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How to keep a digital travel journal - free?

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LauraL

New Member
Past OR future Camino
French (starting late July)
I'm starting my first camino in about 5 weeks, and I'd like to keep a daily journal, possibly in the form of a blog. I'm looking for recommendations on suitable platforms, so here's a bit of background and my wish list:

- I have a facebook account, but some of my friends are not on facebook. I'm thinking I might post a daily highlight on facebook with a link to a page with more detail.
- My non-facebook friends would have a link to go directly to my 'blog' page, if/when they want to.
- Apart from the fact that not everyone uses facebook, I didn't want to use that as the main platform for my stories, because it won't be easy for me, later on, to save them all together.
- I'm not a fan of Instagram (not any better than facebook for my purposes).
- I'd like something free and simple, where I can add photos and text, and get comments from readers.
- It would be great if readers didn't have to register or create an account in order to comment.
- I would like to be able to add photos without worrying that I will run out of space, so it would need to be something unlimited or very generous...

Any suggestions will be appreciated!
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I'm starting my first camino in about 5 weeks, and I'd like to keep a daily journal, possibly in the form of a blog. I'm looking for recommendations on suitable platforms, so here's a bit of background and my wish list:


There are two apps that come to mind, FindPenguins and PolarSteps. I use FindPenguins, and Ivar has just entered a collaborative effort with them.

I have been very happy with FindPenguins. People do not have to join to comment. You can post up to 6 photos with each footprint you post, no limit on numbers of footprints.

The one issue that has come up for some of my friends is that they do not want their postings to be public. That’s not a problem, you can put on a private setting, but then your friends will have to join and sign up in order to see it. It makes sense — there is no way for anyone to see a private account without being identified as someone the author wants to accept. With a private setting, the author has control over which users can see the footprints. So that is one choice you would have to make if you go with FindPenguins.

Some other useful threads on this topic.

Here. And here.

Good luck!
 

Dave2525

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2014
I'm starting my first camino in about 5 weeks, and I'd like to keep a daily journal, possibly in the form of a blog. I'm looking for recommendations on suitable platforms, so here's a bit of background and my wish list:

- I have a facebook account, but some of my friends are not on facebook. I'm thinking I might post a daily highlight on facebook with a link to a page with more detail.
- My non-facebook friends would have a link to go directly to my 'blog' page, if/when they want to.
- Apart from the fact that not everyone uses facebook, I didn't want to use that as the main platform for my stories, because it won't be easy for me, later on, to save them all together.
- I'm not a fan of Instagram (not any better than facebook for my purposes).
- I'd like something free and simple, where I can add photos and text, and get comments from readers.
- It would be great if readers didn't have to register or create an account in order to comment.
- I would like to be able to add photos without worrying that I will run out of space, so it would need to be something unlimited or very generous...

Any suggestions will be appreciated!
I haven't used it in years but at the time I used the free option at wordpress.com for daily updates and the occasional photos.

I don't know if it has everything on your wish list but you still have time to check it out.
Buen Camino
 
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annmte

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Norte - May 2022
I am also happy with FindPenguins - I used it on my first Camino that ended in early June. With the free version, I was able to post up to TEN photos and one video with each footprint - and if you need/want to post more on a particular day, you could easily post 2 footprints for that day.

I think it's pretty cool how you can see each posting location (footprint) on a map - great way to visualize the Camino.

I have it set to private and just sent the link to any friend who requested to view it. Friends who did not want to sign up on the platform told me they were able to comment, but they were not able to "like" a post - not a big deal IMO. And my family has just told me that for my upcoming birthday they are going to use the platform to create a photo book for me!

I will add I met people on Camino who were using PolarSteps and they were equally happy.
 

LauraL

New Member
Past OR future Camino
French (starting late July)
Thank you for all the replies and links to previous threads - I've been reading them with interest!
Like many things in life, it seems there are trade-offs with every option and it's not easy to find the perfect tool.

Having moved house many times (including internationally), and knowing that there will be more of that (if I don't get run over by a bus tomorrow, lol), I am determined to keep my physical possessions to a minimum. That, and reducing the weight of my pack as much as possible during the walk, make writing on a paper journal out of the question for me.

