From Hot to Not (Days 14-18)

It has been quite a ride the last few days. My feet were improving greatly, and I think my blisters are almost gone on my right foot!! The walking has been flat the last 5 days which is something we have been so greatful for because this is the kind of walking we were made to do. I have started to truly enjoy this trip. The first week was hard because my body was getting used to the activity and time change, the second week was hard because I had blisters bothering me, and finally this third week things are really looking up. If you follow me on Facebook, I posted a video of me walking up the only mountain we’ve climbed in days. I felt so good walking up that mountain and so strong. I am so glad to finally have adjusted to the Camino schedule and rigor.

The days have started to blur together. However, yesterday really stands out because it was our first day where we had to walk in the rain. The temperature dropped the last few days, which is great because the part of the Camino we are on is known for not having many towns and no shade as we walk. But mixed in with rain, the drop in temperature has been so cold. I keep saying I feel like I have been walking across North Iowa because it’s flat farmland, you can see windmills in the distance, and it’s as windy as ever!

Unfortunately, I did chicken out today, I couldn’t handle the cold and wind anymore. All I have for warmth is a fleece, and the wind goes right through it. I walked the first 3.5 miles but then I took a cab to the next town. In addition to the cold, my left foot blister is not doing so hot. I seem to consistently find trouble/injury wherever I go; I stepped out of the shower yesterday, slipped and tried to catch myself, but I caught myself on the lip of the shower right on my blister on my left foot. It started bleeding and hurt terribly, so I was back to limping my way around. It felt better later on today, but I’m a bit scared to look at it, so I hope it’s not too bad. Oh well, typical Sarah move.

Tomorrow will be a long day (~16 miles) and then we have a short 11 mile day into Leon and we will be out of the meseta!

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Barbie Drinks (Day 13)

Today was a great day. Giving myself the last two days off to rest and allow my feet to heal was a great choice. Like in all things I do, whether it’s personal or for work or something else, I get caught up in what I am supposed to be doing and fulfilling my (probably too high) expectations. So to step back and change my expectations the last few days has truly helped me with this experience.

I loved my time in Burgos, there was a huge festival just getting started yesterday and it was so much fun to be there for it, I only wish I could have participated more. But I knew that I needed to continue to care for my feet which helped me to focus on my purpose of being there.

I was able to get up and be out the door on time, which gave us a good start, and then we made fantastic time today. We walked 13 miles in 5 hours today. It helped that the walk was very flat, but we were so surprised with ourselves and proud, which put us in great spirits. We had the opportunity to relax this afternoon, did some laundry and then had a community dinner with other pilgrims who are staying in our hostel.

For dinner we had paella, with chicken and rabbit meat. I think mine was mostly rabbit because it did NOT look or taste like chicken. At our table were four people from Japan, a French man, and a man from Hungary. Conversation was light and fun, and at the end of the meal one of the Japanese men wanted to do shots of whiskey, so the owner of the hostel brought out shot glasses and a bottle of something. Thankfully they had other liquor for us that don’t do whiskey (besides Fireball 😆). So Micah and I had something that was very similar to Bailey’s, and when the Hungarian man went to choose we offered to pour him some of that and he said it was a “Barbie drink”!

It was wonderful to have a chance to meet  new pilgrims who we have never seen before and get to know them in a more personal way. Despite our language barrier, we were able to find common ground and learn from each other. Well, at least Micah and I learned from them!

I feel much more relaxed now than during any other part of this trip. I hope that it continues and I can embrace more of what it means to be a pilgrim in days to come.

Burgos (Days 11 & 12)

I woke up this morning with a gut feeling that I shouldn’t be walking today. I thought my feet were healing over the last few days but it seemed to have back tracked overnight. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong taking care of them, or when I dipped them into the pool at the hostel last night it did something. Either way, I was in so much pain just walking through town, I knew I had to take a rest day.

