Skip to main content

Walking the Camino de Santiago: Pilgrimage on My Terms (Parts 1 & 2)

By Lu Sobredo

PART I

Introduction

Walking near the border of France and Spain through the Spanish Pyrenees to the city of Santiago de Compostela was not the vacation I envisaged, not for my first trip to Spain in 2010. However, my husband James, the avid adventurer had other ideas born out of an earlier visit to Madrid and Seville in 2006. It was a decision that turned out to be monumental for the family and deeply personal for me.

Mother and Son Bonding on the Camino. ©James Sobredo

This essay is sprinkled with practical hints from lessons learned in the pilgrimage. It is a personal reflection of the whole experience. It is about the physically challenging, emotionally invigorating, and spiritually uplifting journey. It was an experience made increasingly significant because of a life-changing diagnosis that followed three years later, a diagnosis that has rendered me chronically disabled. I sincerely hope this serves as an important reminder to all: act now on your dream to travel while you can because tomorrow is promised to no one.

Friends are talking about it. You have been thinking about the movie: The Way after watching it for the third time. The movie featured a traditional Camino. It starred Martin Sheen. It was directed, produced and written by his son, Emilio Esteves. Then, there are Facebook postings from travel companies offering different options for guided and self-guided tours. You feel you are ready to take a serious leap and go on the Camino. But where to begin?

Keep in mind, there is not a prescribed way to prepare for the hike or for completing the Camino. You could find descriptions online of what a Camino pilgrimage looks like, or about how others completed their journey. However, how you choose to venture the Camino, which walking path to take, for how long, and more importantly how the Camino eventually defines you must be on your terms. That’s how I ultimately chose to do it: on my own terms, with and apart from my family’s individual experience in the summer of 2010. Mind you, I didn’t know what to expect when we started, except for the physical demands I might encounter. Even so, parts of the journey were more physically demanding than expected. I could have easily waved the pilgrimage goodbye in the early going. 

A Loaded Backpack. ©James Sobredo 
Persistence paid off. Many encounters turned out totally fulfilling and overall, thoroughly transformative. Learning to make adjustments along the way consequently led to making the Camino my own—a journey filled with pleasure, with discomfort averted or diminished, and one that’s mostly hassle-free.

My husband James is the true card-carrying adventurer in the family. In addition to venturing the Camino with family that summer of 2010, he did it again in the late spring and early summer of 2013. And this time on his own. He walked 800 kilometers (km) across Spain (that’s 500 miles for us who are not familiar with the metric system). He took the route referred to as Camino Frances, or French Way, the same one taken by the family three years before. That wasn't enough for him. After a 500 mile trek in Spain, hubby also walked the Portuguese Way, and altogether covered 600 plus miles, for six weeks in 2013. 

In the summer of 2016, when visiting the western coastal region of Spain, during one of our drives through the countryside, we noticed a couple of pilgrims hiking the Camino del Norte trail. For a brief moment, my husband was tempted, but the path didn't look that exciting to him, nor was it well-traveled. Besides, it wasn't part of the plan that summer. Thank goodness, as I would not have been able to join him. With my chronic auto-immune illness, my only choice would have been to take the bus or train back to Madrid. He plans to walk the Camino again as many more times as his health, stamina and schedule would  allow him in this lifetime. A serious long distance hiker, he talks about other trails and many more miles calling him. It comes as no surprise that he often gets asked about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, particularly about the trek we took as a family. 

Most of the questions asked by extended family, friends and others are quite practical. These are some of the most frequently asked questions: 

  • What is the Camino? What was it like, why did you go and would you do it again? 
  • What’s the best time of the year to go? 
  • Was it physically taxing? What kind of training and conditioning did it take to prepare for the physical challenge? 
  • How many miles per day did you walk and how long did it take to complete the route you took?
  • What kind of backpack did you take and what did you put in it? 
  • Did you make hotel reservations in advance of arrival, or did you just take a gamble that beds would be available for the night? 
  • How did you manage with the language difference? 
  • What were the other pilgrims like and where were they from? 
  • How expensive was the travel?

Our answers invariably generated many more questions. Asked so often after 2010, hubby finally shared a PowerPoint photo presentation of our Camino adventure with close friends who were genuinely interested. Two of them took the journey in 2015 in a manner unconfined by tradition. I couldn't be prouder of our friends for walking the Camino on their terms.

This essay in two sections is an attempt to address the questions most commonly asked of our family: (1) What is the Camino—describes what the Camino is about, including how we came to know about it; significance of the Camino—a personal reflection; and (2) Lessons from the Camino—a list of do’s and don’ts learned that might help others preparing to venture the Camino pleasurably and mostly-hassle-free.

What is the Camino?

The Camino de Santiago, otherwise known by the English name—The Way of St. James, was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages. It dates back to the 9th Century (year 814) at the time of the discovery of what was believed to be the tomb of Apostle James. There are several ancient pilgrim routes across Europe to choose from, and they all lead to the city of Santiago de Compostela at the Cathedral where St. James is believed to be buried. 

How did we find out about the Camino? In 2006, my husband, James Sobredo, a university professor in California, found out about the Camino on one of his research, university related travels in Spain. As often the case, he struck up a conversation with interesting strangers, some of whom have become friends and are now part of our ever expanding honorary family all over the world. On this trip in 2006, he ended up standing in line at the Madrid-Barajas airport with an emergency room physician. They were both returning to the U.S. and a lengthy wait at check-in  gave them both an extended time to get to know one another. The physician had just completed two weeks of the pilgrimage along the Camino Frances from the French border, and had to bail out. He told my husband that he had planned to walk the Camino in five weeks, but both of his feet developed blisters that made it painfully difficult to continue. The scholar that he is, James was inevitably obsessed about finding out more. The adventurer in him began to visualize his own turn on the Camino. And the goal of also taking along his family was firmly planted. Five years after the professor and the physician’s consequential encounter, my husband, our son, and I traveled to Spain. And our Camino adventure began. 

To prepare for the Camino my husband searched for relevant sites online. That proved helpful in deciding what items to take on our hike.  Once on the trail, we also found practical guides from brochures that we picked up for free or at a nominal donation at churches, museums and gift shops. These days, more than ever before, I see internet sites that are full of options about taking the adventure on foot, bicycle or bus for different stages of the trail. In the old days, folks even rode on horse back. I remember mostly hikers on foot, and some bicyclists, but not a single horseman in 2010.

I understand that christians have been taking the journey for centuries. Pilgrims believed that walking the Camino enabled one to gain entrance to heaven. Having lived a Catholic upbringing, the concept of gaining heavenly indulgence from sacrifice is not foreign to me. Whether the pilgrimage helped those in the Middle Ages who also pillaged, plundered, tortured or worse in their lifetime, only the departed would know. That prevailing belief that walking the Camino helped gain entrance to heaven most likely consoled troubled souls. 

