Category Archives: Walking

New ebook about innkeeping on the Camino de Santiago …or anywhere else

Check it out…

How to be an Innkeeper (Hospitalero) on the Camino de Santiago cover

The Blurb: On Spain’s ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail, volunteer innkeepers — hospitaleros — take care of pilgrims and manage the inns along the route.

This is a quick book that explores the spirit of innkeeping and the countless tiny choices that every innkeeper must make. It’s not just for innkeepers — hopefully anyone involved in hospitality will find it useful.

9,282 words

You may have seen the old version on this site — I wrote it after working as a hospitalero in 2007 in Viana, Nájera, and Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain. Now it’s revised, updated, and available on Amazon here.


Tarptent Scarp 1 in Iceland

A few shots of the Tarptent Scarp 1 on the Laugavegur Trek in Iceland, July 2013. These are iPhone photos — the Nikon DSLR didn’t get to go on this trip…

Tarptent Scarp 1 in Iceland

I took the Tarptent Scarp 1 on the Laugavegur Trek in Iceland. Aside from a shakedown in my backyard in Pennsylvania and a night at the Reykjavik campground, the trek was the tent’s first outing. It performed extremely well.


Tarptent Scarp 1 in Iceland

The dual side vestibules gave me a ton of extra space. I used the far side for wet, muddy gear, and the entrance side for boots and temporary storage. You can use either side as a door. (And yes, that sagging panel should be tighter.)

Tarptent Scarp 1 in Iceland

I brought a set of crossing poles for support in high winds, but never used them. The arch sleeve pullouts, seen here, provide extra stability. The crossing poles would add even more strength in very strong winds.

Continue reading Tarptent Scarp 1 in Iceland

Check out my Camino de Santiago ebook on Amazon

Guided by Shadows: A Westward Walk on Spain’s Camino de Santiago

I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2005. Eight years later, the experience is transformed into a little book for your armchair travel pleasure. Enjoy. Ultreia!

Or, as the blurb says:

Guided by Shadows puts you on the path to Santiago. It reveals not only the joys and pains of the route, but also the mysteries, frustrations and absurdity of a 500-mile walking pilgrimage.

14,830 words // ~49 Kindle pages

Guided by Shadows - Camino de Santiago book cover


The Underground Table: America’s Camino

2010. Being a practical nation, Americans turn to pilgrimage to seek salvation of their bodies. Freedom not from sin, but from antibiotics, pesticides, and the absurdity of the Industrial Diet. Instead of walking church to church, pilgrims walk from sustainable farm to farm.

In return for a donation, pilgrims receive a place to sleep or to stake their tent, a shower and toilet, a dinner and breakfast (either prepared or something they can cook themselves). For now, a small tent and camping stove are recommended.

It’s unclear whether the pilgrimage has an endpoint or not. Most often it’s self-defined by time constraints, often circular. The waypoints are non-linear, just a smattering of farms across the country. The route is formed by making 20 or 50 phone calls before heading out, asking and explaining. Bring your own map, leave markers if you’re so inclined. Where you choose to walk is up to you.

For now, pilgrims have to accept large stretches of road walking. The upside is raised awareness of the fact that you don’t need much.

At times, the pilgrimage has a work-trade element built in. Farmers budget tasks and funds for anticipated pilgrims — painting, cleaning, stacking, and so forth. It’s a good idea to ask in advance. The issues of work legality, taxes, and insurance coverage are beyond me — ideas?

Americans are always looking for the next best weight loss and/or fitness program. This is it, but it’s also so much more.

Photo by ilovebutter via Flickr.

Snow falls in Bethlehem, PA

Dry, miniature snowflakes fell on Bethlehem yesterday, leaving the city sparkling. Residents raised hoods, locked arms, tucked chins, and squinted eyelids against the flying snow.

Throughout the storm, pizza delivery drivers trafficked their cargo with little regard for personal safety. Around 7 p.m., a teal Neon with a silver spoiler, Dominoes sign, and supreme confidence barreled downhill on Broad St., sending crosswalk walkers leaping for the safety of the curb.

Taqueria Mexico Lindo on Main St. remained open for business, but at the peak dinner hour only one sleepy couple sat huddled over the baseboard heater, entranced by Lady Gaga on the flatscreen. The waitress devoted long stretches of attention to her laptop with impunity.

A duo of ATV’s raced through Bethlehem’s alleyways, even passing a police car which declined to intervene.

Someone, somewhere, slipped and cracked a tailbone.

This Camino de Santiago Documentary Looks Good…

Trailer Preview – The Camino Documentary (LQ) from The Camino Documentary on Vimeo.

