Retirement; like your parents, but way cooler
In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age
of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this
financially independent lifestyle, they invite you
to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
El Camino Trail
Kathy and Jim McLeod share
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
The Way of St. James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages
during the Middle Ages. The Camino de Santiago, known in English as the Way
of Saint James among other names, is a network of pilgrims' trails to the
shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de
Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the
remains of the saint are buried.
Saint James was martyred in Jerusalem in
44 AD. From the time of the discovery of St. James' remains in 812 AD, The
pilgrimage to Santiago has never ceased, though there have been years of
fewer pilgrims, particularly during European wars.
When we discovered our friends,
and Jim McLeod were going to walk this trail, we couldn't wait to hear
more about it from a personal experience point of view. Enjoy their comments
and discoveries below!
St. Jean Pied de Port, France
RetireEarlyLifestyle: The Camino Trail has
become very popular in recent years. What made you decide to do the El
McLeods: A few years ago, after
doing the Boiling Lake hike in Dominica, someone suggested we might also
enjoy El Camino. After watching the movie The Way, we decided we would
definitely add it to our bucket list.
It's a long way to Santiago
REL: Were there lots of
people on the trail?
McLeods: There were a lot of
people in the albergues at night but for the most part we only met a few
people during the day. That is, until the last 100km (which is the required
section of the trail you must complete in order to earn your Compostela),
when it became quite crowded.
REL: Did you consider
yourselves to be pilgrims or hikers?
McLeods: We were definitely
REL: What did you want to
achieve by doing the trail?
McLeods: That's a good question.
While doing El Camino, Kathy mentioned that this was on Jim's bucket list
and that prompted him to wonder why he wanted to do it. After several hours
of pondering this while walking in the cold and rain, he realized that he
felt he needed to prove to himself that he *could* do it! Apparently this
was a common theme among the men there over 50.
REL: Did you enjoy the
scenery on the trail?
McLeods: There were some really
beautiful sections along the trail.
REL: Did you find that
hiking the El Camino required a good deal of mental toughness? Were you
prepared for this? How did you prepare?
McLeods: Because it was
unseasonably cold and wet, we weren't able to enjoy it as much as we would
have liked. We actually weren't prepared for it, but we were able to adjust
on the fly. We hadn't planned on stopping for a café every day but we found
that we needed a boost and a chance to get dry and warm in order to continue
REL: What did it cost you
both to do The Trail?
McLeods: Not counting
transportation and accommodation to and from El Camino, it cost us about
$3500 Canadian Dollars.
Restroom in an auberge
REL: Were the Albergues
of decent quality?
McLeods: For the most part, the
ones we stayed at were quite good. They cost a little more than we had
budgeted for but making our own meals cost less so it all balanced out.
REL: What was the best
thing about walking El Camino? The worst?
McLeods: The best part of El
Camino was meeting all of the wonderful people of Spain and the other peregrinos. For the most part, everyone was very friendly.
The worst part of
El Camino, for us was, because we walked in late spring and early summer,
the albergues generally would not turn on the heat, even though it was
unseasonably cold during our time there. They generally had thick blankets
for us, but after walking all day in the rain, some nights we just couldn't
get the chill out of our bones.
REL: What would you do
differently, had you known the challenges you faced?
McLeods: On reflection, we would
probably only do the last 100km taking our time and doing more sightseeing.
That is what we missed the most was that we didn't really get to see the
forest for the trees. We were so focused on getting from point A to point B
in order to get out of the rain and cold, that we didn't really get to enjoy
REL: What advice would
you give to others who want to do the trail?
McLeods: Research! Be prepared.
And do at least a couple of full day test walks with all of your gear
including water and food. We adjusted a few things after these walks.
REL: Did you go through a
lot of tiny villages on the way?
McLeods: We did. What was
interesting was that a lot of these places exist solely for El Camino. A few
of them had a population of zero... the cafés and albergues are there for
the peregrinos, but the employees commute from other villages.
REL: What did you do
about food and water during the day while you were hiking?
McLeods: We brought small
insulated travel mugs and, because of a great tip from Billy and Akaisha
that we learned in Mexico (One
Meal a Day)
we grabbed an immersion heater coil for the 220v electricity in Spain, to
make oatmeal and coffee in any of the albergues we ended up in that didn't
have a kitchen.