I found it disappointing that both FindPenguins and PolarSteps offer the option to print a book (not cheap, and not something I want), but not to download a full pdf file (which I would really like, and should be free, but I can only get if I buy a book!).

I looked at other people's PolarSteps and FindPenguins records and both have things I like and things I don't. I haven't made my decision yet.

I used WordPress many years ago but found it too confusing/complex to set up and maintain. Is it more user-friendly now? I'm not keen to start learning code or having to decide among a million plug-ins at this stage...

Being able to select what I publish and what I keep private would be very good (seems FindPenguins allows this).

Also, as a member of the public without an account, I was allowed to enter a comment on FP but not on PS. Not sure if these are app-wide settings, or dependent on the privacy preferences of the account holders. It would be useful to know, but as it stands it's another point in favour of FP in my view. Although I prefer the layout of PS, with full text and larger photos without extra clicks. ARRRGHHH!!!!
 

DoughnutANZ

I would rather be fishing
Past OR future Camino
2023
I'm starting my first camino in about 5 weeks, and I'd like to keep a daily journal, possibly in the form of a blog. I'm looking for recommendations on suitable platforms, so here's a bit of background and my wish list:

- I have a facebook account, but some of my friends are not on facebook. I'm thinking I might post a daily highlight on facebook with a link to a page with more detail.
- My non-facebook friends would have a link to go directly to my 'blog' page, if/when they want to.
- Apart from the fact that not everyone uses facebook, I didn't want to use that as the main platform for my stories, because it won't be easy for me, later on, to save them all together.
- I'm not a fan of Instagram (not any better than facebook for my purposes).
- I'd like something free and simple, where I can add photos and text, and get comments from readers.
- It would be great if readers didn't have to register or create an account in order to comment.
- I would like to be able to add photos without worrying that I will run out of space, so it would need to be something unlimited or very generous...

Any suggestions will be appreciated!
Many, many years ago, BC (before children) my wife and I travelled extensively over a continuous three year period. We took thousands of photos that were processed as slides. On our return home we organised dinner parties and after dinner we showed our friends and family some of our slides. After a while our friends and family stopped accepting our dinner invitations. Then one day my brother in law invited us to a slide evening. We went and I found the night to be the most boring night that I had had for many years. Then the penny dropped for me and the next time we were organising a dinner I made a point of telling our guests that there would not be any slides and interestingly our dinner invitations were accepted.

I guess that I forgot this before my Camino Frances in 2019 and I set up a shared folder in Google Photos so that I could put selected photos from my Camino there and share them with my family and friends.

Of the twelve family and close friends that I shared the folder with two never followed the link to access the shared folder. Of the other ten only two ever commented. One was my brother who was recovering from a medical event at the time and was confined to bed and I suspect had nothing better to do with his time. The other was a friend who was thinking of also doing a Camino.

After the Camino when I had time to analyse the access to the folder I found that my family and friends looked at the photos for about a week and then they quickly stopped.

I was away for ten weeks in total and I guess that people were busy with their own life and didn't have time to spend following my life.

Also, while I took quite a few photos I found that spending time each day editing the folder and adding comments to the photos to give them context and there by adding interest was the lowest priority for me and so mostly what I produced at the time was a stream of photos with little context and therefore little interest for my audience.

Mostly I was too busy doing my Camino to make it interesting for others to follow along.

Now you and your friends and family are probably quite different to me and my family and friends. In addition, you might be quite happy to take precious time out of your Camino to comment on and provide context for your photos so that they have meaning and interest for people who are not there with you on Camino.

This is not meant to be judgemental about you or anyone else keeping a photo blog of your Camino, that is something that many people start off being interested in doing and many keep up that interest. With this is mind, this is what I did.

I set up a shared folder on Google Photos and invited people to view, like and comment on the photos in the folder. The people invited do not need to use Google Photos themselves although it is a little easier if they do. Anyone with a link to my shared folder can look, like and comment.

