Displaying items by tag: Camino de Santiago
On Foot in Spain Family (1999-2018), Part II
By: Nancy L. Frey
Part I of our story covers the early years of On Foot in Spain’s family story and Part II gets into the logistics of how we made it happen and what the kids do on trips.
The backpack, the stroller and the bicycle
Often people ask – “Do they walk the whole thing?” Typically, in our division of labor, Jose organizes everything behind the scenes making sure things runs smoothly and I walk with the clients on the trail and explain the sites as we go. When one of our children joins us they typically become Jose’s helper and “right hand man/woman”. Consequently, normally our child will be with Jose organizing and I’ll be walking though as they got older they would also walk on their own with me and/or the clients. In the two photos below, you can see Marina walking with a client in 2012 and Sam taking a photo along the Camino with another client as they walked along (thank you, France, for this nice shot!).
On some of the tours there are sections that allow Jose to walk and if we are with one of the children they have been able to come with us when they were little in a backpack, when a bit bigger in a stroller, walking on their own or even on bicycle from time to time on the Meseta. We believe that Jose lost 3 or 4cm of height due to carrying the children over the years many, many kilometers in the backpack! Here is Jose carrying Marina on the left in 2004 and carrying Sam in 2007 (right).
The stroller was worth its weight in gold, now long retired, and enjoyed many trips down the Camino with each of the kids. Often we would come up with funny ways to keep the hot sun off the kids with clothes pins, light blankets and, when those failed, small branches with large leaves. On the left you can barely make out Marina under the ferns in the stroller along the Camino in 2005. On the right, someone took this nice photo of Jose and me walking into San Juan de Ortega pushing the stroller in 2008.
It makes me smile thinking of Sam sailing down the hill on his little bike on the Meseta outside of Hornillos del Camino. Here are a couple of photos of him on the Camino in 2013.
What the kids do on a tour
Depending on their ages and interests the kids normally spend a lot of time on tour helping Jose organize, prepare picnics, shop and/or interact with clients. Since the days are long, the children typically do not attend dinner and instead have some kind of culinary adventure with Jose as the clients and I head off to a restaurant meal. Each day we pass out maps to the clients and review the section to be walked. When one of our children is on tour they take over the role of passing out maps, helping clients stamp their Pilgrim’s Credentials, find the yellow arrows and sometimes pass out chocolate or fruit to happy and tired walkers. On the left Jacob stamps the credential for one of our pilgrims in 2005 and Sam passes out dark chocolate with almonds on the bus in 2013.
A very important role the children take on during our tours along the Camino de Santiago is to give a scallop shell to each client as they begin their journey along the Camino. Somehow receiving your scallop shell from a little hand takes on special meaning; especially knowing that that same hand may have picked up that shell back home in Galicia months before. The scallop shell is a beautiful symbol of rebirth, regeneration and fundamental to the Santiago pilgrimage experience. One of our vital On Foot activities, that does not take place on tour, is collecting scallop shells for our journeys along the Camino. Beachcombing for scallop shells that will be become part of our tours is a cherished family activity. Please follow this link (https://www.onfootinspain.com/tours/learning/articles/beachcombing-scallop-shells) to read about our beachcombing for scallops on the Galicia coast. On the left Marina passes out shells in 2008 at Roncesvalles and Sam does the same in 2013.
Sometimes Jose walks backwards from the meeting point to meet clients. He is always a welcome site, especially when joined by one of the kids whose energy usually inspires the walking the last few hundred meters. When we are on the Meseta one of the memorable sights are the huge stacks of rectangular hay bales that lay off to the side of the Camino. Normally, pilgrims don’t climb these but it’s one of Jose’s favorite things to do when he is accompanied by one of the children. Seeing Jose and Sam, Marina or Jacob waving down from the high haystacks greeting pilgrims is a memory that often sticks in our clients’ minds. On the left, Jose and Sam are visible atop a huge stack of bales on the Meseta in 2013 and 10 years earlier (2003) you can see Jacob and Jose pushing a huge bale across the wheat stubble.
As the kids mature they generally want to walk with the clients, chat and interact. It’s been lovely to observe the unexpected bonds that have developed sometimes between clients and one of our children that neither part expects. Sam has a particular fondness for older women (‘grandmas’) and from a very early age would be very attentive – buttoning a forgotten button, rolling up or down a sleeve, holding hands or remembering forgotten walking sticks. He has been called on occasion an ‘old soul’. He has also learned how to converse with adults quite adeptly. He normally puts them through a series of questions – asking questions that he was often asked first by adults – favorite color, animal or book. Consequently, he would often ask his walking companions: “How old are you?” a typical question he was asked. As age can be a sensitive subject, I would overhear conversations and start to cringe thinking – ut oh, where is this going? With some trepidation, I might here an answer such as “72”, “58” or “75” and Sam, the sharp fellow that he is, would immediately respond, “ Oh, that’s not old. 90 is old!” The laugh, relief and gratitude of the client was quick and spontaneous. Sam was never coached. He just somehow knows how to be with people and make them feel good. Here is Sam helping explain the picnic to Ann in 2014.
Marina has enjoyed meeting people from around the world and practicing her English like she did with Allison along the Camino in July 2012 (left). Sam and Annette have become pen pals after coinciding on several trips together. Here they are on the Camino Portuguese together in 2016 (right).