The night before, Kathy would consult the guidebook and
apps, and determine which trail we would take (if there were alternates),
and how far we would walk, and which albergue we would stay at, how much
water to bring based on the availability of water fountains along the trail,
where we would stop for café, and where we would grab groceries and what we
would buy based on the amenities available at our chosen albergue.
bring our water bottle (and coffee mug full of water if necessary) as well
as bananas and apples (and possibly a chocolate croissant or two). We would
stop about 2/3 of the way to grab a café and possibly an orange juice and
maybe a chocolate croissant. We would always start with a good breakfast and
then have our main meal, around 3-4pm, usually pasta, sandwiches or wraps
with salad at the albergue, or occasionally a meal at a restaurant if we
seen or heard about one that interested us. Then we would just snack in the
REL: How heavy were your
backpacks? What do you wish you would have brought? What would you have left
McLeods: After much research, we
tried to keep our backpacks as "light" as possible. We met many people who
started with much bigger packs than us but were offloading hiking boots,
jeans, makeup, etc. after a few days of lugging it around. There wasn't
anything that we wished we had brought, and the only things we brought that
we didn't use was our sunglasses and sunscreen because of all the darn rain.
Azofra, Spain. One of the few
REL: Did you go to
Fisterra? Otherwise known as Finisterre?
Editors note: The main
pilgrimage route to Santiago follows an earlier Roman trade route, which
continues to the Atlantic coast of Galicia, ending at Cape Finisterre.
Although it is known today that Cape Finisterre, Spain's westernmost point,
is not the westernmost point of Europe (Cabo da Roca in Portugal is farther
west), the fact that the Romans called it Finisterrae (literally the end of
the world or Land's End in Latin) indicates that they viewed it as such.
McLeods: Yes, and Jim found out
that Kathy would indeed follow him to the end of the earth, although we must
confess that we took the bus from Santiago de Compostela.
Finisterre, Spain. The end of
REL: Did you have some
great food or wine on your trail?
McLeods: There was some good food in the
region near the beginning of El Camino Frances. There was also some
interesting food near the end as many restaurants specialized in pulpo...
REL: How much did your
McLeods: They weighed, on average,
about 16lbs (7kg).
Did you bring a first aid kit?
McLeods: Yes, but just a few
basics. We didn't want to bring too much extra weight for "what if" scenarios
since we had read there are farmacias all along the trail. So we just
grabbed what we needed as we needed it.
REL: What digital
equipment did you bring?
McLeods: We each brought our
cell phone, which we bought Spanish SIM cards for in Pamplona. This gave us a
way to keep in touch when we would split up for our respective duties at the
beginning and end of the day, as well as data for our tracking app, Oruxmaps,
and our El Camino app, Camino Pilgrim, so we could track how far we had traveled and where we were on the trail.
REL: There are several side trails and
different beginnings to the El Camino. What is the name of the trail you
McLeods: We hiked the more
familiar El Camino Frances, the one depicted in the movie The Way.
Alto del Perdón, Spain
REL: Did you go off the
hike to visit the towns or cities on the way?
McLeods: We took a
few rest days in the cities such as Pamplona and Leon with the intention of
doing some sightseeing but due to the weather, never really got to do as
much as we would have liked. We were a few days early for our flight out of
Santiago de Compostela, and the weather cleared up while we were there, so we got to do
quite a bit of sightseeing there and that was very nice.
REL: Did you receive a
Compostela at the end of your hike?
McLeods: Yes we did. We opted for
the non-religious and non-spiritual one.
Santiago de Compostela, Spain
REL: Are you happy you
did the trail?
McLeods: Yes we are, but for this
adventure, at least from our experience, I think Neil Peart summed it up
nicely in his book, The Masked Rider, Cycling in West Africa when he wrote:
"Some people travel for pleasure, and sometimes find adventure; others
travel for adventure, and sometimes find pleasure. The best part of
adventure travel, it seems to me, is thinking about it. A journey to a
remote place is exciting to look forward to, certainly rewarding to look
back upon, but not always pleasurable to live minute by minute. Reality has
a tendency to be so uncomfortably real."
Arzua Spain. Sunny day... yay!!!
REL: Are there any other
comments or advice you would like to share about doing this trail?
McLeodss: Again, research and be
prepared. We couldn't get over the number of people and stories we heard, of
people who didn't do any research or preparation and quit within the first
few days. The ones who are prepared and finish it generally do really enjoy
And another thing, if you do happen to get hurt or even just
overwhelmed, take a break, adjust your plans or take a cab, bus or train if
necessary. You're (probably) trying to cram in a month what the original
pilgrims likely did in 2-3 months. Just like you sometimes have to in life,
its okay to deviate from your plans and expectations as the situation
Walk your Camino your way. We did it our way! Enjoy! And there were
always arrows telling you which way to go!
Mellid, Spain. We did it our
a great journey, Jim and Kathy! Thank you for sharing, and thank you for
taking the time to answer all of these questions!
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.
Retire Early Lifestyle Blog
About Billy & Akaisha