The prospect of hiking the pilgrim’s path was most appealing to me in light of my Roman Catholic upbringing. Completing the full or portions of the Camino in modern times earns you a certificate called the “compostela.” However, I was not necessarily motivated by the certificate I would gain at the end of the journey, although I did, so did my husband and our son. Nor did I seriously believe that I would gain entrance to heaven and receive indulgences as a result. Although one shouldn't be faulted for being wistful. What appealed most was the whole premise of walking the same path where pilgrims of old had walked, and getting a small glimpse of what it might be like to make such journey, such sacrifice and offering to the heavens of sorts. I suspect that due to harsh conditions, unpaved trails, and extremely challenging terrain of earlier centuries, many were likely unable to complete the journey, but died trying.

In modern times, chances are, pilgrims who walk the Camino would reach their destination as many others have done. As my family has done. The trails are well marked with the iconic symbol of a scallop shell and painted yellow arrow, pointing in the direction to the city of Santiago in Galicia, northwestern part of Spain. These days, even rural towns have conveniences at pilgrim’s disposal. The growing options of making some or all the hotel arrangements in advance or choosing a guided tour through a travel company take away the risks, guesswork and unnecessary discomfort. For my family, doing the Camino the tourist way would have taken away the sense of adventure and the meaning of it all. We attempted as best we could during our journey to honor the practices of our predecessors without endangering the family’s safety. Our Camino was self-guided, with none of the accommodations arranged in advance. That is not to say, others shouldn’t opt for as much comfort as possible, and altogether remove the guesswork.

Resurgence of the pilgrimage came in the latter part of the 20th Century. The most popular route is the Camino Frances, from the French/Spanish border, through the interior of Spain. That was the route our family traveled, which included the challenging climb through the Spanish Pyrenees. One doesn't have to be Roman Catholic to go on the Camino. These days, folks do it for their own personal reasons to experience a journey unique only to them. Yes, for many, the journey has a spiritual or religious motivation and significance. 

What the Camino Meant to Me

Spain and Family
For my family, walking a traditional Camino was an opportunity to discover Spain inexpensively, and deepen our family bond and connection with the land. Additionally, the journey pushed my physical limits and I managed to rise to the challenge with a lot of help. We each gained from the experience personally, fell in love with the food, the country and its people. What more could we ask for?

It's amazing what happens when you let the universe surprise you with its grace. That first time for me and for my son was all we needed to begin to embrace the Spanish part of our heritage. We have been told from elders that our ancestors left Spain and settled in the Philippines in early part of the 19th century. My husband’s maternal great-grandmother came from Spain, but we don’t yet know much about her background. My own maternal great-great grandfather came from Spain, along with a brother who settled in the northern region of the Philippines, while he settled in the Western Visayas, the middle islands of the country. Family stories included how my Spanish great-great grandfather was instrumental in cultivating villages in the Visayas. I found clues which suggested that his brother’s family was part of the principalia in Luzon, the country’s ruling class in the days prior to the Philippine revolution. Once settled, no known contact was made by the two brothers or their families, not until the 21st century, four generations later. Cousins four and five times removed, connected when a descendant from Luzon came to prominence when he was inducted in Rome in 2012 as a new Catholic Cardinal of Manila, Philippines. Some from my branch of the family attended the ceremony (known as investiture in the Catholic tradition) in November 2012, and photos from that momentous event showed an uncanny family resemblance even with four generations separating us. The common belief among the reconnected families is that we are descendants from two brothers who lost touch in the 19th Century. Descendants finally connecting is something I am still processing with awe and glee. I can’t help but wonder what my elders, who are now in heaven, would say.

I know of at least one elder who is joyful about the discovery—our still spritely 88 year old aunt who beams every time she’d talk about my great grandmother and great-grand uncles, children of our ancestor from Spain. She’d say, my great-grand uncles fought in the Spanish American War in 1898. Females were not allowed to fight in the war, but that did not stop their sister, my great grandmother from going on horseback to bring supplies to the battle zone. This Spanish lineage was something I more or less took for granted having lived most of my life as Filipino in America. But with increased interest in getting acquainted with the land of my Spanish ancestor, and as a-somewhat-hesitant beneficiary of my hubby’s passion for outdoor adventures, I surely have my own take on what the Camino was like for me. And it is the perspective of a novice adventurer curious about her ancestry that I offer to the new or hesitant “would-be-pilgrim.”

Camino and Personal Growth

What I did not expect from the Camino was how it forced me to live in the moment, and yet not be paralyzed by discomfort from the hike. Living in the moment meant I did not miss out on the allure of the land and its people. The journey took us through gloriously poised towns with old Cathedrals, and expansive countryside of rolling hills. We walked through quaint hamlets, farmlands, and occasionally modern highways. 


Walking the Camino: Through Farmlands and Rolling Hills. ©James Sobredo

Quitting was not an option during some stages of the walk. When walking uphill in the Pyrenees, I swore I couldn't move another muscle. Had I succumbed to the physical will, my family would have been stuck wrapped in the cold of night in an unfamiliar terrain. Luckily, when physical demand became too much during the trek, pilgrims encouraged each other to keep on moving. For my husband, setting up camp in the Pyrenees would have been an exhilarating test of survival. As fortune would have it, my adventurer husband experienced a test of his own as he traversed the Pyrenees again in 2013, and this time while it was covered in snow and ice. Soaking wet and cold, he and his fellow pilgrims managed to reach the next town for warm accommodations and sustenance.

Walking the Camino forced me to push myself without regard to my perceived limitations. I learned what it was like to live empathetically in the moment without losing sight of the goal. If not for photographs taken along the way, friends might not have believed what we went through. There were days when we walked in non-stop rainfall. Thank goodness for rain gear. We navigated muddy trails, and crossed once-dried up brooks flowing with life. Navigating tall stepping stones across small streams was not daunting for hubby and son, but it was for me, so I took great care not to fall in the water. Balancing on stepping stones was more challenging because of my fear of heights. There were also days of walking on concrete trails as the sun shined with a vengeance. Those days left me feeling parched and faint, but I was cautious in rationing my water supply until the next water source. It was unpleasant, but absolutely doable. 



A Manageable Path Over Water. ©James Sobredo

The pilgrimage became a gateway to important life events. I experienced Spain for the very first time and did so partly through the Camino. I am told by friends, it was an enchanting way to visit the land of our Spanish ancestors. I couldn’t help but smile in agreement. Memorable too, was walking the Camino with our teenage son, a period in our lives we would never recapture with him. 

Fortunately, my husband purposely planned an abbreviated Camino so as not to overwhelm his family. Besides, the professor had to make time for a scheduled conference in Madrid that summer. Knowing what I know now about my health condition, I am grateful that my husband persuaded me to take the journey then. Venturing the Camino again under my current medical circumstance, although not impossible, is not likely to happen anytime soon. 

Walking the Camino reinforced my belief in the kindness of people. It also reinforced the importance of a reliable footwear. Sadly, my trusted expensive boots failed me twice. My seemingly well-tried and true hiking boots fell apart during the early part of the journey. Of course, my own MacGyver aka dear hubby came to the rescue with duct tape until we reached the next town. 



