Beyond the Bonk

Excited to share a guest post by one of my hiking besties, Cheryl aka Impossible Turtle …

We’ve all been there: You’re partway through your day on the trail and you find yourself checking your watch (or phone or AllTrails or Ken – aka Cairn) to see how many kilometres you have left. And it never seems like the “right” number. Then it slowly hits you, that realization that no one wants on a hike: You fell out of love with this sh*t five or six km back.

Dammit. This, my friends, is the wall. The bonk. The “why am I even out here” moment. And it sucks.

But let’s not mistake it for more than it is. It happens to everyone at some point. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love hiking or long distance walking, it just means you need a different game plan for this hike and this day of walking. That’s it. And believe me when I say you can spend five or six or ten kms trying to talk yourself out of it and find your trail joy again or you can embrace the suck, acknowledge where you are (in all the ways – literally, metaphorically, emotionally, physically), see it as temporary and get sh*t done.

Before I delve into the ways I battle the bonk, I should mention there are plenty of perfectly logical, sensible ways to prevent bonking.

Here are a few:

  • Get adequate sleep the night before your hike
  • Drink (and bring) plenty of water, some with added electrolytes if it’s hot or you’re a sweaty mess like me
  • Eat a good, but familiar breakfast. Think something filling that will hold you til elevenses but not something heavy or bothersome for your guts.
  • Bring plenty of snacks. (Protein like beef jerky or pepperoni is a go to for me. Salty is good. Candy is also good, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
  • Relax. This is the hardest one, I know. But if you can stay in the moment and keep your head on the trail (not at home with your daily stresses), you’ve got a better chance of feeling the pre-bonk feelings and saving yourself some grief.

Now, let’s say you (*cough*me*cough*) did all of these things to the best of your ability, given the circumstances and still, you’re feeling. It. All.

Muscle pain. Fatigue. Joint pain. Heat. Anxiety. Guilt.

It’s all beating down on you like the 28 degree sun but there’s no cream that blocks that junk out. You feel like you hit your limit.

(Side note: I’m willing to bet you’ve never actually hit this limit. I’ve let the negative part of my brain convince me I’ve been at that edge many times, on many trails. But it’s lied to me every time. There’s a way to finish. I promise.)

So what do you do? What did I do? I got angry with myself. That sounded a little like this: “You’re in the Cotswolds, for god’s sake! C’mon, Ashworth, you’re in England, in area of outstanding natural beauty, how dare you not love this? Do you know what your family had to do to make this work?” Uhm, that’s not exactly a motivational speech, friends. That kind of self talk doesn’t make the 10 or 15 kms left feel breezy. 😉 But I had to have that moment to hear the ridiculousness of it and then I had to say it out loud to mg trail buddies to hear it sound even more ludicrous. And then it was out of my system. I’ve admitted it. This afternoon, this moment in time on this small section of the Cotswold Way is not my friend. I admitted that, I owned it and I tried to let it be. I couldn’t change it. I loved the day before and would probably love the day to followed. Not loving this bit right here and right now doesn’t define my walk.

So now what?

Candy. I wish I was kidding. Moments like this are what Skittles were made for, my friends. A little glycogen for the muscles, a little sugar straight to the brain brings back some semblance of motivation. I discovered Skittles without the shell in the UK and they saved me several times. Despite condensing themselves into one giant candy clump in the heat, I could always rely on these for a sweet little kick in the butt.

My second saviour will seem like a real trail rule breaker to some and that’s fine! I get it. But music motivates me like nothing else. When you really, truly need something to push you forwards, I know you have a go to song. For Wales & Cots, mine was Free by Florence and the Machine. I don’t often have headphones in my pack, but I did throw them in for the last few days on the trail. (Persistent muscle troubles and some joint pain will have you reevaluating and carrying bits & bobs you otherwise might skip.) I always have my phone, for maps and for emergencies, so at least once, on my really down day, I pulled out my headphones and set Florence to repeat. I think Shar relied on some Motley Crüe one day – whatever floats your boat or moves your feet!

Above all, the biggest thing to remember is the cheesiest platitude I have for you: This too shall pass. It will. It does. And when it happens next time, you’ll know it won’t beat you. It never has. The bonk never wins.

As long as your feet are still in your boots, you can bust through any bonk.

Cheryl

Let’s Pack – Packing Tips

12 sleeps to Scotland …

Our Scotland adventure to walk the Arran Coastal Way and climb Goat Fell Mountain is just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about the actual packing – putting stuff in stuff. We have our Let’s Pack – Toiletries and Let’s Pack – Clothing lists and now we can go from lists and piles to actually packing it into a pack!

I have learned a few tricks over the years about the actual packing part and thought I would share them with you for your next adventure.

Roll It

Yup roll everything.

