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Tell me what I need to know

falconbrother

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
June - July 2024
I’m 60 but, reasonably athletic. I did rupture my quadricep tendon over a year ago but, I got through all of the PT and walk several miles every day. My wife is 56 and we both are regulars at the gym. We are mindful of the miles we will need to walk on the Frances in June.

Our plan is to fly to France or Spain around the 26 of May. Then spend all of June walking to Santiago and fly out around the 2nd of July.

The rough plan is to take our packs and one large suitcase to have forwarded to Santiago.

What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?
 
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Very excited for you and your wife on your first Camino. I’m from Idaho. My first Camino all I did before hand was read the Brierley Guidebook. (John Brierley) Find the right backpack and shoes. Was mindful of the clothing I took, lightweight and quick drying is key. Made sure my pack weight was no more than 15 LBS.

In my experience with three Camino’s under my feet and currently planning my fourth is the less you know the better. I was so green on my first pilgrimage and it was my absolute best. Learn as you go, let things happen organically.

Getting there is the hardest part. Then it’s walk, eat, sleep, repeat. Give yourself time to adjust to jet lag. Where will you be starting? SJPdP?

Do you have any specific questions?
 
First of all, compared to many here on the forum (myself included) you two are spring chickens!

Make sure that your backpacks and shoes are comfortable to wear all day.

I always recommend that once you think that you have your footwear sorted that you should do at least 4 consecutive days of at least 10 miles. Even if you are used to walking that kind of distance on occasion without blisters you may discover that you have some trouble spots due to the day after day stress on your feet.

Estimate how long it will take you to walk and add a week onto that if you can. You won't know exactly how much you can/want to walk every day until you are there. You don't want to feel rushed, and you should have some days "banked" in case of illness, injury, or you just want a rest day or two.

June won't be too busy between St Jean Pied de Port and Sarria, so you can probably either "wing it" or book accommodation a day or two ahead as you go. In fact, even after Sarria you shouldn't have much trouble finding a place to sleep so long as you aren't too choosy. I came off the Camino Primitivo onto the Camino Francés for the last two stages in mid June this year and had no problem at all finding a place to stay. Perhaps by the time you get to Leon you can start planning accommodation for the last week based on how you are feeling. I definitely would not book everything ahead of time, since as I said you won't really know how far you can walk each day until you are actually doing it.

And maybe most importantly pack light! That includes leaving expectations at home - they can be the heaviest things that you carry.

In my experience with three Camino’s under my feet and currently planning my fourth is the less you know the better. I was so green on my first pilgrimage and it was my absolute best. Learn as you go, let things happen organically.
I agree with this. Plan your packing and your travel to Europe, and then just let the rest happen.
 
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Travel as light as possible. Like really light. (Wear one set, carry one clean set).
Make sure you have comfortable footwear.
Express Bourricot in St Jean (close to Pilgrim Office) can send the suitcase to Santiago for you.
Let the rest unfold........
 
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3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
Hi @falconbrother

What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?

I think you need to make clear whether the packs you are planning to carry are full backpacks or day packs. Many responses to your question are based on you carrying full backpacks which is what a majority of pilgrims do. However you may be planning to have your large suitcase with all your gear sent via courier to next accommodation daily which is quite ok but would you clarify please ?

If you are flying in, walking and flying home again I'm wondering why you need a suitcase at all. Easiest would be to just take your packs as carry-ons.
That was my immediate thought too … your question @falconbrother about what do you need to know …>>> an answer could be: You need to know that it’s possible and quite standard to carry your gear. Many exceptions exist with fitness and need for special equipment or just preference … all valid. Just wondering if you were aware that the bag transport is not an essential .

Given that you are going to have no more than a day or two in Santiago, why a large suitcase?
Same assumption that your bag is going direct to Santiago . (Which might be your plan???).
 
I’m 60 but, reasonably athletic. I did rupture my quadricep tendon over a year ago but, I got through all of the PT and walk several miles every day. My wife is 56 and we both are regulars at the gym. We are mindful of the miles we will need to walk on the Frances in June.

Our plan is to fly to France or Spain around the 26 of May. Then spend all of June walking to Santiago and fly out around the 2nd of July.

The rough plan is to take our packs and one large suitcase to have forwarded to Santiago.

