Category Archives: Preparations

We Are On Our Way!

I have packed everything that I will need for 2 ½ months. I carefully considered each item, knowing that I can buy any pharmacy needs in Spain.

I wear almost exclusively ExOfficio travel clothing because it is practical and stylish. These clothes are wrinkle resistant, weigh only ounces, and  dry in a minimum of time. These features are really important when you are washing by hand and do not have a dryer, as is typical in most other parts of the world. For example, I bought several types of Sports Bras, and the ExOfficio was dry overnight while one brand took 3 days to dry!

I chose black and khaki pants, shoes, and skirt. This way I can add color with different t-shirts. I separate my things into categories such as “Sleep” or “Underwear”. I then pack them by category in 1-gallon plastic ziplock bags. This allows me to dump everything out on my bunk when I get to an Albergue and quickly see what I need. It also offers waterproofing and keeps your clothes looking less wrinkled.

This system makes it very easy to find what you want quickly, instead of rummaging through your pack and getting frustrated. It is quite amazing that all of these things fit easily into my backpack that I will carry on the plane, and later the entire length of Spain. The black bag on the right has the items I want to access on the plane, but it easily fits into the top of my pack. The only items that I will be required to check through are my trekking poles and pocket knife. This provides a good feeling of security because I know that all of my carefully selected, lightweight, broken in  equipment will arrive safely for the journey.

I now need to turn my mind toward the Camino and away from my busy life. It is good to think of walking through the countryside each day, carrying everything that I will need. I look forward to this new adventure with gratitude and a sense of wonder.

Buen Camino!

Packing list

3 pairs underwear
2 sports bras
4 pairs socks/ different weights to allow for foot swelling
3 fast-drying T-shirts
1 pair silk boxer shorts (or something to sleep in)
1 long-sleeve, lightweight travel shirt
1 long-sleeve , lightweight T-Shirt
1 pair long travel pants
1 pair Capri-length yoga pants or other comfortable walking pants
1 travel-weight skirt
1 waterproof and windproof jacket
1 long-sleeve fleece jacket with a full zip
1 pair rain pants
1 pair gloves
1 “Buff”or scarf
1 OR brand wind stopper” ski hat
1 sun-blocking hat
1 pair hiking boots
1 pair alternate footbed liners for your boots
1 pair Crocks

1 water bottle or hydration system
1 small nylon shoulder bag or daypack: count the ounces!
Sunglasses/ reading glasses
1 pair earplugs
1 small fast-drying travel towel + washcloth
1 mini headlight
1 small sewing kit with 3 or 4 safety pins
1 stretchy travel laundry line with 4-6 plastic clips and a sink plug
1 small clock or watch that you can read in the dark
1 pair nail clippers
1 pocketknife
1 scallop shell: purchase in Spain or France

Toiletries/First Aid (See also “Purchase in Spain,”)
1 travel-size shampoo
1 small soap
1 toothbrush
1 small toothpaste
Dental floss
1 small sunscreen for your face
1 razor
1 set tweezers
1 chapstick
1 small bottle ibuprofen
Personal medications
A few Band-Aids / needle for blisters

Other items
1 well designed backpack
1 backpack rain cover
1 sleeping bag with waterproof stuff sack or sleep-sack for summer
1 pair trekking poles
1 “portable bathroom”
Several zip-lock plastic bags
1 journal and pen
1 camera, extra batteries, charger and plug adapter, extra memory chips
1 phone and charger
1 guidebook to the Camino / Spanish phrasebook

Art Materials
1 sketchbook 8 ½ “ Square
Small selection of Colored Pencils, 2 black pens, 1 eraser, 1 mini pencil sharpener


It is another Camino miracle!

As I am preparing to walk the Via de la Plata this spring, the Camino is working its magic for me already. My friend and I walked the Camino Frances in spring of 2008, and one of our most memorable stays was at the 300 year old house associated with St. Francis of Assisi in Tosantos. Two very wonderful men, Taqui and Jose Luis, were our kind and giving hosts. During our brief stay, we just felt secure, loved, vulnerable, open, embraced, and comfortable in a way that is hard to define. What a gift was given to us! From the fresh flowers on the tables to the communal cooking, the walk to see the church of our Lady carved into the hillside, to the prayers for those who had gone before us, it was just perfect.

Up to that point I had not been praying that much. But leaving the prayer for my son, Justin, opened the flood gates. I had been carrying the weight of his illness for a long time. For several days Tannis and I would just look at each other and say with a smile, “Look at the atmosphere those 2 men created!”