There are some folks who try and say folding everything nicely and all flat like is the best way. Nope! Actual science has confirmed rolling is the way to go – and my science I mean myth busters. Each little clothing roll takes up less space than a flat fold and you can tuck and squish and jam the rolls into little nooks and crannies in your pack (or luggage).

Don’t believe me? Try it! Pack flat and then unpack and do it all again rolled – yup told yah! Oh and if you are worried about wrinkles from the rolling, I get that but don’t think you need to worry too much. In my experience the wrinkle count is about the same with a roll or a flat fold and there is no getting away from the things. That’s all part of travelling I guess – being wrinkly and not giving one hoot cause you are on vacation!

Tip: half fold and then tight roll. What? For a shirt, for example, fold it in half with the arms laid flat over it – then roll it from the collar to the bottom. This will keep the arms all nicely tucked and the roll tight. For pants you flatten/fold the legs one over the other and then roll from leg bottom to waist band.

Stuff it

Quite literally stuff all the stuff! Have you heard of compression sacks, or light weight dry sacks or stuff sacks? These are magic bags! You jam them full of all your stuff (in rolls of course, see tip above) and then you roll or tighten the closure to suck out all the extra air and compress your stuff.

Here is a photo of the clothes I am bringing to Scotland:

Now here are all of those clothes, less my fleece, that have been rolled and compressed into my 8L lightweight stuff sack:

My fleece doesn’t go into the stuff sack because it will be coming on the plane with me as a pillow or shawl or blanket or maybe just a fleece as it was design to be. However I put it in this photo so you can use it to see just how small that stuff sack is – and it has all my clothes in it that were in the previous picture. I probably could have compressed it even more too!

You don’t need a heavy weight stuff or compression or dry sack for packing – something lightweight does the trick! So do not go out and buy those heavy duty water proof boat bags or anything – that will just add weight. We are focused on lightweight for backpack packing. Not only will these sacks help reduce the amount of room your clothes take but it also creates compartments of sorts in your pack or luggage to keep you organized.

Caution: using stuff sacks does not give you permission to pack more than you need! Just because there is a bit more space does not mean you need to fill it with that ‘just in case’ extra dress or that shirt ‘I hoped I would actually like on vacation’. Leave the untested and maybe items at home. Enjoy the space, not the extra stuff!

Ziplock It

As you have read in my past few blog posts – I love me some Ziplock magic!

I encourage you to put all your potentially messy and goopy stuff like shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen in Ziplocks when you pack it – both for the plane and on the the trip. I have been the gal who has a shampoo explode in her suitcase and can still get grumpy thinking about the mess lol

Ziplocks are also good for compression and compartmentalizing your stuff. The Sea to Summit or similar stuff / dry sack pictured above can be a bit tough on the budget – you will only ever have to buy em once and use them for every trip you will ever take in your life but they are not cheap. So if money is a consideration as I imagine it is for all of us – there is a back up Ziplock solution.

Grab some big Ziplocks to pack you clothes in. Maybe a Ziplock XL Freezer size for your shorts and pants, a XL for your shirts and Buffs, another L for undies and swimming costume. (I love that word)

Once you clothes are all nicely rolled and tucked into the Ziplock, you will want to push out as much air as possible and close the zip almost all the way. Leave about a 1inch section of the zip not closed. At this gap you are going to literally suck the air out of the bag and then close when it’s all gone. No joke. This really works!

Group It

Did you notice a theme among all these tips? I am big on grouping like items with like items and suggest this for anyone packing a bag, a pack, a suitcase.

Grouping your travel stuff basically mimics the organization you have at home. This will make finding things and re-packing things while abroad so much easier for you. Don’t be the person who has to un-roll and un-stuff everything to find that one thing – pack in such a way that you know where all the things are! This will save you time, reduce stress, keep your travel companions happy, and get you to the tourist stuff faster – the reason you packed all this in the first place!

There are a few different trains of thought for how to group items for your different stuff sacks, compartments or Ziplocks. Some people stuff by outfit – so they will have a roll for each day (bottoms, top and undies all rolled together) and out all those daily rolls in one stuff sack. I don’t bring enough tops and bottoms for each day so this never works for me but I do like the idea in theory. Some people may put all the tops on one sack and all the bottoms in another. This doesn’t work for me either because then I have to open both sacks each time instead of just one for the whole ensemble.

Finding the way that works for you may take a few trips or re-packs but once you do  – wow, the heavens will sing for ya!  Here is how I will be organizing for this hiking trip:

  • Big Stuff Sack: all my hiking clothes (not undies, socks, or outdoor layers like jackets)
  • Med Stuff Sack: all of my extra bits like pajama, city tourist clothes, train/plane clothes
  • Med / Small Stuff Sack: undies, sports bras, socks and liners, Buffs, toque
  • Med /Small Stuff Sack: all the dirty clothes

When I am on a non-hiking holiday, like a trip to a hot destination, I will have a large stuff sack for evening destination wear, a sack for daytime beach wear (bathing costume and cover-ups), a sack for my running gear, and one for all my undies, pajama, etc. So a bit different than my backpacking or hiking pack grouping but same idea.