What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?
I’ll throw two pieces of information on the pile I think are vital. Absolutely no cotton anything belongs on you or in your packs. Merino wool or quick dry space-age material are better in my humble opinion. Shoes and packs get mentioned often and that’s good information, but don’t scrimp on your rain gear (that includes covers for your packs). I got soaked to the bone because I bought cheap rain gear during my first Camino … that’s the fast track to misery for me. I can handle hot and cold, but wet makes me miserable.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
I’ll throw two pieces of information on the pile I think are vital. Absolutely no cotton anything belongs on you or in your packs. Merino wool or quick dry space-age material are better in my humble opinion. Shoes and packs get mentioned often and that’s good information, but don’t scrimp on your rain gear (that includes covers for your packs). I got soaked to the bone because I bought cheap rain gear during my first Camino … that’s the fast track to misery for me. I can handle hot and cold, but wet makes me miserable.
Try listening to your heart. You are on Camino after all.

Vaya

con Dios

Samarkand.
 
Let´s look at this from a different angle. You seem to be two smart people prepared to do your due diligence and research, otherwise you wouldn´t be on this forum. You´ll take various decisions based on the extensive information you have gained and your own incisive intelligence. Off you go and many of your choices will turn out to be wise ones. Others will be disastrously wrong. So what are you going to tell your friends about? The fantastic day when the weather was beautiful and you had this fantastic meal in this quaint little old tavern - ZZZZ, or the day when the weather was awful and everything went wrong until finally .... . Firstly, if things go wrong, you´ll have great stories. Secondly, you´ll know next time you go on camino what to do and not do. And don´t kid yourselves this will be your last and only camino. My first camino was when I was 60. I am not even reasonably athletic, and 11 years later we are planning our next. Just go for it. smile at people, and remember to go to the toilet before you leave the albergue in the morning.
 
3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?
falconbrother, you've been on the forum for a few months now, so you'll have seen all the important topics at one time or other. I'd summarise these as knowing:
1 your own capabilities (after undergoing the arduous training regime that Sergeant Trecile has set for you above..)
2 that the CF isn't a set of fixed stages, and that those given by Brierley, Gronze etc are merely helpful suggestions - other towns, villages etc are available (and frequently contain lesser known gems)
3 the different types of accommodation and whether you are inclined to book/ahead or wing it each day. Winging it gives you more freedom to make decisions on the fly, but may mean you have to get in mid-afternoon to be sure of a bed. But that's something you'll only be able to gauge once you start, and see how busy it is. A lot of old salts here recommend booking up to Pamplona (assuming you are starting SJPdP) to minimise the risk of a start where things start to go wrong before you've found your feet and are able to negotiate local ways and systems.
4 there are lots of good packing lists here to guide you. The key thing to remember is, if in doubt, best to leave it out - and if you find you really need it you can pick it up in Spain
5 No-one expects you to learn Spanish, and therefore, if you don't have the language, you won't be able to understand people who speak to you in Spanish. But you can learn a set of key words and phrases. These can be particularly useful for asking for things (or where they are, like shops, bars and pharmacies) and also showing that you have shown enough interest in your host country to learn them :)
PS I agree with JabbaPapa: give yourself an extra week if you possibly can
 
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If you are flying in, walking and flying home again I'm wondering why you need a suitcase at all. Easiest would be to just take your packs as carry-ons.

Snap. Given that you are going to have no more than a day or two in Santiago, why a large suitcase?
I always have several "tourist days" before and after my Camino, so I bring a suitcase with my clothes for those days. When I get to Santiago and I'm reunited with my suitcase it's like Christmas because I usually forget what I've packed!

Express Bourricot in St Jean (close to Pilgrim Office) can send the suitcase to Santiago for you.

Express Bourricot is definitely the way to send your suitcase to Santiago.
 
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I never bring a suitcase to send on to Santiago. Instead I do minimal clothes shopping once I arrive for something fresh and new to wear. If I can't cram it in my pack going home, I exchange it for something weary I've been wearing for weeks. I never bring expensive clothing on the Camino anyway, so no problem leaving a few things behind to make room for the new.
 
I never bring a suitcase to send on to Santiago. Instead I do minimal clothes shopping once I arrive for something fresh and new to wear. If I can't cram it in my pack going home, I exchange it for something weary I've been wearing for weeks. I never bring expensive clothing on the Camino anyway, so no problem leaving a few things behind to make room for the new.

