As with any significant undertaking, planning and preparation helps increase the odds of a desirable outcome. Planning and preparing for a Camino has basic commonalities with other travel adventures, but it does involve its own unique dimensions (if so chosen).
Our Camino planning and preparation can be considered in several categories.
- Awareness and understanding of the Camino journey and experience.
- Equipping oneself with the right gear for such a hike.
- Physical preparation of one’s own bodily endurance, stamina and strength.
- Mental preparation, including picking up Spanish.
- Planning the travel, transportation, accommodation options.
There’s so much resources and content on the Net, that spending a few hours and several days/weeks, will richly arm one with information of the Camino. Here I would share the two Net resources that proved most invaluable to me. First is a UK blog-forum that has literally hundreds and thousands of postings from hikers and pilgrims over the years, organized by trails and other subject areas. http://www.caminodesantiago.org.uk/#information-for-all-camino-routes.12 I learned so much from the selfless sharing, about items to pack, about the optimal weight to carry (10% of body weight), about the trade offs between hiking boots, hiking shoes, trail shoes, etc. The various ways to prevent and address blisters. The alberques to avoid. Learnings, mistakes, tips from seasoned Camino peregrines who have walked several times on various trails. There’s no better resource for someone who wants to understand how to plan and prepare for the Camino.
The second online resource is the various blogs written by the various hikers/pilgrims. Each blogger has their own distinctive style and perspective. All have pictures along the trail, and thus, one does get a good picture of the Camino journey. I was struck by one blogger who took pictures of rain drops on flowers/plants. What beauty that can only be seen when one slows down, and seeks such around us. Several of the previously mentioned UK blog-forum posters have indicated their own personal blogs in their signature line, and the blog-forum administrator, Leslie had compiled a short list of blogs in 2015 – https://www.caminoadventures.com/best-camino-de-santiago-blogs/
We intend to blog about our Camino, but will likely have a different take/slant to most. Thus, this blog itself is the first step to familiarize ourselves with this media, and more importantly, to help us build our own individual ‘voice’.
For me, the FUN & ENJOYABLE part of reading all this Camino content, is the beginning visualization of what the Camino is about. Building the anticipation. How I will enjoy the scenery, the slow pace of walking and being in the moment. Being un-plugged from all the distractions and electronic devices that’s part of modern life. Being dis-engaged from the need to know the latest real time news. Just being alone with my thoughts, having deep conversations with my partner Joon, and engaging with other fellow hikers/pilgrims that cross our paths. Of course, I am sure there will be moments (hours?) of discomfort and pain as we trudged on. But mentally, attitude-wise, I view it as just being in touch with my body. Understanding what my body is capable of, and having the certainty of a good rest/sleep at the end of the day.
Stephen Covey’s second habit of highly effective people is ‘Begin with the End in Mind’. That every physical creation, every manifestation starts first in the mind before it comes into being. In that way, part of our preparation will happen on the trail itself, not at home. When we dialog about our intent for that day, prior to starting off. Perhaps a relationship aspect that needs to be deepened/strengthened. Perhaps creating a new shared dream or goal. Perhaps reflecting and being thankful for our shared journey to date. What a wonderful thought, that the day’s walk can lead to a burst of re-creation, of positivism charging through and energizing our full selves – bodies, soul and spirit. Truly a ‘journey within’ to live life as fully as possible.
3/22/18 update. For American pilgrims, there’s an association web site with lots of materials and resources – http://www.americanpilgrims.org/ This same association hosts a very active Facebook group among American Camino walkers/pilgrims at https://www.facebook.com/groups/AmericanPilgrims/