Guest Post – Arlene…

Arlene has been an active contributor to the blog for quite some time, and is a moderator on the PGS The Way Forum. She also heads up the Tucson Arizona Chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino.

She’s soon to be heading off on her second camino, and so I asked her to post a guest blog. Here’s what she’s posted:

Camino – High Anxieties   

I will be leaving the States to begin my second Camino Frances in less than a month.

Many of last year’s anxieties proved to be pure silliness on my part.  Worries like would I be all alone,   would I get lost, what about wild dogs, how would I find my way to and from the airport and a hundred more silly scenarios I dreamed up.  None of which became an issue while on Camino.

You would think I should have all the questions answered and not have any worries about my 2013 Camino.  After all I walked the Way last year, everything should be simple and just fall into place shouldn’t it?   That, however, is not the case.

Here are some of this year’s anxieties with my solutions in parenthesis below each worry:

Have I trained enough?

(It will have to be enough!  If I haven’t trained enough, the Camino will provide a proper training ground.)

Is my backpack a manageable weight?

(It weighs 6.34 kilograms or 13.9 pounds, last year it was a lot heavier.)

Will I regret eliminating many things from the pack?

I will be walking mid September through October, am I prepared for cooler weather?

(Spain is not a third world country, they do have stores.)

Now here are my High Anxiety items (still fretting over these) with my comments in parenthesis:

Should I carry-on my backpack or check it as baggage?  I have several plane changes before I arrive in Madrid. 

(I still haven’t decided on this yet – HELP!)

Should I risk the airline losing my backpack?

(Seriously, how often do they lose baggage?)

If I carry the backpack on-board, will I be able to have my trekking poles inside, or will they be confiscated?

(I suppose a simple solution would be to send the poles to the hotel I will be staying in the first evening I arrive in Spain.)

But what if they don’t arrive on time?

Now PGS family, share some of your concerns/anxieties of upcoming or past Caminos.  Oh, and offer suggestions for my High Anxiety concerns, PLEASE!

Obviously letting go of control and letting the Camino and my PGS show me the way, is a lesson I still need to learn.

Arlene

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68 thoughts on “Guest Post – Arlene…

  1. HI Arlene –

    I’ll step in first –

    You should carry your backpack on the plane. At that weight, it won’t be a problem, and then you don’t have to worry about it not arriving at your destination.

    As for your trekking poles, I think each airline has different policies on this. The safest thing to do would be to take a cardboard cylinder with you to the airport, and if they won’t let you take the poles on board, then put them in the cylinder and check them through.

    As for your backpack weight – it’s spectacularly light – congratulations!

    And yes, you know that you can buy pretty much anything and everything you need in Spain, if you get there and realise you’ve culled too deep.

    As for training – I think you’re pretty damn fit! You won’t have a problem.

    Can’t wait to read your posts as you go!

    Bill

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    • Bill,
      Fabulous advice for the trekking poles. I guess I can get a cardboard tube from the UPS Store.
      And yes, I am pretty proud of the weight I’ve gotten the pack down to. I have to give credit to Chapter members for their advice to first timers and from my experience last year.
      Arlene

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  2. As you know my first Camino is coming up next May so I cannot comment on Camino related issues but I can tell you that for me in my life expectations always kick me in the rear…so my thoughts are to let go of any fears or issues and let the Camino guide you and from what I read here guide you it will…you seem really well prepared and your attitude is paramount…go girl!!!

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    • Good Morning Les,

      Oh, how wonderful it would be if I could just let go of my concerns – I’m a planner, and haven’t been able to change that yet.

      I have a spreadsheet that shows my anticipated walking schedule, kilometers and miles (walked that day as well as how many more to Santiago), what I wish to see in the vicinity, where I will stay and so on. This will be downloaded to my tablet and used instead of the Brierley Guidebook.

      You can see why I say I’m hoping the Camino teaches me to let go of the control.

      Arlene

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      • Haha Arlene!!

        Use your PGS!

        Wing it.

        Just TRY!

