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Woman of the Way: Embracing the Camino
by: Jane V. Blanchard

I’m still as focused on traveling the Camino as ever, and I’m starting to do more research with each passing day. This is the second book on the Camino i’ve purchased off my Kobo. I’m looking for books that are both personal experiences, and planning tips to help me figure out how much I should train, pack, and what to expect when I’m finally there.

Jane and her husband Denis completed the Camino in Fall of 2011, taking the French Way, from St. Jean De Port to Santiago. I found her writing a bit dry, but very informative. She is brutally honest in a number of areas, including her physical pain: the blisters, shin splints, and possible food poisoning. She also talked about the human waste along the trail, and the lack of respect to fellow pilgrims when they reach the final 100 km – where the trail in inundated with more people. (You only need 100 km to receive the Compostela at Santiago).

The main purpose behind the book for Jane was to write about the woman who were walking the Camino. In her own research and preparation stage she realized how little information there was about woman on the way from the medieval times to present, even though now (at 2011) woman make up close to 40% of the pilgrims.

I enjoyed the number of interviews she had with such a wide range of woman on the trail. Many were in their retired years, but there were still a few younger woman, from university or early career life taking the pilgrimage. I was also surprised by the international cultures along the trail and how many Korean people she had met with. I knew the Camino was an international trail that many around the world come to hike, but hearing the personal accounts from woman all around the world really helped open my eyes to how international it really was. It has inspired me into taking note and reach out to others when/if I do the trail myself.

Besides the heart warming interviews, the emotional feelings that Jane experiences along the way, I have managed to pick up on several tips to help my own experience when it happens. For starters, I am going to try to make my pack as light as possible. I doubt I would get to the ‘ultralight’ weight that some are doing now. I have a DSL camera that I will be taking no matter what, but I’ve managed to tell myself to pass on a laptop or tablet. My iPhone will be enough to keep me in touch with family members through Facebook and Twitter when I can receive a wi-fi signal. There are enough cities on the route that I can also visit an internet cafe to check emails and such, but I don’t want to be caught up in the tech-verse. I would like to document my journey, yes, even sending out tweets or updates through social media seems like a lot but it would be enough to keep those following me entertained (hopefully) but also allow me to have that bit of a time stamp and way to go back over my past tweets to help sort out where I was when.

My ultimate goal though, is to keep my pack around 10% of my body weight. We’ll see if that works or not when I get there.

The other issue I had problems with, and was the most concern about while reading was the washrooms. Not the public toilets but where and how to go when you are between towns/villages/cities. I was surprised to hear Jane mention how you need to be careful where to step when you get off the path, as well as those who leave behind toilette paper. I guess i expect more respect along the trail as well as the ‘leave no trace’ that I grew up whenever we took a hike along the Bruce Trail or other wilderness hikes. Still, i’m uncomfortable with the idea of ‘squatting’ and hope that I don’t have to. I’ve read on a few blogs that there are enough towns/villages you pass through.

All in all, Jane’s book is really informative and full of wonderful stories. If any of you are considering the Camino, I recommend reading the book and taking away it’s wealth of  knowledge.

To end with, i’ll give you Jane’s website.