Duct Taped Boots. ©James Sobredo

The small town of Larrasoanna did not have a big department store, so I couldn't buy a new pair to replace my dilapidated boots. What the town did offer were very kind-hearted folks who lived by the plaza right across the albergue where we stayed for the night. I knocked door to door armed with a smile and my limited Spanish to ask for super glue or anything close to it. Even though I trusted the Universe, I knocked in visible panic. The first door that finally answered belonged to an expat, an American retired school teacher who married a Spaniard. She taught and lived in Spain for 40 years, and she considered herself Spanish. Her husband had a workshop in their home and surely he must have some kind of glue. She asked that I come back by by 5:00 p.m. when he was due to return home from work. I did. With super glue in hand, a fellow Camino hiker and I, a young man from Barcelona glued the soles of my shoes together. Pilgrims from Spain teased me to no end certain that my boots were made in the USA, as no doubt Spanish made shoes would have been more durable. I smiled as I shrugged my shoulders out of politeness. 


Call it serendipity. My family and I didn’t know about the movie: The Way. We learned about it from the retired school teacher. She mentioned that a few months earlier, a film crew was at the hotel owned by their daughter. Knowing it would be on our trek out of town, she encouraged me to stop by the hotel where part of the filming occurred. Hubby did take a photo of me in front of that hotel. And of course, my family watched The Way as soon as we discovered its limited release in a theatre near our home in California.

Featured Hotel in the Movie: The Way. ©James Sobredo

The Camino eased my fear of the unknown. After the first night at the monastery in Roncesvalles, the next couple of stops left me feeling afraid that there might not be enough beds in the next town’s albergues or hostels. Somehow we managed to find a place, each and every time. So we stayed with the decision not to make reservations in advance during our Camino. It was after all, part of the traditional journey which relied heavily on the kindness of strangers. The Camino taught me to go with my instincts, accept with grace the goodness of the Universe, trust the spirit, stay open to serendipity, have faith in the generosity of others, and grow in the human encounter. In modern day, with the resurgence of the pilgrimage in 1987, and by the time of my husband’s repeat journey in 2013, many more pilgrim accommodations and food places were operational in small towns and cities. Old and new municipal or private hostels, albergues and hotels of varying size and quality now abound.

And who could forget my family’s food experience? Regardless of the size of the town, food in Spain was amazing and strongly influenced by regional cuisines, cuisines influenced by the region’s unique and complex histories. The Camino not only introduced me to an array of Spanish dishes, it made me yearn to partake again and again in Spain’s food scene. And why not? It was wonderful to discover that Spain is a gourmet food hub of Europe, if not the world.

Early Dinner on the Camino. ©James Sobredo

What did the Camino mean to me? Whether the Camino was a catalyst or affirmation of personal growth, I'm not entirely sure. Important were lessons learned from the journey. Lessons of living in the moment, transcending perceived limitations and fears, trusting in the kindness of others and embracing glimpses of serendipity were all priceless experiences. And all while being one with family in Spain, the land of some of our ancestors.

PART II

Lessons from The Camino

When on the Camino one must eat, drink and sleep when you can. You'll need all the energy you can muster. For me, the physical obstacles along the journey sent me to near tearful panic. On the other hand, my husband and our son were totally unfazed. But in the end, I managed to overcome my fears, and walked miles, more than sufficient to earn a “compostela.” The minimum miles needed to earn a certificate or compostela was 100 kilometers (km) or about 63 miles. Walking the final stage of the Camino Frances would be more than enough to achieve this. The final stage starts from Sarria and ends in Santiago, and it covers about 113 to 120 km. Ideal for those interested in an abbreviated Camino. 

Whether you walked all 800 km, equivalent to 500 plus miles from the French border to the city of Santiago de Compostela, or the length of the trail as shown in the movie: The Way, which took you all the way to and beyond Finesterre (a rock-bound peninsula on the west coast of Galicia, known in Roman times to be the end of the known world), or only the last 100 plus km from Sarria, is immaterial. The most important is the journey itself. And for most pilgrims like my family and those we’ve met, it is the journey and the friendships made along the way that irrevocably touched our very being. 

Eager to begin your preparation for your own Camino? Here are some of the noteworthy hints from my personal encounters, experiences and lessons on the Camino. I hope they serve as helpful DOs and DON’Ts

A. Choose: a Camino Route, the Month, and whether to Go on a Guided vs. Self-guided Tour

The Route: There are several routes to choose from, but we chose the most popularly traveled trail, “The Camino Frances.” The other option for us would have been the Camino de Santiago del Norte or the The Northern Way, which starts from the Basque country that follows the coast of Spain to Santiago de Compostela. 

How you get to the starting point for the Camino varies. Pilgrims from outside of Europe fly in to one of the major cities in Spain. My family for instance arrived in Madrid and took a bus to reach our starting point. One could start the Camino from the French border at San Pied de Port on the French side or Roncesvalles on the Spanish side. We met others along the Camino who started mid-way from the city of Burgos or Leon. Many others walked from the town of Sarria if only engaging in the last 100 plus km to Santiago.

The path you choose could depend on the time you have allotted for the Camino. It takes 5-7 weeks to complete the full Camino depending on how briskly you could walk or physically capable you are of putting in 8-15 miles a day. If starting from St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side, allot 7-9 hours to climb to the Spanish border at Roncesvalles. 

Remember, for an abbreviated Camino, it might only take 5-10 days to walk the last 100 plus km, equivalent to 63 miles from Sarria, and still earn a ‘compostela” upon arriving. Be prepared to encounter an influx of pilgrims at Sarria, often known as the final stage of the Camino, and where one could begin the last 100-120 km trek, or up to 74 miles. Others we’ve met who were local pilgrims from within Spain and a few from outside of Spain, would walk one or two stages of the Camino each year with the long term goal of eventually completing it in their lifetime. Others, like ourselves in 2010, walked less than the full Camino but more than 100 km, although we did not do so on continuous days. In the early part of our Camino journey that began in Roncesvalles, we took side trips and mini-vacations along the way by bus, train and taxi. 

When I say, I walked the Camino on my terms, I truly meant it. Feeling totally exhausted as we reached the beautiful town of Portomarin in the province of Lugo, the kind universe presented me with an opportunity to hitch a car ride with a young mother from Valencia (third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona). Why not? I honestly didn't think I could sustain walking without injuring myself. After already walking almost 15 miles, I decided to avoid the additional 15 miles to the next town of Palais del Rei for our overnight. As hubby and son proceeded on foot, I took a car ride, courtesy of a stranger who spoke no English, whose husband and son bicycled the Camino. It was truly a Camino very much on their terms. And with the help of a stranger, I also managed the Camino on my own terms.

The Ideal Month: Whatever month or season you choose to begin your walk, remember that you could encounter cold, warm or hot and rainy weather. Even all of the above. Walking the Camino in springtime offers cooler weather and lesser crowds. The late spring or early summer is our preference. 

Don't be surprised if walking the Camino in the spring, you find yourself in snowy conditions at high elevation, such as the trek up the Spanish Pyrenees. During his 2013 Camino, my husband experienced absolute whiteout conditions. Of course, the experienced outdoor adventurer that he is, he had the proper clothing and equipment for protection from extreme cold and icy rain. Other pilgrims touted that they were not bothered by the rainy and cold conditions being from Russia or some other country where cold weather is norm. Those folks apparently did not do so well despite such confident pronouncement of being immune to freezing temperatures. They eventually had to be rescued. 


