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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Hiking the El Camino Trail

Kathy and Jim McLeod share their experience!

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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The Way of St. James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages. The Camino de Santiago, known in English as the Way of Saint James among other names, is a network of pilgrims' trails to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried.

Saint James was martyred in Jerusalem in 44 AD. From the time of the discovery of St. James' remains in 812 AD, The pilgrimage to Santiago has never ceased, though there have been years of fewer pilgrims, particularly during European wars.

When we discovered our friends, Kathy and Jim McLeod were going to walk this trail, we couldn't wait to hear more about it from a personal experience point of view. Enjoy their comments and discoveries below!

El Camino Trail, Day 0: St. Jean Pied de Port, France

St. Jean Pied de Port, France

RetireEarlyLifestyle: The Camino Trail has become very popular in recent years. What made you decide to do the El Camino trail?

McLeods: A few years ago, after doing the Boiling Lake hike in Dominica, someone suggested we might also enjoy El Camino. After watching the movie The Way, we decided we would definitely add it to our bucket list.

Kathy standing next to a mileage sign to Santiago, Spain, El Camino Trail

It's a long way to Santiago

 

 

 

 

REL: Were there lots of people on the trail?

McLeods: There were a lot of people in the albergues at night but for the most part we only met a few people during the day. That is, until the last 100km (which is the required section of the trail you must complete in order to earn your Compostela), when it became quite crowded.

REL: Did you consider yourselves to be pilgrims or hikers?

McLeods: We were definitely hikers.

REL: What did you want to achieve by doing the trail?

McLeods: That's a good question.

While doing El Camino, Kathy mentioned that this was on Jim's bucket list and that prompted him to wonder why he wanted to do it. After several hours of pondering this while walking in the cold and rain, he realized that he felt he needed to prove to himself that he *could* do it! Apparently this was a common theme among the men there over 50.

REL: Did you enjoy the scenery on the trail?

McLeods: There were some really beautiful sections along the trail.

Day 1: Valcarlos, Spain, Jim and Kathy on the El Camino Trail

Valcarlos, Spain

REL: Did you find that hiking the El Camino required a good deal of mental toughness? Were you prepared for this? How did you prepare?

McLeods: Because it was unseasonably cold and wet, we weren't able to enjoy it as much as we would have liked. We actually weren't prepared for it, but we were able to adjust on the fly. We hadn't planned on stopping for a caf� every day but we found that we needed a boost and a chance to get dry and warm in order to continue on.

REL: What did it cost you both to do The Trail?

McLeods: Not counting transportation and accommodation to and from El Camino, it cost us about $3500 Canadian Dollars.

Restroom in an auberge. El Camino Trail.

Restroom in an auberge

REL: Were the Albergues of decent quality?

McLeods: For the most part, the ones we stayed at were quite good. They cost a little more than we had budgeted for but making our own meals cost less so it all balanced out.

REL: What was the best thing about walking El Camino? The worst?

McLeods: The best part of El Camino was meeting all of the wonderful people of Spain and the other peregrinos. For the most part, everyone was very friendly.

The worst part of El Camino, for us was, because we walked in late spring and early summer, the albergues generally would not turn on the heat, even though it was unseasonably cold during our time there. They generally had thick blankets for us, but after walking all day in the rain, some nights we just couldn't get the chill out of our bones.

REL: What would you do differently, had you known the challenges you faced?

McLeods: On reflection, we would probably only do the last 100km taking our time and doing more sightseeing. That is what we missed the most was that we didn't really get to see the forest for the trees. We were so focused on getting from point A to point B in order to get out of the rain and cold, that we didn't really get to enjoy the journey.

REL: What advice would you give to others who want to do the trail?

McLeods: Research! Be prepared. And do at least a couple of full day test walks with all of your gear including water and food. We adjusted a few things after these walks.

Day 28: Mellid, Spain. Kathy and Jim on the El Camino Trail

Mellid, Spain

REL: Did you go through a lot of tiny villages on the way?

McLeods: We did. What was interesting was that a lot of these places exist solely for El Camino. A few of them had a population of zero... the caf�s and albergues are there for the peregrinos, but the employees commute from other villages.

REL: What did you do about food and water during the day while you were hiking?

McLeods: We brought small insulated travel mugs and, because of a great tip from Billy and Akaisha that we learned in Mexico (One Meal a Day) we grabbed an immersion heater coil for the 220v electricity in Spain, to make oatmeal and coffee in any of the albergues we ended up in that didn't have a kitchen.

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The night before, Kathy would consult the guidebook and apps, and determine which trail we would take (if there were alternates), and how far we would walk, and which albergue we would stay at, how much water to bring based on the availability of water fountains along the trail, where we would stop for caf�, and where we would grab groceries and what we would buy based on the amenities available at our chosen albergue.

