It was in the Spring of 2000 that I first heard about El Camino de Santiago. I had the TV on in the background while I was getting ready for work. I did not know much about Shirley MacLaine, but was familiar with the name. I stopped to watch, though, as she talked about the book she wrote that had just been published. It was about a pilgrimage walk through Spain. I thought she did some little kids TV show – what was this about a walk in Spain?
Since then, I’ve heard about the Camino here and there. And in recent years, when I walk into the travel section of the bookstore (always the first section I visit), it’s the first topic I start reading up on. I’d known I wanted to do the pilgrimage after seeing that interview. However, as with many things on my list, I didn’t have a definitive plan, but knew when “the time was right” I would go. Well, I can’t say I’ve booked a flight yet or anything, but today I feel I’m “on my way.” Here’s why:
I had seen the signs when I was cruising by the drive-in: “Swap, Saturday, March 20.” I figured it was a bunch of people bringing their unwanted goods to sell and trade. I googled it and found that no – it was actually an outdoor gear swap. I am not your outdoorsy type exactly (well, at all really), but had recently thought that next year would be a good time for my Camino trip. I thought maybe I’d find some hiking boots at the swap. Mind you I haven’t done a stitch of research on boots or gear or packs or anything like that. So far I’ve just read books by people who have done the pilgrimage. Well, I didn’t find any boots. But I’m now the proud owner of the backpack that will walk 400 miles with me through Spain. And it only cost me $30.
If you know anything about packs, you might think this a foolish thing to buy with no research. But you see, EMS was getting rid of their old inventory and rental gear. So I did what’s best to do in such situations: found someone who knew something. Walter greeted me and I said, “So, do you know anything about this stuff?” He assured me he did. I confessed my lack of knowledge on anything outdoors related, and then explained my reason for wanting a pack. “I’m going to do this pilgrimage walk in Spain. After that, I’ll probably never use the pack again.” “So spending $30 on one is a great option for you!” he said. After establishing how long I’d be walking (4-6 weeks) and how much I’d carry (no idea, but I’d stay in rooms along the way, so have no need for major camping gear or food), Walter assured me the pack I’d picked would be sufficient. He helped fit the pack to my body (kindly asking if he could touch my back when he adjusted it). What I liked were 1) the colors (grey and purple) and 2) the plethora of pockets. Not what a true outdoors woman would judge a pack on. But as I’ve established 1) I’m not an outdoors woman and 2) I trusted Walter.
For $2 I got a day pack I can use if, after hiking a ridiculous number of miles in a day, I want to go explore the town. (Likely? Eh, you never know). And for another $2 I got a little toiletry bag. And for $10 I’m the proud owner of a pink rain jacket, all from EMS. Not a bad haul.
As I explained to my good friend Kate who’d accompanied me to the swap (and thankfully has LOTS of outdoors experience), this trip will be like the bike ride I did across Iowa: I bought the bike for $80 on craigslist, trained, did RAGBRAI, and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten on a bike since then.
So, if anyone has some advice for a month long walk across Spain, feel free to send it my way! 🙂