By , July 28, 2012 1:59 pm

I’m in a bit of a rut… just like the title of this post suggests, I cut my hair every six months whether it needs it or not. That may seem like a long time to go without a haircut, but it’s not really. I get it cut short (probably because I’m frugal and I don’t want to pay for more hair cuts than I need) and don’t touch it again until it’s long enough to get knotted, and hangs in my eyes. That takes six months. Any more frequent and I’d just be cutting it for fashion’s sake, and I’m too utilitarian for that.

The first time I had my hair cut this trip, it was done by a professional in Utila, Honduras. He just buzzed it short and charged me $5. It wasn’t exactly my favourite haircut of all time, but it has lasted me until now.

The Professional Haircut in Honduras

The Professional Haircut in Honduras

This time around I resolved to cut my hair myself. This decision came around for a couple of reasons. First, I had thrown out my beard trimmer when I started the Camino de Santiago. It was too heavy to mail, it was broken, and I really didn’t want to carry it on my back. So I needed to replace it. What I found was a beard trimmer capable of cutting hair, so I had the tools.

Second, I couldn’t find a place to get a haircut for less than 10€. That seemed like a lot when I had my own set of clippers.

The Process

The clippers came with an instruction manual that explained what height to set the combs to for the various parts of the head to achieve a men’s haircut. It seemed pretty easy to me, so I snuck outside by myself and started cutting with the clippers in one hand and a small pocket mirror in the other.

When I thought I was looking pretty good I headed inside to show off my work.

The Results

You can take a look a the photos yourself. After the laughs, I was sent back out for touch-ups. It seems me and the instructions used different jargon. I had thought that the “nape” of the neck would refer to everything below the bump at the back of the head that is at about the same height as your ears. It turns out, the nape is the part of the neck below the hairline. So I shaved a bit higher up than I should have… Fortunately, as my grandfather used to say,

The difference between a good haircut and a bad one is about two weeks

Two weeks later, it looks okay again.

By , July 25, 2012 9:52 am

Mike’s biggest disappoint at Versailles, France was the absence of a hedge maze. In his mind, every self-respecting castle or palace should include a confounding labyrinth of greenery in its gardens. Preferably with a minotaur.

Forget chandeliers, intricate paintings, and fancy decorations… this is what every palace REALLY needs

So, when we found out that the gardens at Schloss Schonbrunn in Vienna had an area called “The Labyrinth,” there was no question about whether we would pay the 3,50 Euro entrance fee (the fee is for the Labyrinth, the gardens are free).

When we entered the Labyrinth area, we were greeted with a children’s playground. Wanting to squeeze every last bit of value from that entrance fee that we could, we played in it. Alright, alright, it wasn’t about the money – we’ve actually played in at least a dozen playgrounds since we left home. What can I say, we’re young at heart!

Part of the playground consisted of a series of “carnival” style mirrors that we naturally had to stand in front of while taking pictures of our distorted reflections while small children had to wait. Hey, we were there first!

Where did my body go?

And, of course, there were the mazes. Three of them.  Well, two and a twisting path with no deadends which I can’t bring myself to call a maze.

One of the hedge mazes

Mike, playing in the hedge maze

Mike, playing in the hedge maze

They each had puzzles and games hidden within their paths, but… alas!… no minotaur (sorry to mislead you with the title) – though Mike certainly tried to fill the void.

Mike as a minotaur

And even if we got shown up by a six year old in the maziest maze and stumped on the math puzzle in the “one-way path that we shall not call a maze” path, we had a great time. Definitely worth the 3,50 Euro. (As long as you’re a fan of hedge mazes, that is. If you’re not a fan of hedge mazes, crazy mirrors, or moving pteradactyl playground equipment, you might be better off staying home. Or, I’ve heard that there’s some sort of palace there that’s supposed to be a big deal. You could probably check that out).

Schonbrunn palace

I’m stumped

It’s left!  … or is it right?

We finally made it to the centre! (picture taken by the smarty-pants six year old kid that beat us there)

Mike, hugging the male harmony stone in the centre of the labyrinth

By , July 19, 2012 2:27 pm

After walking every day for a little over a month, we were ready to settle down. For the past three weeks or so, we’ve been renting an apartment in Loosdorf, a small town in the middle of Austria. To get here, we flew from Santiago de Compostela to Barcelona where we spent another lovely night in the airport. From there, we flew direct to Vienna.