Organize It

Roll it, stuff it, group it  – got it! You got the basics if you have all that well in hand, but  I figured I would dazzle you (ha ha I am probably the only one who is dazzled by packing ideas) with some additional packing / organizational tips to consider…

  • Shower Caps: use these to cover the bottom of the shoes you pack. You can use a shoe bag or Ziplock of course but when those aren’t available a shower cap works to cover the dirty sole of any shoe – the little elastic around the edge keeps it nicely secured. I steal every hotel shower cap I can get my hands on! Flip flops can go in one cap sole to sole and boots one cap per sole.
  • Make-up bags or pencil cases: back to grouping again here! Never leave an item loose! If you have some pens, highlighter, and a journal – put them all in a zippered case! Make it big enough for your wallet and passport too. If you have some toiletries you need on the plane (lip chap, hand cream, floss, etc) – put them all in a wee make-up bag or better yet the 1L clear plastic security bag at the airport. Little, light zippered cases will save you digging around trying to find stuff – from believing you have lost the 4th lip chap of the trip – and can add some personality to your pack. I have a pencil case for my toiletries that has a world map on it, I feel like such a globe trotter when I pull it out.
  • Extra Ziplocks and some elastics: toss a few of each in a case or extra Ziplock and bring them along. These are great for storing left over snacks, leaky tubes of face cream or whatever might bring en route, or soggy socks. Elastics are great for closing chip or crisp bags, keeping your journal closed when it’s full of train tickets and receipts or other ephemera, etc.
  • Carabiners: grab a few of these and attach them to your pack or your cases inside of your pack for the trip. A small one and a couple mediums should do the trick. These are great for clipping items into place in your pack or on your pack (like when you need to dry your socks you hand-washed that morning). I also use them to close the zippers on my city-tourist day pack so the sneaky pick pockets have to work a little harder. I use them to hand my towel or toiletries in the shower so my stuff does not sit on the floor wet. So many amazing uses for these things. Oh and you do not need to buy the rock climbing grade Carabiner – they should only cost you a couple bucks each for the ones you need.

Well that is my approach to packing the things in the things – now I am off to get some training in! With just 12 sleeps left I want to get as many miles as I can in every day – today I am touring downtown Victoria with 30lbs in my pack (aka my entire John Grisham novel collection) and my sneakers.

Next week we will talk about packing documents for your trip. Yup, even this subject is worth a whole blog post my Running for the Gate friends!

Brande 

Let’s Pack – Toiletries

With just 5 weeks (eeeek) to our departure for Scotland and the 100km Arran Coastal Way and some Edinburgh and Glasgow sight seeing, these next posts few posts will focus on what is currently top of mind for our merry travelling band – what to pack!

While I would never claim to be a packing expert, I do have some handy tips and tricks that work well for me and just might be something that could work for you. How do I know some bits about this? Well, I have read dozens and dozens of books, follow way too many travel blogs, comb through loads of trail guides, and have had to pack for quite a few long, walking holidays myself. Also, I have some packing lessons I learnt the hard way that I would gladly share with you all to save you stress they caused me – like realizing I packed everything but a comb or brush and had no place to buy one for 4 days. Scarecrow!

This week lets focus on packing toiletries – yes, toiletries. You are probably wondering how could there possibly be enough info in my brain to dump on you about toiletries to fill a blog post and keep you entertained. Ha! There is more in my brain on this topic (and all things packing and prep) than you can imagine or that I ever thought was up in there. You will see. Here we go …

Toiletries – My Tips and Tricks: 

