I was recently made aware of the excellent travel guide written by Jane Rogers - 50 travel tips from my past 10 years of experience travelling to more than 100 countries around the world.
I know that in the main we are all walking but somehow we have to get to the start of the walk and then we have to travel home. Jane shares some valuable tips and these are the ones that I certainly endorse.
There are lots of discussion and questions about booking accommodation in advance and everyone has their own preference. Myself, I like to have at least three or four days accommodation booked in advance and I am now too fussy about where I stay. Pilgrim accommodation (I tend to rely on recommendations), Agroturismos, Bed & Breakfast, Airbnb, Couch Surfing, Camping there is so much to choose from but cost is usually the deciding factor.
Jane recommends making friends along the way and potentially sharing accommodation costs. I have certainly heard one story about a fellow Pilgrim travelling on the Via Francigena who shared an apartment with three other women. Not only did they have use of a kitchen but a washing machine, a fabulous balcony and oodles of space that worked out to be better value than the Pilgrim accommodation in the town.
I think that unless you are a mule and have four legs then ideally the weight of your rucksack should be no more than 10% of your body weight and that should be everything that you would walk with, including water and any food that you would have too.
In my most recent walk, after walking 20km with two very good friends, we stopped for an afternoon snack. We still had focaccia breads that we'd bought that morning which I was carrying. After removing them from my rucksack Claire unfolded a feast before us..."Which one would you like, Rosemary and potato, Cheese and ham, or plain", Claire uttered. "Pardon" I replied. It transpired that there was so much to choose from that Claire had bought three varieties......weighing 200g each. So an extra 600g of weight in my pack and that did not include fruit that had been snuck into the side pouches of my bag either. I was ok with it as I can carry it, but it is surprising how the weight of a bag can suddenly increase without thinking about it.
Try to learn a few simple words and customs of the country, it's surprising how differently people can treat you if you use their language. Don't worry if you pronounce a word wrong or say the wrong thing. I just love the fact that in Italy when you walk into a shop you always say Buongiorno / Buonasera (good morning or good afternoon). The give-away being they know you're a tourist if you don't say it.
I have fallen foul of this a few times recently with my walking poles. They are an important part of my walking equipment so prefer to have them on board as cabin luggage in a small rucksack, but not all airlines allow that. Check the small print about sports equipment in their FAQ's. I didn't when flying recently and had to return to the baggage drop, have my rucksack shrink wrapped because the poles stuck out of my bag. The total extra cost was €40 which I couldn't have avoided as I'd already handed my large rucksack off at baggage drop earlier.
Always have a contingency and that may be a bank card where the charges are reasonable for withdrawing foreign currency, hiding small amounts in your rucksack (but don't forget it's there), money belts or pre-loaded bank cards.
This is not uncommon when travelling and Jane's article provides some comprehensive advice. In 2015, not long after leaving Aosta I came down with severe food poisoning overnight. After managing to get a few hours sleep I decided to continue walking, but after only one mile it was very clear I was not going to make it to my accommodation that night on foot. I found a bus stop and just took the first bus, heading in the right direction, to the nearest town. I bought a heap of medication to aid my recovery including rehydration salts. I managed to get to my accommodation that night but had to take an extra day off to rest because it literally wiped me off my feet. I was fortunate though that my accommodation was able to add an extra night to my stay and they were very sympathetic and supportive when I informed them that I was not well.
Listen to your body, if it's saying it's had enough, rest. If it's telling you that it's not feeling 100%, think before you continue to the next point and always make sure you have medical insurance.
Pass on advice to fellow travellers:
There are many places to do this and it can make the journey much more fun. Abbeye Notre Dame in France on the Via Francigena was recommended to me and it was one of the most memorable places I've stayed in. Sister Lucy is just so fabulous I wanted to take her home......
Write about your journey:
This can be as little or as much as you would like. Keep it to yourself or share with others, but it is always good to look back and read about your journey and if you're like me you will be transported back to relive it again.
I met a young Pilgrim who was a graphic artist and she recorded every day as a picture with a short caption.