My Husband on Whiteout Conditions on the Camino. Photo © James Sobredo

Guided or Self-Guided Tour: There are several guided Camino walks and a number of travel companies specializing in Camino tours. For those interested to walk the Camino by taking advantage of the conveniences offered by a guided tour that can range from 5-10 days, or perhaps longer, with everything arranged for you—hotel, food, luggage transport, etc. All you would need is a daypack while hiking. 

The cost of a 5-7 day Camino package could start from $600 plus dollars per person. The cost of the full Camino package, at a duration of 40 days and 39 nights, could start from $3500 plus per person. Obviously, you have to budget in extra for airfare and side trips. A guided Camino was not our choice but it is an option for those concerned about the uncertainty of the experience, and the physical challenge that additionally comes with hauling a pack of belongings on your back.

Our self-guided Camino enabled our family to control our expenditures. It afforded us the freedom to schedule several side trips unrelated to the Camino. The savings per person could be attained by staying at communal albergues for an average of €7-€15 euros; pilgrim’s menu at €9-€12 euros which often included a beverage, and snacks were often at a low cost of €5 euros or under. (More food choices in Spain can be found in my blog post on: Happy Eating on a Budget in Spain).

The path we chose once we were ready to engage on the Camino: a bus ride from Pamplona to Roncesvalles where we stayed our first night at a 12th century old Augustinian monastery run by  monks known for their hospitality. The old building was converted to accommodate pilgrims for the night. There must have been 200-300 of us pilgrims. There were a couple of other options for accommodation, but we chose the monastery for its historical significance.

The Augustinian monks held an evening mass during which pilgrims like my family, were given a traditional blessing. Blessings were intended to safeguard us from harm and for us to be able to find whatever we might be seeking from the journey. The following morning the monks awakened us with a serene gregorian chant, a prayer for the pilgrims’ journey. In return for their hospitality, the pilgrims could choose to give a donation and pray for the monks upon reaching Santiago. 


Altar at the !2th Century Chapel: Capilla de Sancti Spiritus. © James Sobredo

 The evening mass for pilgrims was held in a 12th century chapel with a modern altar, the Capilla de Sancti Spiritus. During mass, my husband and I were overcome with emotions to the point of tears as our hands touched those same pillars where pilgrims from centuries before stood and leaned against. Sensing goosebumps on the face and arms as if embraced by spirits of old, the experience was intensified further when fellow pilgrims, mostly women from Germany held hands forming a circle as they sang a gregorian chant by the altar. Those goosebumps are present now as I write about this blessed memory. As a practicing Roman Catholic, I was absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me then and just now.

B.  Go with a Friend, but be Ready to Go Solo

If you are planning to go with a friend, spouse or significant other and they're looking to challenge their physicality, test their limits and you feel that is not your speed, let them. That’s why I said, be prepared to go solo. Seriously, the Camino was a meditative journey for me, not a race to feed one’s inner desire for competition or fantasy for a long distance hike of a lifetime. Some of my husband’s close friends had done exactly that, opted for the Pacific Crest Trail mostly along the Pacific coastline of the U.S. and hiked 2,600 miles. Others ventured a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet in elevation. Otherwise, if your companions decide to come along on the Camino, they could do so to support you, and hopefully create a memory of a lifetime with you. And one would hope that they, too, would find the journey meaningful.

My family and I found a happy medium. After an arduous climb, a mostly uphill trek on the Spanish Pyrenees in Roncesvalles to our next destination on that first day, I literally felt my body complaining vehemently. Ravaged with stiffness, pain and thirst that I said: “enough.” I ached in places I didn't think was possible to feel pain. Surely, I must have looked like a train wreck. I was near tears, fearful to sit and rest, knowing once I sat or reclined, there was no getting up. I was literally achingly ready to stop. Not a wise move to stop in the middle of the forest as darkness loomed. So I pushed despite the pain, and completed the first day of our journey. Thankfully, the evening accommodations and the delicious meal made up for what to me was a tortuous hike. Meeting a mother and her 10-year old daughter from England at dinner was a pleasant diversion for me. On this first day of the Camino, hubby and son, either took turns waiting for me to catch up or slowed down their pace to keep an eye on me. 

Our Son Soaking Tired Feet. Photo ©James Sobredo

After their first full day of hiking, they looked almost as refreshed as when we started. Their feet needed some tender loving care, but not much more. Soaking their feet in the refreshingly cold waters of the river Arga in Zubiri under a medieval bridge was perfect remedy for their tired feet. I, on the other hand, only had energy left to hobble from our room to a bathtub at the hotel. My family tried really hard not to make fun of me. They were full of support and encouragement. They agreed to compromise and make next day’s walk a shorter distance. Unlike the 22 km or about 14 mile hike that took us 8 hours over the Pyrenees, one hour longer than the average hiker would have taken, I settled to walk for 4-5 hours that second day. After all, this was not a race.

Realizing that the path was so well-marked, the other pilgrims were friendly, my grasp of the Spanish language was passable, I began to think about other options. I began to  strategize on how to ease the hassle and burden that plagued the first day of the walk. After a few days of feeling I was holding back my family, one evening, I proposed to wake up one hour earlier than usual to commence the next day’s trek. In other words to begin the hike all on my own. We would meet up at our next stop, at whatever town we agreed to spend the night. 

That strategy proved to be beneficial on many fronts. It enhanced my personal experience hiking the Camino. Feelings of guilt for holding up hubby and son, melted away. Moreover, my husband took the opportunity to make more stops to photograph the stunning landscapes, to the point where other pilgrims I’d met told me: “We ran into your husband, the photographer, way back there. He seemed to be having fun taking pictures.” Ah yes, the professor became better known on the pilgrim’s trail as the “photographer.” 

Walking with Pilgrim Friends from Quebec, Canada. ©James Sobredo

This arrangement also enabled our son to venture on his own, especially when he wanted to walk ahead of us or take a longer route to see some unusual relic or landmark. Mostly, he and his dad kept pace with each other, while I made new friends going solo. And we ultimately reached our afternoon or early evening destination close to the same time most of the time. Each of us in the family ended up having so much more fun. blessed with a little independence to enjoy the Camino on our own and on our own terms.

C.  Acclimate to the Locale before Starting the Hike

A destination such as the Camino can be as easy as taking a daily walk for some. For others who are not hikers and are not physically prepared, or are afflicted with physical limitations, plan to take a few days to acclimatize yourself in the environment. Some of us might suffer from jet-lag which would not be advantageous if you were to be at your optimal when starting the Camino.

Although full of excitement to immerse in everything that is Spain when my family arrived in Madrid, admittedly, I was somewhat apprehensive about our planned pilgrimage. Being an experienced traveler, my husband planned all along not to immediately launch on the Camino, but instead to ease the family into a place that was new to us. We spent three nights in the capital and treated ourselves to Spanish cuisine for lunch and dinner, walks with the locals late at night at Puerta del Sol, and morning breakfast of churros con chocolate. Okay, I felt comfortable and at home in Madrid in no time.