        I know it will be hard, because I’m a planner too, but I just threw myself off the edge to see if someone or something would catch me – and invariably it/he/she/they did!

        TRY IT!!!

        😀

        Bill

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        • Bill,
          I do have 3 connecting flights here in the States, and thanks because I forgot about the one in Madrid to Logrono.

          The cardboard tube is looking like a better option from the get go.

          Arlene

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          • Hi Arlene, given the cost of those poles – and no doubt they’re top of the line, you don’t want them taken off you by some security guard somewhere along your trip.

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  3. The TSA here in the States will not let you carry on your walking sticks, so Bill’s idea of checking them in a tube sounds like the best idea. If the airline loses them, you can always buy new ones upon your arrival in France. I also agree that you should carry on your backpack. I’ll be following you on your walk as I’m still trying to decide if I want to walk next year at the same time or in the spring.

    Buen Camino

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    • Dana,

      I’ve also heard that about the TSA. But I have Chapter members who have carried them on-board separated and inside their backpack. I think it all depends upon who is doing the screening that day.

      I purchased these trekking poles last year in Spain and paid a ridiculous €250 or something like that. When I returned home, the same Leki poles in my local hiking store cost $150. For that reason, I would prefer not to have to buy the poles in Spain.

      I do however, like Bill’s cardboard tube idea. I’ll probably go with that.

      Arlene

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      • Hi Arlene,

        I’m not sure what its like in the US, but here so much depends on the whim of whoever is doing the checking in.

        Be careful though when you’re in transit, or if you have connecting flights and you have to go through security in another country. They might have different security protocols, even if you were allowed to leave the US with the poles in your pack.

        You don’t want to have those expensive poles confiscated!

        Bill

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  4. Bill – I don’t know how my previous comment got attached to that particular response of yours, it should have answered your comment on the connecting flights.

    I know the spreadsheet is silly. Probably a sign of a woman with too much time on her hands!

    I WILL USE MY PGS this Camino,
    I will follow your lead,
    I can do it!

    Arlene

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  5. Arlene, I bought poles in a tiny shop in Astorga and they cost me either 25 euros or $25 Australian dollars. They are the standard 3 piece concertina poles and served me very well for 2 caminos. I had to replace the rubber tips second time round as one had worn through. I remember they came in green or orange. Don’t stress if you do need to buy a pair. The cheapies are absolutely fine.

    And I completely totally understand your anxieties for a second Camino. I was exactly the same. I think you are going solo and if so I have so much admiration for you. I really would like to go again, this time on my own but I’m pure chicken shit and I’m not sure i can do it.

    I also took my pack as hand luggage and wrapped the poles and a small pair of nail clippers in bubble wrap and checked that in. I was not worried if by any chance they had to be replaced.

    Buen Camino Arlene. Take deep breaths and Have a wonderful time.
    Debbie

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    • Hi Debbie,

      On my first Camino, I was fearful of being alone. That turned out to be the most ridiculous thing I was concerned about. There were many people on the Camino and the problem would have been if I wanted to be alone. Of course as women we are conditioned to be fearful of being in strange places alone, but as you know there isn’t much to fear on the Camino.

      You should go for it! Try it solo, I promise you won’t be alone for long.

      Nope, walking the Camino, or at least setting out on this adventure solo, is not a concern of mine.

      And, thanks to all the responses, I am now beginning to feel more comfortable with checking my poles.

      Thanks for your input.

      Arlene

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    • Deborah –

      that’s a smart idea taking your nail scissors with the poles and checking them through.

      I have my Opinel knife from my previous Camino, and would like to take it again. Tha’ts a good way to do it.

      Bill

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  6. Arlene, I am leaving for the airport in 2 hours to join Mike who has already walking there and I have been worrying about the same thin with the poles and pack and checking. I am putting my backback and poles in a super light duffle together and checking them. I also have stops on the way, so we will see how it all goes! Strressing about all the little connections and if I got all I needed to get done here before I leave etc… Breathe.. All a part of the adventure I guess. To all of us Buen Camino! Kat

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    • Kat,

      BREATHE! That puts it simply, but truthfully. That’s all we need to do, take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other.

