“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de St. Exupery
Posts Tagged With: travel light
A trip east was long overdue for us. What a treat to pack in our roomy carry on suitcases rather than a 30 litre backpack! We landed in Pittsburgh last Friday and drove south to Morgantown, West Virginia where our son Chris lives with his girlfriend Gail. This is a big college football town, so we strategically planned our visit to coincide with a Mountaineers away game.
Chris set us up with a room at The Lakeview Resort, a golf and events center where he works, and assured us that all would be quiet this time of year…however, the joint was hopping Friday night when we arrived. It seems that ” The Men of Las Vegas” we're putting on a show for 600+ screaming women (of all ages), decked out in heels and sequins and (probably) armed with fists full of dollar bills. Fortunately, not much kept us awake after traveling through Portland, Chicago and Pittsburgh airports on our journey.
We thought we would take a train from Glasgow to Milngavie (pronounced Mullguy…Scottish pronunciations are tricky!) but our guide book stated that it was a flat and easy ten-mile walk along the Kelvin Walkway. We couldn't check into our Bed and Breakfast until 4:00 pm and we had all day…so we thought, “Why not?”
After a bit of research, I discovered that Lord Kelvin (born William Thomas in 1824) grew up in Glasgow and was a mathematician and physicist who created the first physics laboratory in Britain. His goal was the practical utilization of science and his contributions were numerous.
What we now know as Kelvingrove Park was established back in 1852 and today remains a beautiful place for rest, relaxation and the occasional trekker.
Much like a well-worn trail, life provides a beautiful journey of highs and lows. We smile easily from the mountaintop where possibilities seem endless. It is when we gaze up from below, unsure where our path will lead, that our optimisim is challenged.
We met James and Gitta while hiking the Camino de Santiago in April of 2013. Both far more experienced walkers than we were, they taught us how to embrace the Camino Spirit…and not to walk over 12 miles each day!
We learned that Gitta had completed her first Camino several years earlier, walking from her home in Copenhagen, Denmark, through to Santiago, in celebration of her 60th birthday. The trek took her six months. We were in awe! Now she was back, accompanying James as he completed the missing segment of his first Camino.
As it has done for hundreds of years, the Camino continues to provide modern day Pilgrims with a sense of purpose; to ask questions, to seek answers, to reflect, express gratitude…to take a chance.
One evening, James shared with us the story of what led him to originally walk the Camino, and how that chance decision changed the path of his life.
It was at his late wife's burial that James' good friend suggested they walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago together. Standing at one of life's many crossroads, James immediately agreed and their plan was set in motion.
Six months after their return, James and his friend made plans to attend a meeting of fellow Camino Pilgrims. However, at the last minute, his trekking partner was unable to attend, leaving James with a decision to make: Enjoy an unexpected quiet evening alone or step into a room filled with unfamiliar faces. After some thought, James took a chance and made the decision to attend the meeting solo. As luck would have it (perhaps it was destiny or the magic of the Camino) Gitta too, chose to attend that same meeting where, at some point in the evening, she crossed paths with James.
The rest, as they say, is history!
Oregon has the most beautiful campgrounds and we have some wonderful memories of past trips…so when Reg suggested we camp on this trip, I was tempted. Until I gave it some serious thought. Camping for us (even for one night) is never simple so in a desperate attempt to find a compromise for the nature vs. comfort battle, I found Yurts!
These ingenious little dwellings are located in many State Parks throughout Oregon (and other places in the country). We checked in and were handed a key…it was that simple! While we needed to bring sleeping bags, pillows and towels, we got a relatively comfortable bed (up off the ground), heat, electricity and use of the campground showers. Each yurt has a picnic table and a fire pit, so you won't miss the fun of toasting marshmallows.
Yurts might not be for everyone, but I think Reg and I agree that they offer us a relatively comfortable, and economical solution (we paid about $40 each night) for Road Trip accommodations.
When I was still working, the Bunco Girls used to marvel at my shoes. I always arrived straight from work, sporting a spiffy pair of heels and claiming to be able to walk in anything! I love heels; partially (yes, I'll admit it) because I think they make my feet look smaller.
Since everything looks great in a size 6, and I haven't worn anything that small since 5th grade, purchasing clunky hiking shoes created some personal anxiety. After trying on numerous sizes and styles, I heard Vanity whispering in my ear, “Take the size 8! They'll be fine.” However, Reality was shouting from behind, “You better buy the 9 or you”ll be sorry…”
Fortunately common sense won out, and I purchased the larger size…a smart decision! Reg and I have put over 150 practice miles on our shoes and have we have yet to experience a blister. I can only hope that our good luck will continue as we put our shoes to the test!