In 2017 we had a client with us who had traveled with Sam on the same trip along the Camino in 2014. Due to school obligations, Sam was unable to go on this trip and the client conveyed to me how special his presence had been (something I hadn’t known previously). On the tour we reached a small chapel in the middle of nowhere and the client stopped and looked at me with a smile and said, “I remember this place.” He described how Sam joyfully appeared, did the splits on the open-air altar and then helped pass out melon as I began to tell the story of the site. When I was going through the thousands of photos that I have collected over the years, I was tickled to find a photo of Sam doing the same splits on the altar the client was referring to in the anecdote above (June 2014).
On the right, the group has stopped to see a slow worm that Sam has found as they hike up to Cebreiro in 2012. By the way, a slow worm is neither slow nor a worm. It’s actually a totally inoffensive legless lizard that slithers along like a snake and sometimes has vestigial forelegs.
As our children have matured their roles have also evolved. Jacob has accompanied Jose on a number of private trips, accompanying the groups, explaining sites, helping him prepare all parts of the trip behind the scenes and been a great companion. When Jacob was 15 he joined Jose to help him with a private, youth group that was walking the last 100Km to Compostela. Afterwards the organizer wrote (who had also traveled with Marina when she was a baby):
“I just have to tell you what a special young man Jacob is (although I am sure that you already know that). He worked really hard to be a good guide and he was, but he also became one of us as the week went on and we all fell in love with him. Our guys thought the world of him and consider him now a friend and he holds a very special place in my husband’s heart.” Sarah
As a mother, being able to combine work and family means the world to me. I like this photo of me and Jacob (2005) and the rapport that we have as we connect and share some thought or idea while enjoying Jose’s picnic. Jacob always had a skill of conversing with adults on a wide range of topics (history, politics, science) from an early age. In the photo on the right, he chats with the group below the Cabo Vilano lighthouse on the Galicia hiking tour in 2005.
To read about some Camino Miracles, go to On Foot Family, Part III.
Jacob (1999), Sam (2006) and Mariña (2003)
On Foot in Spain Family (1999-2018)
By: Nancy L. Frey
Combining family and work life is inevitably a juggling act. Jose and I have been fortunate to be able to bring both together and over the last 19 years by frequently incorporating one of our three children into our tour experiences. Growing up with the business has proven to be extremely rewarding with many unexpected and happy outcomes for us, our kids and our travelers. Looking back over the years I marvel to think of walking through two pregnancies, bringing the babies and watching the little ones grow up picking up sticks or dropping leaves down streams as they walk along the Camino or meeting hundreds of people from all over the world. It’s been quite an adventure and we’d like to share with you some of these On Foot Family memories and show you how our family has grown over the years.
As one client shared with us:
“We are so grateful you are in the business of building memories and relationships. Your family approach to life and work transforms thinking and inspires us.
Ever grateful, Connie & Bill”
Children offer spontaneity, openness and a unique vision of the world which is less inhibited than that of an adult. Seeing experiences through their eyes can be very renewing and enlightening. Anyone who has children (or doesn’t!) knows that it’s a risky activity letting a potential loose cannon, such as a child, free in your business. The kids always understood what we expected behavior-wise when we’re on a trip and they learned to be good hosts from an early age rather than the ‘center of attention’. Consequently, it has worked very well over the years and generated an incredibly positive reaction from those who travel with us. In the photos below are Jose, Marina and “Pepito” in 2005 (left) and Sam with plums in 2014 (right).
How did we do it?
We launched On Foot in Spain on the internet in 1999 the same year our eldest, Jacob, was born. I should mention that Jose and I walked the Camino in June 1998 leading a group of university students when I was three months pregnant with Jacob and that is how he got his name. Jacob is another way of saying Santiago as is James, Jacques or Jaime. We ran our first tour in 2000 when Jacob was about 1 year old. We decided it was best if we got into the swing of things first before adding in extra, unpredictable elements. He made his debut in 2001 at the end of a long Camino tour and it was a delight to see him and have the clients meet him. We thought maybe in the next year we could incorporate him into a tour. In 2002 he joined a youth group from New York City we led along the Camino, picking up new lingo from them and then started to come regularly on tours. In the photo on the left, Jacob is handing out a chocolate to a member of a wonderful women’s hiking club that has joined us on two trips (2003) and on the right Jacob is helping Jose prepare a picnic atop Monte Pindo on our Galicia hiking tour (2005).
Having the kids on board through two pregnancies, babyhood, as toddlers, as growing children and now even as teenagers has been a great adventure. I was very fortunate that my pregnancies were uncomplicated. I’m one of the lucky women that never experienced nausea or morning sickness of any kind during my three pregnancies. Leading walking tours was also a great way to stay fit while pregnant and I was able to walk up to the seventh month with both Marina and Sam. In the photo on the left, taken in Sept 2003 at the Sierra del Perdón along the Camino de Santiago, I’m 6 months pregnant with Marina. On the right, Marina helps me explain the picnic on a Portugal tour in 2006 when I was 4 months pregnant with Sam.
Marina and Sam were also “planned pregnancies” in the sense that we knew we had a window of opportunity to make family-life and work compatible and this is why they both are born within a few days of each other – Marina December 5th and Sam on November 27th. You see they both needed to be travel-ready babies by the time the tour season started in April or May. Sure enough both Marina and Sam made their debut on the Camino, outside of the womb, when they were 4.5 to 5 months old. Below on the left, Marina and I take a break at the picnic in 2004 while an attentive Cynthia keeps us company. On the right precocious Sam began driving the bus in 2007.