  • You will use less than you think of most stuff and more of some stuff than you ever thought. How confusing is that! Basically, don’t stress about amounts – figure it out by doing a trial! Schedule a two week duration (or the length of the trip you are going on) before you go and use the products you intend to take for that same time frame. Pay special attention to what you use everyday, how much you use, and also what you don’t use. Pack the items and the amount accordingly.
  • Don’t pack the ‘that would be cool’ stuff. Like you have his awesome charcoal mask you use once in a very blue moon but think hmm maybe I would have time to do it while relaxing or journaling on the trip. Nope! You won’t. Don’t pack it. If you didn’t use it during your home trial (see above) – it doesn’t get a place in your pack!
  • If you have a roomie or travel buddy, think about sharing. For example, one of you bring the conditioner and another the shampoo.
  • If you are bringing a blow-dryer, straightener, or other electronic hair appliance they will need a converter which can be purchased before you go – you will need one that not only converts the style of plug but also the voltage or watts. Cautionary tale, I have NEVER had success with a converter and I think my current international ‘blow up a blow-dryer’ count is at about 5 and the last even burnt my hand. Boo! Instead of buying a converter, I suggest you buy a small blow-dyer or whatever once you arrive at your destination (researching where there is a store that sells them and how to get there from your arrival spot before you depart of course – so it’s a quick stop and not a waste of a tourist day).
  • Prescription medications must be in their original prescribed container and should be in your carry-on that you take on the plane. This is important for customs but also for your health! Should your checked luggage be lost or delayed, you can buy new underpants and deodorant but replacing that prescription blood pressure medication is a bit tougher, expensive and can mess with your trip plans.
  • Over the counter medications that you might want to bring should be in their original blister packs but to save space I tend to take the blister packs out of the box and rip off just the name and dosage instructions from the original pack. I then toss an elastic around the blister packs and the package bits I ripped off so they are together and you know how much to take should you need to. If space is really tight, remember you can buy this kind of stuff in most countries so you don’t need to pack too much. Just pack enough to to cover you for a few days for immediate relief until you can buy more locally. I suggest a few of the following: Gravol, Immodium, Pepto Bismal, Daytime Cold & Sinus, Nighttime Cold & Sinus, Tylenol and/or Advil plus any other specifics you tend to suffer from, i.e. maybe cold sore medication or something like that.
  • Always pack an extra lip chap or 5! I swear there is a lip chap conspiracy in this world where they magically walk away, lose themselves, disappear, invisibility cloak themselves, something. I don’t lose things but I cannot keep a handle on a lip chap so something is going on with those wee tubes! I will be bringing 4 on this trip (one in my day pack, one in my carry on, and 2 spare in my toiletries kit).
  • Everyone is pretty and somehow most especially when they are happy, and I find I am pretty darn cute (tee hee) when travelling cause I am so much in my happy place! So don’t worry about bringing stuff to glam yourself up with – happiness will do that for you! Think simple day to day toiletries stuff not night out on the town, look at me like I am in Las Vegas stuff.
  • If you use bar soap, think about cutting it in half for the trip. I have a rule – 1/2 bar of Ivory lasts me 30 days so long as I dry it after each shower. I take with me a 1/2 bar Ivory and a 1/2 bar Rocky Mountain Soap Company Shave Bar on each trip of 30 days or less. I dry them off after the shower so they do not dissolve more than necessary and they are stored in a wee baby zip lock together – they get along and appreciate the company I think.

Toiletries – My Packing List: 

Here is what I will be taking and/or recommend folks consider taking, in travel size containers that will be the perfect amount plus a wee squeeze extra for your trip.

  • Face Cream and Face Sunscreen (daily, combo if you have it)*
  • Face wash, wipes or soap (some use their body for face, or have a combo)
  • Shampoo and conditioner (or combo if that works for you lid)
  • Daily hair products (I use an oil in my hair every few days to keep it silky and have a wee baby travel bottle I use to take just enough for the trip)
  • Make-up (powder, mascara, eye liner, lip gloss, lash curler, and a bit of cheek colour which can also be used eye shadow if you  wanna kick it up a notch)*
  • Make-up remover (if needed, aka for my waterproof mascara)
  • Deodorant or antiperspirant*
  • Body cream
  • Body soap (1/2 bar)
  • Shave soap (1/2 bar)
  • Razor
  • Tweezer
  • Comb and/or brush (aka anti-scarecrow device)
  • Daily medications and vitamins*
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss*
  • Q-tips
  • Some hair taming things (bobby pins, elastics, scrunchy)
  • Hairspray
  • Dry Shampoo
  • Tiny bathroom spray so your roomie doesn’t have to smell you post bathroom ick
  • Perfume**

*I take these items on the plane with me so after 15 hours of travel with 10+ of those on a plane, I can do a little pre-landing freshen up and hit a new country with confidence!

** A trick I use for perfume to avoid bringing a glass perfume bottle with me … dampen a few paper towels, spray liberally with your perfume and store these damp, smelly towels in a air tight Ziplock bag. When you need to smell nice (before landing on your transatlantic flight, out to the pub for eats after a day of hiking), simply dab the perfume soaked damp paper towel where you would usually spritz and return to / resell the Ziplock. Magnifique!