Barcelona Airport

Vienna is the “city of music”. We gave ourselves three days to enjoy the big city before heading to our new home town (for a little while anyways) and checking into our apartment.

For those budget minded folks out there, our Vienna cost per day was $80.01 CAD for the both of us.

St. Marxer Friedhof & Zentralfriedhof:

If you ever wanted proof that Vienna deserves to be known as the “City of Music” just head on down to the graveyards. There’s a whole host of famous composers buried here including: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and a few Strausses…

Mozart’s grave (one of two in the city)

Mozart’s actual grave can be found in the St. Marxer Friedhof.  A monument to him, along with the graves of the other composers listed above can be found in the enormous Zentralfriedhof among over 300,000 graves and crypts (and over 3 million “inhabitants”). There are no entrance fees.

Stephansdom Church:

After walking 800km to see the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, it was kind of nice to be able to take the metro to see this church. We were lucky enough to walk in during the middle of a choir/symphony rehearsal. We stayed there for most of an hour listening. There’s something really quite special about hearing live classical music being played in a stone vaulted roof church. The ambience was fantastic, and it satisfied our need to buy tickets to one of the many, many nightly symphonies, operas, or chamber music sessions that Vienna is famous for (they all seem to cost between 35-45 euros for the cheapest tickets if you’re interested).

Choir Practice


What better way to get a feel for the local cuisine than to check out the largest outdoor market in the country. The Naschmarkt is held every day of the week except Sundays. For the most part, it seemed a bit more expensive than the numerous supermarkets we stumbled into, but there was a very good selection of vegetarian and health foods at reasonable prices. The vendors seemed more than willing to give out free samples, so we indulged our taste buds a bit. In the end, we stocked up on various grains and beans, sampled the dried fruits (the dried apples were simply amazing!), cheese, falafel, and a spinach stuffed pastry.

On Saturday, there was a “flea market” attached to the Naschmarkt. We walked through it quickly, because there was nothing too exciting. There were tables and tables of “junk” on sale. The type of stuff you expect to see left behind at the end of a garage sale. Maybe the trick is to go early, or we just hit a bad weekend, but I wouldn’t be too concerned about being at the market on a Saturday to see the flea market.


Schloss Schönbrunn:

This palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s huge, and I imagine over the top luxurious. The large building and gardens brought back memories of Versailles in Paris, which we had just seen not too long ago. Because of that, we didn’t feel the need to pay to go inside. We did stroll through the garden however, and eventually came across a labyrinth and hedge maze…

The Gardens of Schloss Schönbrunn


So here we are, in the City of Music and our timing couldn’t be more fantastic. Vienna was hosting a FREE music festival the whole time we were there! We spent most of our days and evenings listening to music and sunning on the grass. The festival is held on a man made island in the Danube rive and takes place over a space of about four kilometres. There was a large variety of music ranging from Austrian folk to English oldies to death metal. With 20 stages (each with back to back performances), we had a lot of choices. When we didn’t like something, or felt like a change, we just walked over to the next stage in line.

In proper music fest fashion we ate some fried dough (langos – A thick dough shaped into a large flat circle, fried, and brushed with butter and garlic. They were refreshingly not sweet), and fresh chips. Of course everyone else seemed to be eating bratwurst and sauerkraut, but we weren’t interested in that. Okay, maybe we were tempted, but we managed to keep our vegetarian diet intact. What we really wanted were mini-doughnuts, which they had at the crazy price of 0.50€ a piece. Alas, it was too much.

Thanks for a wonderful free weekend of music, Vienna. We really, really enjoyed it.  Though you may want to consider upgrading your washroom facilities on the island. There were something like 1.8 million people in attendance at the music festival over the weekend, and almost no washrooms. On top of that, the washrooms all charged an entrance fee. Of course this was no problem for me, I just walked into the bush and took a leak with 50 other guys. Ashley, however, waited in line with the other ladies for 25 minutes and had to pay 0.50€. In the future, Vienna, if you are going to have a huge music festival, put out some free porta-potties please.