I breast fed both of them for about 8 months so needless to say that provided additional challenges (and somewhat comical in retrospect) in tour leading. As my role is typically to walk with the group and Jose handles everything behind the scenes organization-wise, how was I able to maintain breast feeding, walking and leading all at the same time? Jose has this knack of always appearing when you most want or need him. Sure enough, at just the right time, Jose would show up in the van with Sam or Marina and we would have a peaceful moment of rest and nourishment. Sometimes I look back and think, how did we do it?
Some of my favorite photos from this period are the ones clients have sent of me explaining Jose’s great picnics with Sam or Marina tucked under my arm looking very interested and curious about what is on the table. Marina helps me explain the picnic on the left in 2004 and Sam on the right in 2007.
Babies are delightful and very unusual to have on a tour. Somehow the babies were all ‘good’ and simply brought joy to the groups – gentle cooing, singing to themselves and open-eyed curiosity. As one client wrote about Sam when he was 6mths old:
Dear Sam, Thank you for being the bright light that shone on us as we made our way along the Camino. You made our journey a very special one. Hugs and kisses, The Group
These are two photos of dear Sam taken in 2007. On the left, that’s how he looked greeting people when he got on the bus (note the dear Australian koala by his side!) and on the right hanging out with the girls during free time.
Or about Mariña:
“Mariña made my Camino most unforgettable. I wish I had more time to hold her.” Paul
On the left in May 2004, Paul holds Marina and, on the right, Sarah in June 2004.
To keep reading about how the On Foot Family evolved, continue here On Foot Family, Part II.
|Tour No.||Tour Name||Dates||Price||No. Days/Nights||Spaces Available
|Tour 1||Tenerife Island: Lava, Sea & Stars||5-11 April 2019||2425€||7||Sold Out!|
|Tour 2||Camino de Santiago: On Glory Roads||8-18 May 2019||3475€||11||Sold Out!|
|Tour 3||Camino de Santiago: On Glory Roads||5-15 June 2019||3475€||11||1 Space Available|
|Tour 4||Camino Portuguese: Porto area to Santiago||2-8 July 2019||2275€||7||Sold Out!|
|Tour 5||Galicia: Food & Wine Journey||5-11 Sept 2019||2675€||7||Sold Out!|
|Tour 6||Camino de Santiago: On Glory Roads||25 Sept-5 Oct||3475€||11||Sold Out!|
To book a tour, please click here.
Beachcombing for Scallop Shells with On Foot in Spain
A version of this article was posted on On Foot in Spain’s Facebook page 21 Dec 2014
By Nancy L Frey, February 2018
On our Camino de Santiago tours we gift our walkers scallop shells, the primary symbol of the Santiago pilgrim. We gather these shells ourselves from the Ría de Arousa in Galicia, the very same estuary in which the Apostle James’s stone boat sailed looking for safe harbor before eventually being buried in what came to be known as Santiago de Compostela. This image of St James/Santiago (note he’s standing in a boat dressed as a pilgrim) comes from the town of Ribeira on the Ría de Arousa.
In winter we like to go with our kids to a favorite set of beaches to find shells, beachcomb and enjoy this magical, remote spit of land in the sea. Beachcombing is a marvelous, relaxing activity that we enjoy together as a family and individually as we discover the wonders to be found on these magnificent beaches. Here Sam sits in the distance floating atop a sea of shells.
You have to go at low tide to cross over to the string of shell beaches where we find the scallops (and lots of other shells!)
We've reached the first set of beaches. The beaches lie at the mouth of the estuary where the open ocean batters the coast. Striking deep mustard-yellow lichen adorn the granite boulders.
Scallop shells start to appear - buried beneath other shells, wedged between rocks, in the water. Some shells are whole, others are broken, weathered or worn.
Scallops come in many color variations and sizes. They are all unique like each pilgrim and his or her journey.
Reaching the next set of beaches, we continue our trek out along this rocky spit that reaches out into the open ocean. It looks like we might be able to walk all the way to Sálvora Island but no chance. The urge to see how far you can go is strong.
Scallop within a scallop - one of the many gifts from the sea.
We each search for shells and anything that captures our fancy - sometimes together, sometimes alone.
Along with the scallops, we find razor clams, limpets, many types of snails, mussels, oysters, cockles, clams...
At high tide the water will cover this beach completely. We always keep one eye on the water to make sure we don’t get caught. Being out here is mesmerizing.
When you get down on your hands and knees you realize that what looks like sand from the distance is actually an infinite mass of shells in various crushed states. As far down as you dig, all you can find are shells.
The sea birds like to hang out here including many yellow-footed gulls, sandpipers and cormorants. The cormorants like to warm and dry their sleek black wings in the sunshine perched on the rocks.
You can spend hours slowly combing the beach finding special treasures.
Marina holds up a very large yellow-toned scallop.
Jose and Jacob showing some of their finds and Jose holds a stunning pink-tinged scallop.
With an eye on the rising tide, we reluctantly make our way back across the rocks to the mainland sorry that they treasure hunt is over. At the end we pull out our collection of shells and select the ones we can use to gift to our walkers. Inevitably our pockets are filled with sand, polished beach glass and other eye-catching bits and pieces of beach.
Now back home for cleaning, drilling and red cords to be attached for our walkers (to be continued…).
