Three Stamps

When you walk any leg of the Camino de Santiago, you must carry a pilgrim’s credential. The credential serves two purposes. First, it shows accommodation providers that you’re a legitimate pilgrim. This is especially significant in municipal and private hostels built (and priced) for walkers and bikers alone. Second, the credential proves that you have completed at least 100 kilometers when you reach the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Officials check your dated stamps before offering a certificate of completion.

In my opinion, the credential is also a fabulous ritual that leads to a perfect souvenir. Getting your stamp at the end of a hard day feels good. It’s an opportunity to reflect on your progress, and to share stories with the people you encounter. Natalie and I experienced this ritual in its fullest today.

The owner of our albergue in Alvaiázere takes immense pride in stamping credentials. After touring us around town and telling us the story of how he opened a hostel, he got to work. First, he applied a foil seal to our passports. Then, he glued in a small patch next to it. Finally, he made a wax seal with ribbon representing the town’s colors attached to it. Another traveler commented in Spanish that he was an artist and we wholeheartedly agreed. Check out photos of his handiwork, as well as simpler stamps for comparison.

We keep opening our credentials to look at his three, thoughtful stamps. Yes, part of his motivation is developing a competitive advantage other other hostels in the area. But the time he took to sit with us, sip port, and melt wax onto our passports had a lot more to do with building community than competition. What a sweet experience for all.

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Smiling, Sweating, and Sobbing

On Day 2 of our caminho, somewhere between Vila Nova da Rainha and Azambuja, Natalie and I both sobbed for the first time on this journey. We were splayed out in the blazing sun on a dirt track next to a bog of eternal stench. We had been walking for about 8 hours as the temperature climbed to 90 degrees. As Natalie took off one shoe to tape up a blister, she started to cry. Then, she pointed out some chafing on my inner thigh. I started bawling. Defeated but unwilling to fully roast in the sun, we lifted each other up and carried on. I may or may not have said “I hate Portugal” multiple times. Only Natalie knows what happened.

As we emerged from what could mildly be described as an overgrown thicket into a truck stop motel, we smiled. We did it together. If we looked past our sunburned calves and disgustingly sweaty faces and multiple curses laid on the innocent people of Portugal, we saw what we had really done: supported each other enough to alternate sobbing and caretaking on the side of the rode. We had truly made the most of our time together – this is a vacation, after all, and it’s also the beginning of a wonderful chapter in our lives.

Thank you all for your support. We are enjoying a glorious rest day at Casa da Alcacova in Santarem and soaking up the many lessons the caminho has to offer.

Bom Caminho!

We walked 20 miles today. Woah. After flying to Lisbon and spending the day exploring (and napping, let’s be real), we hit the road bright and early. Check out our highlights and photos below:

Lisbon highlights:

  • Exploring the monastery.
  • Eating lunch on the waterfront.
  • Running into my SOM classmate, Avi, while take a selfie with a gelato statue
  • Visiting the cathedrals that represent the starting point of our walk and receiving our first stamp in our pilgrim’s credentials.
  • Embracing the comfort of a spacious bathtub and a delightful episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Stage 1 Highlights – Lisboa to Verdelha de Baixo (32.2 km)

  • Walking out of Lisbon before everyone was awake. We found the the remains of yesterday’s World Cup parties all along the twisting streets.
  • Gorgeous coastline walking through the ’98 Expo Area.
  • Getting our first “Bom caminho!” wishes from a local walker.
  • Midday beers. Twice.
  • Ending the last few miles in peace, despite serious calf and booty aches. 20 miles is really far and we did it!

Thanks for reading!

Adventure is out there!

Hello, olá, hola!

It’s hard to believe that we’re leaving to walk the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago in three days! Natalie and I have been dreaming about this adventure for a long time. We’ll start walking from Lisbon on Saturday, June 16th, and we will reach Santiago de Compostela on July 9th. 24 days of walking!

We would love your company along this walk. If you would like to get email notifications for our posts, sign up with your email address on the right side of the homepage. We look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Camino map

Route map from Brierley’s Camino Portugues guidebook.

