Sarah’s Camino Journey (Guest Post)

by Sarah Rayner

A walking vacation I have been dreaming for 10 plus years…and I finally did it.  I walked from Porto Portugal to Santiago Spain, a total of 240 km, which we walked in just 12 days. The walk we did was only half of the Portuguese Way.  Two of my friends decided to join me in the adventure. The path consisted of boardwalks along the Atlantic Ocean, fishing villages, cobblestone streets, dirt paths, one mountain which had a 405m elevation, grape vineyards and eucalyptus forests. My pack weighed 17lbs which was everything for my journey I needed and by the third day I could no longer feel that extra weight.  I could feel I was getting stronger.

A typical day on the Camino consisted of waking up , packing my pack, walking, finding arrows (the arrows showed you the direction to find your way), meeting and walking with pilgrims from around the world, finding food a bed and a shower, do laundry and eat together and sleep again…It was as simple as that.  We ate mostly Pilgrim’s meals that were ½ a chicken or fish, rice, french fries, salad, soup, tea and of course a beer for 7 euros.  Sleeping accommodations were the albergues (hostel) which ranged in cost from 5-10 euros.  So it was a pretty inexpensive vacation. It became an easy, no stress way of life which you could easily fall into.  We walked through many villages and towns meeting some great people from all over the world.  As I walked my last 20km to Santiago I had mixed emotion, I didn’t want this trek to end, so I slowed my pace and stopped several times along the way to really soak it all up.  I was very proud of myself walking the distance and sad that this long dreamed of moment was coming to an end.

Along the way you collected stamps on your Camino Passport from albergues, café’s and churches to prove that you had completed each stage of the walk in order to get your composite. I arrived at St. James Cathedral around noon and was so happy to see other pilgrims I had met along the way and to hear their stories of their journey.  We all had different reasons for walking the Camino.  We attended the Pilgrim Mass at the Cathedral which held 1500 Pilgrims and was presented in English and Spanish.  They also lit the magnificent incense burner which swung in the church…they say it was because the Pilgrims smell after such a long walk.  For someone who is a spiritual but not religious, it was amazing to witness this service because it signified that I had finally completed this amazing journey of discovery.  All in all, it was a life changing walk and I would recommend it to anyone who wants an active and meaningful vacation. Walking is a great way to see the world.  (You can also do the Camino on bicycle or on horseback).  My friend and I got tattoos in Spain because I think your first Camino is something you never forget.  I met a woman from Germany and we walked a lot together…we had the same pace…(which is really important) We have stayed in contact and plan to do more walking vacations in the future.

These are two quotes that have stick with me even after the walk was finished

“You Walk, You Meet, You Share and You Part”

“The Camino Provides” (The Camino always seemed to provided things you needed like a washroom, bed etc. it started to be a daily saying)

Buen Camino

Bio: I’m a 45 mother who was very active as a young adult and has just in the past 10 years has taken up sports again and loving it…I love being competitive in a fun environment.   The friends I have made a long the way have been life changing.  I enjoy the challenge and taking on new adventures.

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Whose natural beauty is it anyway? (Part 1)

I’ve been drafting this post almost since we started the blog, waiting for conclusions to form. In the way that people like me do I’ve been trying out arguments in my head and then responding to them, hoping to settle on an answer. I’m not there yet. So this is part one of a three part meandering blog post. Please chime in and help!

So I began this series of thoughts with my very first trip to Algonquin, more than 10 years ago now.

On our way out Laura and I remarked on how few women there were out there, especially once you got past the first couple of portages. It was October (not warm) and by the time we got to “our lake” the only other people we saw were young men, clad in Gortex, draped in bear bells, running the portages. They seemed like another kind of being entirely!

Laura and I laughed about it and then we talked about carrying canoes and strength and how lucky we felt being able to do this trip. The back country of Algonquin is so beautiful, so rugged, and I wanted to share. But most people can’t do trips of this sort. You need skills (thanks Laura, and Susan, and Mallory, and Sarah for teaching me) but you also need a certain level of physical ability. In addition, you need to be comfortable sleeping in a tent, on the ground, and in some cases bad weather.

It felt like a reward for our fitness, something our physical fitness allowed us to do. But there’s also a lot of luck involved.

Laura learned canoe tripping from her father but on his last trip into the park, it was Laura’s turn to lead. Her dad has MS and I was moved by Laura’s story of paying her father back for the gift he’d given her by taking him in the canoe and doing all the work.

It’s a sign of something being special that those of who love a place and an activity really want to share it. Susan took me on a canoe trip the very first time we spent any amount of time together. Susan’s blogged here too about her trip with her teenagers and her mum. Recently Sarah and I took Jeff on his first canoe camping trip.

So we want to spread the word and share this beauty. It calls to you that way. But you can only share it with some people. So part of me wants the back country to be more accessible. My last trip had steep portages and ankle deep mud. You needed a certain kind of strength and balance to pull it off.

But if it were easier, more accessible. it wouldn’t be the same. We wouldn’t be there alone, on our lake.

A friend’s wife said she’d love to come with, if there were a four star hotel in the middle of the lake, that you could helicopter in to. We laughed. But she was serious. Why isn’t that a thing, she asked. I wasn’t sympathetic.

So on the one hand, why is this a treat reserved for the fit and the non-disabled and the rugged? Should there be some easy ways in and out for those who can’t canoe and portage in? Why couldn’t it be something we all get to experience? On the other hand, there’s the quiet and the solitude, and the care and concern for the environment that’s part of back country canoe camping. How to strike a balance between those values and the value of accessibility?