You both were the yellow arrows that welcomed …and guided us…
Truly a trip of a lifetime! A feast for the eyes, the body and the soul. A journey of discovery from beginning to end. You both were the yellow arrows that welcomed us and thoughtfully guided us through a place in time and history. Nancy, you have a gift for telling a story or aspect of history that makes I interesting to hear and retain. Jose is so thoughtful, considerate – You both were always there, but never hovering. Thank you!
Judy and Steve, NYC, USA
June 2017, Camino de Santiago
…Nancy & Jose- you are absolute legends..
I have done so much raving on to people about how wonderful On Foot in Spain & particularly Nancy & Jose were, that they should never need to advertise. It was all such a special experience as evidenced by our reaction as we walked into the Santiago Square – still gives me goosebumps….Nancy & Jose – you are absolute legends….
Bron & Michael, Vermont, VIC, Australia
May 2017, Camino de Santiago
You bring out the best in everyone.
Thank YOU for the most fabulous trip ever! What a wonderful trip and a wonderful group. I think you are able to bring out the best in everyone, so I suspect you have the best groups all the time. Thank you so much.
Julie, Bend, Oregon, USA (2nd Time Traveler)
Jan 2018, Tenerife
…calmly moved the group through the eleven days…
The eleven days we spent with you were just superb in every way. Nancy, I constantly admired the way in which you so calmly moved the group through the eleven days…I just loved all the history, anecdotes, information on just so many things& never did I tire of it. Your engaging style & warm, interested personality set the scene & it was this above all else which contributed to the great success of the trip. Your laugh is infectious & your beautiful smile memorable. Through your words & references to Pilgrims I found I was able to spend much time reflecting on my life, its purpose & experienced a feeling of peace & contentment & extreme gratitude….Meanwhile Jose performed his magic…I know & appreciate the great planning & fine tuning all that requires. You are a wonderful team & obviously loving union. Possibly it’s just that which makes your Camino so very special…a very big Thank you for providing us with a truly wonderful, memorable Camino.
Lu & MIchael, Melbourne, Australia
Sept 2016, Camino de Santiago
I feel stronger mentally, physically and spiritually.
Thank you for the opportunity to walk in beautiful places, make wonderful new friends, partake in gourmet picnics in unforgettable locations and for all your knowledge and care. This was a truly unique experience for me and I am amazed at what I learnt along the way. I feel stronger mentally, physically and spiritually. Thank YOU for enriching my life.
Lynne, Golden, Colorado, USA
Oct 2016, Compostela
Our walk along this special path was just as uplifting as our first time. Your passion for story telling & your unique connection with the Camino made the trip truly worthwhile. Heartfelt thanks to Jose for preparing those delicious lunches and taking care of us. We all arrive on this walk with our shortcomings, but the road and those we encounter plus our traveling companions offer many gifts which we cherish long after we’ve moved on. So thank you for this Camino!
B & S, London, Ontario, CANADA (2nd time Travelers)
June 2017, Camino de Santiago
…a fulfilling experience that finds a place in your soul.
Making this incredible journey along the Camino with Nancy & Jose exceeded our expectations. They are such caring people who freely share their hearts & knowledge. The tour is hard to describe – it’s a fulfilling experience which finds a place in your soul.
John & Lucille, San Jose, CA, USA
October 2016, Compostela
Preparation and attention to detail, second to none...
Jose & Nancy – your preparation and attention to detail is second to none, your knowledge of the land, food & people is outstanding & you both clearly love and understand the history. This makes us want & yearn to come back again and again. The trip was a 10 out of 5 – we enjoyed everything & would have been happy to keep going as all our experiences were so enjoyable.
We can’t thank you and Jose enough for such an amazing week exploring Galicia - we had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed every moment with you both. We were talking in the early hours this morning about our walk with you and going through each day remembering what we did and how seamless the days and evenings flowed and how natural the experiences were- by that I mean we really felt immersed in the Galician way of life- eating, working, drinking, family and history. This rich holistic experience that we feel so blessed to have had is thanks to your (you and Jose) love of your Galicia and this was heightened by allowing us to meet the local producers, winemakers, shellfisherwomen, chefs, bee-keepers allowing them to tell their stories and this made it personal to us and we remember them more so for this very reason.
Janine & Craig, Hornsby, Sydney, Australia (2nd Time Travelers)
Sept 2016, Galicia: Food & Wine Journey
The bar is set very high
Given that this is the first trip of this kind that I have ever taken, I was not sure what to expect. Now I believe that the bar is set very high. It was an experience of a lifetime which I will always treasure. I had looked at other tours when on the waiting list for a later OFIS tour, and am very pleased with waiting for this one …There is no possibility that I would have experienced the Camino as well as I have with this group, Jose and Nancy.
Marc, Apex, North Carolina , USA
Compostela, October 2016
….your kindness, caring and love of the country and of people….
Our time in Spain with you two was life changing. You instilled a desire to travel and get to the heart of the country and the heart of the communities. ….Having said all this, where we started our adventures in Spain, remains one of the best places we have ever been. It was one of the best places because of you and Jose and your kindness, caring and love of the country and of people. We desire to return someday and experience it with you again….You really impacted our lives.
Chris & Dale, Iowa, USA
July 2013, Galicia: From Sea to Mountain (Writing in 2017 reminiscing about their trip in 2013)
I wasn’t expecting…the emotional experience….