The Home Stretch

3 weeks after this trip began, I picked up co-pilot 4, my mom, at Chicago O-Hare. We drove down to Sunbury, Ohio to hang out with Janet and Jim and their amazing animal friends. Many thanks for the honey and the hospitality!

Clockwise from top left: making rounds, two college roommates and Rudy, snacktime, looking natural in front of the barn, king of the woodpile, a very fancy pup.

Two days later, we enjoyed a full day of Frank Lloyd Wright and family. I loved, loved, loved Kentuck Knob and the town of Ohiopyle. If you’re going to visit the area for Falling Water, make sure to check out these other delightful places.

Clockwise from top left: Falling Water, along the river in Ohiopyle, grandeur at Kentuck Knob, the back of Falling Water, hexagonal light, cousin party, budget-friendly condos, a piece of the Berlin Wall.

This is where the blog posts end (for now). Thank you, mom, for bringing me home! Time to arrange my new apartment, finish online accounting, and find the best pizza place in New Haven.

Thanks for sharing in this journey!

Main Street, USA

After a rainy night at Devils Tower and a pitstop at Rushmore Honda in Rapid City, we headed to what should probably be called Monument Land, South Dakota. Families in minivans, families on motorcycles – they all had the exact same plans as we did. My only suggestion is to find your inner zen and eat lots of ice cream.

Clockwise from top left: Crazy Horse Memorial, Simon in the Badlands, street fashion at Mt. Rushmore, badder lands, boxwork, picture for Mom in front of Mt. Rushmore, junior ranger picture for my own amusement, tent life, Wind Cave National Park.

We drove to the Badlands under the darkest, rainiest cloud. Even from far away, we were struck by the beauty of the rock formations in the distance.

It was wonderful to have a full day to hike and drive around the Badlands. The temperature was unforgivingly hot, but Wall Drugs (aka the Disneyland of the South Dakota highway) provided a great midday oasis. We saw way more wildlife on the main park road than expected. I have a new found appreciation for prairie dog colonies at the foot of dusk-colored rock towers.

For the next two days, Simon and I drove to Chicago. I’m so thankful for my third travel buddy for keeping me company, enduring multiple sibling selfies, and fishing ABBA’s greatest hits out of the discount bin at Walmart.

Clockwise from top left: Favorite colors of the Badlands, posing with Eli at Wall Drugs, a Blue Unicorn Tang in Sioux Falls, Big Horn Sheep, Simon driving the Civic, more beautiful rocks, Wall Drugs ladies, hiking, me on a jackalope (obviously), Omaha.

Like No Place on Earth

I picked up trusted co-pilot 3, the one and only littlest brother Simon, in Helena, Montana. Thanks to Natalie’s recommendation, we started our journey with a beautiful two-hour boat ride through the Gates of the Mountains. Incredibly, the tour featured bald eagles, pictographs, rock faces, and a non-stop history lesson from our driver. We continued on to a brief flirtation with Idaho to see our cousins Steven, Jen, and Harper. What a blast! We can say with absolutely no bias that Harper is the best baby in the world.

Clockwise from top left: Gates of the Mountains north of Helena, proud potato pizza maker, cousins, Tetons, newest and best cousin Harper, the gates themselves.

The next morning we were off to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Yellowstone was an experience of contrasts. Both the Disney-like crowd watching of Old Faithful and the solitude of the park’s beautiful lakes left us speechless. My favorite moment was watching bison emerge from the bushes on a narrow hiking path. And then we were off to Cody, Wyoming for the longest running nightly rodeo. Horrifying commentary aside, it was fun cheering on people getting their start in the sport.

Simon and I both enjoyed the drive over Powder River Pass to Devils Tower. We loved, loved, loved the tower itself. The KOA right outside the park gates has a spectacular view and great amenities. Sadly, we were rained out of their nightly showing of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Clockwise from top left: Old Faithful and her fans, sibling photo op, thermal activity, let’s pretend we were the only people at Old Faithful, view from the Devils Tower KOA, Powder River Pass, Yellowstone Lake, horses at the rodeo, Cody nightlife, Devils Tower.