      I would prefer not to have to carry the duffle bag all along the Camino. Mine weighs (wait let me check my packing list – yes, another spreadsheet) – it weighs 11 ounces or 312 grams. Gosh that’s almost a pound, I can carry-on and save another 11 ounces bringing the pack down to 13.29 pounds.

      Good luck with your connections and Buen Camino!

      Arlene

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      • I know, I hate that extra weight, mine is lighter, but I am still not happy about even what it is. at any rate on my way soon. But i was thinking of going through things one more time and seeing if I could ditch something!! haha. Maybe I should just take a nice shower! Kat

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      • We shipped our duffle bags and some other stuff for use post Camino to Ivar in Santiago. He performed splendidly. Even delivered it ahead to our hotel in Santiago for an extra 5 euros.

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      • Steve,

        I change flights in Houston and Newark and then I’m onto Madrid. In Madrid I catch another flight to Logrono.

        Did you and Jill have many stop overs and changes? That is my concern, too many plane changes – too many possibilities of getting lost. I know neurotic, but would feel more comfortable with the backpack under my seat or up above.

        I know of Ivar’s package service, it is a wonderful service he provides!

        Arlene

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        • Arlene. I changed in Miami and Madrid. Jill changed in Madrid. Bags were checked all the way to Pamplona. Returning, Jill was non stop from Madrid, and I changed in Heathrow in London. Of course, it could always happen, but with heightened security measures internationally today, lost baggage is much rarer. But, it could happen.

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  7. I was going to say what Bill already said, if I find I need something, I will buy it there. My big angst is about my medicine. I already put it in tiny plastic zipper bags designated by day, so that isn’t an issue. I am also going to leave a full set already to go here at home in case my hubby has to overnight it to me due to loss. Also, someone suggested that if you get a letter from your physician explaining your condition(s) and medications, then have it translated into Spanish (and I guess now Portugese) so that even a small town pharmacist or nurse can help you out if you need it. Also, for those of us not in the EU, I guess getting travel insurance that includes medical is important. Have you all done that in the past?

    More than anything, it can help to imagine (but not dwell on!) the worst case scenario. If I lose or forget something, someone will either loan it to me or I can buy a new one. If I get hurt, I either rest or have to go home; at least I tried. If I am uncomfortable in any surroundings, praying and remembering I am never alone helps. If I have to go to the bathroom with no facilities in sight? Well, I will do what people have done for ages. 😉

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    • Hi Julie,

      As far as medical insurance, I am blessed with wonderful insurance from my past employer. Last year I had them write me a letter to carry with me on Camino, saying I am covered and how to file a claim should I need.

      I am not sure about Portugal but I do know Spain has socialized medicine which means you will be treated and in most cases treated for free or a very nominal fee (or so I have heard). I am sure others would be in a more knowledgable position to comment on the fees than I am.

      I do think travelers insurance is a good thing to have anyhow. Bill’s Portuguese Tour will be including travel insurance so he has that covered for us as well as all the other details!

      It is also a good idea to get your medications written out by your doctor, just in case. Sounds like you have everything covered on that front.

      Arlene

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    • Hi Julie –

      I stayed in Galicia for nearly 4 months two years before I walked my first Camino.

      I had some medication for blood pressure and I ran out of it. I just simply took the box of tablets to the Farmacia and they gave me as much as I asked for! Exactly the same medication, and at a third the price it would have cost in Australia!

      Having a script from a doctor is handy, but not essential, I’ve found.

      As for travel insurance, that’s an individual call, but I always travel with insurance – because I travel a lot, I get a 12 month policy, which covers Jennifer too, and it works out to be much cheaper.

      Bill

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      • We had great travel insurance which covered $500 of our flight cost which would more than cover any change required, but more importantly it provided medical insurance including air life evacuation if required, and it also brought you back to the states if incapacitated or horrows, dead. They have been in business 50 years and are rated very highly. I think I paid $300 for both of us for two months.

