The Camino and the new normal

The Camino and the new normal

The Camino and the new normal |

In the last few months, many have had to postpone or cancel their Camino plans due to the coronavirus pandemic. Spain shut down and we were in strict lockdown for 2 months.

When is the Camino reopening?

That has been one of the most frequently asked questions during this period. For those of us lucky to live in Galicia, walking the last 100km of any Camino has been possible for a couple of weeks already. For the rest… you’ll have to wait a bit longer.

The state of emergency that we’ve been in since March ended on June 15 in Galicia and it will end on June 21 in the rest of Spain. On that day, most restrictions will be lifted and we’ll enter in what the Government has called la nueva normalidad (the new normal).


How will the new normal affect the Camino? 

A set of new rules and recommendations has been approved and they will remain in place until there is an effective treatment or vacuna (vaccine).


  • Airlines and other transport companies are required to hold all passengers’ details for a month, so they can be easily traced in case of a positive case being confirmed.
new normal
  •  The use of mascarillas (face masks) is compulsory in closed public spaces where a 1.5m safety distance cannot be observed. You can be fined with up to €100 for not complying. So, be ready to wear a mask when you enter tiendas (shops), accommodations and public transport.


  • Don’t be surprised either if you are required to use gel desinfectante (disinfectant gel) on your hands every time you enter a closed space.


But albergues is where we’ll see the biggest change

There are no specific regulations for albergues, but there is a series of recommendations that any type of accommodation should follow.

  • The biggest change for albergues will be in the number of pilgrims they can accommodate, as there has to be a 2m distance between bunkbeds.

Safety measures should be clearly displayed at all times, but these are some of the things you can expect:


You will notice changes from the minute you step inside.

  • Maybe it’s alfombras desinfectantes (disinfecting mats) or gel hidroalcohólico (disinfectant gel) at the entrance.


  • Physical contact is to be avoided, and that includes handshakes.
new normal social distance
new normal mascarillas
  • The use of tarjeta (card) for payment is encouraged. Many albergues didn’t have this option before, so I don’t know whether they’ll make it available. But the recommendation is there.


  • Another change you may encounter could be bolsas de plástico (plastic bags) at the entrance for your backpack, shoes or any other object that could be potentially infected.


  • You can also expect sábanas desechables (disposable bedsheets)… and having to make your own bed. The guidelines say they should give you your bedsheets in a sealed bag, to make sure they are clean and no one else but you can touch them. Also, only bottom bunk beds can be used.


  • Shared toilets should be cleaned and disinfected at least 6 times a day.


  • Communal dinners could become a thing of the past, since shared kitchens can only be used by groups (that travel together) and they have to be disinfected after every use.

What do you think?

Do these measures make you feel safe doing the Camino soon, or would you rather wait?

What do you think will be the biggest change to the Camino experience as we knew it?


Today’s words

A conversation with Randall

A conversation with Randall

He was diagnosed with Stage IV Prostate Cancer in 2015. He fought it. Five years on, he walked the Camino with a mission: raise awareness about the disease and encourage men to get screened. Read my conversation with Randall to find out more.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Hola amigos, mi nombre es Randy. I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and went to Damien HS, an Irish Christian Brothers school –  namesake Saint Damien, the savior of the Lepers on Molokai. Moved to California in 1979 and attended Loyola Marymount University, run by the Jesuits. Stayed in California and attended USC School of Dentistry – not the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela  🙂

In 2014, at a too young age of 57, I had done the Long Beach, CA marathon. I had a PSA test at 555.2 (under 4 is normal) and my journey began.


When did you first hear about the Camino? You had been running marathons for years. So, why did you decide to walk the Camino?

I had seen the movie “The Way” in the early 2000s and was, as many have been, inspired by that poignant story of a Dad walking the Camino in memory of his son.

A dental patient told me that she was going to Madrid to teach English this year and that sparked an idea about doing The Camino. I did some online research, contacted my son, who lives in London, and suggested that we do it together.

