I have a special surprise for you this month!
While I'm off traipsing in the wilds of Albania, we're incredibly lucky to have this amazing and exclusive contribution by Stephanie Dale, the award-winning Australian journalist and author of My Pilgrim's Heart (read the rave reviews on Amazon). You can also catch up with Stephanie on her own blog at stephaniedale.net.
How to Pack for a Pilgrimage (or long walk) by Stephanie Dale - Issue 55
The first common mistake people make when preparing for a long walk is the size of their pack. I promise you, it will take all of 24 hours for you to start dumping what you thought you couldn't live without. This is the beauty of pilgrimage - it helps us lighten life's load. So to help you 'think light' right from the start, buy a small pack, just big enough to fit your sleeping bag with extra room around it; make sure it has pockets on the outside.
Feet are the bedrock and warranty of your pilgrimage - no happy feet, no happy walk. Your boots must be water resistant, ankle high and have a small heel. They must fit beautifully. Your socks must be warm, soft and comfortable - you will need 2-3 pairs. You must also pack a pair of light rubber flip flops, to protect your feet while showering. These, worn with your clean socks, double as slippers at the end of the day.
In a word or three: fine merino wool. It's more expensive than ordinary materials, but the advantages are four-fold: you can wear the same day clothes for a month and they won't stink; if you buy dark colours they won't show the dirt; if you want to wash them out they will dry easily overnight; most importantly, they pack small and light. You can even buy fine wool underwear. For trousers, make sure they unzip as shorts, are loose enough to fit long johns underneath and have loads of zip pockets. You will also need a fleece jacket, which you wear each day wrapped around your waist or tied to the side of your pack; make sure it is soft and has zip pockets.
Aahhh, sleep. When buying your sleeping bag you want to find the balance between warmth, size and weight - just don't forget its primary purpose is to keep you warm and snug. Your pyjamas will be a pair of long johns and a light merino wool top - both of which double as extra warmth under your clothes on cold days. Your jacket - remember it is soft fleece - doubles as your pillow. Your wallet and passport will be zipped inside its zip pockets.
First Aid and Personal Hygiene
Let's keep this brief, because there is no point arguing beauty 'necessities': comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, small soap. Betadine, band-aids, Compeed (can only be bought in Europe - is the Rolls Royce of blister protection). Travel towel, small and light.
Gadgets and Miscellaneous Things
You will need: peak cap with adjustable velcro strap (strap to the outside of your pack), pocket knife, rain poncho (to cover you and your pack), rain jacket/pants (bundle up small and light). Phone/charger - which will double as a camera (alternatively, leave the phone at home and take your camera). Water bottle (strapped to outside of pack).
Primary Pilgrimage Packing Principle
If it doesn't fit in your small pack or your pockets - it's not coming with you!
Thanks Stephanie, brilliant advice! And again, don't forget to check out Stephanie Dale's recent book, My Pilgrim's Heart, by reading the reviews written by readers over at amazon.com!
Recommended Books and Products
What I'm reading this month: While I wait to return home from my travels to get my hands on my own copy of Stephanie's book, I'm reading Monsoon by Robert D. Kaplan, a journalist I always enjoy - but with whom I don't always agree. So far with this book he's right on the mark in describing how the 'monsoon' countries of Asia - India of course but every country from Tanzania through Oman all the way to Burma - will move to center stage in the near future. If you've ever thought the Indian Ocean was more important than it was being given credit for in media analyses, this is a book you'll enjoy. Read the Amazon reviews here.
The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl's Guide (by Stephanie Lee) - Still the bestselling guide to traveling on your own for the first time. Filled with information, fun to read, and a quick download right into your inbox. The place to start if you don't know where to begin.
Video 101: Tips and Tricks for Awesome Visual Storytelling (by Lisa Lubin) - My other favorite download. Video continues growing in popularity and Lisa, who has won three Emmies, has written the perfect teaching guide.
Travel News from across the Web
What is the Schengen Zone and How Do Schengen Visas Work?
Travel-Reinforced Life Lessons
How to Afford Travel
7 Reasons to Travel Off-Season
The World's Top Airlines
The Words English Owes to India
Top of... Everything in Women's Travel
For food lovers...
...and lovers of other arts
A Short Guide to London's Street Art
3 Farflung Museums
Street Art in the East Village
First Impressions of Panama City
The Mystery of the Buddha's Relics in Bangkok
Does Flash Photography Really Damage Art?
Mostar: The Rose That Grows Through Concrete
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Africa Journal: Botswana
Flores, The Island of Adventure
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Once-Forbidden Locations are Today's Hotspots
If You're Visual
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Cause of the Month: Modern Witchcraft and Ancient Punishments
These days when we think witchcraft we may have in mind gentle Wiccan souls chanting around a tree, or popular book or television series that demystify witchcraft or even make it mainstream.
For the most part, it isn't seen as a particularly dangerous practice. We may be a long way from the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 but witches - or those perceived to be - continue to be persecuted. In many parts of the world, witchcraft is used to denounce people (often women) who for some reason are disliked, envied or feared.
If someone gets a job you covet, he must be a witch. If a woman bears too many daughters or is too outspoken or independent, she must be a witch. Accusations of witchcraft may be used to acquire an accused witch's possessions. And so on. These beliefs are often punished in terrible ways, ranging from ostracism to exile to death.
In the most recent incidents, youths attacked an old woman in Kenya; a family suspected of witchcraft in India has gone missing; and the UK is getting tough on crimes against children accused of witchcraft. In Ghana the threat is so serious women accused of witchcraft seek refuge in special villages.
What I will have learned at not one but TWO travel blogging conferences: follow me to Oporto, Portugal for TBU/Travel Bloggers Unite and to Girona, Spain for TBEX/Travel Blogger Exchange as I meet fellow travel writers and go on my very first blogger trips (these are trips paid for by tourist boards... lets see how that works out!)
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