You meet these incredible people on the Camino who change or touch your life.  You think, “How sad that I will never see them again and be able to tell them the profound impact that they made on my life.” The Hospitaleros (volunteer hosts) give so freely of themselves, never knowing if those pearls of kindness that they cast out ever take hold. As in our “real lives”, we all just keep on trying.

My journey in 2008 resulted in writing a book which incorporated the drawings that I did each day. I wanted to share that imagery with fellow Pilgrims, and perhaps inspire others, who might otherwise doubt themselves, to walk the Camino. Recently I got an email from a woman who had bought my book and was inquiring about purchasing the original drawing of the house at Tosantos. A flurry of emails later, it happened that not only does she know Taqui and Jose Luis very well, but Taqui was visiting her here in the Seattle area. They came to my home, and I got to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Can you imagine, I not only got to see him, but in my own living room half a world away. Who says miracles don’t happen here and now? I am so grateful to be able to tell Taqui that he made a difference in my life, and I am pretty sure the lives of many other Pilgrims. The work they do is so important, and it is strengthening the global community in such a hopeful and peaceful way. I look forward with great anticipation to the day I will be a Hospitalera myself, and in some small way contribute to the energy and spirit of the Camino.

Who put the hot water bottle in the front of my yoga pants?

I was diligently working out on the rowing machine. I thought, “Man, that  lady really needs to work out!” I had caught sight of myself in the mirror. As I started to laugh it jiggled and looked like a full hot water bottle had been stuffed in my pants. What kind of a sadistic person would put mirrors in a place like that? How rude!

Obviously I have let myself gain about 10 pounds this year. It does not take much to pack it on. You just need to go on a trip and eat restaurant food for 10 days, stop exercising for that period, and “VOILA!” It is like magic how quickly things appear. I complained to my Doctor about this and she told me that I was a survivor, and if the world came to an end because everyone else starved I would still be here because my body is so efficient in storing calories. I did not like answer, so I found a new Doctor……my new one told me that “Sturdy people do better as they age.” I don’t like that answer either! I do not want to be aging, sturdy, or the last person left on the planet.

Should I just give up and be fat? No, I will not quit because I want to be healthy and active. I want to be fit enough to enjoy skiing, riding, hiking and all of the other fun things we have at our doorstep here in the Pacific Northwest. I still have continents to explore and people to meet. I want to be able to live my dreams, but I also feel strongly that we have an obligation to those who love us to take care of ourselves. Our choices effect not only our own well being, but everyone around us as well. Never surrender!

Da- da- da-da-da-da: Charge!

Most women shop at Nordstroms or Macys: we shop at Recreational Equipment Inc. We needed to pick up a bunch of equipment for our trek, so we spent the day at the Seattle REI. Just look at all of those socks……so many choices. Your feet are the most important consideration on a long trek, as they will take hundreds of miles of abuse. I settled on coolmax moisture wicking liner socks, over which I will wear a padded hiking sock. Using a double sock method helps prevent blisters. I purchased 1 pair heavily padded, 2 pairs medium weight, and 1 pair lightweight socks made by Thorlo. This will give me the ability to make more room in my boots when my feet swell, and I know they will.

We have already chosen our boots and have been breaking them in for some time. Merrill lightweight Hiking boots for me, Keen’s for my friend. There are many great choices out there, but it is very important to pick the one that fits your particular foot, has a good stiff sole, is lightweight and waterproof. They will need an extra shot of waterproofing before we go.

We had fun getting into new sleeping bags to test out the fit. We chose down / fiber REI bags that weigh 2.2 pounds and will stuff into a small waterproof compression sack. If down gets wet, it does not insulate at all, so it is imperative to keep it dry. The waterproof bags work great and compress down to about 6” across by 12 or 14” long so that our bags will fit inside of the bottom of our packs. I also wanted a bag that could unzip all the way to the bottom so that it can be used like a quilt if we get too warm. These bags are great! Can you say snuggle time?

Then there was the trip to ExOfficio for the long sleeve shirt, t-shirts, pants, hats and accessories. We were so exhausted that we spent the next few hours at the Spa. Does this bode ill for our checkbooks or make a statement about our endurance?

A Revolting Discovery

I was just thinking of how comfy and broken in my hiking boots were. I turned them upside down to discover that the tread was worn down in several places nearly to the substructure. I guess I broke them in too well. This is terrible! The last thing you want to do is set out on a long trek with brand new boots. Your boots will take a lot of abuse and are the very foundation that you will be walking on.

