What’s in my shopping bag for the Camino


Scallop shells are showing up in unexpected places. Everything is clicking. And then another song came tonight as I was putting away the dinner dishes.

Kyrie eleison down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison where I’m going will you follow
Kyrie eleison on a highway in the light

This song by Mr. Mister was popular when I was in middle school, but I haven’t thought about it much since then. (That’s how I know it’s one of those messenger songs.)

Lord, have mercy on this road that I must travel.

Give it a listen. Yes, the band is 80’s electronica, but the chorus harmonies nail it. A plea, a prayer, a belief in the sacredness of walking your path. A wind reaches in to where we cannot hide and sets us on the road.

Packing my bags (almost)

That song came after a day of running errands to get my last bits of gear. Although I’m mostly reusing everything that went to Spain the last time, thanks to Amazon and several local businesses, I’m literally ready to pack my bag.

Here’s my haul:

Camino gear purchases

Here’s a full list of items (feel free to ask about them in the comments):

  • shoe inserts for arch support
  • a fleece neck gaiter which triples as a night-time mask and daytime hat
  • probiotic that doesn’t need refrigeration
  • hair ties
  • sunblock with no bad nasties in it
  • Mack’s ear plugs — I’m bringing these in addition to my trusty Hearoes
  • a compass/thermometer (my other one broke)
  • plastic S-hooks for keeping clothes dry in the shower
  • copy of my eyeglass prescription
  • two pair of lightweight Injinji toe socks
  • a new water bottle
  • zip quart bags
  • spray-on waterproofing for my sun hat
  • my new Camino guidebook
  • brand-new blank journal (AKA my camera, address book, planner, and journey-memory recorder)
  • a fanny pack

This is literally all the extra gear I needed. Next week I’ll be packing up my bag and test driving it for weight.

While I was out, I also got a short haircut that will be easy to take care of in Spain.

2016-04-01 16.06.02

Feeling groovy

Despite gaining all these items, I’m happy to report that I’ve lost sixteen pounds since I bought my tickets last fall. Though I haven’t measured, I’ve lost a lot in inches. Some of my clothes are looking a little baggy. I feel terrific. If I eat wheat, however, I feel terrible–my knee aches for days after. So I’ll keep avoiding it and loving this new skin I’m in.


Sock it to me: A post-Camino closet revelation

stripey socks
Used with permission CC

If you asked me where my floss was, I’d whip out its container in seconds flat. No matter how inconsequential, I knew every item’s location in my pack.

In fact, as a pilgrim, all my items had an assigned place within the pockets and pouches of my backpack. My blanket, for example, I rolled up tightly each morning and tucked close to my back, clothes in front. My clean socks and undies lived in one plastic bag in the bottom compartment, and the soon-to-be-washed ones in another. There’s nothing in the world so wonderful as a fresh pair of socks.

When you carry fewer than one hundred items on your back for seven weeks, you learn the value of your possessions. Though replaceable, each item was precious.

So maybe you can imagine how I felt when I stood before my closet, naked and clean from my first luxurious shower at home. The open doors revealed an abundance of colors, textures, and sheer options that overwhelmed my senses. Oh, my God! The choices!

“Socks!” I shouted out to Mary, who was in another part of the house. “I have socks! All kinds of them!”

“I know!” she shouted back, amused.

“And underwear! Tons of it! Oh, my God!”

In just under two months, I had completely forgotten how much clothing I owned. Although I’ve never been much of a clothes horse, I’d worn the same two outfits for weeks—which made my closet seem like a treasure trove. Running my fingers over the soft cottons, I marveled. I felt rich.

“And I don’t have to carry any of it! Woohoo!”

Moments later, it dawned on me that this abundance also had a cost: laundry—and the dreaded tedium of drying, folding, and putting it all away. “Every item you own requires energy and maintenance,” I’d said many times while teaching my organizing classes, but now it seemed a powerfully personal revelation.

Within a couple of days, I had tried on every item of clothing I owned, resolving to keep only things that felt good on my body. That session in front of my full-length mirror yielded two bulging black garbage bags of tops, sweaters, jeans, and shoes for donation to a local charity. I also brought two grocery bags full of nicer items to our local resale shop and exchanged them for cash.

It gave me an amazing feeling of lightness.

Though I would never get my closet down to the fifteen pounds I’d carried in my pack, finding balance between abundant choice and simple essentials was a way to honor one of my many Camino lessons.

Even after all that purging, I still kept all my socks.