These days Google Photos is linked to Google Maps and so it is possible to see the photos overlaid on a map.

This is a very simple method of doing what you are asking for.

All the best and I hope that you have a great Camino, meet lots of nice, interesting people, take lots of photos and that you get to share your Camino experience with the people that you care about back home.
 

Kunter

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2022
I'm starting my first camino in about 5 weeks, and I'd like to keep a daily journal, possibly in the form of a blog. I'm looking for recommendations on suitable platforms, so here's a bit of background and my wish list:

- I have a facebook account, but some of my friends are not on facebook. I'm thinking I might post a daily highlight on facebook with a link to a page with more detail.
- My non-facebook friends would have a link to go directly to my 'blog' page, if/when they want to.
- Apart from the fact that not everyone uses facebook, I didn't want to use that as the main platform for my stories, because it won't be easy for me, later on, to save them all together.
- I'm not a fan of Instagram (not any better than facebook for my purposes).
- I'd like something free and simple, where I can add photos and text, and get comments from readers.
- It would be great if readers didn't have to register or create an account in order to comment.
- I would like to be able to add photos without worrying that I will run out of space, so it would need to be something unlimited or very generous...

Any suggestions will be appreciated!
I used TrackMyTour (https://trackmytour.com/photo-books) and found it to be very functional and easy to use. Buen camino.
 
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AnneO

Member
Past OR future Camino
2023
I keep my travel blogs on Travellerspoint. It does everything I want it to do, which is pretty basic. You can upload unlimited photos so it has become my photo repository as well. I am thinking of making videos during my Camino and posting to YouTube instead of a written blog but I am not sure yet.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
I'd like something free and simple, where I can add photos and text, and get comments from readers.

We used an email based tool where posts sent to an address got sent to approved subscribers (each had the ability to unsubscribe by themselves though). Comments from others were also sent the same way. I found that comments from others were distracting not only to other subscribers but especially us as we felt we had to answer questions or respond in other ways when we actually had better things to do.

Then the penny dropped for me and the next time we were organising a dinner I made a point of telling our guests that there would not be any slides and interestingly our dinner invitations were accepted.

Something of the same problem here with my old slide shows and TV projections of jpegs, comments from friends were distracting and interrupted the flow of the prepared patter. The couple of shows for general audiences that I did worked out better.
 

NJohn

Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: September 2022
I agree with you that Wordpress is not very user friendly. I wonder about Blogger (used to be Blogspot I think?). I’m following a blog on that platform now and it seems good. There is also Trailjournals.com. I used it for our long distance walks in England and I have seen several Camino journals on the site. It’s a little tricky adding pictures though.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
I found it disappointing that both FindPenguins and PolarSteps offer the option to print a book (not cheap, and not something I want), but not to download a full pdf file (which I would really like, and should be free, but I can only get if I buy a book!).
Do any blog apps or photobook companies allow downloading of a full pdf file? I would be interested in that feature.

I used WordPress many years ago but found it too confusing/complex to set up and maintain. Is it more user-friendly now? I'm not keen to start learning code or having to decide among a million plug-ins at this stage...
I have used WordPress for years. I'm not saying it is without challenges, but I have never had to learn code and deal with plug-ins, for a simple blog. However, the scope for more sophistication is almost overwhelming, and that can be intimidating.

The biggest problem for me is that I want produce a professional product, but when I'm on the Camino I don't have the energy or interest to spend much time on it. Or, as DoughnutANZ said...
Mostly I was too busy doing my Camino to make it interesting for others to follow along.
I still think there is value in documenting a journey - if YOU enjoy the process and the product, and if there are even a few people who are interested. I enjoy reading some (but not all) of the blogs written by people I have never met. And I certainly DO enjoy re-reading my own accounts! :D. I expect only minimal interest from others, but it is nice to get the occasional private comment from someone unexpected, who says how much they have enjoyed following me.
 

catperson

Member
Past OR future Camino
2017
In 2017 I used the free version of Wordpress. At the time I did not hink it was hard to set up and it shared to Facebook once I set it up that way. I also emailed my blog link to friends and family before hand who don’t do Facebook. I had blog printed into a book for em when I returned home.
Pat days end I would spend about 39 minutes writing etc. i was happy to reco7nt the day and my friends and family enjoyed following.