I noticed as we put more miles and hours on the daily trek, we gained speed and improved stamina. Each segment seemed less and less difficult to complete. What also helped was taking side jaunts during the course of our pilgrimage, our way of taking respite from the routine. It was a glorious way of rewarding ourselves for milestones achieved. Doing so, opened enormous possibilities to see, taste and immerse in the culture of Spain.

A Side Trip with Family in Bilbao. ©James Sobredo

Some of our side trips included one night in San Sebastian and three nights in Bilbao in the Basque country. A must-see in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum, a modern architectural wonder inside and out. It houses contemporary works of art. While inside sitting on a round comfortable tufted bench inviting enough for reclining, my teenage son filled with awe as his gaze spanned from floor to ceiling, blurted: “This is like being inside art!”

My husband planned it that way so we could experience in increments the excitement, moments of meditation and challenges in the Camino. Yes, I wanted to walk the path trekked by pilgrims of centuries before, welcomed the uncertainties seemingly inherent in the journey, but I realized, I didn't necessarily want the full scope of suffering, difficulties and physical challenges. So treat yourself to a few days in Madrid or near the starting point before walking the Camino.

D.  Take Along a Phone to Stay Connected

Even though we each had our own personal cellular phone, and the men with me each had a laptop, we could not risk being dependent on wifi accessibility especially in remote locations. We equipped ourselves with a locally purchased cell phone which we used when the spirit moved us, to connect and update our friends in Madrid. Our son who was young and agile who on occasion ventured on his own, benefited from having a phone. He texted only to tell us where he was. 


A Simple Local Red Phone for Texting. ©James Sobredo

One time, we found him waiting for a couple of hours in front of a local college in Trinidad de Arre, reading a book he brought along that summer. He told us, he already had lunch at a local cafe. Although timid at speaking the language, nonetheless years of Spanish language in school came in handy. Most days, he chose to pretty much stay on pace with his dad, while I walked my leisurely pace. So leisurely in fact, that one of those long stretches during my early morning trek ahead of the pack, hardly anyone yet was on the trail, I sang the entire soundtrack of the Sound of Music under a canopy of tall trees. I skipped and danced while doing my best imitation of Julie Andrews when I felt like it. How fun was that? Hilariously fun!

E.  Get Somewhat Physically Fit and Carry Two Walking Sticks

A successful walk of the Camino does not require you to be a highly conditioned marathon runner or a competitive sprinter. I was far from being physically fit or athletic. But if I hadn’t done any physical preparation and training, I would have been worst off. A year before the Camino, I walked around my neighborhood once a week, at times twice. At first I walked a mile and later increased the distance to 3 miles at a time. If I had to do it over, I would have pushed my training to 5 or so miles for distance and increased stamina. I also wished I anticipated the rough terrains, uneven cobblestones, and uphill treks when on high elevation. To get through rough and especially downhill trails, I borrowed my husband’s walking stick. Walking downhill with two sticks made all the difference. Just remember, the conditioning is more for building strength and endurance for distance, not speed. 


Hiking Best with Two Sticks. © James Sobredo

We met women pilgrims on the Camino who were experienced runners and joggers. We met at least a couple of long time joggers who “conked out,” overwrought with fatigue sooner than they had ever experienced on their daily run while training. They looked athletic and super conditioned. There were experienced runners who ended up injuring themselves with strained knees, sprained ankles, and who fizzled out along the way. Some had to quit the pilgrimage unexpectedly. Their tough training didn't necessarily immune them from discomfort or injury. So my leisurely trekking pace worked out better for me.

My husband predicted that walking the Camino would be the most physically taxing experience ever in my life. “More than giving birth?” I laughed. But he was totally right on. Nevertheless, I knew I wanted to travel to Spain. I was eager to experience the different mountain passes, and panoramic views. And I was not in the least bit disappointed.

F.  Stay Hydrated and Eat Local Specialties

Keeping the body hydrated is crucial to physical comfort during the Camino. Survivability in any adventure, including the Camino involves having access to water, food and shelter. 

I could not overstate how critical it is when walking the Camino to have access to drinking water. Each one of my family’s backpack was equipped with a water bladder. It was hooked up in our backpacks in such a way so the mouthpiece is accessible while walking. We each carried an extra liter of drinking water on the side pocket of our packs especially for those rare times when we might run out before reaching the next water source. We happily found out that the water in Galicia was not only refreshingly tasty but clean.

Avoid at all cost getting dehydrated and don't ignore excessive sweating. A long hike and excessive sun exposure could lead to more sweating than usual. Electrolyte minerals lost when sweating must be replaced in the body. My family carried in our backpacks, hydration powder that saved me from extreme fatigue and potential dehydration during out trek up the Spanish Pyrenees.

Restaurants and small cafes could be found along the Camino, and we indulged in espresso, freshly squeezed orange juice, wine, beer, bottled water and local cakes for refreshments. Be careful with beer or alcoholic intake. Although I did not encounter visibly inebriated pilgrims, surely there were some. But I do not recommend being one.


A Coffee Stop on the Camino While Going Solo. Photo © Lu Sobredo

Most stops along the Camino trail offered pilgrims “menu del dia.” I was introduced to broiled “pulpo” or octopus for the very first time in the small town of Melide, and I have been hooked ever since. It was love at first bite. The pilgrims were told that it is one of Galicia region’s specialties. My family became intimately familiar with the surprising taste of pulpo. Although some pilgrims  indulged in hamburger or sandwiches and French fries, I suggest trying the local dishes. You won’t regret it. Find out more about food in Spain in an essay I posted: Happy Eating on a Budget in Spain.

G.  Treat Your Feet Royally and Carry a First Aid Kit

Regardless of your reason for going on the Camino, you are definitely going to rely a great deal on how far your feet would take you. We invested on an expensive, sturdy, yet comfortable pair of hiking boots for me from REI in California. Hubby even purchased my footwear at least one year before so I could break them in. We took our regular walks once a week or more for almost a year prior. We did that so I could become accustomed to wearing hiking boots. We also hoped that the training would help with improved endurance. Equipped with foot liners and wool socks, I never gave my footwear a second thought. They became my second and third skin, so to speak. That is, not until the second segment of our Camino and after exposure to long days of hot sun and intermittent rain, my left boot fell apart first. 

For those who are prone to blisters, buy Compeed—blister cushions. They are easily found at any drugstore (farmacia) in Spain. Luckily, my son and I were not badly affected, but my dear husband had his share of the painfully annoying and potentially debilitating foot blisters. Foot blisters happen when friction, heat, dirt and moisture collide repeatedly. Some pilgrims chose open sandals to air the feet while walking. It worked well when one alternated wearing boots one day and sandals the next, weather permitting. My husband brought both: a pair of boots and Teva sandals sturdy enough to walk rocky trails. Those Teva sandals came in handy for my use when my own boots totally fell apart. When that happened, I ended up taking a local bus, while hubby and son walked, from Trinidad de Arre back to Pamplona. We returned to Pamplona where we took a bus for one of our side trips. It was in Pamplona where I bought new pair of Spanish made boots. 