Toiletries – How to Pack Them Advice:  

  • Perfume – see above **
  • Every day and just in case – have two lightweight, mesh cases for your toiletries. One that stores all your everyday stuff from face cream to mascara to shampoo. The other for the just in case like those sinus or allergy meds that you hope you never need. You keep this second one buried in your bag and the other on top for easy access! This way you are not shuffling past some of these just in case items to get to your daily sunscreen – saving loads of time and frustration in your daily routine.
  • Hands and surface free – keeping on that same theme of having one bag for all that you use everyday, also think about putting an S hook or carabiner on the bag for off the counter storage. This is especially important when staying in hostels or B&Bs with share bathrooms where counter space is at minimum or at best soggy from the last patron and no one wants to put a soggy toiletries bag back in their pack.
  • Ziplock it – store your shampoo, conditioner and other gooey toiletries in a big ziplock bag when you check it in. A poor firing lid, the pressure on the plane and baggage handling can cause gooey implosions from those items. While easy enough to clean up, you do need to be careful about wasting the volume of product that was meant to last the duration of your trip. If the mess happens in a ziplock you can still use what made the mess!

Well that’s the toiletries run down – told you I had a lot to say about dental floss and shampoo!

Brande

Final Prep and Packing for the Camino

With just 3 sleeps left to departure for Paris then train onto St. Jean Pied de Port to start the first of 3 Camino trails things are starting to get very real – and I feel like I am taking over the house with all of the final prep bits!

My scrapbook / craft studio has become a large display case for what will go in my backpack on Friday morning and for the next 36 sleeps after live on my back day to day, kilometer after kilometer. Everything is laid in a specific order (to me). Rolled where final decision has been made and that item is for sure coming – and only folded if I am unsure if its the “one” that gets to come with me. Post-it notes where I still need to grab the stuff from drawers or the laundry room or the drying rack.

My scrapbook / craft table has become a language lesson centre with all of my language cheat sheets spread out and ready for me to add to as and when I hear a word or phase in French, Spanish or Portuguese from my playbacks I didn’t write down yet. I am starting to get the languages down pat (well good enough anyway) but my “accent” for each is sounding oddly blended. I am rolling Rs and sh’ing Sh all over the place, even when I don’t need to. I am hoping that the nice people of the countries we visit will just find me eccentric and dramatic but still understand me. (like y’all do here in Canada!)

My kitchen counter has become a language playback display case. Each day and sometimes more than once a day, I grab one of the language lesson playbacks and throw the ear plugs in and practice. My morning run today was Portuguese. I was French on the way to work and back, and am about to get some Spanish in this evening. I have to return all of these to the library on Friday morning before we depart on a jet plane – so packing in my final refreshers while I can. Muy bien!

Finally, my poor walls have also been dragged into this prep mayhem with a large (think movie poster size) packing list in red Sharpie taking up some serious real estate. What is certain is written out, and what is still up for final decision is written and circled. Thurs night (last night home) I will compare the poster list to what is on the floor and cross the items off accordingly with a black Sharpie if they are there and make the final cut for the journey. { If any of my staff are reading this this post, you now have proof that I subject myself to the sharpie and post-it poster ordeal too – it’s not just a special torture I save for you all. LOL } 

By Thursday night all of these spaces and places will be returned to normal, and the house will get one final deep clean from me … leaving my hubby with a beautiful and back to normal home while I am off putting miles on with Lana!

Weird. I couldn’t help thinking this morning that it was my last Tuesday waking up in my own bed until October. I think of all back-home comforts I will miss, the top of my list is my hubby (of course, big style) and the second is my comfy, amazing, no other pilgrims snoring or making other gaseous sounds, bed bug free, king size bed.

It’s the simple things in life, you know?

Brande

PS tres duerme

 

Documenting my Camino

While hiking and travel are for sure the hobbies I am most passionate about, scrapbooking is a very close second for me. Scrapbooking is this amazing way of creating photo albums that use various paper and embellishments (think small craft items) and lots of journaling to document the photo and its story. Check out Scrapstorian, a scrapbooking blog I have with my sister and our sister-in-scrapbooking!

Any who, a little fun digression there but let’s get back to it …

When hiking and travel and scrapbooking collide, wow! The heavens open and I can hear the angels of hobbies singing! And those angels will be singing for me when I get home and scrapbook my entire Camino trip. But now I get to satisfy this passion even while abroad. thanks to my new love for Traveler’s Notebooks (TN), a sort of on the go, in the moment journal and scrapbook. I am grooving to the beautiful singing of the hobby angels every step of the way AND during every page I make in my album when back home! Nothing like milking a single experience for every drop of greatness.

Let me tell you a little bit more about my approach with a TN and some ideas on what you might include in your travel notebook or journal or blog whatever way you document your travels in future.

