Customer Shares Her European Travel Adventure

Exploring a foreign country by backpacking in your twenties sounds like such a great idea. I’ve watched my daughter’s generation with some envy and pitied myself that I hadn’t had the opportunity to do that when I was her age. In my twenties, as a new graduate student who had moved far away from my home country in China to the US with just forty dollars in my pocket, it just didn’t seem like a possibility.  There seemed to be endless challenges: trying to adjust to life in a completely foreign country, finishing school and earning a degree, applying for permanent residency, climbing the career ladder, starting a family…there was always something that kept me from making that kind of trip. Finally empty nested at 50-something, I decided to take the adventure that had always been in my dreams since my youth. My good friend was also looking to do the same. She’s been married for almost 30 years and hadn’t ventured away without her husband in a very long time. 

We eventually decided on a two-week stay in Spain, walking the ancient camino pilgrimage from Sarria to Santiago. We would travel more than 70 miles bringing only what we could fit into our backpacks. Instead of staying at 5-star hotels, we would stay in hostels along the way that cost anywhere from $12 to $34 Euros a night. We would also do this on a drop-in basis with no advanced reservations, allowing each day to unfold as fate would allow and as far as we decided to walk each day. I am a planner and you can imagine both the excitement & hesitation I felt with this style of vacation.

The adventure exceeded our expectations. Prior to embarking on the vacation, it had been forecast to be rainy weather and we had stuffed rain-gear in our packs.  However, during the journey we experienced only sunny skies and gorgeous weather. 

Staying in the hostels is spartan in many ways, but washing our clothes by hand with a bar of soap, hanging it on a clothesline and seeing it flying in the wind under the sun drying, and folding it with the special sunshine smell makes you realize the simple things in life can be so fulfilling. 

The food was delicious, made by the villagers with the scent of home cooking.  We had a range of tapas and fresh produce along the way. I recall an exceptional dish with 12 gigantic shrimp that was both filling and reasonably priced about 10 Euros.

We walked more than 10 miles each day. Our final destination was the cathedral of Santiago. Travelers who complete the 70 mile journey earn the “camino compostela” which is a certificate showing you have completed the famous pilgrimage. In print it is as beautiful as any degree we had ever received. The cathedral of Santiago started construction in 1057 and the first phase took 36 years to complete. Since its completion, it has had numerous additions embracing different architectural styles. 

Upon completing the pilgrimage we headed to Segovia, enjoying the  ancient architecture in the town. The Aqueduct of Segovia was built nearly two-thousand years ago to transport water from a mountain river to the city of Segovia more than 9 miles away.  

The two-week vacation went quickly and soon it was time to go home. This is when the only unfortunate part of the trip occurred.  A negative COVID test is required 24 hours before getting on an airplane back to the States.  My friend tested positive, and although feeling fine had to find a place to isolate. Even though I had been with her the entire time, I tested negative. Both of us had been vaccinated prior. The only difference in our diets was that I was taking the Planet 3 Vitamin Packs everyday. I would not claim that taking the vitamin packs was what kept me healthy as I do not have scientific proof.  I do know that vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc and other supplements are important and are often associated with immune health. The vitamin packs were easy to fit into my backpack and made it very convenient to take daily, even when on a pilgrimage. (By the way, my friend is now back in the States and she seems to have fully recovered.)

I mentioned in the beginning that this trip wasn’t the most expensive dollar-wise, but it may have been the richest vacation I’ve ever taken.  

June L, Castro Valley, California

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  • I stayed in hostels when traveling in France. It was affordable and I also felt very safe. Also, I do agree that the vitamin packs are super convenient. I just open a pack each morning. Feeling good.

  • What an interesting story. I have always wanted to hike across Europe. Your story makes me realize that maybe I’m not too old to do it.


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