As I wrote earlier in the first of this two-part essay, the pair of boots in disrepair received a MacGyver-like fix from my husband and a temporary solution from kind strangers. I managed, but eventually had to purchase a new pair in Pamplona. Pamplona for me is now known not just for the running of the bulls in the Fiesta of San Fermin made famous by the American writer, Earnest Hemingway, but for a good pair of hiking boots.

Although a common practice, it bears repeating here. Remember to clean the feet often with warm water and soap, and fully dry them to help minimize the discomfort and occurrence of blisters. For us, disinfecting as needed avoided infection. Covering the affected area with Compeed or equivalent, and resting the feet to allow the blisters to heal, avoided the need to abort our hike. Having a first aid kit, absolutely useful. Ours included a nail clipper and a Swiss knife. Suffice it to say, my adventurer husband equipped each of us with a first aid kit. 

H.  Arrive at Destination in Daylight to find Accommodation

One of my initial fears was not finding accommodation for the night, especially affordable ones. Those fears after a while, dissipated. Fears and phobias in general were calmed.  As long as you arrive after 1 p.m. or at least while there’s still daylight, there were enough options for the weary pilgrim. Walking the Camino while there’s still light was important for my peace of mind. Arriving at our overnight stop in daylight each time gave us more latitude for finding accommodation we preferred.

When I started walking on my own, I would usually arrive at our overnight stop ahead of family.  Once I made the adjustment of leaving one hour earlier than my family so I could walk by myself, finding our overnight accommodations turned into my personal game. What could I find that’s comfortable and affordable? I reveled in the newness of my surroundings, searched for food markets or eating places after securing our shelter for the night. If I didn’t want to deal with other people snoring and other night sounds, I opted for a private hotel room or pensiones at a cost that ranged from €40-€100 euros per night. Usually overnight accommodation was €8-€15 per person if staying in a community albergue. I found a private room for three in Palais de Rei for €20 a night for all three of us. We stayed for two nights to re-energize, recuperate and take care of nagging blisters. 
The municipal albergue or hostel tended to fill up first. The private albergues and pensiones were popular as it sometimes offered private rooms and some with ensuite bathroom. 

Looking for a Night's Accommodations. ©James Sobredo

One of my biggest fears was not about safety, although, we took precaution like any traveler. My fear was about not finding a bed for the night. That fear was obviously averted. For concerns about safety and to ease our minds about potential theft, each of us in the family carried a day bag that contained essential documents, passport, wallet, cash, keys, etc. that we kept by our side always when at the albergue or when going out to dinner, the market or sightseeing.

I.  Only Must-haves in Your Backpack

Critical to a good Camino experience is a backpack you can comfortably carry and one that has a rain cover when needed. Furthermore, what you put in your backpack matters a lot. The weight of the items and their usefulness are a top consideration when packing your on-the-go belongings. My family chose hiking backpacks by Deuter for me and hubby and a very nice  Traverse REI brand for our son. But so many other brands or similar products are just fine as long as the weight of the pack can rest on the hips and not pull at your back or shoulders. A manageable weight ranged from 15 to 25 pounds. This should not come a surprise: we discarded unessential items causing excess weight along the way.


His and Hers Backpack with Camino Shells. Photo ©James Sobredo

And don't forget to purchase at first opportunity, a scallop shell (ours has a red cross painted on) that we tied on the outside of your backpack. They are available at gift shops, churches or overnight stops. The scallop shell is the iconic and prolific symbol that distinguishes you as someone walking the Camino—a pilgrim on a journey.

The scallop shell symbol corresponds with those on bollards (stone posts) that mark the path that lead to Santiago de Compostela. There are a couple of myths associated with the scallop shell as symbol of the Camino. The version I like is the one that tells of a ship carrying the body of St. James which encountered a bad storm. The body was allegedly lost at sea only to be found washed ashore unharmed. And you guessed it. The body was covered in shells. There was also something practical about carrying the shell. Pilgrims found it useful for scooping food or water. 

I realized early on that I brought too much “stuff.” So, I left behind some clothing items at first opportunity before the first leg of the hike. The fabric too heavy, something that would not dry easily after washing, was a favorite turquoise blouse. It had to remain in Roncenvalles, in a 12th century monastery converted to an albergue, where we spent our  first overnight stop. I ceremoniously folded the blouse in a cubby hole before we commenced our trek the following morning. Other pilgrims before us had done the same, and the clothes became offerings for other pilgrims to take. By the time my family reached a few more overnight stops, somewhere in a town that had a post office, we filled up a box with unessential and unused items. We mailed the box for safekeeping to our friends in Madrid. Most pilgrims, won’t have this option.

Thus, my growing determination to warn other interested Camino hikers to only pack what you must. This list contains items I ultimately kept in my backpack. Not included on the list are those that you are already wearing, such as a pair of walking athletic shoes or hiking boots. The best advice I personally put to good use is to pack different items in separate and large resealable bags. This affords you convenience, saves you time when getting started in the morning, and lessens the likelihood of disturbing other pilgrims while you wrestle through your backpack. This is especially critical if you are staying in a municipal albergue where some pilgrims would choose to sleep in until absolutely necessary to leave. Each establishment has its own policy. Usually pilgrims are asked to vacate the premises no later than 8:00 a.m. 

The list below, in no particular order of importance, should serve as a good starting point when selecting items to take in your backpack. The list is based on my experience, so make adjustments for your gender or other needs:
  • PANTS—Two pairs of lightweight/synthetic pair of pants.
      1. At least one that converts to a pair of shorts or pedal pushers. (I chose to also take a lightweight knee-length black skirt.)
      2. At least one must be in black or other dark colors that could pass for semi-formal if going into a somewhat high-end restaurant, museum or other places. I got mine at Costco and REI in the U.S. Otherwise, Spain has their version of a recreational equipment store.
  • SHIRTS—Two long-sleeved shirt or top that are lightweight cotton/synthetic blend or fully synthetic.
      1. Choose something that works well when layering. 
      2. Take one short-sleeved top that works well as undershirt that could be worn as an outer shirt. I chose black that pairs nicely with my black pants or black skirt.
  • OUTERWEAR—coverage for rain, wind and cold.
      1. One lightweight rain gear/jacket; could double as windbreaker if needed.
      2. One polartec jacket or vest, perfect for colder weather or air-conditioned places.
      3. One lightweight (black) cardigan sweater for additional layering and option for a dressy evening.
  • SOCKS—Two pairs lightweight wool socks and liners.
  • SANDALS—One pair of sandals or Tevas that can also serve as footwear for shower stalls, and for a change of pace when letting your feet breathe while hiking.
  • UNDERWEAR—A set of 5 lightweight synthetic underwear which can dry easily when washed. The number you bring could be more or less. I played it safe in case I could not do the wash every night. Most albergues have washing machines or wash tubs when hand washing.
  • TOWEL AND ACCESSORIES—some for practical use.
      1. One sun hat and another another head cover for warmth, such as a beanie.
      2. One lightweight scarf for additional warmth and to dress up an outfit
      3. One lightweight synthetic travel towel that dries easily. They come in various sizes at REI.
  • SUNDRIES—small travel size containers are perfect for liquid soap, body lotion, toothpaste, sunblock cream, lip balm, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and shampoo (which also works well as laundry soap).
  • WIPES—hand wipes, baby wipes, sanitary napkins, toilet paper and ziploc bags could be useful on the trail. It is best to be prepared. Even though there were sufficient stops for food and bathroom breaks on the trail, few pilgrims had disgusting habits of leaving all sorts of wastes near walking trails. It doesn’t hurt to watch where you're stepping. 
  • MEDICATIONS—Sufficient supply of essential first aid items including hydro-cortisone, vitamins and prescription medications. 
J.  Learn A Few Phrases Spanish

I didn't need to speak Spanish to go on the Camino. Our family spent our first night of the Camino at the 12th century monastery at Roscesvalles. It was our first introduction to albergue living. It was where we picked up our pilgrim passport; while other pilgrims got theirs stamped since they started from the French side of the border. The rules, pilgrims must observe while at the monastery, were written in several languages. Much to my delight, included were English and surprisingly, Tagalog translations. The rules I paid attention to most: lights off and into bed by 10:00 p.m. as the doors were locked and no one was admitted after that; and pilgrims must leave and vacate the premises by 7:00 in the morning.