To start, here is my Notebook (I am sort of squealing with excitement because I have been dying to get a notebook from MAKER THIRTY FIVE and bam, here it is – thank you for such a timely sale ladies!):

Camino Traveler's Notebook Cover

Now one of the MANY benefits of a TN is that it comes with no guts (insides). Just a number of elastics which you can use to hold any type of insert (think soft covered notebook) you want. If you like grids vs lines or dots and a calendar or blank – they have got it. You can buy up whatever type you like, or any combo that you like and just put it in your journal – find the middle of the notebook and slide it under one of the elastics until it sits in the middle. Like this:

Camino Traveler's Notebook Insert Elastic

I have thought long and hard about what to include in my TN to best serve what I want and how I want to document my Camino. I dont want to carry about something I will not use or force myself to use a solution that is not quite right for me. Here is what I have come up with and I am confident it will be magic:

JOURNALING – I prefer writing on grid paper, and the smaller the grid the better. So when I found the Chelsea Paper Co on Etsy.ca and their 3mm grid notebook I ordered up that goodness double time. So I have 5 of these, 3 currently in my Notebook to get me started (I write a lot when travelling and secretly dream of writing a book about my travels so I need to take notes like it will change my life!)

SKETCHING – I prefer sketching on blank paper, like most folks I am sure. So I have also included a notebook of blank, beautifully smooth, and super white paper from another of my favourite planner company’s The 4107 Planners.

ORGANIZING – I prefer keeping a to-do or “remember this” sort of list in a calendar type format, so I also included some weekly organization pages (includes a spot for each day of the week and a to-do list spot) that I printed for FREE from my peeps at The 1407 Planners team – thank you! On these pages I will make note of when we have to call an albergue (hostel) the day before to confirm, or when there is no grocery store for a couple days so we need to stock up on apples and chocolate.

EXTRA BITS – In the little side pockets of the Notebook I have tucked some washi tape (very thin decorated tape) that I will use to secure in bus tickets, coasters, etc. as memorabilia directly into my journal – much thinner and lighter than the usual glue stick I travel with. I have also created myself language recipe cards (albergue = hostel, cervaza = beer) in Spanish and Portuguese so I will tuck this in there as well.

I added a little flair to each of the notebooks with stickers and papers from my scrapbooking collection, some amazing bits my sister-in-scrapbooking (Cheryl) gave me and voila. I think it looks so awesome and am first day of school excited to start writing in it!

tn_insidepeek

Ok so blank canvas is ready, now what to actually write and sketch?

I am not sure exactly how it will all pan out in reality but below is a list of ideas I have about what I can include in my Camino Traveller’s Notebook – a big thanks to all the various blogs and Instagram folks and magazines I read that inspired this list:

  • Sketch cool logos, street art, streets, bridges, churches or buildings that I see (I used to love to draw houses around my neighbourhood, I am going to try and find that 10yr old me again!)
  • Sketch what is my carry on, backpack, daily outfits, funny
  • Use bullet lists to document top 10 favourite foods in Spain or Portugal, fav pilgrims, fav hostel
  • Write out all pretty and fancy quotes I find that I love or mean something
  • Quotes from fellow pilgrims or people we meet on the way that are funny, profound
  • A day by day account of my travels, the good – the bad – the ugly and in between
  • Where we eat and what, what we saw, places we visited, kms we walked in a day, etc.

I love to journal and I find I write the most when I am travelling and even more when I am hiking – funny how our happy places inspire us to do all the other stuff that makes us happy too. So while I know this might be a bit much to carry as far as weight in my backpack is concerned – I am ok with that and have managed my other pack items (their weight and how many) accordingly.

Stay tuned for updates as me and my TN take on Spain, Portugal and France

Brande

PS Just 5 sleeps now!

Wrapping Up My Camino Research

Camino Books

My research on what to expect, what to bring, what time of year to go, how long I would need, and so much more for my upcoming Camino de Santiago adventure started almost a decade ago, in 2008. Yup, 2008. I came across a great article in some magazine that sparked the ‘follow the Way’ bug in me!

Within weeks I bought and poured through A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago by John Brierley, the 2008 edition. My desire to clip a scallop shell to my pack and follow the yellow arrows of the Camino were never too far from the surface since. It’s now August 2017 and I am just 11 sleeps from departure.

In this last year I have done a lot of research to prepare for the journey. I thought I would share a bit about the non-fiction books I have read and the tips I derived from each for my Camino. Here goes:

Guidebook(s) to the Camino de Santiago, John Brierley 

As part of my research, I have read the 2017 version of the Guidebook for the Way of St. James (French Way) that I read back in 2008, the Portuguese Way (Camino Central), and the Muxia Circuit through Finisterre way – both the full Guidebooks and the shorter Map book versions. These books by Mr. Brierley are often referred to as the ‘bible of the Camino’ and for good reason. They have everything you need. Maps with breakdowns of the distance on different kinds of surfaces (woodland path vs forest roads), elevation gain, info about areas and places, where to stay and where to get your next cafe con leche. If you are going to walk the Camino and only had time to read one book, make it a Mr. Brierley guidebook!