This brings up the lesson that you should do a complete equipment check a month or 2 before departure. If some items are worn out, broken or missing you still have time to make wise decisions about what to purchase, and order it if necessary. Check to see if the mouthpiece and the water bladder are in good shape in your hydration system. Can you imagine starting a trek with a leaky hydration system that gets everything in your pack damp, wets your pants for you, and does not quench your thirst to boot? Think about any pack straps or buckles that rubbed you wrong and do something to correct the situation. Make sure your camera and phone batteries will take a charge, and if they will not buy new ones. Re waterproof your pack, boots and jacket. Well, you get the idea: I am talking about a very thorough equipment check.

When I realized the poor condition of my boots I immediately walked the 2 miles to REI and selected new ones. Of course the model I loved was no longer available, so I had to choose a different style and brand. I walked in those for a week and realized they were not quite right, so it was back to REI. I finally got a pair that I hope will be great. I have adequate time to field test them and break them in before I leave for Spain. Of course this means wearing them 24-7, and my husband does not like that very much in bed at night. It is my turn to disturb his sleeping for once!

What Artist materials will I take with me?

I am in a quandary, as always, about what materials to take on the Via de la Plata. Why does there never seem to be a perfect answer? Last time I took a small set of self-contained,black,  pigment based ink  pens, 1 pencil and eraser, and a 9 X 12 Aqua Bee Super Deluxe Sketchbook with heavy paper suitable for Mixed Media. Even this weighed over 2 pounds.

Before I left, I field-tested every brand of pen sold as art quality pens. I wrote on various papers, then held them under running water! Some bled, ran or changed color immediately. Then I left them exposed to direct sunlight for 2 weeks with ½ of each sample covered up. Many changed color and faded. Micron Pens by Sakura and Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens are both rock solid. They do not run, fade, or bleed and I highly recommend these 2 brands.

I thought I had the perfect compact art kit but, needless to say, I had never done pen and ink. I was unaware that it was such a detailed and time-consuming process. It took hours, even days, to complete each drawing once I returned home. However, I love that they are reminiscent of etchings that were the method of portraying imagery long before photographs existed. It creates a bridge between the past and present by creating contemporary imagery with an ancient technique. This time I will definitely still take my  pen and ink, but I want to try a fresher and more spontaneous approach. And I really missed my colors!  I have looked deep into my artist’s heart, and I have a premonition of a shopping trip in the near future.

What art materials can I carry?

Can we take our entire studios with us when we travel? Not unless we are staying for extended periods of time, and want to be burdened with “Mt. Baggage”! This is an actual drawing from my journal on my first art trip to Europe when I took an oil workshop. I had a wooden French half easel, oil paints, brushes, canvas, stretcher bars, paper towels, a staple gun, etc. It was ridiculous!

Just my carry on load made me feel like a beast of burden. You know how it goes….you just HAVE to have this color, then maybe you can’t live with out this one, and what about that new favorite? It just escalates until the little Italian cab driver tries to lift your suitcase and cries out “MAMMA MIA!” as he grabs his back.

So what can we do? Oils are too bulky and dry too slow, plus transporting the solvents is impossible. Acrylics dry OK, and clean up with water, but are still bulky. Watercolors are too fragile. If they get damp or spilled on they can be ruined. This pretty much leaves us with drawing: either in a separate sketchbook or in an illustrated journal.

So, do you take a separate sketchbook or combine your drawings with a written journal? I know drawing is a focus every day for me. However, if you are traveling with non-artists or you know that you will not specifically dedicate drawing time each day, there is a lot to be said for a small journal/sketchbook combination that you can stick in your purse or pocket. It allows you to spontaneously record a written or drawn impression throughout the course of the day when the feeling is fresh.

The Perfumed Pilgrim sweats for the first time

Feeling as fit as I had been for quite some time, I set out on my first epic adventure. I was immediately appalled to discover that my body was capable of sweating. How could this be? What is a girl to do in such an unfamiliar and revolting situation?

Here is an excerpt from The Artist’s Journey: The Perfumed Pilgrim Tackles the Camino de Santiago:

We saddled up, filled our water bottles from the fountain outside of the red door of our Hostel, and headed down the Rue de la Citadelle. Crossing the River Nive, we passed through the Port d’Espagne like thousands of pilgrims before us and left lovely St. Jean behind us.

We began walking up the route Napoleon, the hard way. Napoleon was insane! Like the Romans before him, in his invasion of Spain, Napoleon chose the high route over the top of the mountains because its openness discouraged sneak attacks by the enemy. We walked about fifty feet then pretended to look at the stone walls, when in reality we were embarrassed to admit that we could not breathe. Our hearts were pounding, and we were beginning to sweat in the cold morning fog. At the next stop twenty feet further up the road, we abandoned all pretense of pride as we stood leaning on our trekking poles and gasping for breath. Another thirty feet and we had to strip off our coats. It is amazing the heat you can generate in rain gear with twenty-seven extra pounds on your back, not to mention the extra twenty on my butt. Looking back to survey our progress, we found ourselves barely out of town! Our spiritual journey consisted of praying we would not keel over and die on the spot.

