Tag Archives: American Pilgrims on the Camino

Just Stop With Planning

Day in Astorga

Day in Astorga

Do Not Make Plans. They Don’t Work Out

June 21, 2014


We had a nice rest day. Slept on a park bench in front of the Astorga Cathedral and Gaudi Castle until they opened. It is Saturday, everything opens up later in the morning…like 10:30. I highly recommend going in to see these two places. I am learning a lot about the Cathedrals’ history on the Camino. And Gaudi is one of my favorite people of all times. What an artist!

We met up with two of our friends from the American Pilgrims on the Camino, Amy and Ena who arrived in town walking down the middle of the street. It was nice to visit with them before they continued on.

Then we ate lunch. Picked up train snacks. Saw the Roman Bath House ruins that the Catholic Church had dug up while building over it. Ate an ice cream cone. Got lost walking to the train station. Saw some great slums. And upon arriving to the station for our 3:15 departure, found out it was going to be an hour late.
Uh-oh. We also had a connecting train to catch, but it wasn’t going to wait for us.

We hung out in the train station listening to great music from a Brazilian woman’s IPhone while we bonded with her. She had walked the whole way last year, but was leaving the Camino early and heading to Santiago to meet up with friends and head to the beach. She just wasn’t feeling the Camino Spirit inside her anymore. The people were not nice like last year and she found no need to continue.
She was a wonderful help to us in translating for us with the conductor later on.

Ok…so for the fun part. I am all about setting goals. It is the way one progresses. I read Stephan Covey’s books way back when I was 19. Hence why I like to have things kinda planned out and yet I’m not anal enough that I can’t go with the flow, however, NOTHING has gone as planned on this pilgrimage. The one lesson that keeps repeating over and over again is, “Don’t plan. Keep it loose. Just go with the flow.”

The conductor informs us that there isn’t a connecting train at the station for us. No train. He said something about taking a bus or a taxi. He is explaining this in Spanish. Abby comprehends some of it. I’m getting nothing. So for the next 40 minutes we are wondering what we are going to do. We agree that it will work out. We will sleep in the station until the next day to find out when the train comes or the bus comes. Once again, we are going to get in to a station that will be closed. The Albergue that we figured we could stay at would probably be filled up if we continued on to Sarria. And there are ominous dark clouds that completely filled the sky for the entire 4 hour trip. Rain. Yeah. Oh…and snow was on the mountains too in some parts. Yippee-skippee. And tomorrow is Sunday and trains and buses cut back on their service. And we figured we had lost out money for the remainder of our train ride and would have to pay more for another ticket.

The Brazilian woman told us to wake her up when the conductor came back and she would find out the info for us.
Thank goodness for her being there. Turns out that the conductor had made arrangements for a bus to meet us at the station to take not only us, but the other passengers that had missed the connecting train. We could stay the night at the town and have our money refunded partially or continue on without paying any additional money.

Of course we are continuing on.

We get to the station. The bus is there. We ride going 90 down the road and get to Sarria in 30 minutes. Then we get lost trying to find the Albergue. It starts to rain. It is 8:30pm when we find the place. And they are filled up.

I’m going to cry. It is raining. We look like pathetic drowned rats. We ask if they can call another place to see if they have rooms. Informed that the hostel down the street has beds at 20€ each. “I can’t afford that” I say as water is running down my face. She looks at us and says, “Wait a minute” when she comes back, she has found us each a bed in her place one at 9€ and another at 10€!

Yes. It has worked out. And breakfast is included.

We are tired. Grateful. And we will continue to start each day with prayer to help us find a bed that we can afford each night. We also give thanks each night for the blessings we have received each day.

Now let’s see if my prayers for no rain while I’m walking play out.



Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk

Just take the bare essentials

Just take the bare essentials

May 25, 2014

“Walk this Way; Talk this Way” (Aerosmith)

No…no, walking the Camino is not about losing one’s virginity, like the lyrics in this Aerosmith song…well…I guess I could stretch it to be an allegory…a pilgrimage of 500 miles consists of losing the fear of being a control freak and planning every little thing out to the oomph degree. Ya…that could be a stretch…but in reality for anal, organized, over achievers, with the need to control one’s environment and be the Super Ultimate Boy Scout who is prepared for all things at all times with the “expect the unexpected” mentality…this is very real!