TIP: I will be taking the Map versions of each of 3 of these Ways with me on the journey as we will be walking some or all of each. However … avert your eyes all book lovers this hurts my heart too … I have ripped out any page I don’t need to cut down on the size and weight of each book. Weight or lack thereof in your pack is critical for the Way.

I’m Off Then, Hape Kerkeling 

Here is where I admit I was seriously hoping to find a Bill Bryson book on the Camino. I have read every single one of his books and thought maybe there was a secret stash only those who have bought their flight to St. Jean Pied de Port where the St. James Way to Santiago starts know about. Nope. But a darn near close second was this book, It even had a recommendation from Mr. Hilarious Travel Exploits Bill Bryson himself. For good reason too – this book was an easy, entertaining and really enjoyable read.  Hape has a great way of explaining people and places with just enough detail to leave an impression and make you want to to head there to see it for yourself. On it!

TIP: Every chapter in this book finishes with an insight of the day. Most were really great reminders like drink more and some were quite profound. I have made a note in my journal to come up with an insight daily (and yes you will be subjected to each here on this blog). I want to see if mine too go from basic needs (drink more) to profound and insightful and often spiritual like Hape’s did by the time he reach Santiago.

The Way, My Way A Camino Memoir, Bill Bennett 

While this book was definitely about Bill’s Camino experience and included information on the route, walking, how his body held up (or didn’t);  it was also so much more. Bill really got into the story of other pilgrim’s. The getting to know them, learning why they were walking, and overall just making a real connection with other people’s and their story. He brought this all into his memoir. So it was really like reading the memoirs of many, not just Bill’s. The laughs throughout the book were icing on the cake.

TIP: Talk to people, engage and interact with other pilgrim’s. To some of you that may sound like a total no-brainer but for this introvert it is something I will have to really think about and force myself to do. I will though, commitment made (and now I want to build a fort in my room and hide lol).

What the Psychic Told the Pilgrm, Jane Christmas

Jane sets out on the Camino with a bunch of women she barely or does not know at all. After mentioning she is going to walk the Way to an acquaintance back home within chapters she is a Camino tour guide effectively to a bunch of other women. Of course you can guess that does not lend itself to a restful and spiritual Camino but rather a lonely, crazy making, frustrating one until Jane takes her Camino back.

TIP: Walk your Way, your way. I am heading to the Camino with my bestie Lana (and fellow blogger here on Running for the Gate) and we made a ‘pinky swear’ of sorts to make sure we do in fact walk the Way, our own way. We each have one “we are not walking today” card and neither of will walk that day AND we have unlimited with no judgement or shame “I am not walking today” where the other one can walk and we will meet up at our destination.

Call of the Camino, Robert Muller 

This book is half Robert’s account of his pilgrimage and half explanation of the myths and legends along the Camino route all intermixed throughout. I really liked this format. I geeked out and made notes so I could tell Lana about legends as we walk through certain areas and churches. I love the Rooster in the church story!  I also found personal Robert’s experience honest, easy to read and I hope my experience is something like his is on the Way. I loved how he, like Bill Bennett, also included the stories and his connection with other Pilgrim’s.

TIP: Learn about where you are going. Know some of the history, myths and legends of where you will be visiting. I do this for every trip and it really brings me joy. I find recognizing something, even a story or history of a building, while abroad helps with the homesickness that even the most experience travelers deal with.

Beun Camino! Camino de Santiago: A Father-Daughter Journey (ebook)

I am racing to read this book before I depart on my own Camino next week. The book is written jointly by Natasha (daughter) and Peter (dad). Each chapter has “Peter” sections and “Natasha” sections about the same day or trail section and has a whole bunch of history and legend of the Way and St. James throughout. So far it is really great!

TIP: If you are going to share your Camino, do it with someone you love – someone who encourages you but doesn’t pressure you – someone who will approach the Way in a similar frame of mind – someone who will also give you the room to make your Way, your way. I am super lucky to have this in my Camino mate Lana but I could have also happily and ecstatically walked with my Dad too. Wow, that would have been amazing! (Dad, there are a bunch of other routes to Santiago. What you doing next year?)

The Way of the Stars, Robert C. Sibley 

Robert has walked the Way of St. James twice. Do not be surprised by that – from what I have read once the Camino is in your blood you cannot help but want to do it again! The first time Robert walked it was alone and this second time he set off with his young adult son. Robert gives the details of his first walk and provides insights on how he now sees the Camino a second time but with his son at his side (or ahead on the trail). An easy read with lots of good chuckles throughout.

TIP: Bring something you learned on the Camino, home with you. Robert spends quite a bit of his story talking about being unconnected from the urban life, really enjoying the break from a commute and daily work demands. I want to focus on how good it feels to just walk and bring that home with me. Like not getting so caught up in the house needing to be vacuumed that I don’t go for a hike. The lint on the carpet can wait but my peace of mind shouldn’t.