Micah and I made a plan to meet up in the next town, San Juan, so I could rest and she could continue at her own pace. I set off to find a hospital to have a doctor look at my feet. Upon arriving at the hospital/”centro de salud”, I discovered it was closed, but as I arrived, two other pilgrims who were in need of help also showed up. Thankfully, they spoke English (and were from Kansas City! Oh how nice it was to talk to a fellow midwesterner!) and we helped each other figure out a plan. So I tagged along with them on a bus to Burgos- the driver wouldn’t stop in San Juan- and we helped each other find the centro de salud in Burgos. The doctor didn’t do anything different than the guys at the hostel in Los Arcos, but sometimes it’s just nice to have a doctor do it and make sure it’s correct and most importantly clean. She told me I shouldn’t walk today and I told her I am taking today and tomorrow off from walking and she said good.

After we got our feet fixed up, my new friend Donna and I went for lunch- her other friend went to their hotel to rest. I got a delicious hamburger with an egg and bacon, and fries. It was so good, and I was actually able to eat most of my food! Something that has surprisingly been a struggle the last few weeks.

It was nice to talk to Donna about our struggles and excitements. We have so much in common even though we didn’t start together and are from different places. This is the beauty of the Camino, finding commonalities with strangers and a sense of understanding right away because we are all going through the same experience together. After lunch, Donna set off to find her hotel and I went to look for a hostel. I had some directions, but they weren’t great. Naturally, I got lost and asked at least 4 different people to help me and by God’s grace I finally found it. It’s located next to the most beautiful and magnificent Cathedral that I hope to explore tomorrow morning.

The remainder of my day today will be used to find a smoothie (which has been accomplished as I’ve been writing this), probably find some ice cream or dinner (I’ll give you one chance to figure out which is going to win that one 🤣), and resting (so sleeping and watching Netflix).

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The Road to Belorado (Days 7-10)

Day 7

Day seven was a rest day for us. We slept in, stopped for breakfast and hung out until the bus came along to take us to Logroño. Once we got to Logroño, we stopped at a pharmacia so I could get the supplies to fix up my blisters and then we promptly got lost looking for a hostel. We eventually made it, and got settled in and took care of laundry and what-not. Then we set out to look for some food, and we even did our research looking for ones that were open! (Side note, if you don’t know, most places in Spain close in the middle of the day for a siesta and reopen later)

Unfortunately, Google maps deceived me and the few places that looked good were closed, even though it said they were open. So we ended up at Dominos for the second time in a week. I didn’t mind too much because it was comforting to have familiar food.

After dinner, we stopped for some groceries and to look at the Cathedral. The churches here are so beautiful. Some pictures are below.

 

Day 8-10

The past few days have gone by very quickly. I’ve learned how to take care of my blisters, so they are slowly improving, and hurting less each day, so that really helps. Walking has gotten much easier and much more enjoyable. I have found I am able to smile and enjoy it while I am walking the past couple days. I also have been praying more while I walk, so that helps too; the rosary is my go-to right now All of you are in my prayers already, but if anyone needs something more, please let me know and I will pray for you!

Other than that, our days have been pretty consistent. We get up early- anytime between 5-6 and leave between 6-7 in the morning so we can beat the afternoon heat. It’s nice to have the afternoon to relax and cool down. Our biggest obstacle still is when everything closes midday and we need something from the store or want to eat.

 

I’m working on getting pictures up on the blog but it is slow. I would suggest looking at Facebook to see pictures from the trip!

Los Arcos (Day 6)

Well, you probably guessed it, it was another rough start today. We left a bit later and I was very cautious of walking while my feet were so sore. I took quite a bit of ibuprofen, and hoped for the best this morning. I started out very slow, because it was uphill and I was in a lot of pain, but it wasn’t too bad. At some point each day my feet get a bit numb and I can’t feel too much so it makes it easier to walk.

There happened to be two different routes we could take today, we opted for the longer one that went through more towns and was easier, over the one that was shorter and had a giant hill. It was so hot today, 90 degrees! There was hardly any shade, so I stopped wherever I could find some, or if there was a place selling water or Gatorade/propel, I got something. It was a pretty tough walk today.

I finally arrived to Los Arcos quite a while after Micah, and we set out to find a place. It is a very cute town, with a beautiful church. When we got to the hostel it was fun to meet new people and see some familiar faces. The two guys running the hostels are volunteers, and they are two of the funniest guys- they remind me of my uncles! I felt right at home when they were teasing us.