Ashley in line for the ladies room

Liquid Glam Rockets (One of the many bands we didn’t know)


Night Time

The Danube

By , July 13, 2012 7:23 am
We heart Paris

We heart Paris

One thing that we really wanted to do in Paris was have a wine, cheese, and bread picnic beneath the Eiffel Tower. So one fine day, we wandered down Rue Le Cler, stopping at the fromagerie, the boulanger, and the wine shop to pick up the necessary items. [FYI… while food generally isn’t cheap, you can buy a fine bottle of red wine for about 1,50 Euros (about $2 CAD) and champagne comes as cheap as 1 Euro a bottle.]

Best. Picnic. Ever.

Best. Picnic. Ever.

Maybe it was the wine, or maybe this post from Don’t Ever Look Back was still stuck in the back of my mind, but after our picnic I felt the insatiable desire for some more cheese…of the photo variety.

Everyone wanted some cheesy Eiffel Tower pictures

Everyone wanted some cheesy Eiffel Tower pictures

You know what I mean… those really cheesy Eiffel Tower pictures where you’re holding it or pushing it down? We got a little more creative than most… and had a blast taking them. Luckily for me, Mike was a good sport (and a great photographer!) so we got some my favourite photos from our trip thus far…


Holding the Eiffel Tower

Holding the Eiffel Tower

Push though you might, that tower isn't going anywhere

Push though you may, that tower isn’t going anywhere

Just hanging out

Just hanging out

It's all about balance

It’s all about balance

A little Eiffel Tower love

A little Eiffel Tower love

Not so much Eiffel Tower love

Not so much Eiffel Tower love here

Good to the last drop

Good to the last drop

Too much wine?

Too much wine?

Under the Eiffel Tower

Under the Eiffel Tower

Mike thinks he's King Kong

Mike thinks he’s King Kong

Pinching the Eiffel Tower

Pinching the Eiffel Tower

Makes a great leaning post

Makes a great leaning post

Uh... fail?

Uh… fail?

Playing with the wide angle at night

Playing with the wide angle at night



More smoochin'

More smoochin’

Hungry hungry Mike

Hungry hungry Mike

Cheesy photos aren't just for the Eiffel Tower... we got the pyramid at the Louvre in on the action

Cheesy photos aren’t just for the Eiffel Tower… we got the pyramid at the Louvre in on the action

Mike, pretending to be the pyramid

Mike, pretending to be the pyramid

Nap time!

Nap time!

Wow... anyone else notice how destructive Mike is in all these pictures?

Wow… anyone else notice how destructive Mike is in all these pictures?

Mike continues eating his way through Paris...

Mike continues eating his way through Paris…


By , July 9, 2012 11:00 am

If you know me and my love of numbers, you were probably wondering where all the stats were in our one year travel post.

Well, here they are!  I never meant to disappoint.  I simply had so many wonderfully awesome and arguably useless stats that they needed their own post.  And don’t worry… I’ve managed to contain myself to just a single pie chart.

The BIG Number: Budget

We (ok, I) have meticulously written down every penny spent in the past year… the cost of each hotel room, pupusa, dive lesson, tube of toothpaste, bandaid and bottle of water has been carefully recorded in a notebook and then transferred to the nifty little site,

So, at any given time, I know our spending to the penny.

Drum roll please…

Your browser does not support the audio tag.

Total Spending after One Year of Travel (for 2 people): $20,040.68 CAD (16,013.46 €)
Average Cost per Day (for 2 people):  $54.76
(43.76 €)

Our original budget goal was $100/day, so it seems we’re doing pretty good spending wise.  Obviously, that goal was too high for us. Having realized that about 6 months ago, we decided to make it our spending cap goal for expensive places.  Our new budget goal is $50-55/day, but as with everything else on this journey, even that’s a work in progress.

