My Life as a Traveler

Does a “True” Pilgrim Carry an iPad?


That’s what we’ll be when we start from St. Jean Pied de Port next week. Making this journey to recognize the bones of St. James the Greater has been done for hundreds of years by thousands of souls. Of course, in the old days, they were truly dependent on the churches and local folks along the way for shelter and food (though I’m sure many slept under the stars), and carried not much more than the clothes on their back. They didn’t have a fancy backpack and hiking shoes, a cute skirt for the evenings, or little bottles of all-in-one shampoo/conditioner. And for sure, they did not have an iPad, although it looks like he’s got the perfect bag for it.

There is a train of thought among some pilgrims that, as a Spiritual Journey, one should not be distracted by worldly possessions and modern conveniences. A “true” pilgrim leaves his iPod, his computer, his camera, yes, even his phone at home. These things get in the way of introspection and the true spirit of the walk. Following this logic… should a pilgrim limit accommodation options to only churches? What if a pilgrim wants to have someone carry their bags for them so they may walk unencumbered? (Yes, you can pay local companies to do this.) Should a pilgrim even use their feet? Wouldn’t it be a more fruitful Spiritual Journey to crawl? To beat yourself on the back with a switch for every step you take? (I think there were some guys doing this in the movie “The Way.”)

If a pilgrim had an iPad in the year 1200, would he bring it?

I guess it just depends on the pilgrim. Every person on the trail has a different reason for making this trip. It is no easy endeavor — I’ve been planning this for over a year. And for this pilgrim, it is about departing the usual life (although if you read this blog, you’ll see it is far from usual, but you know what I mean) and focusing only on the time and place of the moment in a different culture, with a different goal. I want to remember those times and places and I want to share them with you. It’s my outreach ministry. So, I bring an iPad.

I’ve been playing with my iPad the last couple of weeks and I think it will be very useful. It holds my books (including guidebooks) and my music and podcasts. It’s my connection to back home with Skype and my journal. It’s the internet and Netflix when I can get wi-fi, and a translator and currency converter. There’s even an app called “Sit or Squat”, which might come in very very handy in the larger towns. It has a program where I can draw stuff on the screen and it will be saved in a notebook, and Evernote and Dropbox to transfer things from the road to my computer at home, or to anybody’s computer if necessary.

It does have a camera, but I think it will be awkward to use during the walk, so I’m bringing a little point-and-shoot to keep in my pocket. It does not have 3- or 4-G, so I can’t use it like a phone if there’s no wi-fi, so I transferred my SIM card from my Andriod to an older phone so I can call and take calls and texts when I can get a signal. I have T-Mobile, which is pretty big in Europe, so I think I’ll be able to get bars in any decent-sized town.

Unfortunately, each of these things need chargers, and, especially for the iPad, they’re not lightweight. If there’s any reason for this pilgrim to leave these things at home, it would be to lighten the load. Not just for the trail, either. I’ll need to carry them with me everywhere, as there will be no locked doors at most of the places we will stay. I’ll also need find the outlets to charge them and babysit them while they are charging. Plus, I will also carry a keyboard/cover, a gizmo to transfer pics from my camera’s SD card, a cord to charge the keyboard, and 2-gallon ziplock bags to keep them dry. But I do want to be able to show you pictures, I do want to be able to blog in real time, and I do want to be able to get in touch with my traveling partners, as well as with George at home. So, they are part of my burden, my equivalent of smacking myself with a switch for every step I take toward Santiago.

This the the last entry before we leave tomorrow. The only things I need to do is repack my bag and Morgan’s bag for the airport, help Morgan get his electronics in order, pick up Dominic and Susie, print out our boarding passes, and get to bed early. The flight leaves at 7am tomorrow, which means we leave the house at 4:30am.

Next entry will be from the lounge in Charlotte. Wish us all a Buen Camino!


2 responses

  1. Brad

    Julie, just registered to follow your blog courtesy of my friend Michelle Sheeler. I am planning on doing the Via Podensis next year as my retirement gift to myself. 2 years ago my wife and I were Sarristas, having done the last 120 Km from Sarria, and I want to return for a longer and solo period of meditation. Your pictures and comments are wonderful. I must warn you however, that what I have been told is true, that once you do the Camino, you are forever after “between Caminos”. As someone who once studied to be a Spanish teacher (before the Army got hold of me), the Camino has been calling to me for several years. It will be hard work to be sure, but also a bliss to return to the living stream of humanity that began over 1,000 years ago. Que Dios os bendiga (May God bless you all).
    Brad AKA Don Braulio

    June 4, 2012 at 10:45 am

  2. Brad

    Something I just submitted to La Concha, the newsletter for the American Friends of the Camino.

    At the edge of the village was a small pasture with maybe a dozen sheep, enclosed tightly by a rusty barbed wire fence. The Camino traveled along its’ border. I noticed a mysterious figure up ahead in the pasture where the Camino bent left, standing close to the fence. It wore a large brimmed hat, a large flowing cloak, and held a staff in its’ right hand. Standing stock still it was only as I passed within about 20 feet of it was I sure there was an actual person beneath all that clothing. I was able to discern an old woman, long gray hair peeking out of the folds of her garments, who stood there motionless staring intently at the small and listless cluster of sheep.
    As I trudged on I caught just the faintest hint of her humming some odd and probably ancient melody to herself and I wondered why such a small and innocent party of herbivores merited such close scrutiny. A brief moment in a long days walk, but a source of endless amusement to two weary peregrinos. Of such small things a good days walk is made.

    June 4, 2012 at 12:57 pm

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