        From: PGS – The Way <comment-reply@wordpress.com> Reply-To: PGS – The Way <comment+_h8htt-h_6kdrv2bok3v0d0vp4xh59u731-ub2if8jo0y2a@comment.wordpress.com> Date: Saturday, August 17, 2013 5:24 PM To: Steve Langham <steve@stevelangham.com> Subject: [New comment] Guest Post – Arlene…

        pgstheway commented: “Hi Julie – I stayed in Galicia for nearly 4 months two years before I walked my first Camino. I had some medication for blood pressure and I ran out of it. I just simply took the box of tablets to the Farmacia and they gave me as much as I asked for”

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        • Steve,

          I also purchased Travel Insurance for this trip, forgot I did so, but just looked in my file with the tickets after I read your post. And yes, I bought it, a great plan it is!

          Arlene

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          • I think the biggest thing is to be able to get back to the states if a medical emergency or death. We could have bought more travel coverage, but did not see any reason to as we could modify a ticket for about $300.

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    • Hi Julie -haven’t heard from you for a while. I’ve been wondering what to do about my meds, some of which are restricted substances. If I bring the bottles, they will take up so much room, but if I take small plastic bags and seperate out what I need, I lose the prescribing info and the verification that they are mine. Is a letter the only way to.go? I’ve wondered about bringing the small pharmacy slips that list everything you take, how much and who prescribed them.Would they work?

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      • Sister, I put mine in 2×3 plastic bags and clipped the RX information and put it in with the prescription. I found that quite efficient space wise and still gave complete information that is on the RX label.

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        • Steve, that’s a brilliant idea. Thank you! I always fear not being able to prove that the meds are legitimately mine, and having them confiscated, which would land me in hospital so fast.

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  8. Arlene: Allow me to share my experience on some of your anxieties above. Regarding checked baggage, I packed my hiking poles in a box with my knife and few other items so they wouldn’t get lonely. With my backpack as a carry-on, I travelled from Denpasar, Bali to Jakarta on Garuda Airlines, picked up my box and rechecked it on Qatar Airways through Doha to Madrid. The box arrived in perfect condition.
    My wife is traveling from LAX to Madrid in a few hours and she is checking her entire backpack inside a duffel bag. I’ll know how that works out tomorrow morning when she arrives.

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    • Hi Rambler1959,

      Are you Mike? Is Kat your wife? I ask because she has commented and said she is leaving in a few hours to meet Mike.

      I am leaning towards packing the poles and knife in a shipping box or tube and checking that. I do not want to check my backpack, I’ll carry that on-board with me.

      I would prefer to lighten my pack weight by not having to carry the duffle bag which weighs 11 ounces for my entire Camino. I know that sounds trivial but every ounce counts. I believe “to walk far, carry less” especially after I ended up using a baggage taxi every day last Camino. At 5-7€ per day, that got costly!

      Let me know, how checking everything works out for your wife.

      Arlene

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      • Yes, this is Michael. It’s nice to hear my wife Kathryn is relaxing reading your blog before she leaves for Europe. Can’t wait to see her. We’ll celebrate our 30th anniversary in a romantic albergue on the meseta with a few other pilgrims.

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        • Hi Michael,

          Congratulations on the 30th anniversary. Such a wonderful “Way” and “destination” to spend a celebration!

          Buen Camino y Vaya con Dios!
          Arlene

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          • Michael, I’ve wanted to follow your blog, as we discussed – but I’ve lost the blog address. Can you send it here or to Bill and I’ll get caught up with the two of you?

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      • Sister:
        Nice to hear from you. I’m at the albergue San Rafael in Ages right now as my wife is boarding her flight in California. We’ll met tomorrow in Burgos. My blog is www. Rambler1959.com. It includes some posts on my trip to Bali. Hope you enjoy following along.

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  9. I used an old beat up suitcase and checked it in at left in the hotel in Bayonne. COming back I was less worried, since I thought, well I am going home. I could not bring my pilgrims staff, it is waiting for me back at The Little Fox House in Galicia.