I found out that September tends to be cooler and less traveled. I knew that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month, and my almost five year survival with Stage IV Prostate Cancer was upcoming. 


This would be a perfect time for me to walk/bond with my son, spread PCa awareness, and maybe get a man screened. Since the diagnosis in 01/2015, I’ve had signs on my back at marathons (31 so far) telling my saga, urging men to get screened, and more recently – honoring those taken.


Did you prepare either physically or mentally? How?

I ordered hiking shoes online and walked four days per week either with my wife or up at my other dental office for over two months. My wife and I even did a walk, eat, walk to prep for 9 miles to simulate life on The Camino. I knew that marathon fitness (151 so far) would confer a base but I didn’t know how a backpack would affect me. Doing a marathon entails mental and physical discipline and I knew that would really help in the hike. 


A conversation with Randall

Tell us about your Camino. How was your experience? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

My son’s new wife and a friend decided to walk with us. The Camino was a wonderful contemplative, spiritual, bonding, and life affirming experience. We disconnected from the real world and connected with nature and each other.


I had a sign en español on my back and that sparked a conversation with numerous Peregrinos. I also placed Blue Ribbons on The Camino and a group of Spaniards in Portomarín asked why. I told them in my so-so Spanish “Tengo cáncer de próstata estadio 4 desde 2015” (I have Stage 4 prostate cancer since 2015).  They asked how I was doing and I communicated that estoy bien (I’m OK) and the reason for being out there.


At one point, my son and I had eaten possibly mejillones malos (bad mussels). One of that quartet below had not seen me one day on The Camino and left me an Instagram message Oye, ¿dónde estás? (Hey, where are you?). We caught up with them at another rest/sello/cerveza/tortilla stop and I told them I was fine, toasted them with a beer and took a group pic.

This was such a great experience; strangers on The Camino became friends/supporters all because of The Camino. She messaged me Me alegro que hayas disfrutado tanto aquí. Ha sido un placer conocerte . Mucha suerte y buen viaje” (I’m glad you have enjoyed it so much here. It has been a pleasure to meet you. Good luck and safe trip). 

conversation with Randall

 Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Do you think this had any impact on your Camino?

I had four years of Spanish in High School and one year in College, but still had to review quite a bit. Spanish for the Camino was so very helpful in refreshing my long unused Spanish skills. Knowing some Spanish is very beneficial on The Camino; you can engage/communicate, and bond better knowing key words or phrases.

Randall’s words

  • First, some general vocabulary such as greetings and other words you can use in many conversations.

Hola: hello

¿Dónde esta?: where is it?

Buenos días: good morning

Buenas tardes: good afternoon/evening

Muchas gracias: thank you very much

Por favor: please

De nada: you’re welcome (after someone says thank you).

Vale: OK.

Está bien: it is OK/fine.

Claro: of course

  • Some food and drink related words too:

Cerveza: beer 

Caña: a glass of beer

Vino blanco: white wine

Vino tinto: red wine

Tinto de verano: it literally means summer red and it’s a drink made with red wine and soda; very common in the summer (verano), hence the name.

Pulpo: octopus (and if you want to learn how to prepare it, check this post). 

Mejillones: mussels 

Pimientos de Padrón: Padrón peppers

Jamón: ham

Bocadillo: sandwich made with baguette-type of bread, not with sliced bread.

Tortilla: Spanish omelette, with eggs and potatoes (you can find the recipe here).

La cuenta: the bill (at a restaurant, mainly). 

More of Randall’s adventure on : #chinononcamino  / @Dockam57 on Instagram


I hope that my Camino adventure “makes a ripple” and maybe a man’s life saved. 


The Camino is a metaphor for your own life. The Fleetwood Mac song says “Go your own way”. We all have our own “Camino” that we are on; how do we do it, who do we meet and what impact can you make?


