Welcome to a brand new edition of Blogger Spotlight On!
I am very happy to introduce you to this month’s guest, Canadian writer and fellow traveler Randall St. Germain also known as @CaminoMyWay on Twitter.
He is the author of Camino De Santiago in 20 Days which recounts his journey on the 800 kilometer French Way across the north of Spain.
Randall blogs at CaminoMyWay.com, enjoys nature and loves walking long distances 🙂
Let’s get to know him better shall we?
How old when you first traveled and where did you go?
I first remember traveling home from the hospital as a newborn baby. It was a bumpy ride and I couldn’t tell if the road had potholes or my Dad’s ’67 Chevy needed new shocks. My memory kind of goes blank until about the age of 5 when I remember taking family road trips around Western Canada and the United States. Visiting the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone National Park were among my earliest memories. I love the beauty of the mountains and nature, and I thank my parents for taking me to these places at an early age.
Do you prefer to travel solo or with someone?
I don’t like traveling alone as a tourist. I prefer to share the experience with someone special. Plus, I enjoy having someone to cuddle with at night. However, if it’s long distance walking such as the Camino de Santiago, I prefer to go my own pace. If I knew someone who I was compatible with, it could work out. Otherwise, it’s easy to get exhausted or even injured if you’re walking at someone else’s pace, especially if they’re faster than you. There are always people to meet along Camino so you don’t get too lonely.
Tell us about your book “Camino de Santiago In 20 Days”. Who inspired you to go there and when did you go?
I didn’t know much about the Camino prior to going. I had watched the film, Belle Époque, many years ago and remember the scenes of the Spanish countryside very well. I enjoy long walks and discovering new places. At 800 kilometers, the Camino seemed like the ultimate long walk. When my Mom was very sick, we discussed it, and she told me to go. After she passed away, I walked in her memory.
My book recounts my 20 day journey on the 800 kilometer Camino Francés from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. According to my reviews and emails, it’s not a journey or a book for everyone. I set to write honestly of my thoughts and observations without embellishments. It’s easy to create a whole lot of drama while writing, but one of the positive aspects about the Camino is the lack of drama. I like to say Camino de Santiago In 20 Days is a book about really walking the Camino.
Do you have a funny story from your travels to share?
This was a failed rain gear experiment on a cold, rainy Spring day in La Rioja, a few days into my Camino. Need I say more?
Of course you meet all kinds of characters on the Camino. For various reasons, about midway through the Camino del Norte, there are many less pilgrims than who started. I was happy for any company. One afternoon, I saw a man behind me and since I was languishing, he caught up easily. All he could talk about was that my backpack was too big and I would be lucky to finish. Now this pilgrim had only been walking for a few days whereas I was on the del Norte for 2 weeks. My backpack was on the large size so he was right, but it was about the same as I had on the Camino Francés. After a few minutes, I could tell I was holding him back so I said to go ahead. At that moment, I realized he was carrying a purple, pink and white day pack, one that would be used more likely by a teenaged girl and not some 40-year-old guy.
Going on the Camino is not easy and is not for everyone, what advice would you give to someone who is thinking of going there?
Some people say that everyone needs to walk the Camino. I don’t believe that is true. Going away for a long period, walking for many hours every day through aches and all kinds of weather, and staying in accommodations that aren’t really even one star is not for everyone. It pushes past the outer limits of the comfort zone for many of us. However, I believe that’s a good challenge and makes you a stronger person.
Being in shape to walk the Camino is important, of course. Since I live in Vancouver, some of my training is hiking in the mountains that are more difficult than any track on the Camino. I also include rolling terrain which is a mix between paths and pavement, similar to what you find on the Camino. Make sure you have good walking shoes that have tread for trails and pavement as a good part of the Camino is along hard surfaces. Pack light but be comfortable. I have a section in my book with how I prepared (shameless plug).
In these days of smart phones, GPS devices, apps, Google Streetview, a multitude of guidebooks, one has a tendency to over plan their Camino, in the sense that they already know what’s ahead of them. I believe you should discover the Camino for yourself. There is nothing like seeing a beautiful church or bridge for the first time with your own eyes. A good map, accommodation guide, and elevation profile are important to carry. I do like to know what’s ahead of me in terms of distance between towns and villages, elevation changes, and if it’s late in the day, upcoming accommodations and number of rooms or beds. On my last Camino, instead of carrying a guidebook, I photocopied only the information I needed and discarded pages as I went.
I will say that once you arrive at the plaza in front of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral after walking so far and for so long, it’s a feeling of exuberance like none other. If you have walked with the memory of someone, the feeling is even greater. I believe most pilgrims miss the Camino life when they arrive home.
What do you love most about traveling, what does it do to you?
First of all, I don’t like the days before leaving on a big trip. I usually have so much going on, it’s difficult and stressful to get away. Once I get to the airport and check in, I can breathe and start to enjoy myself. Traveling opens up my mind to new cultures and experiences. I love to be inspired and traveling makes me feel great to be alive.
What are your travel plans for the future?
As for walking, I have a bigger Camino in Spain, the 1,200 kilometer Via de la Plata which includes the route from the ancient seaside town of Cádiz through Seville and on to Santiago de Compostela. I thought the Camino del Norte was long and difficult at 850 kilometers, so this seems almost impossible, especially at my ancient age.
As for being a tourist, I would love to return to France and explore. I have seen so little of the country I love! Really, to travel all around Europe would be great. I also have a strong desire to climb Mount Fuji, Mount Kilimanjaro, and see the high Arctic. I could go on…
Tell us about your blog and what can we, as readers, find?
My blog is Camino My Way and I take the reader along on my journeys as well as the journeys of others. I like to show the actual scenes and you luckily won’t find me in many of the photos. Nothing too controversial or news worthy. If you don’t like flowers, nature, ancient landmarks, Spanish countryside, mountains, ducks, Marmots, Snowy Owls, or Leonardo da Vinci, I wouldn’t bother visiting.
As an experienced world traveler and writer, are there any tips or a piece of advice you would like to share with us?
I don’t know about being an experienced world traveler but I think I can travel best when I don’t have any baggage or worries from my home life. If there is something constantly concerning, then the trip won’t be as pleasant. Regarding the Camino, take advice from others, but you really need to find your own way.
How can we contact or follow you online?
Please visit my blog http://www.caminomyway.com. I really like comments 🙂
My book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0987709003
Follow me on the following social media channels:
Google Plus : https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RandallStGermain
It was a so much fun learning more about you Randall!
We thank you so much for your time and we wish you lots of success.
Many Happy Travels!
Until next time!
All the best,