    I choose that option, because I could not take it on board, I had extra gifts for friends, that got shipped off from SJPDP.

    Coming home, I just didnt want to deal with carrying anything.

    I also had heard from some friends who had checked their bag, that it did not get to the destination on time, I even met one pilgrim on the little train going to SJPDP whos luggage was lost.

    It does happen more frequently then we think.

    So any of the suggestions are great, pick one. Myself, I would next time carry less and use that as my onboard..lol

    Buen Camino, and I look forward to your reports. Ingrid

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    • Ingrid,

      Thanks for your input. I am almost positive I will be carrying on my backpack. I just feel safer that way. I know I will have my stuff when I arrive and that eliminates a big worry of mine.

      I think I will check my poles and swiss army knife in a shipping tube as Bill has suggested. But I am going to check out the option of sending them ahead to the first hotel. If delivery is guaranteed, I may go that route and not have to think about them at all.

      Arlene

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      • Dear Arlene, as an extra precaution, or as another option to stir up the muddy waters of your anxieties, how about using one of the many overseas courier firms to send your poles, knife, etc? I’m sure whoever is manning the place you’d be staying at for your first stop would be able to sign for the package 🙂 Whatever your choice, we’ll all wait with bated breath to hear how it all goes!

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        • Hi Britta,
          Hmmmm Now that’s another thing to consider. Actually I think I will check that out, Thanks.
          Arlene

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  10. Arlene,
    I checked both my pack and a tube which I bought from USPS. Pas de problem! At Charles DeGaulle, my pack came out on the carrousel just fine, but not the tube with the poles. A woman saw me waiting, looking for it and just brought it over. They’d brought it up because I don’t think tubes work well on carrousels. My Spanish teacher said, basically all you need are your hiking outfit and a hat with a brim… In a way, that’s true. Each night, so far, in albergues, I’ve been provided with a blanket and pillow. I almost brought an air mattress but left it behind. I’ve also left behind the new Camino guide book… All these books are too heavy. I kept Brierly to locate alternate housing etc. most places of interest have placards and sign, as you know… And plenty of people are toting guidebooks who might share.

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  11. Hola Peter!

    Thanks for sharing your experience with your pack and poles. It is helpful in helping me decide what I will do – I still have time yet.

    I never thought of an air mattress, but let me tell you before last year’s Camino, I was considering the purchase of a tent and carrying my yoga mat to sleep on. The silly things I came up with before my first Camino but thankfully disregarded when I realized I would be carrying everything.

    As far as the Camino Guide books. I have the Brierley maps, the Eroski, G Kelly, Michelin and the new Village to Village guide scanned and in Dropbox for me to refer to on my tablet or phone should I need them. I agree the books are just too heavy to be carrying along the Way.

    Buen Camino!
    Arlene

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  12. Hi Arlene, as you know we leave in just over two weeks. I figure travel insurance will cover the cost of clothes and a backpack, so I am going to check them in. They’re replaceable. But my worn in hiking shoes? They will definitely come on the aircraft. I haven’t bought poles yet, so can’t advise you there. Hope to see you on the Camino, Peter

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    • Hi Peter,

      My boots will be on my feet, but then again my pack will be on-board with me, I’ve decided on that.

      The poles, that’s another story. Still am not 100% sure on whether they will go on the plane or get mailed to Logrono.

      Hope to see you also on the Camino!

      Buen Camino to us all!
      Arlene

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        • Peter,

          It’s called A Village to Village Guide to Hiking the Camino de Santiago written by Anna Dintaman and David Landis. I purchased it at Amazon.com, had it in two days (Prime member).

          I personally think it is better than the traditional Brierley Guide, a bit easier to follow, better maps, better pictures, better descriptions than JB’s guidebook. And another great feature, it guides you all the way to Finisterre than onto Muxia, you don’t need to buy JB’s Camino Finisterre book. But that is just my opinion.

          The book was scanned into a pdf document and placed in Dropbox so I can easily access it when needed.

