Shoe Selection

The process of deciding and selecting the best shoe to carry our bodies 15 miles a day has been at times a confusing process. Should one go with a sturdy hiking sort of boot? In the beginning that was my assumption. On the other hand, in the spirit of going light that isn’t necessarily consistent when you consider that your legs have to pick up the weight of your shoe or boot countless times during a 15 mile day. Upon visiting a local shoe store, we were surprised to find out that hikers from the nearby Pacific Crest Trail have come in to buy high quality running shoes, such as Cascadia Brooks, to carry them 2,000 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. This is certainly a journey that I would consider more rugged than the journey we are preparing for. Since these shoes are considered good for 4-500 miles, hikers on the PCT have been known to go through five pairs to complete their journey.

Coincidentally, just a few days after our visit to the shoe store we bumped into a young couple on a local hiking trail wearing exactly the same pair of shoes that we were considering in the store. We stopped to ask about his experience with the shoes and he said that he had recently completed the Pacific Crest Trail and strategically went through five pairs of these shoes! That was all I needed to hear for a good recommendation. My stereotype about sturdy hiking boots was broken and the decision to go with a light pair of quality running shoes was cemented.

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History in a Scallop Shell

The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James as it is known in English, has been a significant Christian pilgrimage route for over 1,000 years. Having reached its zenith in the middle ages, during the 11th and 12th centuries Santiago could receive up to 1,000 pilgrims on a daily basis!

This religious pilgrimage was one of three main pilgrimage destinations in the Christian world, the others being Jerusalem and Rome. The advantage that Santiago had was that it could be reached by foot from most points in Europe. Jerusalem was considered to be too dangerous at times and Rome was more often reached by boat.

Pilgrims made the perilous journey for many reasons, which were mainly religious. Prayer, petitions for healing, and the atonement of sins were common motivations for the journey.

The Protestant Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in 1520 claimed that access to God was given by grace.  According to the Reformation, particular actions, such as walking several hundred miles, were not necessary to receive God’s grace. This led to a decline in Camino usage, and accompanied by wars between Spain and surrounding regions, interest in the Camino abated even further. In subsequent years, the Age of Enlightenment would add further assault to the Camino by advancing reason and science over religious beliefs.

Fast forward to the 20th century and Don Elias Valina Sampedro devoted 30 years of his life to a resurgence of the Camino and went on to publish the first modern guidebook in 1982. In 1989 Pope John Paul II made a visit to the cathedral in Santiago, which brought about renewed interest in the region. Finally, in 1993 the Camino Frances ( the main route of several to Santiago) was declared a UNESCO world heritage site, and interest and popularity has been renewed in this historical route.

Modern pilgrims come with a variety of intellectual and spiritual motivations for their journey to Santiago, both religious and non-religious and everything in between.  Indeed, there are many paths to Santiago.

Buen Camino!

 

We Will Not Forget You!

While we are in the middle of planning our trip and all the excitement and wonder of possibility that goes along with it, I just wanted to take a moment to remember and reflect on the lives that were affected in the aftermath of the train accident that occurred in Spain last summer, just outside of Santiago de Compostela, which shall be the terminus of our summer’s journey.

Having been in Spain at the time, we visited Santiago only days after that event.  It was touching to see the hand-written notes and other devotions left in front of the main cathedral to remember and honor that lives that were lost, those who were injured, as well as the families that were affected and no doubt are suffering deeply only nearly a year later.  I can only hope that events such as these help to remind us to live our lives with purpose and intent.

 

Wishing all of you the deepest peace.Image

 

 

The Essentials

One of the things I appreciate about this kind of trip is that it forces you to think “light”. If you were walking an average of 15 miles a day, what would you want to carry on your back?  The goal for each of our packs is that they each weigh no more than 10% of our weight, so for me that rounds it up to 15 pounds.  In our planning stage we are going with the idea that it comes down to ounces, not just pounds.  I welcome the challenge and love the freedom that comes with carrying only the essentials on my back.  The main question always comes back to what’s essential.  So, if you could only carry 15 pounds, which includes the weight of your pack, what would you take?

The Decision

Well, we made up our minds.  My wife and I will walk 500 miles across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago.  Why do such a thing?  I suppose the reasons are as varied as the people who walk it.

I will offer a couple reasons of my own.  First, the only way to really get to know a place is by walking or biking through it.  Flying over an area hardly counts, driving or taking a bus gets you closer to the target, but to walk or bike will definitely leave a deeper imprint.  I am also looking forward to waking up for several mornings and thinking about the trek ahead and the encounters along the way and leaving the busy little trappings of my other life behind for a while.

Additionally, I suspect we will meet some interesting people on the way.  I  appreciate the concept of  being an “ambassador” when traveling and leaving impressions on others when on the go.  When we travel, we represent the countries we come from and I enjoy breaking stereotypes as well as having some of my own broken as I meet others and learn from them.  This is one of the richest experiences that emerges from travel, in my opinion.

In the meantime, “buen camino” and we’ll keep you posted along the way about our travels as well as a photo journey of the progress of my beard!Image