And yet, you have to carry all your stuff on your back as you are the donkey…or in my case, the Jenny. I guess I could refer to another lyric from the Rolling Stones…” A beast of burden.”

So seeing as how I’m the one who likes things organized (some things, some of the times) and I have been known to go overboard with planning for “expect the worse, hope for the best” scenarios (the first item on my check list for buying traveler’s insurance included repatriation-shipping home my carcass- NOT that I’m planning on getting hurt, let alone dying…but one needs to cover their ASSets just in case) I’m making sure that some items…ok…most items will do double duty.

As you look at the pictures of stuff piled in the staging area, aka, The Couch, you can see that ALL of this stuff that has been collected, will NOT fit into a backpack. And what is up with sanitary pads? Well, since you asked, the first thought is obvious. Like…no duh…we are women who will be gone for 50 days, but that is way to obvious. Double duty. You can insert the pads into your shoe to absorb the sweat from your feet that causes blisters to form! Yay-Way! And ya…guys wear them too…in their shoes. And since we are on the topic of female sanitary products, tampons are great for plugging your nose with when you get a nose bleed.
It makes for way awesome, “Hey-mom-look-at-me” summer camp pictures. Abby has a few of these pictures taken of her with these nose plug accessories.

And who can leave home without a copy of a Zombie book? My friend, Don Teague has instilled in me over the years, that one HAS to be prepared at ALL TIMES, in ALL PLACES for the Zombie Apocalypse. Might seem like dead (pun intended) weight to serious, fanatic backpacker minimalists, but THEY are going to want to be on MY team when the apocalypse happens!

Stay tune. We leave in 3 days. With posts like this before we even make it out onto the trail, you know this blog is going to document an epic adventure.

And please, feel free to go to my http://www.gofundme.com/8hte10 site to donate towards my pilgrimage. After all, those funds will be used to cover my bribe to transport Abby and I to safety when the Zombies attack!





“Prepare Ye! Prepare Ye!”

Busy as a bee

Busy as a bee

May 21, 2014

“School’s Out for Summer!” (Alice Cooper)

And that is the song that has been going through my head today as I packed my classroom up. 180 days with 24 students equals an accumulation of a lot of stuff. All that stuff has to packed up, put away or purged. I did all of those things today. I also reorganized some of my materials in order to have my stuff ready for when I return the last week of July.

I just finished school and I’m already preparing for the coming year. I reflect upon what projects worked and which ones didn’t. I scribble in potential dates to hold parent nights. I jot down ideas about teacher trainings, report card and assessment revisions. I do this every year on the last day of school while the ideas are fresh.
The ending is a new beginning.

I have 7 days to pull my stuff together for the Camino. My pack lays empty at the end of my bed. Items bought specifically for the pilgrimage are stored in the brown paper sacks lined up in my hallway. Amazon boxes containing Camino items are stacked awaiting unpacking only to be re-packed and organized into the empty backpacks. But not before they are weighed, itemized, sorted into categories and scrutinized for multiple usages.

I have read several books describing the Camino. Have poured over the routes. Tagged my Spanish language book written with specific phrases for pilgrims. I have religiously followed the threads being posted in the American Pilgrims on the Camino forum. I have trained ( until I caught a chest cold and hurt my knee a couple of weeks ago) and have been toughening up my feet. Breaking in my sandals and trail runners.
And yet, I’m not really fully prepared.

I can have all the right materials in place. I can have the knowledge stored in my noggin to draw upon, but just like teaching, every year is a new year. You don’t really know what is in store for you until you just jump in and do it.

I’m jumping in with both feet on this pilgrimage, unsure what will occur even though I have read the advice. But just like teaching, reading all about teaching is very different from being in the thick of it. I’m following the same advice that I offer brand new teachers,”plan and then have a backup plan and then be willing to accommodate and adjust when things don’t go as planned!”