Here’s a breakdown of where we spent the money:

Year One Expenses
But wait, there’s so much more…

Countries & Transportation

Countries visited: 11 (Visited means we spent at least 24 consecutive hours in the country) – Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, USA, Spain, France, Austria

Border crossings: 17

Number of times we were turned back at a border: 1 (in Costa Rica, but they let us through after making us spend $50 on overpriced return bus tickets)

Total Distance Traveled: 29,764 km

  • by plane: 9492 km on 6 flights
  • by bus/automobile: 9444 km on 98 buses/colectivos/pick-up trucks/vans/tuk tuks
  • by train: 185 km on 4 trains
  • by boat: 9662 km on 32 boats
  • by foot:  923 km
  • by bike:  58 km

Most memorable mode of transportation: other than walking the Camino, definitely hitchhiking and getting a ride in the back of a pickup with dozen other people in Mexico


Average daily accommodation cost: $12.94 CAD

Most expensive bed: $78 CAD for dorm beds in Paris (but it included breakfast and supper!)

Least expensive bed (excluding free places): $3.65 CAD for a private room ensuite in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

Number of different beds slept in:  98 (39 of these were on the Camino)

Number of nights spent sleeping in:

  • Private Rooms: 146
  • Dorms: 95 (most of these, 52, were in Europe – while on the Camino and to cut costs in cities)
  • Apartments: 84
  • Five star cruise ships: 14
  • Work exchange programs: 11
  • Friends’ Homes: 5
  • Couch Surfers’ Homes: 5
  • Buses:  2
  • Airports: 2 (both in Barcelona… and let me tell you, it’s a lot more comfortable when you’re past security!)
  • Private Islands: 1
  • Climbing a Volcano (ok, there was no sleeping), then watching the sun rise:  1


Average daily food cost: $10.51 CAD

  • Meals cooked/purchased in grocery stores & bakeries: 61%
  • Meals eaten out: 30%
  • Meals included with accommodation/tours: 8%
  • Free meals: 1%

Favourite foods:  tacos, Guatemalan pineapple, baleadas; Jewel Cay donuts, gingerbread, banana tarts, and pizza; pupusas, gallo pinto,  fried yuca balls, mangoes, cashews and cashew fruit, French Brie, Paris baguettes, aged Spanish sheep’s cheese, lentils (yup, our home province is the second largest producer of green lentils worldwide, and we had to travel halfway across the globe to try our first taste of them), chocolate croissants, dinkelbrot, and really any bread in any bakery in Austria


Weight Lost:  56 lb (Mike – 22 lb, Ashley – 34 lb)

Sick Days:  20 (17 for Ashley, 3 for Mike)

Bouts of Traveller’s Diarrhea/Food Poisoning: 3 (Ashley – 3, Mike – 0… man with the iron stomach!)

Number of Doctor’s Visits:  1 (needed physicals for divemaster program)

Number of Times We Probably Should Have Seen a Doctor, but Didn’t: 3
Surprise, surprise, it’s all Ashley here – 8 consecutive days of Montezuma’s revenge in Mexico (should have self-medicated), nasty sinus infection in Utila (did self-medicate after I realized it wasn’t going away), and food poisoning on the cruise ship (they require that you report all gastrointestinal issues to the ship’s doctor, but I self-quarantined myself while I was sick instead of a forced quarantine)

Unintentional Changes to the Gear List

Number of Times We Were Robbed: 3 (camera pickpocketed in Quetzaltenago, Guatemala; bag stolen from overhead bin of bus in Costa Rica; wallet with ~$15 pickpocketed in Antigua, Guatemala)

Number of Items We Lost:  5 (Ashley’s hat, both our Nalgene bottles, camp soap, Ashley’s quick-dry Northface t-shirt)

Number of Items Broken: 2 (Ashley sat on her Kindle in Antigua, Guatemala and Mike’s (cheap) beard trimmer)

Other Stuff

Money Earned from Working:  Mike – $30 (divemaster job = $5, cutting the grass at our apartment in Austria = $25), Ashley – $0

Number of Photos Taken:  6071 (actually, this is the number we’ve kept… many many more were taken)

Books Read:  96 (Ashley – 56, Mike – 40)

Postcards Mailed Home:  34

Souvenirs Purchased: 0 When I left home, I fully intended to buy something from each country or region and mail it home.  That way, when we eventually settled down, we could have a house full of cool stuff from our travels.  I even made Mike promise me that he wouldn’t harass me about the money when I did the souvenir shopping.  But, to date, I never saw anything that I just had to have. I’m 100% satisfied with the memories (and maybe a few photos) of our experiences… no stuff necessary!