          I’m now wondering if I can drop the entire pdf doc onto the home page of my tablet, then I wouldn’t have to be using data to read it if there is no WiFi available. I’ll have to check that out.

          Arlene

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          • Hi Arlene –

            I pdf-ed the Brierley guide book and then I uploaded it into iBook –

            I could then access it offline. Didn’t need wifi.

            I also had it on dropbox too.

            Bill

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          • Hi Steve,

            I digitised each page of the Brierley guide book, and then in PDF form, uploaded it into iBooks on both my iPhone and iPad. That way I could reference it offline. Having it in my iPhone was handy, because I kept it in my backpack’s hip pouch, so it was easily accessible.

            I also had the Michelin Camino Guide in book form, which I also used. I liked their side elevation maps, which made it easy to see what towns and climbs were coming up.

            Bill

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          • I have the Galaxy Note 8.0. But I’m sure I can do the same with a similar android app.
            Thanks, Bill.
            Arlene

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          • Hi Arlene –

            I pdf-ed the Brierley guide book and then I uploaded it into iBook –

            I could then access it offline. Didn’t need wifi.

            I

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      • Hi Arlene
        Just catching up on old posts. Wish we would have known about digitizing a guidebook and being able to access without wifi. I carried the Village to Village new book. Loved it but heavier than Brierly.

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  13. Thanks Arlene, I’ll look it up in Amazon. I also pdf-ed brierley and put it in iBooks. It’s not as convenient to read, but way lighter than carrying it. I totally recommend a mini iPad for the Camino, so much lighter and smaller than the big one. I’m sure the Galaxy tablet would be good too as its a good size. Peter

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  14. Hi. My reply refers to a few of the issues raised in Arlene’s post.
    As a pilgrim in waiting, I have made the following decisions:
    My pack, with poles inside, will be placed in a special Osprey transporter bag and checked in. I trust and have to stop worrying about what I cannot control. The transporter bag and a few extras will be posted to SdC to await my arrival. Arlene’s, I am a control freak so learning to let go is very hard for me.
    I fly from home to Sydney, then Dubai, London, Madrid.
    I have an annual travel insurance policy, with global coverage, for luggage, flights, medical, repatriation and God forbid, management of death. The company even send staff to accompany you home if medically required.
    Medication – luckily I take none, but will have a few basic items in my bag, just in case – antibiotics, panadol, etc.
    Question – did anyone take a spare pair of glasses or a copy of a prescription, in case of breakage?
    I create PDF files and store them in my PDF reader on my ipad. They are then available offline. Also save them in Google Drive. Stopped using Dropbox because of their user agreement on ownership of documents stored.
    Not sure how it will work out but I have to live with my decisions.hopefully the Camino will encourage me to let go a little.
    Blessings
    Anne

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    • Hey Anne –

      what’s the name of the travel insurance you’ve got?

      Also, are you going to share your packing list with us??

      (you can do this on the forum – I’m sure it will be useful for others)

      Bill

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    • Anne,

      It’s nice to see that I am not the only person who worries about things.

      I also have an Osprey transporter, but truthfully do not want to check my baggage. And if not checking the backpack, why have the transporter? I’ve decided with help from all of the comments, that I will be packing my trekking poles in a packing cylinder and either checking them or sending them ahead to my first hotel.

      I don’t take any medication (thankfully) but do have some Advil and anti-diahhrea medication in my backpack, everything is easily obtainable in farmacias along the Way.

      As far as glasses, I only need reading glasses if the lighting is poor. I bring along what we Americans call “cheaters” purchased in any variety type drug store for a few dollars.

      Thanks for your response, Anne. Maybe we will see each other along the Way.

      Arlene

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      • Hi Anne, Arlene and PGS siblings –
        Arlene’s idea of the ‘cheaters’ glasses is such a great idea. They’re generally very lightweight and they’ll only take up a small amount of space in your pack. If you lose your regular glasses in a place where you can’t access an optometrist, or even a pharmacy, you’ll be so thankful that you’ve got the cheaters with you.
        Best wishes – Jenny

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