This evening, I went to sit on the patio to hang out. It was fun to talk to people I haven’t seen in a couple days. A girl I keep running into (no idea what her name is or where she’s from), asked me about my blisters because we saw we shared the same pain. Then, one of the guys running the hostel came over to me and said, “You’re gushing, not good! Come with me.”  So I followed him.

It turns out three of my five blisters are infected. He said it is bad. He kept asking how do I walk like that and doesn’t it hurt. I told him yes, very much. Then he yelled at me for using the needle and thread trick to drain it because that is what caused the infection. So he patched me up, cut some of the bad skin off and put some Betadine on and wrapped it up.

Then he told me I shouldn’t walk tomorrow, I must take the bus, otherwise my feet aren’t going to heal. So I must swallow my pride to take care of my body tomorrow. I badly wanted to walk this entire way, but I need to take care of my body first and foremost.

Thank you for those who prayed for me, Micah, and our blessing yesterday. We really appreciate it!

Estella (Day 5)

Why I Believe in Miracles and Saints

Today was another rough start, my blisters were really getting to me and we thought breakfast was included at our hostel but it wasn’t. Again, I had a very slow start, but after my pain killers kicked in, I was able to really get going.

Overall, it was a great day. We made really good time, getting into Estella around 2, and the route had some incline but the majority of it was descending. But the really wonderful part of the day today was the people.

Part of our route today included three cities at the top of a different hill. While walking to one of the cities, we made it to the top of a hill where there was a vineyard on our right. And at the top of the hill was a stand with TONS of fresh fruit. There was a “man of the land” looking person maintaining it who only asked for free will offerings. We each got a piece of watermelon that really hit the spot as the sun was making its way up high.

Another act of kindness today was when we stopped in a town at a park and layed under some trees to escape the sun. The trees had berries in them and we overheard some other pilgrims talking about how they were edible. Because I was already laying down, and feeling lazy, I wondered outloud to Micah what she thought the odds were of one falling into my mouth. Another pilgrim overheard me and she spent some time picking out ones that were good to eat for me. So sweet!

The most wonderful act of kindness we experienced today was in Estella. After getting settled into our hostel we went out to look for food and some small items to replenish, and I needed to get something for the massive blisters on my feet. So we walked around, discovered nothing was open that we needed and they don’t serve dinner until 9pm because that is the Spanish way and us Iowans are probably never going to get used to that. So we went back to the hostel and FaceTimed and relaxed until later.

After an hour or two, we headed back out to see if the “pharmacia” was open, but upon arriving we discovered that neither of the two we saw were going to be open until Monday. Then a Spanish woman (I didn’t catch her name) saw us looking a bit desperate and gave us directions to a different pharmacia. This woman spoke very little English, and my Spanish is limited, but we thought we figured out what she was saying. She happened to be walking the same way and asked if we were walking and then offered to drive us there! I think she saw how much I was struggling to simply walk. So she drove us all over town to find that all of the pharmacias were closed so I suggested we try the supermarket. We didn’t find much, but I got some more bandaids and a little pad thing to put under my bad foot. We left the market and she had me show her how bad my foot was and gave me wipes to clean it up. Then she drove us back to the plaza so we could get some food and gave us suggestions of good places to eat. Micah tried to offer her money for driving us all over and she denied it saying that we would always be in her heart. She was the sweetest lady and we both felt so blessed to meet her.

I believe that she was sent from God. If we hadn’t had to come back to the plaza, if she hadn’t been walking there right at that time, if so many other things had been different, we would not have had the privilege to meet her. She is why I believe in miracles and saints.

If you don’t mind, please say a prayer for her tonight. In whatever way you pray is fine. Also, if you don’t mind, please say a prayer for Micah and I, that we may have the physical and mental strength to get through not only tomorrow, but the remainder of this pilgrimage.

Gracias! And God Bless!

