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“Life on the road” – some lessons learned

We’re just back from our latest Camino trip; walking from Santiago de Compostela to Muxia, on the coast. This is our 4th such walk (in a year and a half – which gives some idea of how much we like our new “hobby”!)
We upped the ante a bit this time, by walking longer distances and carrying our packs (albeit over a shorter walk, c 86kms).
It was challenging at times (which you will be able to read about in the forthcoming blog), but we learnt a few things along the way. Some of it may be useful to you if you are planning such an adventure…(other bits are probably dead obvious!)
During the planning stages, we found Apps and guidebooks are useful for an overview of the route, historical info and directions. In reality however don’t rely on the accuracy of info about bars, restaurants, albergues – this is an ever changing landscape, particularly post pandemic.
It can be mightily disappointing when the bar you have been anticipating for 8 hot kms is not open and its another 5 to the next one. Be prepared, particularly as water fountains can be very scarce on some routes (such as this one).
On a similar note; small town Spain can be pretty much closed up (in terms of bars and restaurants) on a Monday, so ensure you take some emergency supplies (we should have known this, we have lived in Spain!)
Also, restaurants and kitchens (in Spain) generally close between 4 and 8pm. If you are unlucky to arrive hungry in the “dead zone” you may find yourself with a long wait before being able to eat anything substantial. (We found ourselves with very slim pickings – 2 bowls of olives, in Tui, one very rainy afternoon – hungry is not happy, in our world!)
In our experience beer seems to be about the most refreshing drink we can find. Fortunately the alcohol free version is also widely available (& popular) in Spain
When planning where to stay, be realistic about your needs. For example we are not dormitory and shared facilities “types”. I also have a rather unfortunate pre disposal to insomnia…if you are similarly afflicted by being a light sleeper, don’t book a room near the cathedral in Santiago de compostela….lots of people on forums will tell you that you will be so exhausted after a days walking you will be able to sleep on a pin. Sorry, but I am here to tell you that this might not be the case; you may be overtired, overstimulated, overthinking – we know who we are, right? (In short, don’t expect the Camino to be the panacea to whatever issues you may experience in your “real” life)

Lovely but loud pension – in range of those pesky cathedral bells

Foot care is paramount. Everyone has a different regime they swear by. Ours was the application of E45 cream to our feet at least once a day after showering, for the 2 week lead up and then twice a day on the route. Plus Merino wool socks, changed every 2 hours, or thereabouts. (Fingers crossed, not a blister between us so far).

Carrying your rucksack is a whole other undertaking (we previously had our bags transported). Pack your rucksack to what you think is a sensible weight. Then repack it with only half the original contents. You do not need as much as you think you do. Ours weighed around 5kg, but any saving on weight will make a massive difference.

Leave your make up/cosmetics at home. You will very soon give up caring about your appearance, anyway. You will really only care about being clean. Most likely fantasising about a shower and change of clothes will be all the incentive needed to keep going!

One of our favourite bathrooms so far

Once you have crossed the sock and sandal style Rubicon not only will you understand that socks are vital to reduce friction & keep out pesky sand/gravel, but you will feel truly liberated (see above about giving up on your appearance)!


The local launderette is now one of your go to favourite hang out places. You will learn to love the pre powdered machines, marvel at the sheer cleanliness and efficiency of some of  Portugal and Spain’s finest spaces. Oh and the anticipation of clean clothes is also a wonderful, uplifting thing. We found the finest example in Muxia with kids play area, entertainment zone, phone rechargers – all it needed was a beer vending machine….


Of course, in emergency situations you can wash your socks/smalls in the sink at the pension (buy clothes made of technical sports fabric for quick drying). Your rucksack becomes a handy portable drying system for socks and other items should you require. Some people use pegs, we just hung socks through the bungee bits.


If you can, choose a walking partner who is strong enough to manage your pack as well as theirs (for a bit, anyway!) if disaster strikes. (I realise this is a real luxury and not open to everyone…).

Brian demonstrating the drying system whilst carrying my pack

If you do need to offload your bags you can use the Spanish Correos (postal system). We didn’t use this option as we didn’t need to, but also our hours were at odds with the post office opening times (it might involve you hanging around waiting for the post office to open – we’re not good at hanging around…)


A voluminous lightweight scarf is great for neck, shoulder and arm coverage (i got mine in a charity shop before i left home). Wear a hat, even if you are not a hat person (again see the part about appearances!). Pay attention to the back of your body, when the sun is beating down on you all day – it burns just as much as the front! (By the time I realised I needed to take evasive action, the damage was well and truly done).

Little donativo stalls such as a blueberry stall can really perk you up when you need a lift. (Our favourite was the elderly farming lady with her tractor and beer stall on the Portuguese Central). So make sure you carry some cash with you. I guess it’s about right to leave a euro or more in most circumstances.

The toast in Galicia is massive (in fact all of the portions in Galicia are massive), but eat it – you don’t know if the bar you are expecting to find (open), will be, or not. In fact anytime you see a bar and feel remotely hungry, thirsty or in need of the bathroom I would advise eating/drinking/toileting – planning ahead can be nigh on impossible (unless you phone places in advance, I guess).  Good news! A complimentary “tapa” accompanied each drink you buy in Galicia (and that includes coffee too!).

This is probably obvious – some glasses (or bowls in this case) of wine are just too cheap (even for me!). A 70 cents drop was undrinkable, being more like a cloudy chicken broth. A hasty get away was required. Head up, smile politely, leave more money than required on the bar….

Challenging yourself is a major part of doing a Camino, but know when to draw the line. Listen to your body, risk assess dynamically, follow your instincts. Always have a plan B (and C). Don’t be hard on yourself; you made it this far – give yourself credit and remember you can always go again .

Don’t forget to look up, smell the flowers, greet the locals, stroke a friendly dog, linger a little longer. These are the tiny interactions that all add up to the massive memory board you will carry along with you forever.

Oh and one more thing, prepare to become a little bit addicted to the simplicity of “life on the road”.  Having very little to worry about other than putting one foot in front of the other and making it to your resting place is like giving your mind a massive holiday. Returning to the “real” world, you may hit the ground with a bump and experience a serious case of post camino blues.

Our only advice in this scenario is to start planning your next adventure(s)….

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