I wasn’t expecting it to be the emotional experience that it turned out to be. I would heartily recommend it to anyone thinking of doing the Camino, it was a truly fantastic experience in so many ways. I want to commend you both on offering such a wonderful experience and I hope to do one of your others tours at some stage in the future.
Jen, Hurlstone Park, NSW, Australia
June 2017, Camino de Santiago
…places we could never find…people we would never meet [on our own]
This trip, while quite different from the Camino trips, was the best. You took us to places we could never find and introduced us to people we would never meet. The hiking was hard, but you believed we could do it and helped us to discover that despite any doubts we may have had, we could….As usual Jose your lunches were great. You seem to have a gift for inventing dishes from simple components that please everyone, even non-lettuce lovers…I know this group was quirky, but you both rose to the occasion and managed the group well. I appreciate your deep knowledge about and love of your country, its history and culture. You are able to impart your knowledge on a broad range of topics. …On this trip, I thought about how much effort and preparation you make to ensure the trip is successful…I could really see that we were always in good hands.
Mark, Vienna, Virginia, USA (3rd Time On Foot in Spain Traveler)
July 2016, Galicia Hiking: From Sea to Mountain
…a priceless experience..
Definitely a 5! [out of 5] what one gets from a trip like this is hard to quantify. The selection of hikes, villages, restaurants is something I could not have put together myself. Nancy and Jose share their love of this region and its people and history so generously. That makes for a priceless experience.
Alison, Sebastopol, California, USA
July 2016, Galicia Hiking: From Sea to Mountain tour
Fuera de lo común..
Estan haciendo un trabajo fuera de lo común. No creo que haya otra compañía que ni siquiera este cerca. Les recomendaré a todo quien me pregunte o planee un viaje a España o Portugal. Espero algún día volver a viajar con ustedes.
Sara, Miami, Florida, USA (2nd Time Traveler)
July 2016, Portuguese Camino
…your ability to look after everyone so easily…
I loved our cultural immersion & the bus readings, music and the towns’ history – felt like I was living in the era of all events (maybe lucky I wasn’t! )….The group dynamics work because of your ability to look after everyone so easily…We just loved our time with you all and it makes me so sad you are so far away.
MIchael, New Zealand
July 2016, Portuguese Camino
…your knowledge…passion, professionalism & genuineness!
Not only was it your knowledge but it was your passion, professionalism & genuineness that stood out! The picnics were superb!
Pam & Robert, Rockford, Barosa, Australia
July 2016, Portuguese Camino
…thank you….from the bottom of my heart..
I do want to thank you both from the bottom of my heart for your care, attention to detail and generosity of spirit. At times it all felt overwhelming & I still do not have words for that – only to say, thank you.
Sam, Braidswood, NSW, Australia
June 2017, Camino de Santiago
…all done seemingly without effort..
We were continuously impressed by the wealth of knowledge Nancy imparted to us every step of the way! …All was done seemingly without effort, and you both seemed so calm all the time, and patient, but with a great sense of professionalism. Jose, you’re the greatest! Loved the variety of local cheeses, breads, sweets, etc but the Salads! The best!... This was one of the best trips we’ve ever done! Apart from the camino, which was very special and very unique, our guides were of the finest quality! We learned so much and did so much. Thank you for introducing us to a very special region of Spain! We’d love to come back again! We rate the trip with a 5++++++!
Linda & Tom, Portland, Oregon, USA
Sept 2017, Camino de Santiago
…your love for Spain has inspired us..
We came for the walk but learnt so much more. The interpretations at all we saw has opened my eyes. Your love for Spain has inspired us. Much love,
Leonie & John, West Pennant Hills, NSW, Australia
Sept 2016, Camino de Santiago
The Camino revealed unexpected opportunities….
I knew I was coming to hike. I knew I was hiking with a friend facing challenges, but I underestimated how that would affect me; The Camino revealed unexpected opportunities and I am proud of my choices and the way I made the journey. I am grate to have had the company of my fellow pilgrims and you, Nancy and Jose.
Joan, Beaverton, Oregon, USA
September 2016, Camino de Santiago
Video of Nancy’s talk: The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age (Jan 2017, London)
By Nancy L. Frey
In January 2017, I gave the keynote address at the Confraternity of St James’ Annual General Meeting in London titled The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age. In the talk I briefly review some general changes I’ve noticed over the last 25 years and then present my research on the incorporation of new media technology into the Camino and how this has impacted being a pilgrim. The rise of the Internet is the single most important change in the Camino during this period and has dramatically impacted how people engage with the pilgrimage experience before, during and after the Camino is over.
The video is long. To help facilitate listening to the parts that are of most interest, I’ve broken down the video into segments and themes. Please let me know if you have any questions or observations.
0:00-1:00 - Intro to video
1:00-4:35 - Intro about talk and Nancy’s 25 years’ experience on Camino
4:35-5:30 - Nature of change on Camino
5:30-22:15 - General Changes on the Camino over the last 25 years
• 6:55 - Pilgrim’s Office and Statistics
• 7:45 - Numbers
• 8:27 - Sex
• 8:50 - Internationalization
• 10:11 - Mode of Travel
• 10:50 - Roads Traveled and Development of other routes
• 11:44 - Acquisition of the Compostela Certificate & Certificate of Distance
• 14:18 - Motivations and Expectations
• 16:33 - Infrastructure
• 17:50 - John, the Pilgrim Helper and Red tape
• 18:29 - Equipment
• 19:13 - Invasion of our Attentional Space
• 19:42 - Graffiti & Pokemon Go
• 21:08 - The Cathedral: Security, protecting patrimony and limited access
• 21:33 - What happened to the wild dogs?