Days 3 & 4

Day 3

Today was a bit of a rough day for me, not because the walking was particularly hard, but because I got a bunch of blisters on my feet. I had two when I went to bed last night and they weren’t too bad, so I tried the whole needle and thread, but that ended up being painful to keep in my feet. Everytime I moved my foot I could feel it and it wasn’t pleasant, so I took it out. By the morning they were full again, so I just put some bandaids on them and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, I got the worst, because I developed one of the largest blisters I’ve seen on the heel of my foot over the course of the day. This was probably more information than you really needed, but I just want you to feel close. 😆

Other than blisters, the walk was great. We stopped at a little cafe with a bunch of other pilgrims and got second breakfast! I got an apple and it was so delicious because it was the first piece of fresh fruit I have had in days. While at the cafe, we overheard others talking about an alternate path we could take that would be more scenic, so we decided to do that. It was very beautiful because it was right along a river, but the downside was that it was not well marked, so we were very cautious about what turns to make to ensure we didn’t get lost. We got into Pamplona around 3:30, which was good time for us, and went to the first hostel we could find. Once we got cleaned up, we walked into town more and got some dinner, gelato, groceries, and I replaced my broken shell with a keychain that has the Camino shell logo in blue and yellow, which are the colors of the Camino. I loved walking around the city, up and down the road where running of the bulls will take place next month- something I think I will add to my bucket list!

Day 4

It was another tough start for me today, as we had to walk through Pamplona to get started on our walk today. We got a bit lost trying to take a shortcut through the city but a nice elderly man saw us struggling and tried to help us out. We eventually figured out which way to go, and all was well in the end.

We have learned so much in the four short days on the Camino. We have learned how to take care of and listen to our bodies and how much we can and can’t handle. As our bodies are getting used to the new routine, we found that today’s hike up the mountain wasn’t nearly as bad as the first day. Of course, there wasn’t nearly as much to go up, but we did climb it rather quickly. The morning went by very fast, and we took a break in a town for second breakfast and I took a power nap- because our wake up call this morning was the Spanish version of Josh Groban singing a powerful ballad- so I needed a little pick-me-up.

The weather today was beautiful, a nice cool morning, and the mountain we were on was very windy- windier than North Iowa if you can believe it! They had wind turbines all across the top of the mountains. I felt very at home seeing them and the large amount of farmland we walked through. The second part of the day was pretty tough because the heat started to get to us in the afternoon, I think we will attempt to get going earlier so we can beat it tomorrow!

Tonight’s hostel was brought to us through a pamphlet we received while walking, and it had a pool so we were game after walking in the hot sun all day. What we didn’t realize though, was that we had to walk all the way through town and up one of the biggest hills to get to it, something the pamphlet conveniently left out… But the pool was cold, and the meal and conversation were great, so I think it was worth it in the end.

Days 1 & 2

Day 1

Hands down, it was the longest day of my life. We got up and ready and by that time most everyone in our hostel was packed and gone. Not the greatest start, but we definitely weren’t the last to leave, so that made us feel better.

We started at the “official” start- an arch just 20 meters from our hostel. After a quick photo session, we made our way down the hill, through town, and then up one of the steepest hills ever, or so I thought…

I don’t think I could recount every part of the day for you, but I will give you the highlights! I instantly regretted not training, though most of you that I talked to before I left knew this was going to happen. We didn’t know which route was the alternate, and also easier, so we ended up doing the normal, super difficult route. There were many times I didn’t think I was able to complete the days journey, because I was so ill prepared. Yes, on one hand it’s training for walking long distances, but also training for the incline and decline. Additionally, I was not listening to my body and what my body needed. I didn’t eat much the day before and I definitely felt the effects of that all day long. However, at one point I had eaten something and about ten minutes later we were walking down a slight decline, and I got giddy. Like, giggly giddy. Everything was fantastic and life was joyful, it was nice because it is especially easy to be focused on the negative of day one.

The views were spectacular, you could see mountains everywhere you look, unless the fog was in the way. The downside to that, was that everytime we thought we reached the top, there was another mountain to climb just around the corner. Just to give you an idea of what we went through yesterday, according to Micah’s stats, we climbed 366 floors, walked 16 miles, burned 4,696 calories, made 40,000 steps, all over the course of 13 hours (which includes several half hour breaks).  Needless to say, we were exhausted yesterday. We were some of the last (but not he very last!) pilgrims to the hostel, but we got there in time for dinner and a shower before bed. I am so proud of myself for making it through the first day, because I hit a low point where I thought I would not finish. It felt so good to complete it, as it was probably one of the hardest physical things I’ve ever done.