Buen Camino, Buen Viaje, y vive una gran vida

PS. I’m signed up for the Long Beach, CA marathon again next month. I’ll celebrate my unofficial five year survival then! (old data said only 28%). Also, doing the New York City Marathon in November (my 4th in a row, raising over $14,000 for ZERO).

To learn more about Randall’s story, you can check these:


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¡Buen Camino!

Bedbugs and other creatures

Bedbugs and other creatures

Bedbugs and other creatures |

There’s one tiny thing that worries many pilgrims even before they start their journey: chinches (bedbugs). Other tiny, little creatures too, but bedbugs are the main concern. The bad news is that chinches are not attracted to dirt, so they can be found anywhere, even in 5-star hotels.


Should you worry about bedbugs on the Camino de Santiago?

It’s mainly a matter of luck whether you come across chinches or not. Some people have done several Caminos and never had an issue; other are not as lucky.

Their picaduras (bites) usually happen on exposed skin, such as cara, cuello, manos and brazos. Keep yourself covered!

They don’t transmit any diseases but they can cause itchy red bumps on your skin and some people can experience a reaction. Picaduras can become infected if scratched. Try  to resist the temptation! You can visit the next farmacia and buy something to alleviate the itchiness.


What can you do about bedbugs?

Some people spray permethrin on their stuff. If you choose this option, you should do it 2-3 days before you travel. But be careful! Permethrin is toxic while wet (and very toxic to cats in particular). It’s safe once it dries, though. You can also use natural remedies such as peppermint oil.

But no matter what you use, keep in mind that, if you stay in albergues, you’ll be sharing your space with many other people. So, think of them too and make sure you don’t use anything with a very strong scent or that can cause an allergic reaction to others.

Once you are on the Camino, there are some precautions you can take too:

  • Chinches can be easily transported in your mochila or clothes. So, don’t put your mochila on your bed.


  • Check the bunk frame and colchón (mattress) for signs of chinches such as tiny black spots. If you find any, notify your hospitalero immediately and move on to a new place.


What to do if you’ve been bitten by bedbugs

  • You should tell your hospitalero, so they can act on it and prevent future pilgrims being affected too. Picaduras by chinches are usually in a line. If you don’t notice them until after you’ve left the albergue, please inform your next hospitalero. They will make the call for you.


  • Before you settle in your next albergue, you need to debug. The easiest way is to wash all your belongings in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer. If you can’t do this at once, put all your stuff in a big plastic bag and close it tightly until you get to a lavadora (washing machine).

Then examine all the seams and pockets to make sure there are no chinches left. If you fail to act promptly and thoroughly you could be spreading chinches along the Camino and even taking them home. Not a nice souvenir, is it?


Any other creatures you should worry about? 

Unless you have some serious allergy, not really. There are several types of arañas (spiders) but none is particularly dangerous. And in the warmer months, you’ll probably come across moscas (flies), mosquitos, abejas (bees) or avispas (wasps).

Moscas are basically annoying but harmless. The others could potentially bite you. If they do and the picadura is bothering you, visit the next farmacia and ask for some antihistamínico cream/gel.


All this writing about chinches and other creepy crawlies is making me feel itchy. So, that’s it for today! I hope you have an insect-free Camino.


Today’s Spanish words



For the pronunciation of cara and cuello, check I’m not feeling well.

For the pronunciation of brazo and mano, check Your body.


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¡Buen Camino!

Tengo alergia a…

Tengo alergia a…

The Camino de Santiago is for many a life-changing experience that takes you out of your comfort zone: you are in a foreign land where they speak a different language… and they eat differently too!


It can be a wonderful opportunity to try new foods and discover new flavours that you may later try to recreate at home. But if you have any food allergies, it can be very stressful not knowing whether you can get the right food, or not being sure whether something is safe for you to eat.


A few weeks ago, I wrote a post with tips and Spanish for veganos and vegetarianos who wish to do the Camino de Santiago. I know it’s not the same; if you suffer from food allergies, accidentally eating the wrong food can be life-threatening or it can make you very sick. But still, most of the tips and vocabulary I shared in that post can be used in case of alergia or intolerancia.