Camino Frances: The Way of St. James
Last summer, Sue and I watched The Way, starring Martin Sheen. The film follows Sheen's character on his nearly 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain to Santiago.
His backpacking odyssey was meant to honor his son (played by his real-life son Emilio Estevez), who had died in the Pyrenees Mountains on his solo trip on the ancient path.
The journey is an awakening for Sheen's character in many ways.
“Great film,” I said afterward.
“We should do it,” Sue replied.
She must be joking, I thought.
Nearly a year later, we are about to begin our journey.
Pilgrims have walked The Way of St. James since before medieval times, dating to the 8th Century. Their walk began at their home and ended at the shrine to St. James in Santiago de Compostela, where it is believed St. James' remains are buried.
The most well-known path begins in St. Jean, France (point A on the map), travels over the Pyrenees and across Spain to Santiago de Compostela. It passes through villages and cities with rich histories of offering pilgrims lodging, food, medical help, and much more.
Today's pilgrims carry a special passport that grants admission to the many hostels (albergues), which offer a bunk, hot shower, camaraderie, a place to cook, and often a pilgrim meal with Spanish wine.
Partly sparked by Sheen's film, the number of pilgrims has exploded recently, with more than 192,000 traveling one of the paths in 2012. About half were Spaniards and 7,071 were Americans. About 56 percent were male and 164,778 traveled on foot. More than 27,000 bicycled the Camino, an offense to some traditionalists. At least one reportedly rode a unicycle.
More than 22,000 started in St. Jean (point A), where Sue and I plan to begin. About 40,000 completed just the minimum required for a certificate of completion, 100 kilometers, or about 62 miles.
Some began walking from afar. Thirty-one started their pilgrimage in Rome, three in Jerusalem.
More than 56 percent were aged 30-60, 28 percent were younger than 30, and nearly 15 percent were older than 60.
I am 60 and Sue is 56. We should feel right at home, age wise.
I know the Camino will provide unique opportunities and challenges.
Thank you, Martin Sheen. And Sue!
As we checked out of our San Baronto apartment this morning, our host commented (again) on our lack of luggage. She couldn't believe that we each brought just one piece of luggage for a three-week trip. With a roll of her eyes, she described the “other American couple” who had checked in three days after us with what must have been a cartload of baggage. We couldn't help but feel (maybe just a little) superior!
Would we do it again? You bet! How did we do it? I scoured the Internet for tips on traveling light. With some thought, planning and a wash-and-wear wardrobe, you can do it too!
You can spend a lot of money on actual packing bags and envelopes, but simple Ziplock bags were the secret to our success. I bought a box of super-sized bags at our local grocery store (I love Raley's in Oakhurst!). These were great for Reg's clothes (which are larger than mine) and worked well for my pants. The regular size bags, that you probably all have in your kitchen drawer, are perfect for socks, underwear and worked well for my T-shirts.
Roll everything! I really did roll everything, sliding each piece into a bag with the same type of item. Pants in one bag, shirts in another, socks and undies in a third. Stuff them full.
Once your Ziplocks are packed, zip them closed nearly all the way, leaving about an inch open. Then, find a hard surface (a wooden chair works well) place your bag on the chair and promptly sit on the bag. Once all the excess air is out, and before you stand up, zip your bag closed. You should have a perfect vacuum-sealed bag ready to fit neatly in your suitcase!
You may develop your own technique, but we found this to work well for us. The Ziplock Method allows me to find exactly what I need without rummaging through my entire suitcase; something that has always driven me nuts! Happy Travels!
It was just last year, upon returning from a two week trip to Scotland with our good friends Doug and Kathy that Reg vowed, “No more checked luggage!” Having left Edinburgh bright and early, we landed at the Newark airport amidst renovations, airline mergers and general chaos. Worried, because our friends were having trouble securing seat assignments for the last leg of our flight, we nervously paced around the luggage carousel, watching the clock and awaiting our baggage.
Once in hand we quickly headed for the line leading to the domestic terminals. This was where we were asked if we had any food to declare. Honest to a fault, Reg announced he had half a bag of digestive biscuits and we were immediately routed to another line set up for agriculture inspection. “Why didn't we just eat them?” I wondered as Doug and Kathy vanished from sight…
In the end, we passed inspection, managed to find our friends, get their seat assignments and we all made it home safely. So, was it the checked luggage or the love of digestive biscuits that led us to this obsession with traveling light? I'm not sure, but I do know that on our next trip, we will not be “trying to smuggle” food back home!