22:15-23:38 - Changes related to Internet Age. Tech is a tool but not a neutral tool.
23:38-26:44 - Pilgrimage/Camino is a Rite of Passage with three stages: Prep, During, Return. “While the physical component has remained relatively the same, for most people the mental component has changed dramatically…” The Camino in the Cloud.
26:44 – 35:47 - Stage 1: Preparation for the Camino in the Internet Age. Anxiety is normal. Information overload, we overly complicate the Camino, developing pilgrim identity pre-Camino
• 33:12 - What to take and packing lists
35:52 – 1:02:15 - Stage 2: Being on the Camino
• 35:52 - Outcomes of preparation and spectrum of mobile tech usage
• 38:45 - Experience of time and place impacted, Incorporation of “Tech time”; bracketed time away disrupted, stay inside comfort zone
• 42:56 - Internet age pilgrims have new needs and new neediness; my sacred tech time; increase virtual connections and decrease face-to-face connections
• 47:10 - Impact on Camino community and social relations
• 49:53 - Relationship to Home; the importance of “missing” and “longing”; collaborative pilgrimages
• 53:48 - Digital Detox pilgrimages
• 56:25 - Shift in thinking and expectations about “what is the Camino?”; controlling the Camino and fear management; “not having a bed” anxiety; having a “Trip Advisor” Camino; dilution of the power of our experiences
• 1:00:30 - Tech industry encourages us to trust tech and not ourselves; WiFi App; Progressively outsourcing skills to phone and atrophying those abilities within ourselves.
1:02:15-1:05 - Reaching Santiago – transition point; experiences mediated by phones; losing trust in our memories; capturing moments vs contemplating moments
1:05-1:11 - Stage 3: The Return Home
1:11-1:14:59 - Conclusions
|Tour No.||Tour Name||Dates||Price||No. Days/Nights||Spaces Available
|Tour 1||Hiking Tenerife Island: Lava, Sea & Stars||15-21 Jan 2018||2325€||7||SOLD OUT!|
|Tour 2||Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago)||2-12 May 2018||3475€||11||SOLD OUT!|
|Tour 3||Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago)||6-16 June 2018||3475€||11||SOLD OUT!|
|Tour 4||Galicia: Hiking From Sea to Mountain||3-10 July 2018||1975€||8||3 Spaces Available|
|Tour 5||Galicia: Food & Wine Journey||3-9 Sept 2018||2625€||7||1 Space Available|
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Canadian photographer and blogger France Fehr joined us along the Camino de Santiago in June 2015. The Camino rarely fails to inspire the artistic eye and France was no exception. We are very happy to be able to share one of her entries from her blog FUN & LIFE. Enjoying life to the max. France blogged extensively about her 11 day Camino trip with us and this last entry "Camino in photography" captures well the whole journey.
Camino in photography.
Today, I will not post about Barcelona yet but I will share some photos taken on the Camino. (June 2015)
We were lucky to have Nancy and Jose as guides for this great adventure.
On Foot in Spain is the link if you ever are up to do a walking/hiking educational journey in Spain or Portugal. You would be having a good time .
Now , the photos with little description! But if you want to read and see more on our adventure with On Foot in Spain, I have written 11 more texts ( you can find them on this blog). It was a real pleasure to write our story and to share it here.
The shell, is the symbol on the Camino. We all received a shell to wear around our neck or put on our bag or just to bring home as a memory.
St-James. The history of the Camino de Santiago goes back at the beginning of the 9th century (year 814) moment of the discovery of the tomb of the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula. Since this discovery, Santiago de Compostela becomes a peregrination point of the entire European continent.
Pamplona is the first city where we met with our group. I really liked that city . We had time to walk and get a feel of the place. It has a nice square where people come and sit on benches and visit. Pamplona is very famous for the run of the bulls.
Alto del pardon. monument to the Pilgrim. A 14 iron figures of natural size.
This man had set up a table with little crafts and food. He is only asking for donation.
Our friend, David, took a photo of me at the Sta Maria La Real Monastery in Najera. David and I got along because he was taking as many photos as me.
Sometimes, my husband also took photos of me! Thanks, Stephen.
Food never tastes so delicious when you have walked a few km.
Walking “la meseta” on a beautiful day.
A snack … Little Bee is never too far .
Part of our group listening to Nancy while she explains history of the San Zoilo Monastery in Carrion de Los Condes . They were all happy to be sitting after 20 km walk.
Sam with the rock I brought with me. As I didn’t want to leave it at the “Cruz de Ferro”, I gave it to him as a souvenir. It was a rock I painted a few years ago.
Rainy day on the Camino…
Always a place to stop for coffee if we want to.
Cyclists on the Camino
David is taking photos … and I take a photo of him!
Nancy , our guide . With Jose , they have been leading those adventure for 17 years. The best guides for this experience. Great people with so much knowledge to share.
A monk at the Monastery in Samos.
Jose is mixing the salad for our picnic.
Some animals we saw while we were on the Camino…
On our last picnic, we enjoyed some cider !
Thanks to Saint-James, we had this wonderful walking experience.
and thanks to Nancy and Jose, this trip was a success.