Shopping for food 

If you decide to buy your food, you should know that labels must clearly indicate any allergens present in the product:


  • On the ingredient list, you can see allergens in bold or capitals.
  • After the ingredient list, there is usually a list of possible traces of other foods, as well as a full list of allergens (this is not always present, so make sure you check the ingredient list).

When a particular product is safe to eat for a specific group, the label clearly indicates so. You can see different examples in the pictures.

These show a variety of food products that are suitable for celíacos (celiacs), because they are sin gluten (literally, without gluten).

The first picture shows a product that is suitable for veganos (sin huevo y sin lácteos – no egg, no dairy), which would also make it suitable for people with egg or dairy allergies. The second one shows a product sin lactosa (lactose free).


Most supermarkets these days have a good selection of products sin gluten and sin lactosa. Smaller towns and villages might not have so many options, so it’s a good idea to buy a few extra things when you get the chance.


Eating out when you have food allergies

Eating outside is also possible, as long as you take some precautions such as informing the waiter/waitress about your alergia or intolerancia.


  • You can say No puedo comer… (+ food you are allergic to), which means “I cannot eat…
  • Alternatively, you could also say Tengo alergia a…(again, complete with food you are allergic to).


Let’s say you are allergic to peanuts. You could say:


No puedo comer cacahuetes or Tengo alergia a los cacahuetes…

or a combination of both, just to make sure the message gets a cross:


No puedo comer cacahuetes. Tengo alergia. 


Some menus will have allergen information. You will see little symbols like these:

tengo alergia a

If this information is not there or if you are not sure, remember you can always ask about the ingredients in any dish (check Soy vegano/a for that info). And you can also ask for an ingredient to be left out. For instance, if you don’t want cream you could ask sin nata, por favor.


Do you suffer from food allergies and you have done the Camino?  Please share your experience!


* For celíacos, here’s a link, where you can find gluten-free bars, restaurants, etc.:


This other link is specific to Galicia and includes establishments that have an agreement with the Celiacs Association to  provide a menú sin gluten:


Today’s Spanish words


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¡Buen Camino!

Necesito un médico

Necesito un médico

Necesito un médico (I need a doctor) is probably something you don’t want to say while on the Camino, right? And hopefully you won’t need it but… you never know.

If you’ve been following my weekly lessons then you will know that I’ve been doing a series on health related issues. Apart from body parts, we’ve also learnt other things. Let’s recap before we go on:

  • You are an EU citizen and you got your  Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea (European Health Insurance Card). And if you are from outside the EU, you got seguro.


  • Farmacias and parafarmacias can help with many of the most common problems. But you need to let them know of any relevant alergias (allergies) or conditions you may have, so they can give you the right remedy.


If you are allergic to something, you can just say Tengo alergia a… and complete the sentence with whatever causes your allergy: Tengo alergia a la penicilina or la aspirina, to name a couple.

*Note that you can use this expression in bars and restaurants too when ordering food, if you have any food allergies. Here’s a little test for you:

How would you say “I’m allergic to eggs” in Spanish?

(leave a comment with your answer!)


Sometimes the pharmacist can’t help or you already know you need medical attention. Then you may say… Necesito un médico (I need a doctor). As I explained a couple of weeks ago, you can go to the local centro de salud.


The médico will ask ¿Qué le pasa? (What is wrong?) and you can then explain. You can check last week’s lesson to revise how to talk about pains and other common ailments. Let’s add está hinchado (it’s swollen) and diarrea (diarrhea) to the list.


As with the pharmacist, you need to inform the médico of any medical history that may be relevant. I’ll give you a couple of examples: soy diabético (I’m a diabetic; replace the final -o in diabético with an -a if you are female) or tengo la tensión alta (I have high blood pressure).


Today’s Spanish words & phrases

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For new vocabulary that has become common during the pandemic, check Camino in times of pandemic.


¡Buen Camino!