TRIP. The word either makes you cringe or celebrate! Probably celebrate if you are reading this. So here are some general recommendations for any trip:
*Know yourself- meaning be honest with yourself as you answer:
-How much am I willing to spend?
-What are my goals for this trip?
-If I am going with other people, am I in a stage of life with regard to my physical (note at the bottom about walking), mental (here’s a beginning article on Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman:) and spiritual (see Dynamic Catholic for a great intro and FREE resources about prayer) health where I can be flexible and strong so that I will benefit from this trip regardless of what others may do or say?
-Do the physical requirements of this trip fall within what I can do, and if not, are there alternative ways to travel or a way that meets my needs to do the experience?
-How well do I deal with being out of my regular environment and what is the minimum I need to take with me to survive gracefully?
-What is my focus going to be on this trip? (personal growth, relax, prayer growth, cultural enrichment, learning, physical fitness growth)
*Find out about the place where you are going.
-What kind of weather will it have while you are there?
-What interests you about the place?
-What particular customs, foods, products come from there that you feel you must see, try or buy or avoid (!)?
-What kind of music might you hear?
-What types of festivals may happen during your visit (really good to know as they may affect sleep!)
– How do you expect to grow as a person either privately or professionally (or both!) as a result of this trip?
-What alternative activities might be good choices should weather or delays affect your plans? -What is your ranking for the things that are “must experience” in case you experience delays?
-What sort of clothing is worn in the places for the activities you will pursue?
-What type of accommodations are available?
-Has safety been a problem in the past or because of current events?
-If it is out of the USA, what are the passport, visa requirements?
Quirky notes (and answers to some of the second set of questions about the Art2Pray Camino trip: By way of introduction, consider that the Art2Pray Camino Trip is a hybrid experience, it is not a “tour”, and yet you are not “going it alone”. This requires you to think out of two different boxes:
First box: The Planned Tour: You may have been on a group tour, where every hour was planned with all food sources and transportation done-for-you. Those are super convenient as you unplug from what you would do and follow the guide. Yet, if you have a streak of independence, or you feel overwhelmed by a group, these trips can be less than satisfying. For example, you are a person of prayer, and you may have wished to pray in a church along the way, and you had to keep going to stay with your group. Or maybe, you would have chosen to eat at a different restaurant than the others because you are (or are not) an adventurous eater, but you had no choice or limited choices, or maybe you weren’t hungry at the programmed time to eat.
Second box: Do it all by myself: You go alone or with a few friends who see eye-to-eye with you and you follow no set schedule and totally scavenge for food – meaning you eat wherever is near when hunger strikes, be it a fancy restaurant or a hole-in-the-wall cafe, and money is no object. You may have a few plans to see things but no time to research anything else along the way. You may or may not have a purpose beside just a vacation or break from your regular routine.
Now that those two options are clearer, here’s how this trip is different:
* Flexible schedule: Doing the Camino comes with a somewhat set schedule. If one is walking, it is best to set out by about 7:30 am so that you get to your next place at a reasonable time, no later than 4 pm, so that you have time to wash clothes, eat dinner and relax before going to bed between 9 or 11 pm. Buses and taxis permit non-walkers to vary the schedule or walkers to only walk some so that each person can meet his or her needs. For example, if a group leaves from Sarria and will stop for the night in Portomarin, which is 20 km away, and you get tired after an hour of the five-hour walk, then you can simply look for a bus or hire a taxi to get you to Portomarin.
* Flexible food: Food is plentiful and varied all along the Camino and you may investigate, stop and eat as you wish, when you wish, because only one or two points of meeting are specified and these are outside of eating times, especially if you have euros or select places that accept credit cards (which are not always available).
* Flexible meetings: Each day has a prayer intention that will be a part of the walk (see free sample itinerary below). However, each of us knows his or her own needs and each traveler has his or her own prayer life and has given over his or her will to God in varying degrees. For this reason, meetings and prayer points will be scheduled at various places and times, but will not be obligatory. For example, an evening Mass at San Nicolas in Portomarin, and a guided prayer time after that would both be optional.
* Flexible language services: You may use the prayer facilitator, Laura Woford, as a translator, or not as you prefer. Some people may wish to practice their Spanish and you may be pleasantly surprised by how many people speak English!
* Flexible lodgings: If you like luxury, it can be found in places along the Camino. Most hotels are reasonably nice, but not up to luxury standards. Those who like roughing it in hostels will be pleased with the abundance of choices and the cleanliness of the hostels along the Camino. Those who are really brave and want to sleep outside can do that also, and can often rent equipment in Spain!
* Flexible use of tour guide: You can choose whether to hire an official guide or not in each place where one is offered. Laura Woford may translate signs if no English translation exists, but according to Spanish law, may not act as a tour guide.
* Flexible choice of traveler’s insurance. Purchase your own traveler’s insurance.
* Flexibility in prayer: This trip will have two themes:
- Growth in listening to God
- Intercessory prayer
* Miscellaneous answers: Clothing requirements vary. As a reverent Catholic, and a woman, I pack a very lightweight large scarf to use as a wraparound skirt when I enter a church if I have chosen to walk in capris that day. People wear shorts and enter church in shorts, and no one says a word to them. Occasionally, I have seen signs requesting “proper dress – skirts for women and pants with nice shirt for men” as well as silence, but they are not at every church, especially the smaller ones. If you google what shoes to wear, you can spend HOURS reading! I find a flexible, good walking shoe is sufficient, but boots are nice for some “short-cuts” that can save fifteen minutes to an hour. You can opt not to use these! It is best to bring at least TWO pairs of shoes: one for walking during the day and a second lighter pair for night. I use XERO sandals for that second pair due to flexibility and lightweight. Some people love walking sticks, others find them a hindrance. That is a personal choice, and best practice would be to know what works for you and stick with tried and true, and not attempt something new.
Why these themes? These themes run through St. Teresa of Avila’s writing. Pertinent excerpts from her writings, other saints’ writings and the Catechism of the Catholic Church will be the sources for the meditations you will color and the guided prayer sessions. Your booklet will have coloring meditations with drawings of places on the Camino as backgrounds. Over them, short quotes in calligraphy appear for you to use as you pray in the late afternoon and evening in the hostel or hotel. The readings will be for your use during the day should you carry your book with you. The books and drawing materials will be shipped ahead to the places where we will stop.
An additional note on walking:
Some people may not be up for four strenuous days of walking as you may have seen posted in many of the sites that post the stages of the Camino. Laura Woford is not! Two hard personal experiences have taught humility with regard to that! Therefore, when the final itinerary is posted, the walk is a kinder, more gentle seven (7) day walk instead of the four (4) day walk. The other side of swallowing the bitter pill that I am not a fast walker, nor particularly gifted with stamina or the ability to carry my pack all day was discovering the many little towns along the way in much deeper detail. Interestingly, some of the hostels are near really lovely, simple churches, giving places to rest and request divine assistance to finish the day. Hurrying to meet someone else’s definition of the amount to walk per day would have made these discoveries impossible. Finally, the hostel availability is greater in the other little towns that are not main stops along the Camino. Looking forward to discovering more about the Camino and our souls together this summer!
Please share any of your Camino experiences or tell what you may know in comments below! Thanks in advance!