Number of Times We Paid to Get Our Laundry Done:  1 (Rio Dulce, Guatemala… I’ve never seen it rain so much for 3 days straight… we had no hope of hanging our clothes to dry)

Mountains Summited:  4 (doesn’t include mountains crossed on the Camino, as they weren’t summited)

Total Time Spent Underwater:  74 hours, 30 minutes (each)

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited:  19

Like these stats?  You can find just about all of them, updated year-round, on our permanent stats page.

By , July 6, 2012 6:00 am

366 days ago today (no, I haven’t forgotten how many days are in a year… 2012 was a leap year), we stepped off a plane in Cancun, Mexico with no idea what the future would hold.  Literally.  We had no plan past getting to our Couchsurfing host’s house and even that turned out to be an adventure in itself.

Here we are, one year later, with a totally different perspective on life and travel.  If you’ve been following along the whole way, you’ll know what a journey it’s been.  Here’s a little summary for you.

Where Have We Been?

After a year of ever-changing plans, we’ve discovered the only itinerary we can claim to have is the list of places we’ve already been.  Everything else is up in the air and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before we left, we posted a rough itinerary that we haven’t really looked at since.  So here’s a visual of where we’ve actually been.

Click for larger image

Where We Are Now?

The literal answer to that question is an apartment in Loosdorf, Austria.  But you could have read that on our sidebar.

Digging deeper, I can say we are happyAnd that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?  We now value happiness in a way that we never did before.  We wake up each morning excited to experience the day. We hope that no matter what happens, this will be true for the rest of our lives.

We have both explored spirituality to a deeper level than ever before, particularly the ideas and values of Buddhism (Ashley) and Hinduism (Mike).

We are now happy, healthy vegetarians.  Contrary to popular belief back home in Saskatchewan (the land of meat and potatoes), we CAN get enough protein, iron, and all that other good stuff from plant-based food.  Not only are our bodies not suffering from four months of being vegetarian, they have never felt stronger or more energetic.  And our heads are clearer too.

We’ve talked about the physical changes we’ve gone through many times before, but here’s a quick reminder. Mike has lost nearly 20 pounds (9 kg) and I’ve lost about 35 (16 kg).  We’ve gained muscle mass.  Our hair has grown out and been bleached by the sun.  Our skin has a healthy glow, instead of the pasty whiteness of people who spend all their time indoors.  Even though we’re a year older, we look and feel significantly younger.  (In fact, we have a hard time convincing fellow travellers that we’re not fresh out of university.  One lady was sure we had just graduated high school!)

Here’s a little photo montage of us in each country we’ve passed through… notice the evolution from the chubby faces and glazed expressions in the first ones to the happy, healthy people at the end?

A Year of Ashley


Where Are We Going?

This is a loaded question.  We have learned a lot about our travel style in the past year.  Ask either of us what our favourite experiences were, and we won’t hesitate to list the Camino de Santiago in Spain, becoming divemasters in Honduras, working on an organic farm in El Salvador, and learning Spanish in Guatemala.  We saw some amazing things in between, but we always come back to the list above.  What do all of these things have in common?  Two things… 1. they required us to STOP moving around and STAY PUT for a while (okay, we were constantly moving during the Camino, but we were always on the Camino) and 2. we were DOING something.  So there you have it… as we travel the world, we want to stop, do something, and really experience a place.

Which brings us to our next “plan”.  On July 26th, we have to leave Austria (and the wider Schengen visa zone).  We’ll spend a few nights each in Zagreb, Croatia; Belgrade, Serbia; and Sofia, Bulgaria to break up the bus rides, before settling in for at least a month at an organic farm in north central Bulgaria.  There, we will help harvest grapes, learn how to make rakia, play with their dogs, and train in combat jujitsu.  Sounds pretty great, right?  We think so too.

After that, who knows?  We’re not heading home yet. The world is our oyster and we plan to take our sweet time exploring it.