Having lived on the Camino for only about 12 weeks total, I’ve seen at least four film crews and have been suspicious of all of them. I’ve thought that their efforts were in vain, that the kaleidoscopic experience couldn’t be captured by a team that rides in a van and sleeps in hotels.

But after watching the above trailer, I don’t care where the crew slept. It looks like the dangerous combination of professional production and spiritual journey may have been successful.

Take a look and let us know what you think…

Link: The Camino Documentary

Jeju Olle: New, Fragile Walking Route in Korea

Inspired by her experience on the Camino de Santiago, retired reporter Suh Myung-sook has led the creation of over 250 km of wildly popular walking trails on the South Korean island of Jeju. More trails are in the works, and I’m guessing the official route will soon encircle the island.

As for walkers already looping Jeju–there must be a percentage who reach the end of the official trail and keep right on going.

And while we’re talking about loops and route planning, any developer’s next step would likely make Jeju Olle an @-shaped route, with a trail to the 1,950m peak of Mt. Halla as the final stage.

As this project goes forward, hopefully its leaders are careful about J.O.’s impact on the island. It’s an island, after all. The options for crowd-scattering alternative routes are pretty slim.

In the first nine months of 2009, Jeju Olle attracted–ready?–200,000 walkers. By comparison, 100,000 pilgrims completed the 800ish km French Route of the Camino de Santiago in 2008. My rough math shows that J.O. is faced with the challenge of supporting a pilgrim density that’s eight times greater (OK, 8.1) than the primary route of the Camino de Santiago. And that’s before Ms. Suh’s worldwide marketing plans kick in.

Fingers crossed…

Official Site of Jeju Olle
OhMyNews–Jeju Olle: The Korean Pilgrimage For Hikers

PS — The island is a volcano.
PPS — With such a surge, is it possible to promote the island as an ecotourism destination with a straight face?

Update–from the comments: “I walked Jeju Olle trails a while ago and found some fragile routes were crumbling down after they were beaten relentlessly by hundreds of hikers every day.”

Born to Cover Ground

Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run has been getting a lot of attention this year (here’s [what I think is] the original article that led to the book ).

I haven’t read the book nor gone shoeless (yet), but McDougall’s original article and the media swirl around his book have helped me develop a new view of running. No longer mere exercise, I see it as the opportunity to cover some ground.

Whereas 30 minutes used to be a good workout, now I’ll go out and ramble for an hour, an hour and a half. No idea of the mileage. Up the mountain, into the woods, looping, looping back, stopping to have a staring contest with a deer, walking whenever. This sustainable lope goes beyond mimicking “the behavior of the persistence hunter” for the end of physical fitness: It creates a direct psychological link to the antelope hunter and mammoth spearer within.

From the perspective of place, this returns us (in thought, at least) to our ancestral hunting grounds, the root homestead. In a dispersed world, that’s probably not the same ground covered on a Saturday jog. By running with this mindset, you might be surprised how far you’ll travel both mentally and physically.

And if you live and run where you’ve been all along, what’s that like?

Photo by Casey Morris via Flickr

Travel Self vs. Home Self


Do you play by different rules at home and on the road? When surrounded by the familiar versus overwhelmed by the new?

It’s a massive challenge to merge the travel self and the home self. To approach the world with open intensity no matter what part of the planet happens to be underfoot.

Do any of the following divides sound familiar?

Work / No work
Save / Spend
Established friends and family / Meeting new people
Cooking / Buying meals
Car or bike / Buses, taxis, etc.
Clutter / Essentials
Presentable / Grungy
Scheduled / Improvised
Routine bites of busy / Big wide life-changing experiences

What Didn’t Go Down in Bethlehem, PA

I took a walk today trying to catch the fall colors with a camera. Didn’t stop in a cafe or bar, didn’t even grab a slice of pizza. The root reason being that I’m saving for travel.

Crossed paths with some strangers:

The green-sweatered man behind the counter at Pat’s News Stand, tired of watching browsers leave fingerprints on the covers of his magazines.

Two homeless guys tossing crumpled cans off the Fahy Bridge.

A waitress sitting in the sculpture garden drinking out of an oversized Styrofoam cup.

Kids popping noisemakers in front of the corner bagel shop.

A church caretaker sweeping the steps.

There were a few words exchanged with some of these folks, sure. But not enough–the curiosity mechanism is still bugging me about each of them: Where would it have gone?

These are the people I’d have talked to if I were traveling.

Got a long way to go.

Photo by Frabuleuse

Thinking About the Camino de Santiago?


Just posted my Camino journal here. If you’re thinking of making the pilgrimage, I hope it gives you an idea of the thoughts and concerns the walk is liable to catalyze in your consciousness.

