A Sexier Ass in 30 days? That’s a Given, Baby – Why the Camino Bestows an Allure that Lasts all Winter.

walking uphill

My ass was in excellent condition when I finished the Camino del Norte this summer. I was leaner, with toned legs and “a bit of colour” – which is as sun-kissed as someone with decidedly northern european colouring can manage without flirting with a melanoma or suchlike.

But it’s true that summer’s lease hath all too short a date, and my fleetingly toned thighs and rear have given way to flabbier, more pallid self (or “the real me” as any acquaintance might recognise).

But the Camino’s sexiness bestowing powers are more than skin deep!

So here are 5 sexiness enhancing attributes that will last you long into winter:

1. Improved fluency in other languages

Language learning can be a bit sexy, or make you an enormous arse (not of the sexy toned kind). If you are one one of the webs growing community of language learners, you might wish to flex some lingual muscle chatting to some of the many nationalities on the camino.

Walkers are still predominantly Spanish, and if you’re looking for some low cost hispanic immersion, you can definitely find it here. The Ruta del Norte still isn’t as commercial as the French Way, and 30 days of café con leche and the odd caña will certainly give you a solid “holidaymaker’s level”.

Following the publication of French intellectual, Jean Christophe Rufin’s “Immortelle randonée, Compostelle malgré moi” there are a fair number of Frenchies to be found en-route, so learners of the language of Voltaire won’t be disappointed either.

Avoid being an enormous arse by 1) not making prior assumptions about any one person’s level of any given language and 2) being courteous with those who wish to practice their English with you.

2. Amigos Internacionales

On the french route much is made of “a camino family”, a concept I find frankly claustrophobia-inducing (anybody with me on this?). The Camino del Norte offers a more gentle camaraderie on the level of a facebook friend. Return with tales of “your new family” and your mates will think you’ve joined a cult. Return with a scattering of potential European coffee dates and you will instantly seem enchantingly more mondaine.

3. An Enviable Instagram Feed

The millennials are sexy on and offline. I was born in 1980 and as such missed the party by a whisker (very much my general style), my brother, only 18 months younger, is a child of the age of IT.

What makes instagram so annoying, are of course the captions: “enjoying a coffee in Bilbao #caminodesantiago”. Forgo this level of banality. Tell people “yeah, I’m just using it as as sort of visual diary”, and post a date and the hashtag. This alone is more difficult than it sounds as both wifi and plugs can be at a premium.

The occasional, well curated yellow arrow tells a story. Don’t snap ’em all.

Alternatively do snap ’em all. Every last one of the bastards. Geotag and provide a detailed description of each one. You’ll be walking for two extra weeks (at least), but some news media outlet will take up the story of one walker’s obsession with yellow paint.

This should not need said but: DO NOT POST PICTURES OF YOUR FEET.

4. Real or Imagined Survival Skills

But predominantly imagined ones. The important thing is that you survived in the Spanish wilderness with only a flick-knife  some safety pins and your credit card. And that card was NOT accepted at all local retailers.

To your friends in an office in Luton, you might as well be Bear Ghrylls.

5. Profound Insights and Wisdom from this Mediative Experience.

Nietzche, Kant, Bear Grylls, that French one (see above), Dickens, Orwell and Ray Mears .

Many great thinkers and writers are great walkers. Thankfully, and the human brain is better at lazy association than an imagined venn diagram where you are placed within in the “walkers but not thinkers” crescent.

Step after step on the white stones on the forest floor, being buffeted in a costal crosswind or sheltering from a torrential downpour under one of those charming Galician grain shelters, it would be easy to think you were contemplating the greater matters in life, and it’s in the interests of your sexiness that you cultivate this. “I’m running out of Compeed*”, “I think I left my towel in the last albergue” or “I hope that snoring guy isn’t there tonight” don’t have the same pulling power.

My own most profound insight from the Camino was that Paulo Coelho’s the Alchemist is a reliable and powerful “screening question” at parties. “I totally love that book” should provoke a sudden, and urgent need for a trip to the toilet.

*other blister plasters are available, but none are as good.

A Posting Experiment: What is this Camino anyway?

  Many thanks for your comments and suggestions regarding my camino experience! I have some more queries that I am hoping some of you might have some thoughts on :-). The experiment part of this post is to do it entirely from my phone to see how long that will take :-)!! But first, in response to Karen’s question “what is the camino anyway?” (She put it more elegantly!). Veterans please skip to “questions for the veterans” :-)!

The Saint James Way

Often Spoken of in the singular, these are a collection of medieval pilgrimage trails (some pre dating this) leading from various sites in Europe (as far as northern France and Austria) to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

St James (Santiago) is a big deal in Spain, he brought the message of Christianity to the Iberian peninsula. The Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to him on a pillar while he was preaching here (explaining popular Spanish female first name “Pilar”).