Thanks for reading ! my next post will be about Barcelona. A unique experience. Maybe it will inspire you to do it.
There are some people you never forget! Virginia and George Havens traveled with us 12 years ago in May 2003 along the Camino de Santiago. They formed part of a special group that came together as strangers and ended up sharing many wonderful moments and developing friendships that still endure today. I have a photo of that memorable group taken at the Camino’s literal high point – la Cruz de Ferro (the Iron Cross). Looking at each face brings back a flood of memories. Some of them went on to travel with us two or even three times. Others we have kept in touch with via email and holiday cards.
One such special couple is Virginia and George. At the time they were a spry 78 and 79 and they are still going strong! Jose and I fondly remember how beautiful Ginnie was always lovingly cared for by George. Ginnie’s a birder and I can still remember hearing about her work with birds and building birdhouses. As we walked she’d point out birds I couldn’t even see. Many times over the years I have wished she were along on other walks to keep teaching me! On that trip we also discovered that Ginnie and I and another woman on the trip, Nancy Grandfield, are all Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters. That was a great coincidence! At the end of walk, during our final dinner at the Parador in Santiago de Compostela, George got up, ordered champagne for the group and gave a very special and meaningful toast! What a couple!
Over the years we have kept in touch and George sent me an email telling me about Ginnie’s continuing education through Case Western Reserve University. He wrote:
Her latest [class] was Sports History which required writing a short paper on an object related to some athletic activity (baseball bat, football, etc.). Ginnie chose her scallop shell and we thought you would enjoy seeing her report to which she attached a copy of the Camino certificate that you gave us.
We did enjoy seeing her report and asked if we could have permission to publish it here with a photo of Ginnie. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did! We greatly enjoy seeing how the Camino continues to evolve in people’s lives and can inspire projects such as these 12 years later! Buen Camino, Ginnie and George!
The Scallop Shell
By Virginia C. Havens
The symbol that evokes memories of achievement, endurance and adventure is the white scallop shell hanging on a cord at my desk. This type of shell was first worn on the hat of St. James, patron warrior saint of Spain, and today it signifies a completed pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Santiago across Spain.
First, a brief history of St. James, a disciple of Jesus, and this 500-mile trek to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. James came to Spain shortly after the crucifixion to spread Christianity. On returning to Jerusalem, he was beheaded by Herod and his body sent in a casket by the other disciples back to Spain for burial. After some 800 years, the burial spot was forgotten and unknown, but on a certain night the field was illuminated by the stars and with this guidance the burial casket of St. James was unearthed and discovered. This startling discovery resulted in a sacred pilgrimage to this holy site that drew pilgrims from all over Europe.
The Camino starts in eastern Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains that separate France and Spain. It descends through Roncesvalles (a historic location where Charlemagne once fought the infidel Moors) then on to Pamplona. Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Bierzo, Arzua to Santiago to be blessed in the great cathedral there. In the middle ages, pilgrims walked the 500 miles across Spain seeking redemption and a spiritual encounter with St. James, and receiving forgiveness for their sins. This walk along this ancient road became a venerated tradition and Santiago became a popular pilgrimage destination. Last year over a million individuals were reported to have traversed the Camino and then received the scallop shell to reward and verify their experience.
In my years of reading I would come across references to this famous “road” and I would think “Oh the experience of walking it...walking, thinking a and meditating” with all of Spain stretching out before me, all open, no restrictions, no time table...just me and the world.
In 2003 my husband and I decided to tackle the Camino, at least a part of it. We would do 100 miles in 12 days in an arrangement that extended across the entire road, but avoided the less interesting parts. It was for me a magnificent experience and the shell recreates memories of golden wheat fields filled with red poppies, impressive ancient buildings, bridges and churches, warm and kind mountain people, owls and great beech trees and exotic foods. And then the memory of walking 8 to 10 miles each day on weary, weary feet, then the last demanding push for 12 miles up an almost unending mountainside on a never-to-be-forgotten day.
What are the lasting, indelible effects of such an experience? First of all, I am always aware of having the gumption to do such a trek at a senior age. Then having the courage to cross the ocean, plant my feet on strange soil and move out on a 100-mile effort, and accomplish it. It was a singular decision in my life – that produced a bold, unique and highly satisfying experience that confirmed my commitment to an adventurous life. It reinforced my love and appreciation for Spain. It left me with regrets that we were not able to do the tough trek to the Everest base camp at 18,000 feet in Nepal (which we had planned) and on to the Antarctic in the footsteps of Shackleton.
"Aside from marrying my husband and having my son, this was the greatest thing I have ever done. Everything I hoped for, and more, happened. Please know to what a great extent you enhanced my life…"
Cynthia, Portland, Oregon, USA,
Camino de Santiago, 2003
I have done so much raving on to people about how wonderful On Foot in Spain & particularly Nancy & Jose were, that they should never need to advertise. It was all such a special experience as evidenced by our reaction as we walked into the Santiago Square – still gives me goosebumps….Nancy & Jose – you are absolute legends….”.