The Journey In Between, Keith Foskett (ebook)

I saved the best (aka my favourite) for last. This book is awesome. Keith Foskett is a thru hiker and an author – my own dream. His Camino story hit home for me as it is blatantly obvious he loves nature and loves putting one foot in front of the other. Me too! I love eating up space and time with my own two feet then looking back and thinking “I did that”. Keith’s story made me laugh out loud, cringe at the pain of his blisters, agree audibility with his insights, and chomp at the bit to start my own Camino.

TIP: Almost all not-so-great-events will make a good story next week or next year. Even situations and circumstances that in the moment feel awful may be the best story you ever told. When I walked the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales in 2008 with a 102 fever due to infected spider bites it was awful BUT it makes a great story when trading travel experiences with others!

Well that’s my book list … so far. I have no doubt I will be adding to this list when I get back. Reading for nostalgic instead of research purposes. Really, my ultimate dream would be to add my own book to this list. Can you imagine!

Brande 

PS 11 Sleeps!

Only 4 Sleeps (Packing Rules)

Ok this is getting really real!

This time next week we will already on our 2nd day of our 7 day trek up and over Mount Kilimanjaro… and I just did a little scream of excitement.  Well to be honest there is also a simmering scream of some nervous butterflies working their queasy magic on my tummy too. Every day up till now I have been super excited. Today I started to get nervous. Yes the nerves could be because of the snow on the Mountain, could be because there are some inherent risks with such a climb, but it is more than likely just because I want everything to go as well as it can for all of us travelling and I tend to worry about this more and for everyone.

Getting nervous – needed a distraction – stop thinking about it – finish packing!

I am lucky, the art of packing is pretty easy for me. I have adopted a few rules from people much smarter than me over the years and made up a few of my own. They may work for you as well in future, take a peek:

  1. Never pack a top (shirt, tank, long sleeve) that does not match EVERY one of your bottoms (pants, skirt, shorts). If it does not get along with everyone, it does not get invited to the backpack party!
  2. Never pack that one item you have never worn but you are certain it would be perfect for this trip. Nope, its not. Even if you pack it, you will never actually wear it. Well you might try it on but it will never leave your hostel, hotel, B&B, tent, etc. Trust me. Leave it at home or better yet pass that thing on to someone deserving feel the relief.
  3. If you do not love how something makes you feel at home you will hate it even more abroad. Travelling is about absorbing all around you and is not about adjusting and worrying about wardrobe. It is not the time to try and suffer through those skinny jeans that really don’t make you happy, or the bra strap that never stays up.
  4. Do always bring a very basic scarf that can go with anything you bring as a fashion accessory, to keep the neck warm when you get that weird sore throat that seems to always happen on planes, and to cover those shoulders and any cleavage if you are visiting any churches or the such. Also a scarf is great to put on the seat when you are wearing shorts or skirt so your bare skin is not on that well used train cushion.
  5. Do always toss in a couple of Ziploc style bags of different sizes and a couple of those bag closure clips in your backpack. Nothing worse than buying that awesome peanut snack mixture and having no way to close it securely before you put it in your pack to roll about with your nice clean clothes that need to stay that way!
  6. Of course, roll all clothes – do not fold!
  7. Put the big stuff in first and fill in the open gaps in the bag with the little rolled clothing. Put the heavy stuff at the bottom of the bag.
  8. Never leave anything to memory. We have all said to ourselves “I will toss in my ___ the morning before I go” and then you get on the plane and you have that sinking, awful feeling cause you know you forgot! If you need to put something into your bag at the last minute or when the laundry is done or whatever, write it on a post it and put that on or by your bag. Replace the post it with the actual item before you leave and voila.
  9. Charge it all before you go to the max. Camera, phone, Kobo, Kindle, iPod or whatever get it to 100% so you are not worried about getting a place where you can charge it more than you are about soaking in the amazing place you have traveled to.
  10. If you absolutely cannot imagine the trip without an item – do not leave it to chance in your checked bags. Carry that thing or those things on to the plane. I am carrying all my Mount Kilimanjaro essentials with me on the plane, and wearing my boots as well.
  11. Final trick, if you forgot it – it wasn’t mean to come! Ok this does not apply to important medications and deodorant but I mean that shirt, or those blingy flip flops, etc. Don’t sweat it. Embrace it!
  12. Absolute, final trick, If you are that heart broken that you forgot it… its a sign you are meant to buy it when you get there! Come on it could be your souvenir! Ha ha ha 🙂

Osprey packing

My day pack for Mount Kilimanjaro with everything I need for the Mountain (carrying this guy on the plane) .. with post it notes for items I still need to add.

Ok back to packing and being mindful of my own “rules”!

Brande

PS: only, for real, no joke, can you believe it, 4 sleeps left!