After that, he made the unwise decision to return to Judea and was promptly decapitated.  But his remains ended up in “the field of stars” (possibly via people, possibly via angels, the exact story is debated), now Santiago de Compostela.

While many still make the journey motivated by religion, it has become a popular way to see a beautiful variety of Spanish landscapes, while throwing off the trappings and luxuries of daily life. All you own (for the duration of the trip), you carry.

Routes

The routes which I am considering are in the north of Spain and thus benefit from the proximity of the Atlantic, and are significantly cooler than the “Via de plata” from Seville, or the camino de Madrid. The “camino Portuguese” is the second most popular trail in the Iberian peninsula, but I’m keen to stay in Spain, so it’s not a route I’ve considered in detail

Camino Francés

The distance and duration depend on your starting point. By far the most popular is the “Camino Francés”, with some …. Pilgrims completing the trail in 2014. It takes around 4 weeks and covers ….km (miles). It is well serviced, with villages, or at least rest stops every few kilometres.

Camino del Norte

I’m tempted by the camino del Norte, running right along the coast, starting at San Sebastián. The distances between the allergies (or albergues without the spellcheck!) are greater and it’s less well marked. Less pilgrims choose this route, and I wonder if it’s slightly quieter reputation would suit me better.

Accommodation

The albergues are very basic hostels, which commonly cost very little (€7-10) per night for communal sleeping areas. My understanding is that these could be more expensive on the camino del Norte.

Questions

I’d welcome any advice on the following issues:

1. Do you know anyone who has done the “camino del Norte”? How easy is it to keep to the route

2. Will I be able to buy a silk sleep sheet on the route? I’m worried about the bed bugs!

3. Has anyone been sketching or drawing on the route? Any advice about this?

4. What is the availability of wifi on the camino DSL Norte? Ps experiment took quite a long time. Less words from the road I think!

Evaluation of the post writing on the mobile platform:

it’s possible but the nature of a small keyboard makes it more time consuming.

An autocorrect has changed my “albergues” to allergies without me noticing.

For uploading some pictures, and short commentaries, it should be ok.

Early preparations for the Camino

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I think that for most people, a countdown of 17 days would not be labelled “early preparations”, but I remind you dear reader, that I am the queen of procrastination, and as such this is positively premature as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve spent the weekend watching some camino videos on the various internet video platforms.

My favourite is from Andrew Suzuki, concise, helpful and entertaining. The thoughts overall are “pack light” and remember that Spain is not a third world country and you will probably be able to pick stuff up along the way.

Jaén has a tiny outdoors shop “Campingmania” near San Ildefonso.

I’ve got a ridiculously low budget for doing the whole thing – this summer probably has to come in under €1000, and I’ll be sharing my purchases and expenses here, partly to keep myself in check. I agree that probably some time spent crawling the internet and online ordering could have saved me some cash, but I prefer to support local shops (and er, I haven’t really left myself that much time…).

I’m using my sketchbook to help me plan!

I do have some good quality gear from other adventures to kick me off (phew):

1. 1 pair TIVA walking sandals (broken-in in India 🙂 )

I’ve added this link because they’ve got quite a nice Instagram photo competition on the go for the photographers out there 🙂

2. Goretex Waterproof

3. Trusty Sigg waterbottle

and today I added to this:

4. Ferrino 36l backpack  €86

5. Ferrino XL travel towel €22

Additionally, I’m going to get a whistle, light, hat, knife and walking poles. I’ll get to my local pharmacy as well to stock up on some first aid items :-).

I don’t think I need much else, equipment-wise, but any thoughts from seasoned walkers would be interesting.

I’ll have my Spanish mobile with me, rather than my computer, and I’ve downloaded wordpress to my mobile. I doubt I’ll be posting lengthy reflections, but hopefully I’ll get some pictures up!

Decluttering in Space, and Time

Minimalism is having a moment.

And my brother was ahead of the game.

When he was at university, he had a philosophy of only trying to accomplish “one thing” in a day, for example a “thing” might be going to the post office.

Eating, sleeping playing the guitar and watching TV seen as “core tasks”, which he enjoyed, or were necessary.  Other activities (studying, administrative items) were seen as intrusions to the schedule and were minimised.

This wasn’t amazing for his degree, but he plays the guitar very well, and has an innate understanding of media and storytelling and this is where he now works despite the lack of qualifications.

Many people have written about how routine can “declutter” our lives and lead to us accomplishing more. I’m certainly a person who can live, and prefers to live without many objects. I’ve been able to fit my life into two suitcases for the past five years, however I have sometimes felt that I allow things which are not important to me to “clutter” my time.

But for one month this summer, I will be privileged to be able to spend 4 weeks on 4 main tasks:

walking, sleeping eating and drawing on the Camino de Santiago.

(From what I’ve read, there’s a possibility that “foot care” may become an intrusive item.)

I’m looking forward to this sparse schedule, but the exact choice of camino is likely to significantly impact this experience. It’s something I’ll be giving consideration to in the next few days.