Mini cupcakes? Really, Google Maps? (Guest Post updated)

Phew. The cupcake-talk didn’t last. See https://boingboing.net/2017/10/17/google-maps-pulls-feature-that.html.

“Responding to complaints from people with eating disorders, Google quickly shuttered a test feature from the iOS version of Google Maps that showed how many mini-cupcakes’ worth of calories it would take to walk somewhere.”

Fit Is a Feminist Issue

by Megan Dean

No, Google Maps, I do not want to know that my walk to the post office will burn off a “mini cupcake” worth of calories. This is not useful or motivational or even innocuous information. In fact, it kinda ruined my afternoon.

I have put a lot of effort into keeping “calories” out of my life. I don’t read fitness magazines, I actively ignore the screen on the elliptical machine, I avert my eyes from nutrient breakdowns on prepared foods and recipes, and avoid diet conversations like the plague.

I never expected Google Maps to invade my carefully cultivated calorie-free mental space with unsolicited information about my afternoon stroll, accompanied by a stupid little emoji.

In any case, I KNOW how many calories a 20 minute walk burns. It is etched into my mind and taking up space there permanently, as is the number of calories in…

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Active adventures in Iceland: Sam hikes to a hot river and gets her heart rate up in the process

I confess that although I list substantial dog hikes (not the everyday ‘around the block a few times’ kind but the kind where we go to the park for an hour or two) in the Facebook group 217 in 2017, somehow in my mind I don’t really think they count as exercise.

They’re not strength training. And I thought, they’re not really cardio either. (Unless, I dog-jog, and then they’re cardio.)

I now admit I might be wrong. At least if hills are involved.

This week, I’m in Iceland during our school’s fall break. Autumn temperatures hadn’t really hit Ontario yet so I took a drastic measure of finding cooler weather by flying North. Also cheap flights thanks to Iceland’s discount airline, WOW.

I went from 23 degrees for a high outdoor temperature last Monday to 8 for a high last Tuesday.

Our first day in Iceland was a bit sleepy. Our “overnight” flight got in at 5 am (1 am, Ontario time) and some exercise seemed in order to keep us moving. I also liked the idea of the hike to the hot river, because “hot” also sounded good.

It’s a 1 hour very hilly hike to the river in the Reykjadalur Valley. And looking at my Garmin watch data I may need to rethink my view that hikes aren’t really exercise. It seems hilly ones are hard as riding my bike at a good clip.

Here’s what the hilly part of my walk looked like on my Garmin.

Here’s me, all bundled up, near the start of the trail:

Here is the hot part of the river you can bathe in. It’s about 40 degrees. Much better than the hot water above with the warning sign. That can reach up to 100! Not for bathing…

Here is the whole area with lovely wooden board walks and privacy screens for changing.

You need to hike through some steam on your way to the river!

Geothermal activity is awfully pretty to look at!

There’s no selfies from the hot river because I was too nervous about losing my phone. It would be a great story to tell losing the phone in a hot river in Iceland but traveling is never a good time to lose your phone.

Mini cupcakes? Really, Google Maps? (Guest Post)

by Megan Dean

No, Google Maps, I do not want to know that my walk to the post office will burn off a “mini cupcake” worth of calories. This is not useful or motivational or even innocuous information. In fact, it kinda ruined my afternoon.

I have put a lot of effort into keeping “calories” out of my life. I don’t read fitness magazines, I actively ignore the screen on the elliptical machine, I avert my eyes from nutrient breakdowns on prepared foods and recipes, and avoid diet conversations like the plague.

I never expected Google Maps to invade my carefully cultivated calorie-free mental space with unsolicited information about my afternoon stroll, accompanied by a stupid little emoji.

In any case, I KNOW how many calories a 20 minute walk burns. It is etched into my mind and taking up space there permanently, as is the number of calories in an apple, a slice of angel food cake, an egg, a cup of vegetable soup.

I know this because I have spent hours of my life calculating how many calories I ate in a day and how many I burnt off. It has take me years of work, thousands of dollars of therapy, and a good number of self-help books (shout out to Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy!) to stop quantifying all my daily activities in calorie form.

Reducing everything to calories might be helpful for some people but for me it’s soul-crushing, pleasure-destroying, time-wasting bs. It flattens out my life, and makes me feel I need to earn the right to eat.

No thank you. Cupcakes can be delicious, walks can be pleasant, these things shouldn’t be interchangeable, exchangeable, or commensurable.

So, shove it Google Maps. I’d rather ask for directions, and I’m an introvert.

Megan Dean is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Georgetown University, and a pre-doctoral fellow with the Mellon Sawyer seminar “Approaching the Anthropocene: Global Culture and Planetary Change.” She really likes eating and considers that an achievement.

Helmets, usually, but not always, and that’s okay

This photo of the new leader of the New Democratic Party was making its way through my social media newsfeed. I love it.

I 🚴🏾 Halifax . I 🚴🏾 Dartmouth . #CycleLife

A post shared by Jagmeet Singh (@jagmeetsingh) on

But some friends worried about the lack of helmet. Not me. I don’t always wear a helmet. I’ve rented bikes in Amsterdam and not fussed about a helmet, for example. Here’s proof:

And I’ve written about helmets too even though it’s a debate I hate getting into. Mostly I wear them. On my road bike, always. But on a coaster bike, going slowly, I sometimes go without. Bottom line, it’s about choice.

Also, insofar as helmets mark cycling as a special scary activity they result in fewer people on the road. Yet the single biggest variable that affects bike safety isn’t helmets. It’s the number of people on the road. It might be safer overall if everyone put on a helmet for riding but that’s true of walking too. See Women, cycling, and safety in numbers.