i have been know to browse trailjournals web site as well
 
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winemakerfw51

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Portugues (Sept-Oct 2018)
Here's another way of approaching the problem. On my next Camino I plan to use a speech-to-text app so I can do running commentary as I walk or at the end of the day. The file can then be uploaded to Google Docs where I can edit it them when I have time and share via email, blog, FB, or whatever medium I choose. My photos are saved on my phone and uploaded to Google Photos.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
On my next Camino I plan to use a speech-to-text app so I can do running commentary as I walk or at the end of the day.
I have thought about doing that, too. But I'm afraid that my commentary would be so boring and disjointed that I wouldn't be able to tolerate the editing process! :D Maybe I will practice at home.
 

Dennis Pack

Member since 2017
Past OR future Camino
Camino de Santiago Norte 2018
I used the relive.cc app on my camino a few years ago. It creates a 3D video of your journey and adds any photos you took during. I use the paid app though the free version may be suitable for your needs. I'm not sure if it provides enough for an extensive journal. Here's a link to my first day on the Norte: https://www.relive.cc/view/vevWDAx97GO
 
Past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte (2020)
I've used Findpenguins for all of my Caminos. As Laurie said, it's easy to use. I like that it automatically creates a map of my trip. Another bonus is that you can create a physical book of your Camino when you are fine.
I’m using it for my first Camino and find it easy to use.
 

LauraL

New Member
Past OR future Camino
French (starting late July)
@DoughnutANZ I totally get your point! I intend to post something every day, however brief, as a way to reassure those who care that I'm ok, especially as I'm travelling alone. Some have said they do want to follow my walk and seemed genuine, I hope I don't bore them to death! 😂


My intention is to keep a more detailed journal for myself, which may include random thoughts, and details that just make sense for me. I would then select the parts worth sharing in my daily posts.

I'm half-convinced that I will write my own journal in Google Docs and will use FindPenguins to share snippets with others - I just created my account to test it out.

@winemakerfw51, you read my mind. Speech to text was the next thing I wanted to explore, as I can't realistically see myself tapping long texts on the phone - but dictating and then editing could be a viable option. I downloaded an app to do that, now I have to get used to it!

I have travelled quite a bit, I always liked the idea of keeping a journal but have never done it. The Camino should be a very special experience, and I think will be worth the effort. I know I can't trust my memory alone!

Thank you everyone for your comments.
 
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Richard Smith

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2016
Kumano Kodo 2014
LauraL
I kept a journal in an A6 moleskin style book, it was easy to jot down thoughts and daily info and was private. I also sent emails with pics a few times to various selected ppl. My wife and I walked together and skypped our adult children most days and the extended family at Sunday night dinner sometimes. My wife posted a small number pics on Facebook sometimes/once a week or so.
What I found :-
Private journal - I started recording weather (stopped pretty quickly), how hard/how we felt (stopped), the distance walked (stopped after 75% of the walk), where we stayed (invaluable, you won't believe what you forget/misremember), people I met and sometimes their contacts (invaluable), private thoughts/revelations (hmmm, not so much written down, what was important seeped in and stuck in my head). But I did it every day since I could do it anywhere/anytime.
Targetted emails and pics - well received
Daily updates to immediate family - well received
Weekly/fortnightly Skypes to larger family - well received
FB pics - some friends liked them, especially those with an interest in the Camino. Some early general interest then much less later.
Afterwards - I treasure all the pics I took.
 

mattythedog

Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
I'm starting my first camino in about 5 weeks, and I'd like to keep a daily journal, possibly in the form of a blog. I'm looking for recommendations on suitable platforms, so here's a bit of background and my wish list:

- I have a facebook account, but some of my friends are not on facebook. I'm thinking I might post a daily highlight on facebook with a link to a page with more detail.
- My non-facebook friends would have a link to go directly to my 'blog' page, if/when they want to.
- Apart from the fact that not everyone uses facebook, I didn't want to use that as the main platform for my stories, because it won't be easy for me, later on, to save them all together.
- I'm not a fan of Instagram (not any better than facebook for my purposes).
- I'd like something free and simple, where I can add photos and text, and get comments from readers.
- It would be great if readers didn't have to register or create an account in order to comment.
- I would like to be able to add photos without worrying that I will run out of space, so it would need to be something unlimited or very generous...

