How to Lose your Clothes in Europe

Okay. So this must sound like someone was going for the whole nudist travel thing (wait…is that a thing?) but I honestly wasn’t. Heck, I slept near a nudist beach in Zandvoort and was in Amsterdam on 4/20; I didn’t strip down or smoke pot. But I was running out of clothes. Very slowly, very methodically, and for all the right (and wrong) reasons.

So how does one go about losing clothes, correctly? Well, as a minimalist traveler, that meaning that I pack only what I’ll need to survive my time without looking like  a crazy, hippie vagabond, I was already a bit dis attached to the frivolities of clothing, but who knew I could become even more so. Basically, as I traveled from one place to the next my needs shifted and changed. While in Switzerland, living with the same good people day after day, my desire for change was awakened by the sameness of my surroundings, and so variety in any form was more of a psychological necessity. At this point I was glad I had brought everything I had. But once I tripped to London and the weight of my pack began to communicate with my shoulders, I desired less and less. The constant change in my scenery and the fear of an overstuffed carry-on on picky airlines brought me to leave behind what I thought were necessary pieces.

So I gifted two long sleeved shirts, in Cambridge, to my lovely friend (no need to bother with birthday presents!) figuring Spain would be a bit warmer anyways. Once in Spain I grew even less attached to any idea of “clean clothes” so long as my pack grew lighter and lighter. After walking eight hours every day on the El Camino,  through mud, rain and dusty roads, a shower and fresh four-day-dirty clothes felt downy soft and clean.  I learned to walk in the same outfits and sleep in my relatively clean ones. Honestly, the only person who knew was me…that I’m aware of. However, I did wash what I had in sinks as often as possible, especially the socks and intimates, and dried them on the heaters inside the pilgrim hostels/albergues. The one time I tried to simply air dry them I failed. So when I left the albergue the next morning, I left two pairs of wet socks as well.

In Santiago, Spain, I completely forgot one bra and a shirt hanging on the balcony (it was an amazing hostel right by the cathedral for only 12 euro a night) so maybe they’re still out there, traveling on another pilgrim. By this point I was starting to feel confident that I’d dropped all the possible baggage I could. As well as what I’d mentioned, I was down one sweater, my snow boots, and pair of leggings after lending my extra pair to a friend  in Switzerland and never getting it back, and I’d exchanged three foreign language books for a Spanish to English pocket dictionary all before leaving L’Abri. I was beginning to feel like a true survivor. But wait, there’s a cliff hanger…1438

My last drop off of my three month stint in Europe happened on the Galacian coast, somewhere between Muxia and Finisterre, the alternate last leg of the El Camino. Attempting to traverse the coastal route directed by my guide book, I wondered about, making wrong turns until I found myself precariously stuck on the edge, literally the edge, of the coastal cliffs. To give you a picture, the path was  overgrown by thorny shrubs and about six-eight inches wide.  Wait…I’ll just give you a picture(s):

Oh you misleading path...
Oh you misleading path…you can see the rest of the “coastal route” to the top right of the image.
This is the widest point. It halved in width just after this photo was taken.
This is the widest point. It halved in width just after this photo was taken.
Do you SEE a path?
Do you SEE a path?

 

 Do you SEE a path, yet?
Do you SEE a path, yet?
And then I turned around.
…And then I turned around.

But man it was beautiful. Somewhere up there, amongst my panic, the thorny bushes, and strange thoughts of cliff jumping, I lost my trusty and warm alpaca sweater. The thorny shrubs had claimed it and I had no nerves left to fight back for it.  I knew cliff hanging and 40L back packs on a 5’1″ girl just didn’t mix well.  The whole ordeal caused me to start stress eating my empanada and Santiago tarte, which was a bad idea since I’d just lost my fat-day sweater. Truly, by now I could count all my articles of clothing (excluding my undies and socks) on eight fingers. Nature sure shows you necessity best.

That was the last article of clothing I lost and the only piece I actually regretted losing. Strange that it was the only loss not of my choosing. So for the last week of my trip I was naked armed. Nudity wouldn’t have worked in Zandvoort anyways, since the beach was freezingly windy.  So I never stripped down, really, although I did, in many ways, strip down.

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