my most recent in July 2016). In the months leading up to my Camino, I ran and biked regularly. I also did several two to three hour long walks around my neighborhood. The Sunday before my Camino, I went for a nine-mile hike in Madrid’s Casa de Campo.
Even though I’d spent the majority of the summer training for a half marathon, I still found the Camino incredibly challenging. In hindsight, I wish I would have done more walking/hiking with my backpack in order to simulate the Camino. If you shouldn’t underestimate walking, you most definitely shouldn’t underestimate walking whilst carrying a backpack.
I began my light Camino research back in June but never delved all that deep. This is shameful, but I never even watched Martin Sheen’s The Way, which everyone says is a fairly accurate depiction of daily Camino life.
I referenced the following resources aka they saved my life:
I’m not going to lie: November was a long month. Long and trying. As I write this monthly recap, it’s hard to think about anything other than the decision American voters made on Nov. 8. A difficult month is behind us but more are ahead.
Image Credit: Juan Tiagues (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)
In the face of recent events, I’ve never been more certain of my decisions to live abroad and learn a second language. As a traveler, I firmly believe people should explore the world, not fear it. We should embrace other cultures, not ostracize them. “The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends,” actress Shirley MacLaine said when reflecting on her lifetime of travels. I couldn’t agree more, and as a reader of the blog, I hope you feel the same.
Logroño, La Rioja, Spain
Writing. At the start of November, I challenged myself to post on this blog twice a week for the entire month. Mission accomplished! I’ve also been producing weekly content for Devour Madrid. It makes me feel good to be writing again, and I’m genuinely proud of the content I produced this month. I plan to keep the momentum going through December and into the new year.
Lunch with my former host family. This month, I finally had the opportunity to reconnect with my former host family, or as I prefer to call them, my familia española (Spanish family). I hadn’t seen them since June! I took the bus out to my old stomping grounds in Alalpardo, a pueblo just northeast of Madrid, for lunch and an afternoon of catching up. My madre española, Verónica, commented on how much my Spanish has improved. After all the work I’ve been putting in, that felt great to hear.
Thanksgiving in Madrid. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so I wasn’t surprised to find myself feeling a little homesick last Thursday morning. After a full day of work and private classes, I went over to my friend’s apartment. Also an American, she hosted a Thanksgiving get-together. We didn’t eat any turkey or mashed potatoes (we ordered pizza), but that didn’t matter. Just before eating, we took turns saying what we were thankful for. We were all grateful for our lives abroad and the people we’ve met along the way. Regardless of where you are in the world, the community you surround yourself with is what makes a place a home
Visiting Logroño. No self-respecting wine lover can live in Spain and not visit La Rioja. Just a four-hour bus ride from Madrid, I had been dying to go for ages and finally visited this past weekend. After a tough month, it was just what I needed. Tapas and wine followed by more tapas and wine. Oh, take me back! I’m planning on writing a post all about visiting Logroño, so look for that on the blog in December.
Election night. The night of the election, I went to a viewing party hosted by Democrats Abroad. When I walked in, the vibe was incredible. Everyone was certain we’d be celebrating Hillary’s victory. Music and drinks all around. Then the results started coming in, and the mood, as I’m sure you can imagine, changed dramatically. Like myself, many attendees were expats and had been abroad for the majority of the campaign. If people living in the U.S. thought Trump voters came out of the woodwork, try to imagine how people living abroad felt. Having never actually spoken to a Trump supporter, I was caught completely and totally off guard. Blindsided.
When I finally went to sleep around 7 a.m. Madrid time on Nov. 9, I was heartbroken. To be honest, I’m still heartbroken…but in the pissed off sense. Like, okay, let’s dance, motherf*cker. I’m not giving up. I can still and will be an agent for change by supporting hardworking organizations and collaborating with like-minded individuals. We have far too much work to do to despair.
What I Read, Watched and Heard
Read: The Handmaid’s Tale. If you haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale, please close out of this blog and go find a copy right now. Yes, I’m turning away readers because that’s how important this book is. Mid-November, my book club held its first meeting, and we talked about HT for over two hours. We had an incredibly thought-provoking discussion. Even though it was written 30some years ago, readers will undoubtedly find The Handmaid’s Tale as relevant as ever.
Watched: American Horror Story. Any other AHS fans out there? After last year’s epic Hotel season, I had high hopes for this year’s My Roanoke Nightmare. Roanoke started out strong and had some seriously spooky moments but then just fell flat. I haven’t even watched the two most recent episodes. Walking Dead will be wrapping up soon, so, I’m taking recommendations for a show to watch during winter break. If you have one, send it my way!
Heard: Juniore. The host of my fave podcast, Popoganda, recommended this band. Juniore (yes, with an extra “e”) is a female band from France. I don’t even care that I can’t understand a single lyric. The lead singer’s voice has a mysterious 60s vibe that I totally dig. My favorite song is “Christine”.
Coming Up in December 2016
I’m going home for the holidays! Michigan, here I come! When I left for Spain in September, I didn’t think I’d be back in Michigan until July at the earliest. Like last year, I planned on spending winter break in Europe. Then in October, I just decided a white Christmas in the Midwest sounded nice. I’m really looking forward to spending Christmas, New Year’s and my 25th birthday with family and friends.
Do you have any December travel plans? Also, if you have a blog, do you write a monthly recap?