Curious as to how my limited grasp of the Spanish language would hold up or if high school French would help if any, I happily conversed with locals and other pilgrims. Locals in rural areas tended not to speak English, so a few words in Spanish helped in transacting for accommodations or ordering a meal without the need to point at pictures on menus. But mostly, English was spoken in many of the establishments, particularly among younger people. 

A few phrases in Spanish from an English speaker to show respect often went a long way, such as a greeting, plus phrases to show politeness. “Hola” for hello, “gracias” for thank you, and “Por favor” for please. The locals then try even harder to speak with you with their limited English or friendly hand gestures. My husband had sufficient knowledge of the language; he did not hesitate speaking in Spanish. Our son could read Spanish well, although was reticent in speaking the language. A small Spanish-English dictionary we carried in our backpack came in handy. Of course there are language translator apps now available on smartphones for convenience.

“Buen Camino,” was a greeting heard often while walking the Camino de Santiago. It was reassurance that we were on the right track, the right path. I didn't just imagine how often I heard the phrase. Everyone was most generous with this greeting. Hearing the words and saying the words to other pilgrims brought on smiles and engendered a burst of energy in both the giver and the receiver. I found myself moving a little faster and feeling a little lighter on my feet. This boost of adrenaline came in handy when trekking inclines or rough trails after  eight or so miles. There were times when each step felt like one dragging a ball and chain or a wheel borrow on a hard pavement, especially when walking apart from my family. Or if rainy, the path was sticky of mud, and I doubted if I’d ever make that day’s destination so I could meet up with family and socialize with a growing number of pilgrim friends. 

Closing

It is true, there is no perfect preparation for walking the Camino nor is there a perfect Camino. The journey is what you make of it. 

Little did I know that the last stage of the Camino would serve as an ideal place to dance, skip, and sing under a canopy of trees. I did all that when I found myself alone for a time between the town of Arzua and our destination—the Santiago de Compostela! 

Under a Canopy of Trees. ©James Sobredo

Some folks who blogged about the Camino described the experience as a metaphor for life’s journey. It was indeed a metaphor for life’s journey with all the ups and downs of physically demanding trails; the highs and lows of emotions felt; the many moments of kindness when connecting with other pilgrims and town’s people; the resilience which grew out of transcending challenges along the way; and although rare, the cold stare from a stranger who wished to walk alone and not interact with anyone. It was easy enough to respect their wish to be left alone. Oh, yes, there were pilgrims who came with a pessimistic, gloomy and blatantly obnoxious attitude. It was easy to keep my distance from them as they were not the norm on the trail. I suspect they remained sullen throughout. One could only hope that they found some meaning later on from their experience.

To walk the Camino one doesn’t have to be: religious, a trained athlete, or searching for a spiritual awakening. Looking back at my experience, there is no way I would trade the moments I stood inside and outside the ancient Cathedrals with their spires outstretched to the heavens; or when time stood still in an unbelievably moving pilgrims’ mass once we arrived at the Cathedral in Santiago de  Compostela; or at first taste of the delectable and mouth-watering dishes from the pilgrim’s menu del dia alongside fellow pilgrims. Heartwarming for me that some of these friendly pilgrims were with me during long stretches of the journey. 

Destination: Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. ©James Sobredo

And I definitely would not trade the family’s spontaneous decision to spend an additional night and a day at a hotel just to soak in the uniqueness of the municipality of Palais De Rei while giving our feet time to heal before resuming our trek. I wouldn’t dream of missing out on speaking in my limited Spanish which improved overtime, or my limited French that translated Spanish menus to help out pilgrims from France who spoke neither Spanish nor English, even though they were the stereotypical French folks with a-stiff-upper-lip. A few of the pilgrims were Americans, but we did luck out when we met some who were school teachers, one principal of college prep school, some university professors, and  college students from all around the U.S. I connected the easiest with friendly and engaging folks from various regions of Spain (with some exception): U.S., Canada, Germany, Argentina,  Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom. Most of the traditional Camino hikers were not fond of day hikers who are bused in to join the Camino armed with only light packs.

Walking the Camino was an achievement of a lifetime. Knowing full well that I would not likely ever repeat the experience, the significance of walking even only the abbreviated pilgrimage has grown in leaps and bounds over the years. The diagnosis of my chronic illness in 2013 was life-changing, and I am  reminded daily by incessant pain. The pain gradually became manageable. I am more functional compared to the days when I was confined to a wheelchair while at the height of the illness in 2014 and most of 2015. Thanks to medical treatment that’s working for now, I am functional and I managed to return to Spain with family for vacation in 2016. Although there is no known cure, there are available treatments to help reduce debilitating symptoms. But the reduced symptoms are not reduced enough for another Camino. How I traveled with a disability is described in a previous blog post:  Travel Abroad with My Son and a Disability.

Unknowingly, I hiked while at the earliest stages of what was diagnosed three years later as severe Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  By the time the diagnosis was confirmed in late 2013, my RA specialist said that based on test results, it would appear that I have had the disease for as long as five years before. RA is a long term autoimmune disorder wherein one’s own immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and body tissues resulting in inflammation, pain, stiffness, low stamina, and in my case, near immobility. Sadly, the treatment for diminishing symptoms suppresses my immune system. Thus, the extreme caution I now take when around crowds and when traveling. 

Hector on the Camino With a Homemade Cart. ©James Sobredo

The kindness of strangers and their stories as to why they launched on the Camino are engraved in my mind’s eye and heart. One friendly, middle-aged and slightly rotund gentleman who had knee and back issues hiked in pain and sweated profusely while hauling a cart of his belongings. He hiked the Camino as a promise and tribute to his wife who died of cancer months before.

Father and Son Bonding on Spanish Beer and Apple Juice. ©James Sobredo

Acts of loving kindness and mindfulness by my husband and our son were awe-inspiring. Both took steps to ensure I was safe, fed, happy and comfortable. The experience might be flawed in parts, yet beautifully memorable. To this day, I treasure all that I encountered. 