 

Day 2

Today was so much easier! It was mostly downhill, we kept pace with other pilgrims. Not much time went by without us seeing others on the path, which was very reassuring for us as we went so slow yesterday. But we got a sort of routine going and were in the zone a few times with much fewer stops. There was some incline today but it wasn’t nearly as bad as yesterday, only 108 floors today!

I didn’t take any pictures today, but it was still pretty. There were lots of mountain views but it was mostly shaded, so that was nice for avoiding sunlight. However, I seem to be able to attract the sun anyway because a couple of my burns got worse despite putting sunblock on multiple times. We made a few more friends at the hostel last night and during the walk today so that was nice. When we got to Zubiri, our end point today, we were with a girl from Canada and she knew some people at a hostel just inside the town so we joined them. This hostel is very nice, only 10 beds so hopefully less snoring, it includes breakfast, and we splurged on laundry- so they did it for us and we finally have clean AND dry clothes for the first time in days! Oh the simple joys in life. There is also a creek right next to the hostel, so we went for a dip while our laundry was being done, and I’m pretty sure he water has healing powers because my sunburn doesn’t look as bad after swimming. Who knows, maybe it looked worse before than it actually was. My spirits are high now, we are going to find some dinner and relax before bed.

 

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment, and ask questions! 😊

Getting to St. Jean Pied de Port

When first planning our trip, Micah and I decided that we wanted to start at St. Pied de Port, just like the movie. It is where the French route starts and is probably the most common route that pilgrims take. We also figured it would be cheaper for us to fly out of Chicago rather than Des Moines. It worked out perfectly that Micah’s family was having a graduation party in Chicago that weekend, so they drove us there, saving us even more money. I have never really been to Chicago, I have just driven through it or had a layover at the O’Hare airport, so when we got there I was excited to stop at Portillos for a Chicago dog. Boy, was it good!

After picking up one of Micah’s cousins, we got to the airport and checked into our flight. Now, as I’ve said before, I don’t have a plan past August 14, so naturally I didn’t have a return flight. While trying to get my boarding passes, the ladies at the counter told me I have to have a returning flight otherwise the country I’m going to might not let me in, and if that happens the airline could get fined. It didn’t really make sense to me, and was extremely frustrating and annoying, but I wanted my stuff and I had too much anxiety to argue it, so I just bought the cheapest ticket I could find that was the longest time away. I actually got a pretty good deal for a $300 flight from Dublin to Chicago- I’m just going to stay positive and think that it could have been much worse. So after buying my way out of the country, we made our way to Barcelona- three flights over 18 hours, and that doesn’t include the 5.5 hour car trip from West Des Moines to Chicago. We travelled  for almost 24 hours total from Friday to Saturday!

We stayed in Barcelona Saturday night, found a nice hostel (to answer Maddy’s questions…there ended up being three other people in the room with us and I ate popcorn and airplane food all day 😆), and explored the city a bit just walking around and enjoying being there and not on a plane.

Sunday we got ready and went to Mass, where we were 30min late because of a few wrong turns and the fact that the church had two worship spaces. After that we rested until it was time for our turn at La Sagrada Familia, which is seriously one of the coolest things I have ever seen. It’s so beautiful, carefully crafted and designed. We did the audio tour, which I was grateful for because it provided so much information, and made me look at things I wouldn’t have if I had gotten a regular ticket. We would have liked a tour from a person or one that goes up in the towers but those were sold out.

After La Sagrada Familia, we made our way to the train station, met a Canadian named Dave, and got to Pamplona. Our second train was so delayed and late overall that we didn’t get into Pamplona until 10, at which point getting to St. Jean was impossible so we found a very nice cab driver who helped us to a hostel. Once we got settled into the hostel we knew we needed some regular food, but since it was about 11 by then, everything was closing and we ended up at Dominos.