Any suggestions will be appreciated!
Thank you LauraL for this excellent question which I have also pondered, and thanks to all with the great cmments, information and advice. On all my Caminos and European trips during last 10 years I send a daily email (sometimes up to 4 emails) with photos and commentary to about 99 friends and family who have expressed interest in following my adventures, and who give positive feedback. So far, I have not figured out how to send one email, via my old Iphone 6, to any more than 100 people, nor how to include more than about 25 photos cut to medium size. Other cons are the complicated process of transferring photos to email and then typing a running dialog and captions on the small phone. Compiling these hundreds of mails into a book, which I might want to do someday, and which several people keep pushing me to do, would be cumbersome indeed. Pros include a targeted address list that changes as I realize some of the people don't really care, so I drop them, while others who hear about these journeys are so interested they'll get others to forward them mails until they can get onto my address list. I do try remain cognizant of each individual addressee (benefit of having small list) so as not to offend, ie, keep down the sailor talk and political jokes. Like Ivar's blog, the mails provide very interesting stories about people and experiences, technical information and advice, and serve as a record to myself and others years later.
 

keith duke scott

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Last camino Norte 2017
Next camino 2022?
Many, many years ago, BC (before children) my wife and I travelled extensively over a continuous three year period. We took thousands of photos that were processed as slides. On our return home we organised dinner parties and after dinner we showed our friends and family some of our slides. After a while our friends and family stopped accepting our dinner invitations. Then one day my brother in law invited us to a slide evening. We went and I found the night to be the most boring night that I had had for many years. Then the penny dropped for me and the next time we were organising a dinner I made a point of telling our guests that there would not be any slides and interestingly our dinner invitations were accepted.

I guess that I forgot this before my Camino Frances in 2019 and I set up a shared folder in Google Photos so that I could put selected photos from my Camino there and share them with my family and friends.

Of the twelve family and close friends that I shared the folder with two never followed the link to access the shared folder. Of the other ten only two ever commented. One was my brother who was recovering from a medical event at the time and was confined to bed and I suspect had nothing better to do with his time. The other was a friend who was thinking of also doing a Camino.

After the Camino when I had time to analyse the access to the folder I found that my family and friends looked at the photos for about a week and then they quickly stopped.

I was away for ten weeks in total and I guess that people were busy with their own life and didn't have time to spend following my life.

Also, while I took quite a few photos I found that spending time each day editing the folder and adding comments to the photos to give them context and there by adding interest was the lowest priority for me and so mostly what I produced at the time was a stream of photos with little context and therefore little interest for my audience.

Mostly I was too busy doing my Camino to make it interesting for others to follow along.

Now you and your friends and family are probably quite different to me and my family and friends. In addition, you might be quite happy to take precious time out of your Camino to comment on and provide context for your photos so that they have meaning and interest for people who are not there with you on Camino.

This is not meant to be judgemental about you or anyone else keeping a photo blog of your Camino, that is something that many people start off being interested in doing and many keep up that interest. With this is mind, this is what I did.

I set up a shared folder on Google Photos and invited people to view, like and comment on the photos in the folder. The people invited do not need to use Google Photos themselves although it is a little easier if they do. Anyone with a link to my shared folder can look, like and comment.

These days Google Photos is linked to Google Maps and so it is possible to see the photos overlaid on a map.

This is a very simple method of doing what you are asking for.

