One of the best Camino Tips I can give you is this one:
Check the Free Box!
Almost every albergue has a Free Box.
The Free Box is a box that contains items
pilgrims dump when they realize
bringing everything from home except the kitchen sink
wasn't such a great idea.
Sometimes it is a cardboard box out for everyone to see.
Sometimes it is a shelf on the wall.
Sometimes it is hidden in a closet behind lock and key.
If you don't see it and you need something,
Why do people dump things in the Free Box, you ask?
Pretend you've begun walking
and your pack is heavier and heavier as the days go by.
You begin to take items out and look at them and say,
"Do I really NEED this?"
(This is all part of being a pilgrim, so don't feel guilty).
You make a pile of things that really,
you can live without.
You realize that you really didn't need to bring
that heavy novel or that can opener,
or the blow up mattress or the 3 fleece shirts,
or the extra socks,
or the 12 pair of underwear.
What do you do with this "stuff?"
You could mail it home,
but that would probably cost more than it's worth.
You could throw it in the trash...
but please don't.
Instead, ask the hospitalera to put it in the Free Box.
Someone will surely come along who needs it,
and this is one way
"The Camino Provides."
It's always a good thing to check the Free Box
as you walk along the Camino, also.
You may find things you didn't know you needed!
Things I've picked up from the Free Box include the following:
A hydration system - complete with tubing and bite valve found on the road
A nice featherweight fleece shirt
A sports bra - mine broke!
A pajama top - used for sun protection
A handkerchief - used for peeing along the trail then washed with the day's laundry
A microfiber towel - I thought I'd like it better than my old worn out terrycloth-towel, but I didn't
A guide to albergues along the way - complete with notes!
Some German Dr. Scholl's type foot cream that saved my feet on the Aragones Route
Things I've left in the Free Box include:
My sleeping pad - I saw more of these than any other item in the box
A jacket - too heavy to carry
A pair of wool socks
A rain hat
A cheap poncho
Other items I can't recall - seems I was dropping weight daily!
Oh yes, my guide to the Via de la Plata which I'd sure love to have back if someone found it. It was specially spiral bound and left at the Convent in Leon!
Zip off trousers
Things I've SEEN in the Free Box are too many to mention,
including sleeping bags, pads, knives, stoves,
camping dishes, tents, boots, all types of clothing,
and on and on and on...
So... when you are doing your last minute check
of the gear you're going to take...
and you run across an item
and are not sure if you need it or not...
ask yourself this question:
Am I willing to spend the $$ it will take to mail this home?
Or will it end up in a Free Box!?
Then walk away and leave it ...
If you need it, you can be sure it will show up again along the Way.
Learn to live and step lightly on the earth!
* * *
Note: If you are interested in walking the Camino Santiago,
but are not quite ready to go it alone,
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks.
For more information see our website
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino