Saturday, May 31, 2014

Goals in Perspective

As this trip has progressed I have come to realize a multitude of things. Everyday on the Camino you are faced with something different. A new hill to climb, a new mudpit to step over, a new conversation to be had. While everyday is different they all have one thing in common; you are walking towards an end goal. 

This made me realize that when I go home, and get back to "real life" that setting and reaching goals is not something to be afraid to do. Goals are something one can conquer if they keep trudging onwards. Just keep your head up, walk on, and enjoy the trail, because before long, you won't be able to see the things you can see right now. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Stay positive!

Optimism has been my own personal goal for this trip. No matter how tired I am, no matter how much my feet hurt, or how hungry I am, I have vowed to think on the bright side. This trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to really appreciate that.

It was very easy on days like today to get discouraged when you turn the corner and see yet another hill to climb, but all you can do is dig deep down and find something to keep you moving forward such as the amazing view at the top of the hill.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Laughing our way across Spain

The best part of walking the Camino is having good travel companions. It helps you deal with the physical stress of walking 10-20 miles a day, sometimes in pretty unpleasant weather. Most pilgrims pick up traveling companions along the way. That's what Gentry and I did last year, and we formed lasting friendships with people from all over the world. This year, I came with a group, which is a new experience for me. I wasn't sure if it work out, but so far so good!

If you're going to walk in a group, finding things to talk and laugh about is critical for success. It helps if the members of your group share the same interests and/or sense of humor. I'm happy to report that things are going very well for us in this area. 

I could tell you all the things that we've cracked up about on our walks, but I think the humor would be lost to those who aren't walking with us. I've been vastly entertained by singing, dancing, impersonations, goofy faces, and the kinds of inside jokes that only the members of our group would understand. For example, in Melide we had churros con chocolate at a place called Cafe STOP. Since then, every time someone needs to shed a rain jacket or drink some water, they holler "cafe stop!" You're probably thinking "why the heck is that funny?", and I couldn't tell you why, but we laugh every time. 

I honestly did not expect to have this much fun with a group, mostly because there are so many of us and the chances of having fun lessen with the number of people involved. Additionally, students don't always think of a professor as someone who is capable of being or having fun, so they are more reserved. Finally, this is no walk in the park. We've been doing some pretty grueling physical labor on this trip. So far, we've walked over 100km in the rain with our worldly goods strapped to our backs. We have climbed many hills, and although we arrived in Santiago today, we have two more days of arduous walking before us. It's not always the easiest thing to maintain a sense of humor when your feet hurt and you have another five kilometers to go, but this is a good group of pilgrims.  We're having an amazing time, and tomorrow the laughs will continue on the road from Fisterra to Muxia. 

Dr. Gonzales 


Pistachios are the quintessential pilgrim food, I've decided. I excitedly purchased some from the supermarket a few days ago and have been munching as I've walked these last 68 miles. They are challenging to eat because you have to break the outer shell and worm the nut out like a sunflower seed (but harder). They have a great after-taste and can be addicting. Pistachios are perfect for the Camino because you have to work really hard for only a small gain. Every time I reach the actual nut part and get to eat, I say excitedly, "Pistachio!" because it feels like something to be celebrated.

While we've been walking the Camino, it's been hard to keep in mind that we're not traveling very far each day, though it definitely feels like we're taking the country by storm. The other morning, we were debating what the weather would be like when we got a weather app to tell us. One pilgrim's response was, "Yea, that's what the weather's like here, but what about where we're going?" Of course, we were only about nine miles away from where we started that day, so the weather is pretty universal. As hard as our walking each day is, we're only making small gains for it.

As Dr. Gonzales has quoted about 600 times now, the great Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter never said it better: "You're going to be miserable, but you'll be happy about it!"
We've been miserable, but very happy about it these last 7 days of walking, and as we walked into Santiago today, it felt like an enormous accomplishment. I know I couldn't have made it this far without the support of my fellow pilgrims. Santiago feels like a giant pistachio moment, so congrats to us all for making these small gains and coming so far.
-Kelsey Cooper

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Some Things We Take For Granted

More like what we take for granted that we have every day in the United States. If you're reading this from back home you walk into any restroom and wash your hands then find a well stocked supply of plushy paper towels waiting to dry your hands off with. While walking the Camino here, we have learned that not all paper products are created equal, nor is it believed that they should be well stocked. Most napkins, paper towels, toilet paper excetera seem to be made of what is the equivalent to receipt paper and just smear the wetness or food residue around on your fingers. Point is, there are a great many things we take for granted or otherwise could do without in the United States. Here is a small list of things that myself and the other pilgrims have taken for granted and realized since we have been walking the Camino: 

Real bath and hand towels rather than camp towels. 

A familiar shower that doesn't require shower shoes.

A pillow with your own hair on it as opposed to someone else's.


Healthy, not-sore muscles. 


Complimentary water at restaurants.

Walking into a place and knowing you will hear a familiar language.

Reliable internet sources.

One menu per person at restaurants as opposed to one menu per seven people and quickly sharing.

Heaters. For the love of cold it's cold here.

Texas heat (yes I just said that). 

This is just a small list that we talked about today and we will likely add to this as the next 3 days go on bit it is interesting to see the differences between what we see and a custom at home and the reality of the customs here. I know that all of us will go home with a new sense of our American tendencies and maybe be a little more conscious of the little and large luxuries we enjoy at home in Texas. 

And here is a list of things I would change  and bring back with me as a custom in the U.S: 

Large pastries for breakfast. 

Chocolate croissants.

Chocolate croissants.

Fresh bread.

Fresh squeezed orange juice.

Low preservative foods.

About 10 euro (13-15 USD) for a large 3 course meal AND wine, beer, soda, or water. 

Spanish roses. 

Pretty cows. 

Jaime Ohm


In Spain, the breakfast options are pretty limited, so when we saw chocolate croissants, we each had to have one. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I finally posted and am too cold to think of a title.

Per my suggestion as well as Chaney's, we decided today would be a good day to try silence. I have been thinking since before the trip that, for me, walking the Camino would be about silence and learning to be quiet and listen before I begin to speak. I have always been one to say that the world is a loud place and is always throwing some kind of noise at you, making it difficult to focus and reflect on yourself, whether that be spiritually or or to simply assess your own wants and desires in life. For this reason we brought up the idea for a day of silence and reflection while we walked the 8 miles or so from Palas de Rei to Milede. 

Didn't work. We limped and hobbled along the trail for a while in silence but we couldn't help but be in conversation with each other the entire way. Cracking jokes about "day walkers" and their drawstring bags on their backs and being scared half to death by bikers coming up behind us on hills, (maybe just me) soon became the center of conversation on this stretch of wooded trail. We talked about life, laughed about hiccup-burps, and ate food we never dreamed we would, all while talking and sharing in one another's experiences. 

As a pilgrim, you walk on with your group, meet people you like, walk around and ahead of those you don't, and in the end we find that we're all walking the same path to the same place. We did not achieve our day of silence, but silence is not the culture of the Camino. Much like life, the Camino cannot be completed in solitude. It is the comraderie that helps you forget how much pain you're in and then the laughter from our fun group creates the unexplainable energy that gets you up and moving again. 

The group has been my main motivation to keep going this entire time and each step gets us closer to a goal we will be relieved to achieve. Walking into Santiago de Compostela in a few days will be a great accomplishment, but it will be something we could not have done without each other. 

Jaime Ohm

The Physical Side Effects of Doing Things

Today, we only walked 8.7 miles to a larger city called Milede. It's not the most pleasant place, but there's ATMs and supermarkets, so it'll have to do! I finally broke down and bought my own walking stick and knee brace yesterday so that my legs would continue to function properly. A lot of my soreness and stiffness had faded this morning, but my right calf feels less like muscle and more like a cramped, tight ball of sadness and of course my feet feel like small limbs specifically designed to feel pain. I'm doing quite well despite that, and I'm proud of how far the #tlupilgrims have come. We'll be in Santiago by Wednesday!
-Kelsey Cooper

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tree climbing on the Camino is always a good idea!

Before the stairs group picture

"Hey St. Bernard!!!"

So, due to a lack of WIFI we have been unable to communicate with the outside world. Sorry, not sorry. Being disconnected is probably one of best things about this trip. Granted, I love my technological device as much as the next person, but the ability to just BE is something one doesn't often get. Yesterday we stayed in a small village in an alburgue called, "Casa Garcia". Outside of the cows and dogs, the inhabitants probably numbered in the 10's. One inhabitant stole my heart. Meet, the dog I named St.Bernard.

This beautiful dog would roll over so I could rub her belly and any time I stood up, she would reach out with her paws to try and stop me from leaving. While the picture does look like she is trying to keep me away, the exact opposite is what was happening!

-Buen Camino from the TLU pilgrims, and St. Bernard

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Uno jamon con queso bocadillos, por favor!"

So today, we traveled from Madrid to Sarria. We took the metro to a train station and then rode a train for six hours. It was unanimously voted that the train trip was far more comfortable than the plane. We got our first good look at the Spanish countryside. Madrid was very urban, and buzzed like a busy city should. 

The countryside featured rolling hills, flat plateaus, and small mountains and cliffs. 

We grabbed lunch at the train station before we boarded, and this pilgrim is proud to say that with no prior background in the language at all, I managed to order my lunch without any help! "Uno jamon con queso bocadillo, por favor!" My ham and cheese sandwich was amazing and I'm quite proud of my accomplishment!

Also a momentous occasion for us, we got to get our first stamps on our Camino passport and we saw our first yellow arrow, the indicator for many pilgrims as to where to go next!

We've checked into our first albergue and had an amazing pizza and pasta for dinner! Pictured is the street our restaurant and albergue are located on in Sarria. 
Tomorrow begins a short day of walking- only 10 miles to Paradela. We're hoping for very little rain, but it seems as if it will drizzle our whole time here! A most-likely-soggy blogger will check in again tomorrow to update on our progress. Thanks for reading!

-Kelsey Cooper

Hotel Regina

This is the outside of the beautiful hotel we stayed in last night!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We are here!

After a two hour flight to Atlanta, Georgia and an eight hour flight to Madrid, we are finally here! Our passports got stamped and we are ready to see Madrid...well, after a much needed nap of course. Our sight seeing adventures today included walking around the beautiful city of Madrid learning about some of the history of the places with the help of our guide Kepa. We all discovered the deliciousness of bocadillas (sandwiches) and cafe con leche, which now holds a special place in my heart and my tummy. After a quick Camino orientation and a wonderful dinner, all the pilgrims, including me are ready for a peaceful night's sleep to prepare for our train ride tomorrow.
Buenas noches!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Getting Ready!

It's the night before our trip, and if my travel companions are anything like me, they're finishing up the last of the tasks that must be completed before we head to the airport tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow, we'll spend well over twelve hours traveling from San Antonio to Madrid on the first leg of our Camino journey.  We'll have one day in Madrid before we head to Sarria by train the next day. The day after that, we'll begin our 100km journey on foot to Santiago de Compostela, followed by a shorter walking trip from Fisterra to Muxia on the coast.   

As my friends, family, and colleagues will remember, it was just over a year ago today that I started the Camino de Santiago, the trip that ultimately led to this new journey with Chaney, Kelsey, Erica, Brandey, and Jaime. Last year, I walked 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. In the thirty-five days I spent walking and living out of my backpack,  I met a lot of wonderful people and learned a lot about my own ability to cope with what the journey threw my way. I was the last person on earth who thought I could sleep in a room full of dozens of snoring strangers, but I did it many, many times.  I learned to be grateful for things like a bed in a room full of strangers and to revel in the sheer pleasure of taking my shoes off after walking twenty miles.

When I left for the Camino in May 2013, I knew that the following spring I would teach a course on travel narratives that would end with a faculty-led trip to Spain with my class. I had no idea who would ultimately go on the trip, but I was excited to offer students this amazing opportunity. In the end, I'm pretty lucky to have five awesome students to travel with, and while it will be an arduous journey at times, they are going to make me, their family and friends, and their university very proud of them.

Speaking of those five awesome students, I won't be the only person contributing posts to this blog.  We plan to take turns posting, so you'll get to hear from all of us. My husband, Doug, is also walking with us, but he's just along for the journey. We'll see what we can do to get him to make an appearance on the blog.

If you're on Twitter, we're using the hashtags #tlucamino and #tlupilgrims