The Things I’ll Carry on the Camino

(Miguel Ángel García/Flickr)

(Miguel Ángel García/Flickr)

Knowing what to carry in one’s backpack on the trail to Santiago de Compostela is serious business.

I’m not kidding.

There are books on the subject. I own two of them, in fact.

There’s a lot of consensus among veteran pilgrims regarding the essential items one needs: the right kind of footwear, the ideal type of socks to avoid blisters, the best quick-drying clothes, the foolproof rain gear, the ultimate backpack, and the list goes on and on. Still, in spite of the general agreement, every single item is open to debate.

What is paramount is to travel light. The lighter the pilgrim’s load, the easier the journey will be on the body.

Without exaggeration, I’ve spent close to a year thinking about the things I will carry on the Camino.

Among the items in my backpack as I prepare to walk across Spain, a few have become my favorites —some are essential, others sentimental, and a couple of them frivolous.

Among the essential are the guidebooks.

Camino books

The Camino experts will gasp in horror when they learn that I intend to carry two guidebooks. (God forbid the unnecessary weight!) John Brierley’s The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago is the classic choice among English speakers. Indeed, he provides a wealth of detailed information as well as spiritual guidance for readers to reflect upon. His book is a wonderful resource.

Nevertheless, I also love Anna Dintaman and David Landis’s Hiking the Camino de Santiago. With the authors being from the United States, their guide is organized in a way that makes it more accessible to me.

Still, I had a difficult time choosing between these guides, so I’m taking both.

And then there’s the lovely notebook that my wife Erinn gave me a couple of years ago. How can a writer even dream of traveling without one?

Camino notebook

One of the high school students who went with us on the pilgrimage last April gave me his bandana —which had become famous within our group— and a photograph of the pilgrims so that I can take them along once again on this journey.

Camino photo

Rummaging through my things, I found a few lapel pins of the Panamanian flag. They begged me to take them on the Camino and give them away as a souvenirs of my adoptive country to any person who somehow makes my journey lighter during challenging times.

Panama flags

And then there’s Camila, the Rubber Chicken. She has been a part of our family for thirteen years and has enjoyed countless adventures and travels. She traveled in one of the pouches of my backpack during the first pilgrimage and turned out to be quite an ice-breaker with strangers. Camila certainly deserves to go again.

rubber chicken

But the item that has come to mean the most to me is the shell I’ll be carrying in memory of Denise Thiem.

Denise Thiem

On April 5 Denise, a Chinese-American from Arizona, disappeared near the city of Astorga while on the pilgrimage. As it was in my case, the film The Way inspired her to make the journey.

Tragically, her body was found last Saturday and the person responsible for her death has confessed and is now awaiting trial.

The Camino has a large, online English-speaking community. The Pilgrim House in Santiago de Campostela has announced that it plans to build a memorial in Denise’s honor. They have asked pilgrims to carry an extra shell —the symbol of the pilgrimage— to help Denise complete her journey.

This has become the most precious object I’ll be carrying.


Silvio SiriasSilvio Sirias is the author of Bernardo and the Virgin, the award-winning Meet Me under the Ceiba and The Saint of Santa Fe. You can follow him on Twitter @silviosirias.

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rikimaru says:

The Talmud must not be regarded as an ordinary work, composed of twelve volumes; it posies absolutely no similarity to any other literary production, but forms, without any figure of speech, a world of its own, which must be judged by its peculiar laws.
The Talmud contains much that is frivolous of which it treats with great gravity and seriousness; it further reflects the various superstitious practices and views of its Persian (Babylonian) birthplace which presume the efficacy of demonical medicines, or magic, incantations, miraculous cures, and interpretations of dreams. It also contains isolated instances of uncharitable “ judgments and decrees against the members of other nations and religions, and finally it favors an incorrect exposition of the scriptures, accepting, as it does, tasteless misrepresentations.

The Babylonian” Talmud is especially distinguished from the Jerusalem or Palestine Talmud by the flights of thought, the penetration of mind, the flashes of genius, which rise and vanish again. It was for this reason that the Babylonian rather than the Jerusalem Talmud became the fundamental possession of the Jewish Race, its life breath, its very soul, nature and mankind, powers and events, were for the Jewish nation insignificant, non- essential, a mere phantom; the only true reality was the Talmud.” (Professor H. Graetz, History of the Jews).
And finally it came Spain’s turn. Persecution had occurred there on “ and off for over a century, and, after 1391, became almost incessant. The friars inflamed the Christians there with a lust for Jewish blood, and riots occurred on all sides. For the Jews it was simply a choice between baptism and death, and many of them submitted to baptism.
But almost always conversion on thee terms was only outward and false. Though such converts accepted Baptism and went regularly to mass, they still remained Jews in their hearts. They were called Marrano, ‘ Accursed Ones,’ and there were perhaps a hundred thousand of them. Often they possessed enormous wealth. Their daughters married into the noblest families, even into the blood royal, and their sons sometimes entered the Church and rose to the highest offices. It is said that even one of the popes was of this Marrano stock.