Logistics

I may already have lost
the way: the first step, the Crone
who scried the crystal said, shall be
to lose the way.
Galway Kinnell, The Shoes of Wandering

The College will allow the program to travel to Spain in the spring only if 15 or more students register for the spring quarter and pay the $200 deposit by the middle of winter quarter.  The NON-REFUNDABLE deposit is due February 5 and is made through your cashnet account on my.evergreen.edu.  The deposit can be refunded if not enough students sign up and the spring trip is canceled or under other exceptional circumstances.  But when you submit your deposit, think of it as non-refunadable and remember that after you submit your deposit others are counting on you going with them to Santiago.  Please do not register for winter quarter if you do not intend to travel with us in the spring quarter so that you do not fill a slot needed by a student who has the intention (and the money) to go.  Of course, making an early decision to go may reduce the cost of your airline ticket (and everyone else’s tickets if 15 or more deposits are received well before the deadline).  Fair warning, completing the winter quarter does not guarantee that you will be allowed to travel in the spring; all students will have an interview with the faculty before being allowed to register for spring.

Passport & College Requirements: You will need a passport.  Check well in advance to ensure it is up to date and will not expire before you return.  Some European border control agencies will not admit anyone whose passport will expire within six months of entry.  U.S. citizens do not need visas for stays in Europe (in the Schengen zone of 26 EU countries) of up to 90 days.  Citizens of other countries should check on visa requirements well before departure. (You will have to inform the faculty of your itinerary and whether you will stay in Europe beyond the end of the quarter before you leave the U.S., and you will have to notify the faculty of any change in travel plans.)  It is difficult to stay in the 26 country Schengen zone beyond the 90 day limit of the “Schengen Visa” but you can get good advice on how it can be done from, for example, http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/how-to-legally-stay-in-europe-for-more-than-90-days/ 

The College also has requirements for studying abroad.  Among them:

Travel within the Schengen zone has, until recently, involved open borders.  That is, a traveler has not had to show a passport to cross from one country to another.  Things are changing in the wake of recent attacks in Paris.  Students crossing between France into Spain should not be surprised to encounter a border control authority.

You and people supporting you in your travels (parents, loved ones, friends) should review advice on international travel from the U.S. State Department (travel.state.gov).  You should also review country-specific advice and warnings.  The link for Spain is 
http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/spain.html.

Getting Started: You should plan to fly to an airport near your starting point.  For example, if you plan to walk from St. Jean Pied de Port in France, you might fly to Pamplona (airport code: PNA) and take a private shuttle or public transport to St. Jean.  You should check fares to, and connecting transport costs from, alternative airports.  For example, sometimes it is cheaper to fly to Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne airport (BIQ) in France and then take a bus to St. Jean.  If you will depart for the U.S. at the end of your walk, check fares from Santiago de Compostela (airport code: SCQ), Vigo (VGO) or A Coruña (LCG).  High speed trains are run by RENFE (RailEurope.com).  There are two very good tourism offices and a RENFE ticketing shop near the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago.

El Camino: Below is a map of “The Way” by John Brierly (who writes a popular series of “Camino Guides”).  You can see that “The Way” is just a metaphor, i.e., there is no “The,” for a bunch of different routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela.  Popular starting points are St. Jean Pied de Port in France, Roncesvalles or Pamplona in Spain (or Mérida or Seville, even Granada or Cadiz, for those wishing to walk the very long but historically and culturally rich Camino Mozárabe or the Via de la Plata from the south), Lisbon or Oporto or Fatima in Portugal, but there are many others.  On the map you can see the water routes extending north to starting points in England.  Some pilgrims begin farther east: Germany, Lithuania, Switzerland, Italy and other countries have starting points.  Even the idea of “starting point” is ambiguous: Many people will tell you that their pilgrimage began as they stepped across the threshold of their home on their way to Spain.  Two of the decisions you’ll make is where to begin and how to end, and by the end of the winter quarter you will have answers to both questions, which are at once logistical, intellectual, and perhaps mystical or spiritual.  (Your answers may, of course, change.)