In September when we arrived in Santiago we also had booked a table at Casa Marcelo. So we went into Zara.
I bought a simple white T shirt and a colourful shawl so I did not have to wear the walkingshirt from Decathlon.
I combined it with the grey trousers ( from Uniqlo ) I wore in the evenings on the Camino.
 
In September when we arrived in Santiago we also had booked a table at Casa Marcelo. So we went into Zara.
I bought a simple white T shirt and a colourful shawl so I did not have to wear the walkingshirt from Decathlon.
I combined it with the grey trousers ( from Uniqlo ) I wore in the evenings on the Camino.
Super! A scarf / foulard / shawl / shesh - a magical and transformative travel item. My favourites are medium size, very lightweight and a combo of cotton and silk. I usually take two - but one will do - can be used as a quick drying towel, a privacy screen on a lower bunk, for warmth around the neck, draped over the head and shoulders for shade from the sun. Love my sheshe (plural of shesh) . 😎
 
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Check out the Express Bourricot Website ( ) to ensure the bag you will ask them to deliver to Santiago is within their weight and dimension requirements. I usually send a standard rollaboard sized suitcase.

The process is very easy. All items are delivered to the Loop Inn - a short walk from the Cathedral - in Santiago. There, they are locked in a secure room opposite the front counter, especially set up for these items.

Only the clothing and personal items you will not need until you arrive at Santiago should be packed. I also pack souvenirs I buy in Saint Jean Pied de Port before I leave.

Express Bourricot is NOT cheap (IIRC @ €70) but they are the safest, most reliable way to get a suitcase from SJPdP all the way to Santiago.

Once you are in Spain and have easy access to the Correos (post offices), anything surplus to needs can be mailed to Ivar at Casa Ivar. The Correos is very reasonable, reliable and easy to use. Search here, in the Forum, for instructions.

Hope this helps.

Tom
 
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Hi @falconbrother I wholeheartedly agree with those who say there is not a great deal you need to know before you walk - in fact, less is more in this case. I would encourage not to try to 'know' or 'view' too much. Let your Camino unfold and surprise and challenge you. For me, in 2011, my preparation was focused on shoes, backpack, gear and how to get to where I was starting - in my case SJPP. I was already a regular walker but I did some training walks with my full backpack just to get the feel.

There is one resource that can be very helpful for simple maps, distances between towns, and accommodation options.


It would be worthwhile just having a browse to see how the information is structured. I know these days many people like apps and gps tracks. But, on the Camino Frances, I'd argue that you don't need any of that. It is quite difficult to get lost. And Gronze will show you where there are alternative paths.

All best wishes. Buen Camino.

PS Gronze is in Spanish. If you don't speak Spanish (I don't) - if you can open in Chrome browser you can use the Translate function. In any case the key information is obvious irrespective of language.
 
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Lots of good advice… mine would be that you are short of time. It takes some time to get to SJPdP and you will want to spend at least two days in Santiago and need a day to get to Madrid or Paris for you return to the U.S.
This would leave you about 30 days of walking. That would be ambitious for most people. Yes, there will be those who boast about doing it in 30 days, but that isn’t for most people. I’ve walked ten Camino’s those that have such a short time frame generally end up in taxis or buses skipping sections. I would give myself 40 walking days and if you don’t need them, go to Finisterre…… and don’t go by the stages in the guide books.
I’m mid-60’s and just did my last Frances last spring….. I was in good company in my age group.
 
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Just picking up on the point made by @Susan Peacock - only you know what long distances you're used to and comfortable with - but day on day walking those distances is something else. Many people do comfortably walk the Camino Frances in 30 days, or less, without using buses or taxis. And many take longer. But, however long you estimate it will take you - it's a good idea to add in a buffer of some days. You may decide you'd like to have some shorter days, you may have an injury or illness, or you may meet people you'd like to walk in sync with for a few days... As Susan says, if you find you arrive in Santiago with days to spare ... you an always walk on. Enjoy
 
I’m 60 but, reasonably athletic. I did rupture my quadricep tendon over a year ago but, I got through all of the PT and walk several miles every day. My wife is 56 and we both are regulars at the gym. We are mindful of the miles we will need to walk on the Frances in June.

Our plan is to fly to France or Spain around the 26 of May. Then spend all of June walking to Santiago and fly out around the 2nd of July.

The rough plan is to take our packs and one large suitcase to have forwarded to Santiago.

What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?
Start slow. Spend the first night in Orisson. Take it easy in the first week-ten days. If you get to Logroño without injury you should have no problem getting to Santiago.
 