All the best and I hope that you have a great Camino, meet lots of nice, interesting people, take lots of photos and that you get to share your Camino experience with the people that you care about back home.
Loved all the truth in your post. The fabulous camino adventure is best experienced personally. Others can only take our travel blogs in small doses.
I find that making a detailed record of photos and thoughts is most useful by myself to reflect on in the future to relive a special moment.
It's all good and I think everyone should take as many pictures and write as many thoughts as they are motivated to do. Buen camino to all
 

LauraL

New Member
Past OR future Camino
French (starting late July)
Thank you LauraL for this excellent question which I have also pondered, and thanks to all with the great cmments, information and advice. On all my Caminos and European trips during last 10 years I send a daily email (sometimes up to 4 emails) with photos and commentary to about 99 friends and family who have expressed interest in following my adventures, and who give positive feedback. So far, I have not figured out how to send one email, via my old Iphone 6, to any more than 100 people, nor how to include more than about 25 photos cut to medium size. Other cons are the complicated process of transferring photos to email and then typing a running dialog and captions on the small phone. Compiling these hundreds of mails into a book, which I might want to do someday, and which several people keep pushing me to do, would be cumbersome indeed. Pros include a targeted address list that changes as I realize some of the people don't really care, so I drop them, while others who hear about these journeys are so interested they'll get others to forward them mails until they can get onto my address list. I do try remain cognizant of each individual addressee (benefit of having small list) so as not to offend, ie, keep down the sailor talk and political jokes. Like Ivar's blog, the mails provide very interesting stories about people and experiences, technical information and advice, and serve as a record to myself and others years later.
Hi Mattythedog, thank you for sharing how you do it. One of the suggestions I got outside of this forum was to set up a MailChimp 'newsletter'. It could make management of the mailing list easier, as people can subscribe/unsubscribe as they wish (you would just need to offer a single web address, and leave it with them - or add a few manually if you know they want your emails but are technically challenged).
Cheers
 

mattythedog

Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
Hi Mattythedog, thank you for sharing how you do it. One of the suggestions I got outside of this forum was to set up a MailChimp 'newsletter'. It could make management of the mailing list easier, as people can subscribe/unsubscribe as they wish (you would just need to offer a single web address, and leave it with them - or add a few manually if you know they want your emails but are technically challenged).
Cheers
Good info, Laura. I have heard of Mailchimp, but didn't know what it was about. I will check into it.
 
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Bill905

Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
CF 2019
CP 2022
Via Podiensis 2022
I simply use Google docs and have used it for 3 Caminos. I use it because it's simple, not only for me, but it's also easy for others to access. I can upload photos, screenshots, audio clips, video clips. You can allow or block comments - I have done both. I wrote the entire blog, and would update it frequently using only my cellphone and WiFi. It's easy to share the link. Others can also share the link easily. Many, many people have replied to me or told me how much they enjoy the blog, the photos, the commentary/narration. If you can PM me, I can share a link to one of my blogs with you and you can judge for yourself if this technology is worthwhile.
 

tomnorth

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015)
I’ve used Weebly and Wordpress. Both have free levels and have good mobile apps that allow you to insert photos and videos. Sharing is easier with Wordpress
 

Rita Flower

Member
Past OR future Camino
2022 Via del la Plata
There are two apps that come to mind, FindPenguins and PolarSteps. I use FindPenguins, and Ivar has just entered a collaborative effort with them.

I have been very happy with FindPenguins. People do not have to join to comment. You can post up to 6 photos with each footprint you post, no limit on numbers of footprints.

The one issue that has come up for some of my friends is that they do not want their postings to be public. That’s not a problem, you can put on a private setting, but then your friends will have to join and sign up in order to see it. It makes sense — there is no way for anyone to see a private account without being identified as someone the author wants to accept. With a private setting, the author has control over which users can see the footprints. So that is one choice you would have to make if you go with FindPenguins.

Some other useful threads on this topic.

Here. And here.

Good luck!
I used Polar steps in 2018. You can post daily with photos and edit at any time. My friend used Polar steps as well, updated her text later and then ordered a really lovely coffee table book. I saw it the other day and was really impressed.
Only glitch was that some people had trouble logging in.
On the other hand there was no social media when I walked my first Camino. I kept a small hand written journal and sent emails to friends from time to time.
 

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Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances ivar
Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances
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