By , July 4, 2012 3:04 pm

This is our HOW TO guide to walking the Camino de Santiago  (a.k.a. The Way of St. James) via the Camino Frances route. This path begins in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France and finishes in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. If you are looking for inspiration, you can read about our experience on the Camino by following the links at the bottom of the post. If you have already decided that this pilgrimage is for you, read on my friend.

As all good guides should, I’m going to start by acknowledging that we don’t know everything, and refer you to the same guide book that we used.

Walking Guide to the Camino de Santiago History Culture Architecture from St Jean Pied de Port to Stantiago de Compostela and Finisterre by Gerald Kelly

This is a Kindle book, which we’ll come back to. There are no maps, just a listing of all the towns (with places to stay) that you’ll be passing through, a description of the hostels/albergues (with prices), a brief bit of history, and some notes on various buildings and buildings. Most importantly for us, it had notes on which places had kitchens for our use. This book is updated every year, and we thought it was pretty good.

What to pack:

Ah, the eternal question. Follow our advice, and you’ll do well. Take nothing more, and nothing less. Seriously.

  • 40 L or smaller backpack with frame – You want the frame so your hips can carry the weight instead of your shoulders. Also bring a rain cover if it is not a part of your backpack. We used our 38L Osprey Kestrels and found them very roomy.
  • Sleep sheet or Sleeping bag we brought sleep sheets, and wished we had sleeping bags. Then again, the weather was much cooler than normal for our camino, and pilgrims we met who had done the pilgrimage in other years recommended the sleep sheet. Both work.
  • Long underwear top and bottom It gets cold, even in Spain. If you only have a sleep sheet, this is essential.
  • 2 quick dry shirts – Synthetics, or very thin cotton
  • 2 quick dry bottoms – a pair of zip-off pants, and a pair of shorts
  • 3 pairs of underwear
  • 3 pairs of liner socks
  • 3 pairs of wool socks
  • Sweater
  • Fleece
  • Rain coat
  • Wide Brim Hat
  • 2 packing cubes, and a couple of zippered bags for organization
  • 1 Pair of flip-flops – This is a necessity, most albergues will not let you wear your walking boots inside.
  • Bottle of shampoo
  • Bottle of sunscreen
  • Deodorant
  • Partial bar of laundry soap
  • Toothbrush, floss, toothpaste
  • Toilet paper (mostly for females) – for those times when you just have to go.  For the bushes, carry an empty ziploc and pack the paper out to the next toilet.  Albergues usually  run out of TP in the ladies room by morning, so it’s handy there too.
  • Quick dry travel towel XL (this can double as a flimsy blanket if you wake up shivering)
  • 12 Clothes Pins or portable rubber clothesline
  • First aid kit – Include tape, gauze, band aids, mole skin, iodine, needle, thread.
  • Swiss Army Knife – The smallest knife that has scissors, a can opener, and a cork screw.
  • Headlamp
  • Passport and Pilgrim Credential
  • Digital Point and Shoot Camera – Light weight & small; also bring rechargeable batteries and 8 GB of memory cards.

Optional but recommended:

  • The Kindle from Amazon This is our favourite travel item of all time. It’s lightweight, the battery lasts a really long time, it’s easy to read, and there are a lot of books for it. On our Camino, Ashley read 6 books, and Mike read 5. It would not have been pleasant carrying all those books around in paper format.
  • MP3 player – The only catch here, is you will need one large enough that you won’t get bored of your music. 4 GB at a minimum.
  • Sunglasses
  • Spices – Namely, salt and pepper.  You can buy the cheapest shakers and dump half of it out to cut down on weight.  We also recommend curry powder – it makes lentils just a little more interesting.
  • Light weight bowl and a half dozen plastic spoons – great for making hummus, salads, or oatmeal when you have no kitchen.
  • Reusable grocery bag

Things you should not pack without consideration:

  • Laptop – Unless you are blogging, or need to be connected, don’t bring it.  Even if you are blogging, consider the weight carefully (we did opt to carry our netbook with us).
  • Travel SafeAbsolutely awesome if you bring a computer, otherwise a bit big/heavy for a walk like this.
  • Compass/map – Not essential – you are not going to get lost.
  • SLR Camera – Too heavy for our liking.  Invest in a good quality point-and-shoot – your shoulders and knees will thank you.
  • Day bag – Use your pockets.
  • Padlock – Don’t bring it, there are no lockers.
  • Deck of playing cards – hardly used.
  • Extra shoes or heavy sandals – Stick to flip-flops. There are a lot of shoes/boots that get left behind because of weight.
  • Rain pants – not necessary, but a creature comfort nonetheless.  We didn’t have them, but they would have been swell on exactly two days.

