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The Way: Can You Walk the Camino de Santiago with Children?

September 24, 2015

In 2012, I walked “The Way” of St. James, also known as the Camino de Santiago, to Santiago de Compostella with my four children, then ages 2, 5, 7, and 9.  The movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen had just come out.  Once I watched the movie, by the time the credits rolled, I immediately knew I had to walk the way. It didn’t take much to get my husband on board with the plan.

A short time later, our family of six landed in Spain, ready to begin our pilgrimage–an experience that would forever change everyone of us.

Can You Walk “The Way” with Children?

Absolutely.  In 2012, when our family walked the Camino de Santiago, it seemed like we were celebrities.  At that time, before the movie popularized the Pilgrimage, comparatively few Americans walked the route, and even fewer as a family.  When we arrived in Santiago, we were greeted by cheers and applause in the Pilgrim line.  It was an emotional finale.

camino Kids

So how did we do it?  I like to wing travel, with little planning.  We didn’t book hostels or rooms in advance.  We woke the kids very early each day, walking with headlamps until the sun made its appearance.  It was much cooler this way and made the adventure even more exciting for the kids–they still say their favorite part of the Camino was walking in the dark.  After lunch, we would begin looking for a place to stay for the night.  Only once were we turned away from a hostel/hotel–it was apparent the owner wasn’t thrilled with the idea of children staying on the property.  This treatment was the exception.  The Spanish LOVE, LOVE, LOVE children.

Is it safe to walk The Way?

Recently concerns have emerged about the safety of walking the famous Camino de Santiago, when a 41-year old American Woman, Denise Thiem, went missing and never made it home to Arizona.  Obviously, this is a scary, tragic, and very sad ending to what should have been an inspiring and positive experience.

However, the reality is that no place is immune from crime, and that anything can happen anywhere–at home, at the local grocery store or movie theater, or abroad.  Millions of people have walked and walk the Camino de Santiago without incident–and have come home with lovely stories of an experience that has permanently and positively changed them.

When we walked the Camino as a family, the only real concern I ever had was with dogs.  We did encounter two instances of vicious, unleashed dogs, and heard or saw many, many more behind property fences.  A cow also came out of nowhere while walking in a small farm town and almost ran into my oldest daughter–a close call, but all turned out just fine.

camino safe kids

Staying Safe when Traveling with Kids

Staying safe while walking the Camino with kids in tow means taking similar safety precautions that you’d take anywhere when you travel to a new, unfamiliar place.  Some of these precautions include:

  1. Keeping your valuables out of sight.  This means not being being flashy with expensive electronics.
  2. Keeping your passport and money tucked away in a secure spot.  This might involve wearing a passport pouch with your passport (and your child’s passport) around your neck, which you wear under your clothing.
  3. Making sure you are aware of your surroundings at all times.
  4. Never leaving your kids alone or unaccompanied.
  5. Creating a family plan in advance should someone get separated from you or your group.
  6. Giving someone (not traveling with you) your travel itinerary and checking with that person periodically.
  7. If walking at dusk or in the early morning hours, wearing appropriate reflective gear and headlamps (or carrying flashlights) for better visibility and so you can have a sense of what and who are around you.
  8. Don’t touch stray animals, including seemingly friendly dogs or cats.

If you are thinking about walking “The Way” with your children, it could be one of the most wonderful and exciting travel adventures you ever do.  With some planning and good common sense to mitigate risks, you will likely discover why walking Camino is truly, positively life changing.

If you have walked the Camino or hope to walk it with your children, we’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below and tell us about your adventure!

Buen Camino!

Blog Destinations Oregon RV'ing 50 States USA United States

Sandboarding for Homeschoolers

August 28, 2015

When we were on the Oregon Coast, we squeezed in a sandboarding class at Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon.  We had a fabulous instructor–his name escapes me now, but he is the instructor with wild, two-toned, fabulous hair–who was incredibly patient with the kids and fun. 

This is what our PE class looks like on the road.  Sure beats my public school gym class days, where girls were given a choice of doing aerobics via VHS videos or playing floor hockey (and yes, the girls were definitely encouraged to “try” aerobics instead).

sandboard homeschool

My kids are now hooked, especially since sandboarding makes a nice interim board sport until snowboard season.  They’ve actually asked if we could skip Yosemite and hit up Pacific Coast dunes instead.  Hmm… PE class vs. Science/History.  We’ll have to wait and see how this roadschooling thing unfolds.

If you’re anywhere near Oregon, make your way toward Sand Master Park in Florence.  You can even park your RV there overnight for $15.  Sandboard rentals are $16 for up to 24 hours.  That’s pretty sweet because after a lesson you can drive down US 101 South a few miles to Siuslaw National Forest/Oregon Dunes or Jessie M. Honeyman State Park for more hours of sand riding (or board sledding, as my kids opted to do after they got tired).

homeschool sandboarding kids

Happy Sandboarding!  Happy Wandering!

Know of an awesome spot to sandboard?  Won’t you please share it?  My kids want more sandboard fun and I’d love to know where to go!

Blog Colorado Destinations Financing Travel Free or Cheap RV Camping RV'ing 50 States USA United States

Walmart Boondock

August 19, 2015

We did it!  Walmart Boondock. Done. Check. Oh, yeah!

Another bucketlist item checked off!

boondock

 

It’s pretty amazing how things unfold sometimes.  I’ve wanted to boondock, a.k.a. dry camp, at Walmart, but it took me months of Rv’ing to finally do it.  In my mind, bucketlist achievement of boondocking at Walmart would represent the “New” American Dream:  the full-time work-travel lifestyle…wherever, whenever.

A combination of not being able to find a campsite in Denver, needing to fill-up on gas, wanting to grab a latte at Starbucks, and spotting a kids’ dentist (one kid had a toothache) all within a matter of feet apart sealed the deal on overnighting at Walmart.

Walmart is far from one of my favorite places, but I found a fancy schmancy Walmart in the Denver suburbs and set up camp for the night.  A freshly paved lot, nice landscaping, and good lighting.  Oh, and a very friendly store manager who said it was fine to camp overnight and encouraged me to shop at the 24 hour Walmart as long and as many times as I wanted during my overnight boondocking extravaganza!

The kids want to boondock at Walmart again.  They think it’s a “way better and cooler” experience than staying at a K.O.A. or typical RV park.  Plus, it’s free.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my kids are thinking about this from a strictly economics point of view:  Free Boondocking at Walmart means Mom can spend cash that might have otherwise been used at a campsite on Barbies and Legos at Walmart.

Quite honestly, Walmart’s policy that allows overnight boondocking (although not all stores allow it) makes me like the store more.  I like knowing that a store values its customers.  RV overnight parking is one way Walmart seems to show that it likes RV customers–who undoubtedly buy lots of stuff, like food, Barbies, and Legos, whenever they park for an overnight.