Having had half an idea rattling around in my head for a few years and having a little affinity to Martin Sheens character in The Way, I surprised myself when I decided to take a month off life and walk the 800km Camino Frances from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (SJPP) over the Pyrenees and west through Northern Spain to Santiago, with whatever I could carry on my back.
The trouble is, I’ve never really been an outdoorsy person. I’ve never owned a rucksack or walking boots and I’ve never been attracted by the prospect of sleeping anywhere other than in my own bed or a 4* hotel.
Attitude & Activity
I wanted this to be my own adventure and not an organised package holiday disguised as a journey of self-fulfillment, so I wasn’t overly worried about researching or planning too much.
However, never having hiked for more than a day before, I was curious as to what I needed to bring and decided to get help from the experts. So, of course, I consulted Facebook.
In my mind, I was going to have a tranquil experience, connecting with nature and myself, but in trying to find what to take, I ended up reading terrifying experiences of bed bugs, blisters, overflowing hostels, and more blisters. It seemed like every piece of useful advice was overshadowed by nightmare scenarios.
The reality is that, as with life, the mindset you turn up with goes a long way to dictating how it’s going to go on your Camino. The two things that will always remain in your control are Attitude and Activity.
Developing the minimalist mentality - the right way
Undiscouraged, I relished my adventure, but being a newbie, I had a concern about the weight I was to carry on my back and worried that it could spoil the entire experience and wreck my knees.
In my efforts to get it right, I even read a book that suggested I cut all the surplus straps of my rucksack, cut all the washing labels out of my clothes and also cut that pesky handle off my toothbrush then tear pages out of my guide book and post them home every day!
You really don’t need to do any of that.
There’s a more straightforward way.
“Don’t pack your fears.”
That’s it! Something so simple had a significant impact on my packing and, more importantly, my mental state.
If I could embrace that philosophy, it meant (apart from my rain clothes) anything I had on my packing-list that was there because of my mind saying, “what if ...... happens?” was gone.
Not only did it lighten my rucksack immediately, but it lightened my mood and my soul. What I had was what I needed, anything else, I’d figure out along the way. Northern Spain is not total wilderness, there are shops, pharmacies, and the goodwill of other pilgrims all along the Way.
Sure I got tired legs, especially at the start, but there wasn’t a single moment where I noticed the weight of my rucksack, and I certainly didn’t miss my flare gun, avalanche airbag, or any of the other what-ifs that I left at home.
Worrying is like praying for stuff we don't want
Well prepared is more about what’s going on in your head. So as long as you’ve packed the right attitude, you’ll be fine.