Just remember, the lighter your bag, the happier your Camino. If you don’t expect you will use something you’ve packed every day… leave it at home.

Oops, I brought too much stuff. What now?

No problem, so did we. Head down to the post office in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and mail it on to Santiago de Compostela. For a fee, the Pensión Badalada will store them for you. We used them, and had no trouble. Details can be found on their website

Getting Prepared – Physically:

It’s just walking ladies and gents. It’s time consuming, invigorating, blissful and divine, and if you can walk to the grocery store, you can walk the Camino de Santiago.

Please don’t think you need to be young like us. We were the exception. A typical pilgrim is closer in age to 60 than 30, with plenty in their late 60’s or 70’s.

Physical fitness is also not the biggest concern. Again, we met plenty of people who would be considered clinically obese along the way. They may have been a bit slower than us, but they got there just the same.

My point is, no matter what kind of shape you are in, regardless of your age, you can probably walk the Camino. All you need to do in preparation is walk.  A lot. Try loading up your backpack at home, wear the same shoes you plan to wear on the Camino, with the socks you plan to use, and head out for an hour or two each night. After a couple of weeks, I think you’ll be as prepared as can be, and more prepared than we were.

Blister Care:

You are going to get blisters. They are going to hurt for about four days, and you will walk on them. Don’t worry though, you can think of it as character building, and it’s not too bad. It is bad enough, but not too bad.

If your blister has not popped, don’t pop it. What you want to do is sterilize a needle and a bit of thread by boiling it in water. Next run the thread through your blister from one end to the other. Trim the thread so about 1/2″ of thread is sticking out either side of the blister skin and leave the thread in your blister. The thread will allow your blister to continue to drain while you walk. If your blister continues to fill, give a tug on the thread to loosen it, and the puss will start flowing again. When you need to walk on it, cover with gauze and tape. Change the gauze when it gets wet. When you don’t need to walk on it, leave the gauze off. When the blister stops filling (you’ll know because the thread stops sticking), you can take out the thread.  That’s it. Thanks to Shawna from for the advice – we followed it and it worked well.

If your blister has popped, you want to buy a Compeed from any pharmacy. They’ll be prominently displayed along the Camino. You should be able to find one designed to fit the exact spot of your wound. Make sure your skin is clean and dry before applying. The Compeed will become a second layer of skin. You can shower with it, sleep with it, in fact you do everything with it –  just don’t rip it off! It’ll fall off on its own after four or five days.


We had a huge range of weather over the month we walked the Camino. In the mornings, it could be as cold as near-freezing (we needed to walk with spare socks on our hands to keep the blood flowing), in the plains it would reach the mid 30’s, and then there were the days where it poured rain. If you’ve got the equipment in our packing list, you should be fine. We walked every day regardless of what the weather threw at us.

One tip, if your boots get soaked from walking in the rain all day, fill them with balled up newspaper when you get into the albergue, and change the newspaper before bed. Most albergues have paper sitting by the boot rack on rainy days.  Your shoes will be dry by morning.


The cheapest, and therefore best, accommodation are the pilgrims albergues. Expect to spend between 4€ and 10€ per night per bed. You’ll be sharing a dorm room but have a bunk bed mattress to call your own (although occasionally it may be touching a complete stranger’s mattress… just remember, the Camino’s a great chance to make new friends). There will be a curfew, usually 10:00pm at night, and a checkout time of about 8:00am. This is a very good thing, as you’ll be able to go to bed early, and wake up early to beat the day’s heat. If you can not tolerate hearing the snoring/flatulence of dozens of other pilgrims, consider earplugs.

You don’t need to book accommodations in advance (in fact, often you can’t).  The albergues open between 12:00pm and 1:00pm for the most part, and it’s a good idea to get in early for a few reasons. For one, they can fill up, meaning you may be forced to walk several kilometres farther than you had planned that day. Second, hot water is usually hot when their doors open, but may not be so hot after 100 other people have showered.

