Which way are you supposed to go if you see this sign (the shell-looking thing)? Post in the comments if you know the answer and win a no-expenses paid trip to walk a leg of the Camino with Mark!
Hello there, good pilgrim! So you want to do/are already doing the Camino de Santiago? Well, it's not for everyone. It's long. It can be monotonous. It can be rainy. But it can also be pristine and rewarding and everything you've ever dreamed of in a journey.
I'm no expert on the Camino, but I've done a few clicks. Here are a few DO's and DONT's to help you on your way:
DO wear a blindfold half the time you're in Asturias. Given the signage you'll probably do just as well.
DON'T wear boots. Every single person I've talked to who's worn boots has had a terrible experience; from my friend Natalie whose foot swelled up to the size of a butternut squash, to the first guy I met, Carlos, who said, "I wore them on the Camino Frances. Never again." to Valentin, a dude I met the other night who had a jacked ankle, a bum arch, and said the only way he could even put his boots on is if he didn't tie them. Ouch.
DO bring a thin paperback with you. It'll be your friend when you're lonely, like on Thanksgiving when you have no one to celebrate with and no stuffing to gobble. Frowny face.
DO plan for a couple days off and a couple short days. Your body will love you and yes, the people on the forums I glanced at before doing this were right: it's better when you go slower. You see more, you do more, you meet more people, and it's more enjoyable.
DON'T get exasperated by how fast Spaniards drive. You will only be angry most of every day. Like me.
DO always have something to snack on. That way you can set little goals for yourself: Three kilometers more and I get to have a piece of chocolate. Ten kilometers more and I get to have lunch. Four hundred kilometers more and I never have to set foot on this path again in my life.
DON'T wear headphones. Come on guys. Listen to the sound of the waves. And the forest. And the cars passing by. And the car that would've hit you if you were head-bobbing to "Red-blooded Woman" by Kylie Minogue.
DO have some kind of utensil with you. I have a fork. Though at the same time, sometimes I really wish I had a spoon, since eating yogurt with a fork = insanity.
DON'T carry more than 10 kilograms. There's absolutely no reason to do so. A couple changes of clothes, a light-weight sleeping bag, and you're good. And wool socks.
DO wear wool socks. Even if it's summer. Even if you're in La Rioja and it's 190 degrees out. Just wear thin socks. Cotton kills.
DO eat as much tortilla española as possible. Eggs and potatoes. All you could ever need.
DON'T be beguiled into purchasing the "Menu de Peregrino". Often times there's no discount at all, and I don't care what anyone says, eight euros is not a cheap meal. Get pinchos. Or cook. Or steal*.
DON'T take the road. It's tempting sometimes but unless it's going to save you a ton of clicks it's not really worth it. I feel my soul slowly disintegrating when I'm on the road. And plus one of Spain's national slogans seems to be "Drive to maim."
DO talk to people. My conversation with the Cuban lady the other day was a ray of sunshine and talking to the husband/wife couple who owned the hotel yesterday was definitely a highlight. I need to follow this rule myself more because after walking all day it's easy to shut yourself off from the world. But my favorite moments so far have been impromptu conversations. Spaniards are great conversationalists, and within minutes of talking to someone they'll be patting you on the back or giving you relationship advice. The meat and potatoes of the Camino experience, as far as I'm concerned (or egg and potatoes, in honor of the tortilla).
DO eat lots of dark chocolate. It makes you happy.
DON'T touch the comforters at the Hosteling International Ondarreta in San Sebastian. You will get bed bugs, they will take up residence on your body/ in your clothes, and you will at some point think about jumping off a bridge.
That's all for now. Happy Thanksgiving! I'm going to eat some Dorito's in my room and possibly watch Legend of the Fall. ¡Olé!
Bonus video: Mark Reviews: Quechua 10-liter Poncho