We went to sleep with a plan of getting to St. Jean in the early morning and starting our pilgrimage. Unfortunately and fortunately, we overslept and decided to take our time getting to St. Jean and starting on Tuesday. I was stressed because I wanted to start from St. Jean but it wasn’t looking like that was going to happen for a bit and we also started a day late, however, we met another David, but this one is from Hungary. Canada David went on his own way because he has a much tighter time budget. Thankfully, Hungarian David let us tag along with him to get to St. Jean.

The bus ride from Pamplona to St. Jean was one of the worst bus rides I have ever been on. We twisted and turned up and down mountains for the entire 1.5 hours. It was awful. We were all grateful to finally get to St. Jean this morning. We spent the day in St. Jean getting a few key items, like our pilgrim passport (that gets us the cheap hostel rate and proves that we are pilgrims), walking sticks, and a shell to symbolism we are pilgrims on the Camino. We also got to explore the town a bit, it is so beautiful and charming, and we went to Mass and got a blessing after from the priests.

So, tomorrow will officially start our journey of walking the Camino, which is so exiting because I have been waiting for this for so long. I am also about nervous because it is definitely going to be the hardest day of the pilgrimage, but I have received a lot of advice, I hope I can just remember it in the moment!

 

As always, please let me know what questions you have and I will be glad to answer them!

It’s Time for New Adventures

Hey everyone! Many of you know me and are close friends and family, but for those who aren’t, my name is Sarah Sheerin and I am from West Des Moines, IA. This blog is dedicated to my adventures outside of Iowa.

This summer I will be exploring as much of Europe as I can in two months. I will be walking the Camino de Santiago for a month with my friend Micah, also from the Des Moines area, and then we will be backpacking around Europe for another month. At the end of the second month, Micah will be leaving to come back to the states and I am going to try to stay and live in Europe (ideally Ireland) for about a year- at least that’s the goal!

 

Preparing for for the trip

I made the decision to walk the Camino de Santiago almost a year and a half ago. What initially prompted my curiosity and desire for it was watching the movie The Way- starring Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen (available on Netflix!). I saw the movie when I was in college and wanted to do it as soon as possible, but wasn’t quite ready. Then, after getting my masters and a steady job, I had the time and financial means to fulfill my dream.

I was lucky to find a friend while volunteering in Des Moines who was interested in going with me. So last summer, we made the commitment to each other to walk ~500 miles across northern Spain, and then backpack for a month all over Europe (because why not, we will already be there!). Having Micah walk this great journey with me will be such a blessing in so many ways, I look forward to not only growing in friendship with her but to make new friends along the way and strengthen my faith and relationship with God.

 

But, why?

When I first started sharing about this new adventure, I received so much support from everyone I talked to. Many were excited, nervous, and supportive for me. Usually, the number one question I will get is “why?” Why do you want to walk so far? Why do people do the Camino? Why don’t you want to come back? Why Ireland?

There are many reasons why. Like I said before, I have wanted to walk the Camino for years now as well as backpack around Europe. One of my biggest regrets in college was not studying abroad, so in some way this trip is making up for it.

People walk the Camino for many reasons: health, soul searching, to prove something, adventure, and many more. I’m sure a little bit of all of those reasons helped to lead to me going but the best way that I can put it for my reason is that I felt called. I received many signs from God pointing me to walk- most of which I didn’t identify until months later. Ahh the benefit of hindsight.

As for not coming back for a year, it’s almost the same explanation. I feel called to spend a long period of time abroad. Why Ireland? I can’t pinpoint it, but probably because I am Irish (I need to reconnect with my cousin, Ed), the countryside looks beautiful, and the life seems simple. However, I could get there and it might not be the right fit, which is okay. A huge part of this trip is that I am going with a plan up until August 14th. After that I don’t have one, and believe me it’s more unsettling to me than anyone  I’ve spoken to about this. It’s exhilarating, freeing, scary, and nerve wrecking all at the same time. But the beautiful thing is that if it doesn’t work out, I can just come home. Mom, I’ll give a warning to have a bed ready for me 😉

 

So there is a bit of background information for you. Please comment, share, and most importantly: ask questions! The teacher in me will tell you that learning never ends! 🙂