And this brings me to a line in John Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy” ” Life is just what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” Can I really plan for every little thing for the pilgrimage? Should you really plan? Isn’t it a little too controlling and anal to have a detailed map outlining the entire 500 miles? I believe that this goes counter to what a pilgrimage is all about. In other words, just let go and GO!

Follow along as this adventure unfolds. It is going to be epic. And if you enjoy reading the blog, looking at the pictures and watching the videos (oh…there will be videos!) please feel free to donate to my journey. Visit my http://www.gofundme.com/8hte10 site

Buena Camino





May 12, 2014

“I’m going to be a happy idiot and struggle for the legal tender”
(Jackson Browne)

And that is apparently what happens when one does things impulsively, like book tickets to Spain to undertake the Camino pilgrimage, based on a feeling that, “I just have to go!”

Apparently, things have changed over the years. First off, pilgrims don’t get to stay in albergues (hostel types of places) and eat for free in people’s homes. Nor do pilgrims receive free health care along The Way. One doesn’t get something for nothing, nor are we planning on getting by on our good looks. Which means it is going to take cold hard cash to make it from Orange County, CA to Spain and back again without going hungry or without a bed to sleep in during the 500 mile pilgrimage.

Secondly, if you are thinking of going off on the pilgrimage, I would highly recommend that you belong to the American Pilgrims on the Camino. The forum can be found on FaceBook. I wish I had found them a week earlier before I had booked my flights. I would have changed things around, but life is an adventure and we are just going to go have fun. But it is easier when there is a written plan in place without winging it.

The forum is a wonderful group of experienced pilgrims who will answer questions, offer their input, ideas, thoughts, opinions and encouragement. The group reminds everyone that, “it is YOUR Camino” and just because something worked for them, doesn’t mean that it will work for you and your circumstances. But I would listen to their advice. Also, go under the file section of their page and read the information located there. It is chuck full of first- hand knowledge to draw from.

This takes me back to my point about money. We put things off and procrastinate and make excuses about NOT taking off. We say things like “when I get more money…when I have time…when I retire…when the kids get older…when my health improves…when I lose weight…” And the excuses keep on rolling across our tongue. And so I threw caution to the wind and committed before finding everything out. It all will turn out in the end…one just needs to have faith.

I have used Squaremouth.com to access information and purchase traveler insurance. I bought a plan for both Abby and I that covers us for flight problems, medical issues ( will pay for med vac as well as hospital stays) and if we kick it, the policy even covers the return of our carcasses. A great deal for $120! We also have coverage from our Kaiser plan when we travel out of the country in case of emergencies. Given the state of Spain’s finances, we want to make sure that we are covered for those, “just in case” accidents. For everything else, that is what first aid kits and farmacias are for.

With regards to the cost of where we stay, well, we are hoping that the basic hostels- municipal albergues, parish albergues and the convent/monastery will not be full. We have a book that provides listings of the places for us to stay at. Some accept donations. Some have low set prices. Some include meals and some have facilities available to cook in. These places are set up for pilgrims along the way and you need a pilgrim credential to stay here.

Food is another major need to consider. After reading through the threads on the American Pilgrims on the Camino posts we have figured out that we will eat our main meal during lunch time at cafés, which is later in the afternoon than State time. We will purchase, bread, fruit, veggies, olive packages and tuna packs in the stores along the way for breakfast, snacks and late evening light supper. Evening meals in the towns don’t take place until late in the evening, around 9 pm. That is about the time we will be going to bed and there are curfews in the places we will be staying at. The rates I have seen suggest to plan on E25 a day (about $34 for both food and the cost of a place to stay) for each of us. Eeeek! We are going to HAVE to spend less than this in order to make it for 50 days. We are talking BASIC living. Nothing fancy or grand that is for sure.

See, even walking isn’t free once you start to factor in the cost of daily living expenses. But this isn’t the typical vacation either. Abby and I are on a spiritual quest- a pilgrimage- and we will do without the materialistic needs and comforts as we venture across Spain.

We will rely on faith, support and encouragement from others as we travel. Your donations are warmly welcomed. You can contribute towards our pilgrimage at http://www.gofundme.com/8hte10
And when you do donate, in return I will send you an original 4 x 6 watercolor/drawing.