Program Expenses: approximately $4,560.  This estimate–detailed below–was made in March, 2015, and is subject to change.  (Note that this estimate is for 63 days in Europe.  You could reduce your overall cost by reducing the number of days abroad. We’ll discuss this possibility, and other ways to reduce the overall cost, early in the winter quarter.) Students will be responsible for most of their travel and in-country expenses.  Making plane reservations sooner than later will reduce airfare.  (Also, flying out of Vancouver, B.C. [airport code: YVR] can sometimes save 25% over traveling from SEA, but factor in the cost of travel to and from Vancouver.  Also, returning from SCQ to YVR is, in Jan ’16, not convenient!)  We will discuss ways to be frugal on the trip, including staying in albergues (pilgrim-only hostals), making your own meals or enjoying communal meals in the common kitchens, eating simply and healthily on the trail, etc.  One common estimate of expenses while walking is €1 per kilometer, which is about one-third of the estimate below for meals and lodging, but this “€1 per kilometer” assumes the walker is conscientiously frugal.  (Cost estimates updated in spring, 2015, with €1 costing US$1.12).  (NB: A local high school student, and friend, returned from his Way on June 19, 2015.  He spent just under $2,900 for his eight weeks abroad, which included airfare SEA to Barcelona with a return from Santiago, bus/train to St. Jean, and, when he suffered a bout of tendonitis, renting a bike for a few days.  He also walked to Finisterre.)

Airfare from Seattle (high est.):                                   $1,500
Study abroad fees: group facilities                                 $150
Health Insurance:                                                           $100
In-country travel/commuting (very high est.):                 $500
Meals: 63 days @ €20 @ $1.12/€1.00 (high est.):      $1,410
Housing: 63 days @ €12 @ $1.12/€1.00 (est.):             $850
Phone, required (from €15 – €40, depending on your      $50
current phone’s compatibility with European standards)
TOTAL approximately                                                  $4,560

Albergue beds (in pilgrim-only dormitories for which you will have to present your credencial) run by a xunta (local government) or by a pilgrim association cost €5 or €6 per night (in 2015).  Rooms in Santiago and in youth hostels or pensions will cost at least twice that.  Housing costs can run high if you decide to stay in hotels.  You will sometimes find places to stay that are donativo, by donation.  Some residences will provide meals, and sometimes those meals are also donativo.  When enjoying such hospitality, please consider your situation and the situations of your hosts and then decide how much you will pay.  (Donativo does not mean free.)

Money: In Europe you will need access to cash (euros, €).  The easiest way to obtain euros is to use your debit card at ATMs.  (Try to take enough euros to get yourself from the airport to town upon arrival.  Many airports are switching to ATMs owned not by banks but by Travelex or other non-bank corporations.  Avoid them and their poor exchange rates, and ignore the “free withdrawal” sign on them. Get money from bank-owned ATMs only.)  As an Evergreen student you are eligible for membership at the Washington State Employees Credit Union (https://wsecu.org).  Since July, 2015, they no longer charge a percentage fee for foreign currency transactions on their credit and debit cards and they use very favorable exchange rates; most banks will charge 2%-5% transaction fees, which can add up quickly.  NB: Getting cash on a credit card usually exacts a “cash advance” fee and can be subject to astonishing credit card interest rates, things the frugal traveler will avoid.  Getting cash with your debit card involves no extra fee, as long as there is cash in your account to cover the withdrawal.  Regardless of which cards you carry: (1) Establish a PIN for all cards, including credit cards (some businesses in Europe will not accept a credit card without a PIN, although by the time of the program most U.S. credit cards will have an embedded chip instead of just a simple magnetic strip and will be more in line with European cards), (2) Speak with your financial institution about turning off card “fraud protection” for the duration of your trip.  Many foreign transactions, especially in Spain and Portugal, will trigger an automated phone inquiry to verify your foreign transaction.  If a fraud protection call goes to a phone you cannot answer immediately, your card may be suspended.  Also, keep in mind that the liability limit for fraudulent use of U.S. credit cards is $50, but the limit for debit cards can be much higher.  Know all the rules governing the cards you will carry. (3) Have instructions in your pack on what to do if your cards are lost or stolen in a foreign country. (4) Seriously consider taking a second card in case your primary card is lost or used fraudulently.

The End: The Pilgrims’ Office, where arriving pilgrims receive their compostela, is now located at Rúa Carretas, 33, is just outside the Praça do Obradoiro. Signs in Santiago will help guide pilgrims to the new location.  (from American Pilgrims on Camino, December, 2015)