Taking a Rest on the Camino. ©James Sobredo

The Camino experience deepened my love for life, life with my family and friends being at the center of it all. Consequently, it has become my personal mission to encourage those who are curious, mildly interested as well as those ready and raring to go on the Camino, and remind all to please do it before life events become an obstacle of no return. Go on and take off on your journey. Remember, most important about the Camino is the journey and the friendships you make along the way. Buen Camino!

Sources

Camino de Santiago (The French Way), Macs Adventure, 2017. Web 15 December 2016.

Camino de Santiago: The Pilgrimage Routes to Santiago de Compostela, caminodesantiagodecompostela.com, 2017. Web 11 March 2017.

Genova, Zoe, Why do People Walk the Camino with a Scallop Shell, Duperier’s Authentic Journeys, Duperier’s Camino de Santiago Blog, February 7, 2014. Web 19 March 2017.

Green, Steward, Kilimanjaro: Highest Mountain in Africa, Climbing Expert.About Sports, 2016A. Web 19 January 2017.

MacManus, Melanie Raczicki, A Guide to Hiking the Pacific Crest, Adventure Trail Guides, June 2012. Web 19 January 2017.

Mullen, Robert, Walk this Way: The Camino de Santiago, The Guardian, April 2, 2011. Web 19 March 2017.


©Lu Sobredo, All rights reserved. 

Acknowledgment

Guest Co-Editor: Adrian Sobredo.
Thanks to son Adrian for helping proofread and edit this essay in between his university work. 

Featured Photographer: Dr. James Sobredo. 
Thanks to my husband James for the poignant photos,  and his adventurous spirit that made possible our family Camino and many other travels; and helping me set up this blog site.


Family, friends and New Readers.
Thanks to all who are reading this essay, spreading the word by sharing this post, and giving feedback and comments.

New edits completed on April 17, 2019 when reposting the Essay.

Comments

  1. To my family,, friends and readers:

    Let me know if you need help in posting your comments. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thank you for reading my blog post and leaving a comment. Have a good day!

Popular posts from this blog

Travel and Why Not?

By Lu Sobredo WELCOME to LuTravelsAbroad Website! What's new with me? TODAY I am exploring possible format/design for my LuTravelsAbroad website, for my Blog and Facebook page. Tickled to be launching a new venture. I have this incredible feeling of drive from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. A similar feeling that came over me when I finally realized I will travel abroad again. Travel while disabled, you might ask? Why not?

WHY A TRAVEL BLOG The Travel Blog and Facebook web presence is meant to be a self-help travel corner, and a vehicle for opening up about my personal health journey. When preparing for the 2016 travel, some websites and travel blogs were a great help. While in Spain as I focused on the moment and less and less on what discomfort to anticipate, I gradually experienced the thrill of traveling. It was then that I began to envision creating a one-stop self-help corner for people facing physical and other challenges similar to mine. The hope always is to nudg…

Top 10 Restaurants We Love in Spain

By Lu Sobredo
Gastronomy and Spain have become synonymous. Writing this photo essay makes me think of scrumptious meals. My mouth is literally watering with great longing to return.
Since starting my blog in 2016, my husband and I are often asked for recommendation of places to eat when in Spain. I have given recommendations in a private message through my travel Facebook Page: Lutravelsabroad. And I do it happily. But there is no reason to keep our recommendations private.
When one finds a gold mine, I believe it is important to share the wealth. My family and I have managed to partake in culinary feasts on a budget when traveling. When we do some modest splurging, it is all planned and calculated into our travel expense. Why not live a little while we still can? If curious, you can still access my first Blog post on the subject: Happy Eating on a Budget in Spain. This earlier essay takes you from the Madrid area and Barcelona, to the Galician region in Santiago de Compostela including …

Finding Philippine Art at the Asian Art Museum

by Lu Sobredo

"Celebrate the rich diversity of Philippine art with 25 compelling works recently added to the Asian Art Museum’s collection. Expressive indigenous carving, jewelry and textiles; Christian devotional statues from the Spanish colonial period; postwar genre and landscape paintings; and contemporary works come together in this intimate exhibition to tell fascinating and complex stories of the Philippines.” ~ Asian Art Museum
IntroductionI’m surprised to be hanging out on a Thursday afternoon at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco in the middle of summer. Most times, I am there either appreciating some permanent exhibit or being drawn to a special exhibit or event. Sometimes, I could be found simply sitting at the museum Cafe sipping green tea and lingering over an apple almond tart. It is at these moments when I am moved to write. The writing I do these days is for my blog.
It feels like I have been given a gift every time my husband James participates either in a sched…

Life With RA: Exercise Strategy That Works

LIFE WITH RA: EXERCISE STRATEGY THAT WORKS Article #5
By Lu Sobredo
Why write about exercise if you suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
Exercise was the last thing on my mind when RA inundatedmajor joints in my body starting in 2013. Pain was excruciating on both knees, ankles, wrists, fingers and hands. Inflammation and stiffness were so pronounced; I grew resentful over how the disease stole the flexibility my body once knew. Everyday routine did not happen without my husband's help. But I did my best to will my pained body to move. The body gradually adapted to gentle and measured movements. And three years after I began the regimen of medications & treatment, my RA-ridden body gradually stabilized. There is no cure for what ails me, so who knows what the future holds. However, I am convinced that without attempts at movement, the disease could have crippled me irrevocably.



WHY EXERCISE WHEN THE BODY IS IN PAIN Exercising when in pain sounds counter-intuitive. But three years …

World in Motion: Part I -- Health Storm

WORLD IN MOTION: PART I

A health storm descended on my family's lives...
By Lu Sobredo
The southeasterly wind howled. What has angered it so? The rain wasn’t happy either. The delugepounded against the wall near where I slept. There was swaying for sure. Or was I having one of those episodes that compelled my husband to drive me to a nearby hospital? We both agreed my symptoms were alarming enough that warranted a run to the emergency room.  

I slowly opened my eyes to get my bearings. Still too dark to be morning. The light from the digital clock reminded me we spent the night in our sailboat. It was 3 a.m., Sunday January 6, 2019. Epiphany Sunday, the feast day for christians to commemorate when God the incarnate revealed as Jesus Christ to the Magi—The Three Kings. Somehow, I felt the Universe was speaking to me in kind words despite the tempestuous weather.
Our boat was safely moored. However, the wrath of the storm hitting Northern California made itself felt. The wild rocking of …

Through His Camera Lens: Lights, Landscapes and Life Abroad

by Lu Sobredo
~Celebrating the many dimensions of my husband James Sobredo: his interest, talent and heart as reflected through his camera lens; it sparks my own creativity.~ Lu Sobredo


IntroductionYes, my son and I, and sometimes our friends take very good pictures with our mobile phones. But the person, whose camera lens I totally rely on to document life moments and special places, is my husband James Sobredo. Being around him and his photography partner and close friend, Steven Montalvo when on their photography shoots, is both meditative and exhilarating to watch. As if their eyes are connected to their hearts. And after many hours and enormous patience, they might be happy with the outcome. I know I am.

Folks have asked me why I find blogging so much fun? Other than the fact that:
My family actually have visited the amazing places I write about.I get to meet super interesting people who later become part of my family’s life. As strange as this sounds, it’s even fun to awkwardly atte…