Just picking up on the point made by @Susan Peacock - only you know what long distances you're used to and comfortable with - but day on day walking those distances is something else.
What people are capable of daily on a shorter hike is most often more than they are capable of on a proper long-distance one.

There are exceptions, and some pilgrims can maintain their pre-Camino training daily K distances from day 1 until Compostela.

Most, however, cannot.
 
A Treasure Trove Of Interesting Pilgrim Hacks! Learn & Share Your Own Too!
What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?
I have read most of the answers, and the question in the headline, ie 'Tell me what I need to know' and I wonder. If I have any suggestions, it is these

a. know what questions to ask, and learn how to ask for specifics rather than a far too broadly based question like both of these. It helps those who might be willing to help, but might be deterred by an unfocussed fishing approach like this.

b. more importantly, learn when to stop asking questions. It's not so much that you will deter others here from responding, although you might, it's that some might think that putting yourself in the hands of fate* is part of being a pilgrim. Leave room for some uncertainty, learn that you can and will be able to cope with the unexpected, and even perhaps welcome that as part of your own growth. I think you will have a much more rewarding and fulfilling pilgrimage if you do.

* if you are religious, you might want to think of putting yourself in the hands of your gods, and trusting in them. If you do, don't forget to give them a hand when you need their help.
 
What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?
The camino doesn't (necessarily) start in St Jean pied de Porte. There is no need to rush, Santiago isn't going anywhere. Orujo isn't just for breakfast. The Menu del Dia in the scruffiest, grubby, crowded Meson in any town, any time, (so long as its lunchtime 1pm to 4pm) will be a meal worth remembering. The Menu Peregrino may not be. Santiago may have stood with the Divine. Remember that when you get there.
 
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One of the best pieces of advice I received came from the host of a small inn near the beginning of my walk on the Camino Frances. He said, “It is better to start as an old person, going slowly, in order to arrive in Santiago as a young person, rather than starting like a young person, going quickly, and arriving in Santiago as an old person, barely able to walk.” So I would agree with others, who have advised you to give yourself plenty of time.

I am 67 and was regularly walking 12 miles in prepping for my Camino and figured I was in good shape. However, I was not prepared for the physical (and mental) toll of walking that same distance day after day after day. It came as a surprise to find how wearing the cumulative tiredness became, even as I registered that I no longer breathed heavily going uphill!

I do advise you to learn as much of the language as you can. Although you can get by without it, I found that being able to converse with local people added a delightful dimension and color to my walk and, often, led to really interesting bits of information or interactions—on numerous occasions, these exchanges led to mutual hugs, invitations, or information about the area through which I was walking—and when I think about my walk (all the time!), those interactions are what I treasure the most.

Use good judgment in regards to your own capabilities and the actual day-to-day conditions you encounter while you’re walking. For example, I got caught in very heavy rain and local people warned me that the Camino was flooding in places and that a specific descent on my next day’s trek was really treacherous. I ended up heeding their advice and took a bus around it, figuring I couldn’t afford to risk serious injury (several peregrinos did fall in the section I skipped, including a new Camino friend I had met the night before, who decided to walk and broke her wrist).

Also, the motto of the Boy Scouts is a good one: Be prepared! I carried first aid supplies and ended up giving a lot of them away to fellow peregrinos who were struggling with injuries, blisters, or pain (and also used a few myself!). My biggest challenge was with the heat. I found that getting up very early and reaching my destination by noon was necessary.

I did have my bag shipped each day and had prearranged accommodations and found that worked well for me, although, as others have commented, that meant a commitment to walking to a specific destination each night. In a way this was fortunate because I couldn’t quit or otherwise jump ship—and there were a few of those very, very hot days when I just wanted to abandon the whole idea of the Camino and head to the beach!

But I guess my most heartfelt piece of advice is to not compare yourself with others, to do what works for you, and to try to avoid expectations. I was told many times, by kindly locals, “Tranquila, Peregrina,” and soon this became my personal mantra, and one that I still repeat frequently to myself: “Be tranquil, what will be, will be.”
 
Express Bourricot is NOT cheap (IIRC @ €70) but they are the safest, most reliable way to get a suitcase from SJPdP all the way to Santiago.

Once you are in Spain and have easy access to the Correos (post offices), anything surplus to needs can be mailed to Ivar at Casa Ivar. The Correos is very reasonable, reliable and easy to use. Search here, in the Forum, for instructions.

