Volunteer Julie’s blog part 6: Deciding what to take

Volunteer Julie’s blog part 6: Deciding what to take

2 September 2022

Before Julie set off on her big adventure a few days ago, she debated long and hard over what to take and what to leave behind.

Deciding what to take with me has been both fun and a challenge. This is a long list so get yourself a brew and sit down. Or you can skip it in the hope that my next post is more interesting!

All the possessions I am carrying on this trip are stored in small lightweight zipped travel bags so they are protected and easy to find. I managed to find some pretty cotton ones in various sizes at a French market which is so much more pleasurable than a sealing a plastic food bag. However they would do the job.

• Clothing

I am not one for buying fancy walking gear unless it really works for me. I prefer cotton and natural materials to specialist quick drying fabrics which are supposed to wick moisture away from the body but smell pretty awful at the end of a warm day!

I have kept clothing to a minimum, 3 vests, 2 short sleeve t shirts and 1 long sleeved t shirt. To save on weight I cut the bottom off my t shirts, as they are usually too long for my short body anyway. Also 3 knee length, A-line skirts with pockets which are really useful. It is even better if the pockets have zips. I will keep the bright pink one I bought in Barnardo’s for evenings. I don’t wear shorts, they don’t fit me and are uncomfortable. I have 1 pair of lightweight trousers and a fine cashmere pashmina I bought on a trip to India and has sentimental memories of travelling. It is both warm and light. 2 wool Bridgedale trainer socks, which just come to the top of my boots, so no hot wool around my ankles. In the past I have cut the excess tops off my socks and they don’t unravel, nor do my T-shirt cut offs. It is important that socks are comfortable and not tight, so as a size 6/7 I buy the 7 up size. Also, 1 pair of cotton trainer socks for the cooler evenings which I might wear with my boots or sandals, even though this is a huge fashion faux pas! 3 black pairs of pants and 2 crop top bras. My underwear is plain, generous and comfortable which is essential, and they double up as a swimsuit. A small Lycra swimming cap which is required in some pools in Portugal and Spain. A long wide cotton scarf which I can wear in windy weather around my neck and head. I will also use it to dry off if swimming at the beach. The travel towels you can buy may dry quickly but they are rubbish, it is like trying to dry yourself with toilet paper. A wide brimmed sun cap which covers my ears. 1 pair of well fitting, well worn boots which are paramount! Mine are Vivo Barefoot which are very light, leather ankle boots, with a thinner, flexible sole, but great grip. They are wide and to allow my feet to spread. I love them!! A rather fetching turquoise rain cape which, in theory, fits over my backpack as well as me when it rains. However, trying to put it on when you are alone and it is tipping down is another matter. Finally, a pair of well loved lightweight sandals for the evenings which fit neatly into the zip compartment at the front of my backpack.

I have left a full zip light fleece and a pair of leggings in drawer for Bill to bring when he meets me midway. I can swap them for summer items I may not need.

• Toiletries

I agonised over toiletries and make-up and have come to the decision not to take soap or shampoo I will use whatever is in my accommodation. I use a colour shampoo which hides all my grey hair, so some of you may notice a difference when I get back! I have also had my hair cut short to avoid having to take clips, a scarf and spray, to keep it out if my eyes in the wind. A heavy duty antiperspirant, it gets very sweaty in the heat which can cause rashes and sore skin. I have a mini pot of styling moose. I know, I know!!! But it makes my hair look better. I have also allowed myself a couple of tiny pots of moisturiser for my face and body and of course sun screen. My only makeup is a cover stick and some mascara… it is nice not to look if you have been dragged through a hedge backwards in the evening! I have a disposable battery toothbrush which is lighter than the ones with replaceable batteries, a mini tube of toothpaste and mini floss roll. Also 3 packs of tissues, cotton buds, muslin flannel, razor, foldable hairbrush with mirror and a nail brush.

Every tube of cream or lotion is a mini size available at most chemists for extortionate prices. As Bill will be meeting me in Coimbra I have left top ups in a drawer that he can bring, as I have never seen mini sizes in Portuguese shops.

• First aid

My first aid kit is essential which includes all the usual suspects including; painkillers, Volterol for aching muscles, mosquito repellent, antihistamine cream, allergy tablets, plasters, a bandage, antiseptic wipes, indigestion tablets and those long black plaster strips designed to support strained muscles. Most medicines and medical supplies can be bought at pharmacies so I have opted only to take the things I would need straight away!

• Food and drink, preparation.

My water bladder sits inside a special compartment in my backpack with a tube so I can drink from it on the go. It makes make life just a little easier. I have a few Milton tablets to clean it. I will carry between 1 and 2 litres of water dependant on distances between top ups and the heat! A small plastic bottle for a little milk or juice. A few sealable plastic bags, a teeny pen knife with a reasonable number of ‘useful’ gadgets, a spork, a plastic food box with lid which will double up as a dish and the lid a plate, a thin plastic cutting mat, a small bag of food sachets, salt, pepper, soy sauce etc. and a few tea bags. We are staying some nights in apartments so these little extras make things more tasty and comforting!

• Devices

I am keeping things very light here. My phone and battery pack which is invaluable when following satnav for long distances. The one I have chosen is about the size of a smartie tube and will charge for a few days. Also, earbuds to listen to music or audiobooks when sharing a room.

• Useful items

Elastic bands, a bit of string for a washing line or as a shoes lace, a few pegs, a tiny pot of waterproofing cream for my boots, a carabena which I can use to hang things on and a collapsible sitting mat which I initially decided against but sitting on stoney ground during training walks reversed this decision.

• Money and Identity

My wallet is attached to my back pack and big enough to carry my phone. I need to carry cash as well as a card because many cafes and bars in the villages do not take cards. I have my bank card and a Revolut card which I can load Euros onto, at what seems to be one of the best exchange rates. My passport and my Camino passport which is stamped every day at various points on the route as evidence of my journey.

• Luxury

150gms of Malbrigio fine alpaca silk and a pair of knitting needles, enough to knit a fine shawl. I will make the pattern up as I go. Also, a small art pad and a bag of beautiful watercolour pencils which I have cut in half, to reduce the weight. I know it’s a pilgrimage but I need a few to indulgences and they are both productive and relaxing!

And yes, it does all fit into my 36 litre back pack, with enough room to spare, for a few sandwiches a bit of fruit and a biscuit for lunch!

To sponsor Julie and show your support, visit Fundraiser by Julie Lunt : Walking the Caminho Portuguese for MindSpace (gofundme.com).