Upon arrival, we would usually shower ASAP, then do our laundry. It was best to do laundry early every day so it had a chance to dry. Every albergue expects that you will do your own laundry, so they provide washing sinks and clotheslines. If it’s raining, only wash your socks and underwear. You can drape them over your bunk bed rails to dry inside (may take two days).


We didn’t really eat out, preferring to make our own vegetarian food. However, there are a lot of restaurants and cafes on the cCmino, so there is always a place to eat. Pilgrim menus are available for 10€ and include a starter, a main course, desert, and wine. For lunches and snacks, most cafes will make you a sandwich called a bocadillo for 2.50€.

If you are going to prepare your own food like us, there’s good news and bad news. Finding food is not that hard. Just about every small town has a store for pilgrims, though the smaller centres will have very high prices and very small selection. For whole grains, you will be able to find whole wheat bread at a little less than half the bakeries, oat flakes at a similar percentage of grocery stores. Whole wheat pasta is also available, though slightly more rare, and very very rarely you’ll stumble across whole rice.

There are lots of options for legumes. Just about every store will sell precooked garbanzos, lentils, and white beans for less than 0.60€ a jar. You can also buy dry lentils and cook them in your albergue without pre-soaking in a reasonable amount of time.

As for fruits and veggies, Spain is the right place to be. Everything is very delicious, and reasonably cheap. Make sure you eat a banana every day, but don’t stop there. Try the cherries, oranges, grapes, apples, peaches, nectarines, and especially the tomatoes. If you find very small, very ripe, natural looking Raf tomatoes. Get them. They are delicious.

Speaking of cooking in albergues, most kitchens are only equipped with a few pots/pans and a single 4 burner stove. You’ll have to share with everyone else, so expect a lineup unless you eat at very strange times.

On the topic of sharing, don’t be afraid to buy too much, and share it. We often were the benefactors of partial bottles of wine and pasta. We also left behind partial packages of lentils, and other uneaten foods that we didn’t want to carry with us the next day.


The heart of it all. We walked at about 5 km per hour, and found that 25 km or less in a day felt easy, and we woke up feeling very good. When we walked 26 km or more in a day it felt long, and our bodies felt a bit sorer the next morning. We spoke to quite a few pilgrims, and everyone seemed to feel the same regardless of age or general fitness.

How far you walk in a day is completely up to you. For the most part, albergues are spaced about 5 km or so apart, giving you lots of options on where to start and end your day. We’ve met people who walk 50 km days, and those who walk 15 km days. Whatever you are comfortable with is fine. There are no rules. However, if you walk too little in a day, you’ll be waiting for your albergue to open and if you walk too far in a day, you’ll be hoping you can find an unoccupied bed.

Breaks are also a personal preference. We tried long breaks, short breaks, and no breaks at all. After 37 days of trial and error, this is what we settled on; walk the first 10km without break. From then on in, rest for 10 minutes every 5km.

You’ll need to carry water and snack foods with you while you walk. We each carried 1L of water split into 0.5 L of drinking water, and 0.5 L of emergency water. We refilled our waters at the numerous fountains along the way. Only rarely did we actually need to touch our emergency supply. For snacks we brought a variety of mixed nuts, bread, cheese, dried figs, and Ashley’s favourite – double stuffed Principe chocolate cookies.

If you have more questions, just stick them in a comment, and we’ll do our best to answer them. The rest is just following the arrows. Like I said, you won’t get lost and ¡Buen Camino!

Some of the Many Many Way Markers

Some of the many many way markers on the Camino de Santiago

Want to read more about our Camino?  Check it out…

Our Camino, Your Camino… Our Challenge to You
Camino de Santiago Week 1 – Beautiful Landscapes & Unexpected Challenges
Camino de Santiago Week 2 – Getting Past the Pain
Camino de Santiago Week 3 – Feels a Lot Like Home
Camino de Santiago Week 4 – Easy Walking
Camino de Santiago – We Made It to Santiago, But We’re Not Finished Yet!
Camino de Santiago by the Numbers – Our Budget and Stats
Guide to the Camino de Santiago