If you’ve walked the Camino before, I hope it takes you back.

Most importantly, if you have any questions about the Camino–any–I’d love to take a shot at them. Especially if you’re struggling with that classic biggie, “I want to do this, but I have no idea how I can make it happen.” (And if I can’t answer your question, maybe I can pass it on to someone who can.)

Get in touch by emailing me at stateofplace -at- gmail. Cheers.

PS — The permanent link is right up there on the header bar next to the Innkeeper’s Guide.

Photo by Shaorang.

Anybody Seen a Boxcar of Hobos?

Freight train on the canal path in Bethlehem, PA

While walking by this slow freight train the other day, I wondered what would happen if a boxcar of hobos passed and yelled, “Jump on!” Really animated hobos–flapping the sleeves of their flannel shirts, waving their bindles and whatnot.

What will happen when you get the chance to plug a stick of dynamite up the posterior of your current existence? This day, this minute. Choose. Especially if you really like the way things are going right now. Gotta choose.

Look up at the sky. This is what the sky looks like when you have the chance to switch tracks. I have the feeling that, sooner or later, each of us will be put on the spot. The boxcar of hobos is going to roll by. Could be good, could be bad. Only one way to find out. Maybe you’ve already seen it? Or maybe it slides by more often than we realize?

(And yes, it is a freight train–so if we don’t see it, are we in the dark? If we don’t hear it, are we submerged? If we don’t feel it rumbling, are we floating through space?)

Where Will a Walk Take You?

george washington bridge photo walk walking travel

Have you walked across your city? Have you witnessed the bell curve of its development? Would you take the same route you’d use to drive? Or would you seek out some sort of alternate, foot-friendly route?

Yesterday I read about a back-up plan that many Bihari peasants keep in mind: Make the month-long walk to Calcutta and look for work or beg. After walking the Camino de Santiago, if Burgos and Leon come up together, the immediate thought is twelve days across the meseta… Some of the most fascinating imagery in Stephen King’s The Stand is of walks across a demolished America, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road only intensifies the scenario.

Think of where you drive most often in the 5, 10, 15, and 30 minute ranges. Consider your nearest big city (especially if you’re in one right now). How long it would take to walk to these places?

Bethlehem, PA, is an hour and a half of crumbling interstate west of New York City. But to walk along back roads and sidewalks until the eventual crossing of the George Washington Bridge and coda stroll down to Central Park–sounds like an adventure. 83.2 miles, according to Google Maps. Four good days.

Four good days is a guess. I have no idea what that walk demands. Don’t know what I’m a day’s or a week’s walk from. To know this place, I think I should.

Sure, the scenery in the Lehigh Valley is a notch or two below the Annapurnas, but it’s strange to have a better conception of the various routes from Pokhara to Muktinath than of the footpaths between my town and its immediate neighbors, not to mention the neighbors I’d have to ask for water along the way.

What about you? Had any good walks lately?

Photo claiming to have three mistakes by Sidereal.

Want To Travel? Start Walking.

Not knowing my car’s transmission would soon be dead, I recently wrote something in praise of walking. Backhandedly, about the negatives of cars and even bicycles. Here it is:

Given the choice of any mode of transportation, I prefer my feet. I don’t have to lock them to a streetlamp before I go into the cafe. They don’t suck down gasoline, oil, rubber donuts, antifreeze, or Windex. I don’t need a ticket to take my feet, and I’ve never gotten ticketed for leaving them in the wrong place. Though they can leave me tired, the next day I’m the opposite of lagged. I don’t have to watch a speed limit, only my blisters and joints. Feet simplify the process of  hm, let me take a closer look. They demand I haul only the essentials. Their convertible top is a hat. My feet aren’t capable of crushing toddlers on tricycles. In fact, when I run into someone, it’s a good thing. All my feet need from the gas station is a Christmas tree air freshener.

Then the car trouble showed up (as payback for a wandering eye?). As I waited for the diagnosis, I went from toying with the walking idea to feeling at the mercy of fate. To staring down a drastic lifestyle change. If the car’s kaput, how am I ever going to (fill in the blank)?

Not having a car is a position many Westerners (whose cities still lack quality public transportation) are put in only while traveling with a certain gusto. It’s no wonder that the prospect of living without a car carries the same what might happen? adrenal vulnerability as heading abroad with improvisation as the only plan.

If you’re looking for a way to prepare for travel (or to get your travel fix while home), try ignoring your car for a couple days. You can catch rides, use finicky buses, or just get out and walk the two miles to the grocery store. If you want a larger dose, a six to ten hour wander packs plenty of surprises.

More on that soon…

Took forever to find a photo for this one — thanks, Looking Glass.