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Camino - single walker

Reflections on the Camino

May 9, 2016 | Spain | 39 Comments

Seven months ago I walked down a beach and into the Atlantic Ocean. That wouldn’t have been very exciting, had I not walked 865km across northern Spain to get there. That beach, in the small town of Finisterre, was where the road and my Camino ended. It’s taken this long to process the experience, and put fingers to keyboard to explain what it meant to me.

Unlike many who walk the Camino de Santiago, I wasn’t looking for an epiphany. I wasn’t recovering from a messy divorce, had a health scare or sudden death in the family. I wasn’t suffering from a crisis of faith, or a midlife one, and I hadn’t just been laid off from my job. Instead, my thought process was much simpler than that. I’m turning 40. I want a challenge. I’m in Spain. Let’s walk.

There’s a saying amongst pilgrims, though. The Camino provides. It gives you what you need, whether you know it or not. Sometimes that need is physical — food when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty, a bed when you’re tired — but sometimes it’s more than that.

It also gives you time, and space. Spending six, eight, ten hours a day moving slowly across an enormous landscape, week after week, gets the brain working in unfamiliar ways. The Camino provided me the opportunity to think, to reflect, to meditate, free of distractions and complications beyond my immediate needs.

I didn’t have many expectations from my walk, and wanted to just let the experience turn out as it would.

So how did it turn out?

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Camino day 1 view

My Ridiculously Detailed Camino de Santiago Packing List: What Worked, What Didn’t and Why

November 5, 2015 | Advice, Spain | 42 Comments

Back in September, I completed one of the most challenging and satisfying experiences of my life. In a little over a month I walked from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a small French town at the base of the Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela and onward to Finisterre on Spain’s Atlantic coast. These routes, the Camino Frances and Camino Finisterre, are part of a vast network of medieval pilgrim paths across Europe collectively known as the Camino de Santiago.

I’ll write plenty more about the experience in the future, but wanted to devote one post solely to the gear I took — exactly what I chose to take and leave behind, and how well those choices worked over the course of my five week walk.

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Camino dirt track

Why I’m Walking the Camino

August 2, 2015 | Spain | 51 Comments

I turn 40 next month.

Forty years on this big ball of rock. It’s been a hell of a ride so far.

In my early twenties, I thought I knew exactly what life had in store for me. Of course, I didn’t have a clue back then — and I still don’t. Approaching my fifth decade, I have little more certainty about anything than I did in my second. Some people would struggle with that, but oddly, I find it comforting. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, and I don’t want to.

My current ideas for next April, for instance, see me simultaneously in New Zealand, Guatemala and Portugal. 2016 could see me settling in Spain, or wandering from beach to beach around Central America, or something else entirely. Hell, just today Lauren and I talked about visiting the Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India or Myanmar later this year, and as usual, ended up making no decision at all.

Right now, there’s really only one thing I know for sure.

A little under a month from now, early in the morning, my alarm is going to go off in a little French town at the base of the Pyrenees. I’ll get dressed in a hurry, throw my backpack over my shoulders, and quietly let myself out the door. Looking up at the mountains, I’ll pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and slowly start walking down the road to Spain.

And I won’t stop until October.

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Stop

Is It Time to Stop?

September 15, 2014 | New Zealand, Spain, UK | 46 Comments

It’s a natural tendency to want to know what happens next. That’s why people read horoscopes, mindlessly scroll through Facebook for hours and binge watch every episode of Friends during one inglorious rainy weekend.

Apparently, though, it’s not just Ross and Rachel’s future that interests people. In the last few months, I’ve found myself being asked a single question much more often than before.

“Are you ever going to stop travelling?”

While six, twelve or even 24 months of wandering is somewhat acceptable, people seem to find more than that a bit strange. As my three year travel anniversary draws nearer, friends, family, taxi drivers, random strangers on the Internet have all started asking if this trip is going to end one day.

Aren’t I sick of it yet? Isn’t Lauren? Don’t we want a house? Normal jobs? Kids? 2.4 puppies and a white picket SUV?

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Motorcycle in San Sebastian

The Friday Photo #112 – Incongruous motorbike, San Sebastian

While lazily wandering around the Castillo de Santa Cruz, a medieval castle perched on a hill high above the Basque city of San Sebastian, I came across this shiny motorcycle parked in the grounds outside.

Presumably belonging to one of the staff that worked at the small museum inside the castle, it was an incongruous find amongst the weathered rocks and mossy cobblestones that surrounded it.

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Pigeon in San Sebastian

San Sebastian, you’re something special

May 30, 2012 | Spain, Travel | 10 Comments

“Have you been to San Sebastian? It’s amazing!”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a variation on that, I would be rich. This small city in the Basque country of northern Spain seems to be a perennial favourite amongst anyone that had ever been there, so when I noticed that it was only a few hundred kilometres from where I was in La Coruña the decision wasn’t hard to make. I was going to San Sebastian.

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Coffee in La Coruna

Six days in La Coruna

May 28, 2012 | Spain, Travel | 12 Comments

I knew nothing about La Coruna before I arrived. A smallish city of around a quarter million inhabitants on Spain’s north-western coast, I was there only to visit Craig and Linda, good friends that I seem to keep bumping into all over the world..

I boarded the train six days later enamoured with the place. Narrow cobbled streets snaked through the old town with no discernable order to the untrained eye. Families strolled together ambling towards dinner, the restaurants barely starting to open at a time when those in other parts of the world have already shut. The ever-present Atlantic breeze kept temperatures cooler than the rest of the country, but the ocean views that came with it were adequate compensation.

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Sunset in La Coruna

The Friday Photo #111 – Sunset in La Coruna

I spent this week visiting friends in La Coruna, a small city on the Galician coast of northwest Spain. It’s a wonderful place, relaxing and highly enjoyable despite the cool winds that blew off the Atlantic for much of my stay.

Like much of the rest of the country the food and drink are simply incredible, the people are vibrant and the cobbled streets of the maze-like old town provide hours of exploration (whether that is the intention or not…).

What impressed me most, however? The expansive views. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of perfect vantage points to stop for a while, gazing over the rocky coastline and out into the blue.

It’s even more impressive at sunset.

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