We pushed onward, pausing every hundred feet to rest. The green hills dropped steeply away into the mists and rain. Stone and whitewashed houses with red tile roofs punctuate the verdant pastures with stone walls snaking over the steep contours. The tidy barns were filled with fat, content-looking animals. Yellow Scotch broom and a carpet of tiny wildflowers accentuated ancient, contorted, dark trees still bare of their leaves. Miniscule birds sang in the hedges, and the church bells tolled at noon, drifting on the clouds from St. Jean. The higher we climbed the rockier and steeper it became, rugged and mysterious
in the swirling fog.

We saw a herd of sheep sporting dreadlocks, their bells ringing melodically. We continued past herds of plump cattle and sturdy looking horses. Soon we were completely encased in fog, and just when we thought it could not get any steeper, it did. Visibility was down to zero, and we noticed that by now even the sheep were wearing oxygen masks.

With every leaden step, we fantasized what we could ditch out of our packs. Finally, we came around a bend, and there was our goal, Orisson Refugio. We had traveled only six miles, but the path had climbed straight up, and we felt proud we had made it.

“Mists Rising” oil painting on canvas

Getting Strong and Fit: You go Girl

When I walked the Camino in 2008 I thought I was pretty fit. They say that 99% of the people who decide to walk the Camino vow to get fit but only about 2% actually do. Training on the trail is a bad idea, and can lead to injury, misery and maybe even not being able to finish the trek. The better shape you are in, the more fun you will have. You will be able to appreciate the wildflowers and the sunrises, and somewhere along the way you realize that you should have done this years ago because you feel so good. Despite the sore feet, never in my life have I felt so well spiritually, mentally and physically as when I was walking long distances day after day.

My fitness program includes cross-country and downhill skiing, walking, and working out at the gym.

I joined a 24 Hour Fitness near me and purchased 3 sessions with a personal trainer to get me started. She is a former Marine and really kicked my behind! I am going to die! Well, maybe just throw up, but it did make me realize that I was not conditioned as well as I thought. She has me cross training with routines that build strength, flexibility and aerobic capacity. Every day I am doing 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, stair climber, rowing machine or treadmill to get my heart rate up. This is combined with a routine using light weights, lunges, steps, etc. I have 4 of these 1-hour routines comprised of different exercises, which I alternate. Every third day I lap swim, using the crawl stroke for 50 to 60 minutes continuously. When I began lap swimming I thought I was going to drown after a couple of laps, but it is amazing how quickly I was able to improve.

I am being careful to train sensibly and not injure myself before I even set out. It is important to load your pack with everything that you think you need and walk a few miles with it every day in the weeks just before you depart. I am just beginning that phase now in addition to my time at the gym and on the slopes.

Stay tuned for an excerpt from The Artist’s Journey: The Perfumed Pilgrim Tackles the Camino de Santiago concerning  discoveries we made about our fitness the first day on the trail!

Who is Ethel?

I really struggle with my weight, just like so many others. Two things have happened to my body over the years, which I continue to fight. The first was being told that the more weight I gained when I was pregnant the healthier baby I would have, and the weight would just fall off of me later if I nursed. So untrue! I gained 40 pounds on a 5’4” frame, and lost about 8 pounds with the birth of my son. I tried many things in vain, and the remaining 30 pounds was not going anywhere. I finally went to Jenny Craig to loose the baby fat. Sometimes we just need someone else to feed us for a while. I finally got it off, but had to continually monitor my eating habits, quantity of food, alcohol intake, and make exercise routines part of my daily life.

This worked for about 15 years, then I met Ethel. One day I just woke up and said, “Who is this whole extra person pasted to my mid-section? Holy Crap!” The hormonal change had arrived, bringing with it 25 pounds in a very short period of time. I upped my exercise and cut my food intake, but was not successful in getting rid of the extra tonnage. I decided to name her Ethel since she was obviously staying, even though we are not friends. (I am pretty sure her twin sister Esther lives with another friend.)

I went back to Jenny Craig and it took me 2 years to loose it, but that enabled me to get fit enough to walk the Camino. It is a fantastic feeling when you know you look and feel your best. I left almost all of Ethel on the Camino in Spain, but she is so persistent. She keeps coming back to visit. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I really would prefer that she live somewhere else… and that does not include on my thighs!

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