Bron & Michael, Vermont, VIC, Australia
May 2017, Camino de Santiago
Sam, Jose and Nancy on Portugal tour by client B. Cameron
WHO WE ARE: YOUR OWNER-GUIDES - NANCY & JOSE
Receiving feedback like the above testimonials, written 14 years apart, fills us (Nancy & Jose) with a tremendous sense of fulfillment. Our primary goal on our trips is to help facilitate the engagement of our travelers with something meaningful within themselves or the rich landscapes and experiences within which they are immersed. Being a part of someone’s potentially transformative experience is a great honor and privilege. Jose and I both have a great passion for and knowledge of Spain, where we live (Galicia), the Camino de Santiago and it is a pleasure to share this with those who accompany us.
Both Nancy and Jose have always held both walking and learning close to their hearts. Their paths crossed while Nancy was conducting her doctoral dissertation research on the Camino de Santiago in the hamlet of Roncesvalles (Navarre) and Jose was just beginning a 450-mile/780KM walk across Spain. Their paths rejoined a month later in Santiago de Compostela and since then have not diverged.
Together they co-authored the chapters on Galicia, Cordillera Cantabrica (Picos de Europa) and the Camino de Santiago for Lonely Planet’s Walking in Spain (1999 and 2003 and Hiking in Spain, 2010) and co-authored Lonely Planet's 1st edition of Walking in Scotland (2001). Nancy and Jose started On Foot In Spain Walking & Hiking Educational Adventures in 1999. They have three children, Jacob (2 Feb 1999) Marina (05 Dec 2003) and Sam (27 Nov 2006), and live on the Galician coast.
Nancy L. Frey, PhD
Nancy on top of Mt. Dana, Yosemite circa 1978
Nancy’s love of hiking grew from annual summer trips to Yosemite led by a Dad who always knew the name of every tree and who reveled in leading his children to inspirational points. Thus it wasn’t too surprising that when she selected her subject material for her doctoral dissertation in cultural anthropology (UC Berkeley) one very attractive element of it was the prospect of traversing the north of Spain on foot.
Since her first walk in 1993, Nancy has walked the Camino de Santiago numerous times and cycled it as well. In her book on the modern day journey, Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago (UC Press, 1998), Nancy brings to life the contemporary way by discussing pilgrims' motivations, mishaps and discoveries while walking as well as providing insights into why the route is so popular today.
In the late 1990s Nancy lectured for ElderHostel and the Smithsonian Institution on their educational tours in Spain, Portugal and France. She also taught a course on the Camino de Santiago at the University of Santiago. Nancy is currently researching the impact of the internet and mobile technologies on the pilgrimage experience and on being a pilgrim. Her website Walking to Presence is dedicated to sharing her research and insights on pilgrimage in the Internet Age and to helping travelers to reflectively engage more fully with their travel experiences.
One of Nancy’s favorite roles on tour is bringing to life the history and culture of the places we visit through a wide range of stories and consistently receives very positive feedback for how she conveys her knowledge. To learn more about this facet of the On Foot experience, read The Story Teller. In this photo, taken by client F. Fehr, Nancy has just told the group about the history of the special mountain village O Cebreiro and explained how and why the yellow arrows were invented.
In her free time she enjoys reading, swimming, kayaking, tending her flower garden and her hens as well as cooking savory pies and tarts.
Jose Daniel Placer
A native of Santiago de Compostela, Jose received his law degree from the University of Santiago and then made a 180 degree turn away from being a lawyer and back to his real passion: children and the outdoors. He has taught outdoor education and coached soccer, basketball and volleyball. He runs the children’s theater program for the local school where he writes and directs the plays.
With Europe as his backyard, Jose has hiked extensively both within and beyond Spain since he was a teenager. Despite having enjoyed the Italian Dolomites, and hiking in the Alps while studying law at the University of Passau in Germany, his favorite stomping ground continues to be Spain’s Picos de Europa.
Jose’s picnics have received tremendous praise over the years. When not on tour Jose lovingly tends his fruit orchard and garden and enjoys experimenting with new recipes from our own harvest.
Jose especially enjoys writing short stories, carpentry, restoring furniture, working his garden, kayaking and mountain biking.
ON FOOT PHILOSOPHY
Each time we set out on a trail we go with the idea that to walk is to learn. Slowing down to the rhythm of your feet inevitably brings more to your immediate attention and consequently allows for greater speculation and wonder. We abide and live by the slow travel, slow experience movement as an enriching way to experience a new culture.
On our journeys into northern Spain’s exceptionally beautiful back roads we want to give you the opportunity to challenge yourself physically (without overdoing) and at the same time pique your curiosity by pointing out the not so obvious as well as providing insights into the wonders of the everyday. In this photo, taken by traveler J. Laskall, she captured Jose demonstrating the usage of the Spanish botijo, glass wine holder, traditionally used by field workers.
Art, architecture, anthropology, folklore, history, Spanish fiestas, cuisine - we interlace them all into each day of your tour. Our carefully designed walks, combining charming accommodations in rural inns, monasteries, and hotels with the finest in local cuisine, will immerse you in the riches of northern Spain’s cultural life and landscapes.
ON FOOT FAMILY
After nearly 20 years of running On Foot in Spain, our family has grown up with the business. Nancy wrote a four-part series highlighting the challenges and joys of having their family grow up with On Foot in Spain as a constant presence. Over the years we have developed very special friendships with travelers from around the world who have joined us on 3, 4, 5 and even 6 trips! We feel very blessed indeed to have created a huge network of the On Foot Family around the world. Thank you to all of you who have made it possible. Please see our group photo gallery to enjoy the experiences of our some our 1500 clients on 160 tours in the last 18 seasons.
To read about the On Foot Family story, please read here.
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