The most commonly trekked pilgrim route stretches nearly 500 miles from Southern France to the city of Santiago de Compostela in North-Western Spain. Known as the Camino Francés, this takes in an ever changing terrain, from desolate mountain passes to bustling city streets.
So should I take a donkey to carry my stuff? No. Unless you have absolutely no time constraints, you speak fluent Spanish and you are planning to walk home again, a donkey would only be a hindrance. Most of the refugios and hotels along the way will not let you stay with one in tow anyway.
As a woman, should I pack enough sanitary towels to see me through a period of walking? No! Spanish women also have the same monthly requirements. Their shops will provide for you as well as them. However, I must pack a sachet of salt.
How do I know all of these things? Because I've just been reading the ever useful (and occasionally hilarious) Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago. It's full of tips learned the hard way, developed and refined over many years back-packing along that famous, ancient route.
These are snippets and rare bits of knowledge which can be employed in any relative situation too. While I may see their worth for attending music festivals, others could just as well employ them on a hike across the Scottish Cairngorms or the Appalachia Trail.
Even armchair travelers, living vicariously through the travel tales of others, will find themselves transported. I'm not a Christian, nor have I any plans to walk the Camino de Santiago. But I equally had no intention of lugging a fridge-freezer on a hitch-hiking tour of Ireland, yet I still read and recommended Tony Hawk's Around Ireland with a Fridge.
Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago was a similar sort of reading experience, with less tomfoolery and more practical ideas. I still felt like I peregrinated the long walk to see the grave of St James. Armed with this book, I feel like I could also survive the journey.