We would bring our water bottle (and coffee mug full of water if necessary) as well as bananas and apples (and possibly a chocolate croissant or two). We would stop about 2/3 of the way to grab a caf� and possibly an orange juice and maybe a chocolate croissant. We would always start with a good breakfast and then have our main meal, around 3-4pm, usually pasta, sandwiches or wraps with salad at the albergue, or occasionally a meal at a restaurant if we seen or heard about one that interested us. Then we would just snack in the evening.

Day 20: Hontanas, Spain. El Camino Trail

Hontanas, Spain.

REL: How heavy were your backpacks? What do you wish you would have brought? What would you have left at home?

McLeods: After much research, we tried to keep our backpacks as "light" as possible. We met many people who started with much bigger packs than us but were offloading hiking boots, jeans, makeup, etc. after a few days of lugging it around. There wasn't anything that we wished we had brought, and the only things we brought that we didn't use was our sunglasses and sunscreen because of all the darn rain.

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Day 13: Azofra, Spain. One of the few sunny spells on the El Camino Trail

Azofra, Spain. One of the few sunny spells.

REL: Did you go to Fisterra? Otherwise known as Finisterre?

Editors note: The main pilgrimage route to Santiago follows an earlier Roman trade route, which continues to the Atlantic coast of Galicia, ending at Cape Finisterre. Although it is known today that Cape Finisterre, Spain's westernmost point, is not the westernmost point of Europe (Cabo da Roca in Portugal is farther west), the fact that the Romans called it Finisterrae (literally the end of the world or Land's End in Latin) indicates that they viewed it as such.

McLeods: Yes, and Jim found out that Kathy would indeed follow him to the end of the earth, although we must confess that we took the bus from Santiago de Compostela.

Day 33: Finisterre, Spain. The end of the earth! El Camino Trail

Finisterre, Spain. The end of the earth!

REL: Did you have some great food or wine on your trail?

McLeods: There was some good food in the Basque region near the beginning of El Camino Frances. There was also some interesting food near the end as many restaurants specialized in pulpo... octopus.

REL: How much did your packs weigh?

McLeods: They weighed, on average, about 16lbs (7kg).

 REL: Did you bring a first aid kit?

McLeods: Yes, but just a few basics. We didn't want to bring too much extra weight for "what if" scenarios since we had read there are farmacias all along the trail. So we just grabbed what we needed as we needed it.

REL: What digital equipment did you bring?

McLeods: We each brought our cell phone, which we bought Spanish SIM cards for in Pamplona. This gave us a way to keep in touch when we would split up for our respective duties at the beginning and end of the day, as well as data for our tracking app, Oruxmaps, and our El Camino app, Camino Pilgrim, so we could track how far we had traveled and where we were on the trail.

REL: There are several side trails and different beginnings to the El Camino. What is the name of the trail you hiked?

McLeods: We hiked the more familiar El Camino Frances, the one depicted in the movie The Way.

Day 6: Alto del Perd�n, Spain. El Camino Trail

Alto del Perd�n, Spain

REL: Did you go off the hike to visit the towns or cities on the way?

McLeods: We took a few rest days in the cities such as Pamplona and Leon with the intention of doing some sightseeing but due to the weather, never really got to do as much as we would have liked. We were a few days early for our flight out of Santiago de Compostela, and the weather cleared up while we were there, so we got to do quite a bit of sightseeing there and that was very nice.

REL: Did you receive a Compostela at the end of your hike?

McLeods: Yes we did. We opted for the non-religious and non-spiritual one.

Day 31: Santiago de Compostela, Spain. El Camino Trail

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

 

 

 

 

REL: Are you happy you did the trail?

McLeods: Yes we are, but for this adventure, at least from our experience, I think Neil Peart summed it up nicely in his book, The Masked Rider, Cycling in West Africa when he wrote: "Some people travel for pleasure, and sometimes find adventure; others travel for adventure, and sometimes find pleasure. The best part of adventure travel, it seems to me, is thinking about it. A journey to a remote place is exciting to look forward to, certainly rewarding to look back upon, but not always pleasurable to live minute by minute. Reality has a tendency to be so uncomfortably real."

Day 30: Arzua Spain. Sunny day... yay!!! El Camino Trail

Arzua Spain. Sunny day... yay!!!

REL: Are there any other comments or advice you would like to share about doing this trail?

McLeodss: Again, research and be prepared. We couldn't get over the number of people and stories we heard, of people who didn't do any research or preparation and quit within the first few days. The ones who are prepared and finish it generally do really enjoy it.

And another thing, if you do happen to get hurt or even just overwhelmed, take a break, adjust your plans or take a cab, bus or train if necessary. You're (probably) trying to cram in a month what the original pilgrims likely did in 2-3 months. Just like you sometimes have to in life, its okay to deviate from your plans and expectations as the situation changes.

Walk your Camino your way. We did it our way! Enjoy! And there were always arrows telling you which way to go!

Day 28: Mellid, Spain. We did it our way! El Camino Trail

Mellid, Spain. We did it our way!

What a great journey, Jim and Kathy! Thank you for sharing, and thank you for taking the time to answer all of these questions!

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Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer�s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

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