Hope this helps.

Tom
Yes. we've used Correos to send a suitcase to Santiago and were very happy with their service and cost. And you can send it from any post office in Spain, I think. Here is the link: https://www.elcaminoconcorreos.com/en/transfer-luggage
 
I’ll throw two pieces of information on the pile I think are vital. Absolutely no cotton anything belongs on you or in your packs. Merino wool or quick dry space-age material are better in my humble opinion. Shoes and packs get mentioned often and that’s good information, but don’t scrimp on your rain gear (that includes covers for your packs). I got soaked to the bone because I bought cheap rain gear during my first Camino … that’s the fast track to misery for me. I can handle hot and cold, but wet makes me miserable.
For the folks in the back, let me say it louder: COTTON IS ROTTEN!! Do not pack it! I had given my sister a list of gear she should have and I recommended merino underwear. She brought her thinnest cotton underwear and we were both shocked when they were still damp 24 hours later. We were not staying in an albergue and it rained every day. After washing they were rolled in a towel to squeeze out extra moisture and they still took forever to dry.

On the topic of gear and clothing: wash everything you are planning on bringing by hand and hang them to dry in your least warm spot in your home (or in your garage!) to see how long it takes for items to dry in suboptimal conditions.
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
Test your gear in all sorts of weather. Get a lot of hill walking in - with your loaded backpack - to learn how it fits and feels.

Buen Camino!
 
I’m 60 but, reasonably athletic. I did rupture my quadricep tendon over a year ago but, I got through all of the PT and walk several miles every day. My wife is 56 and we both are regulars at the gym. We are mindful of the miles we will need to walk on the Frances in June.

Our plan is to fly to France or Spain around the 26 of May. Then spend all of June walking to Santiago and fly out around the 2nd of July.

The rough plan is to take our packs and one large suitcase to have forwarded to Santiago.

What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?
Four things you ned to know (IMHO):

1 Love your feet

2 Listen to your body

3 Stop and smell the roses (often)

4 Take your time on the camino to make peace with your past.

That is all you need to know - and be receptive to whatever comes along...
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I’m 60 but, reasonably athletic. I did rupture my quadricep tendon over a year ago but, I got through all of the PT and walk several miles every day. My wife is 56 and we both are regulars at the gym. We are mindful of the miles we will need to walk on the Frances in June.

Our plan is to fly to France or Spain around the 26 of May. Then spend all of June walking to Santiago and fly out around the 2nd of July.

The rough plan is to take our packs and one large suitcase to have forwarded to Santiago.

What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?
It will most likely be hot on the CF in June. Make sure you have a good hat and sunglasses (and maybe a buff if like me you are light on top). Consider buying some good quality walking sticks and learn how to use them properly. Have a good strategy for blister prevention. Don't overthink it and stay open to the possibilities. Enjoy every moment! Buen Camino. 🚶‍♂️
 
I’m 60 but, reasonably athletic. I did rupture my quadricep tendon over a year ago but, I got through all of the PT and walk several miles every day. My wife is 56 and we both are regulars at the gym. We are mindful of the miles we will need to walk on the Frances in June.

Our plan is to fly to France or Spain around the 26 of May. Then spend all of June walking to Santiago and fly out around the 2nd of July.

The rough plan is to take our packs and one large suitcase to have forwarded to Santiago.

What do you think a first timer from the US needs to know?
Have a browse around the forum for a few days. Everything you ‘need’ to know is on here and it may allow you to refine your questions. You could do worse than seek out @Anniesantiago s YouTube content.
 
New Original Camino Gear Designed Especially with The Modern Peregrino In Mind!
Super! A scarf / foulard / shawl / shesh - a magical and transformative travel item. My favourites are medium size, very lightweight and a combo of cotton and silk. I usually take two - but one will do - can be used as a quick drying towel, a privacy screen on a lower bunk, for warmth around the neck, draped over the head and shoulders for shade from the sun. Love my sheshe (plural of shesh) . 😎
Pelerina! I’m actually looking for this exact type of item for my Camino. I’m having trouble finding some quite right. I’ve never heard the terms foulard or shesh, so now you’ve given me some extra google search terms! I’ve been looking for a lightweight wool/silk blend but am also open to cotton linen hemp and silk. Anyway just rambling now but wanted to thank you for the extra vocab!
 

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