Random Thoughts and Updates

It has been a while since I updated this blog, so here a list of developments here in Santiago, the Camino, Europe and my own life 😉

Read on to discover what this photo means 😉

Santiago (and basically also the rest of Spain)

We are now firmly on our way out of our sixth wave (Omicron) and all numbers are going steadily down: cases, hospitalizations and deaths. This wave has really shown us that, whilst vaccination doesn’t prevent illness and transmission 100%, it protects to a huge degree from serial illness and death, especially when combined with face mask wearing and being careful when socializing.

Speaking of which, our vaccination rate here in Spain is extremely good and Galicia is, together with Asturias, leading that list. We have already started to vaccinate the 5-11 years old here and many of us, me included, have already received their booster shot.

Speaking of face masks, they still have to be worn here at all times indoors (except when actually eating and/or drinking) and outdoors when you can’t make sure that you can keep a minimum distance of at least 1,5m from people that are not in your same household aka strangers and especially in large groups.


The Camino is more and more opening up after the ‘winter break’ and pilgrim numbers are increasing steadily, comparable to 2019 but lower than we would expect normally for a Holy Year. You can follow the daily numbers here: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/ and the monthly and yearly numbers here https://catedral.df-server.info/est/index.html

How numbers will be developing this year, only God and Santiago know! We might either have a crazily busy year or a quiet-ish one like last year. It all depends how the pandemic develops, the war between Russia and Ukraine and if the Pope really comes to Santiago in August, too many factors to be sure about anything.


Three things to bear in mind: capacity in some albergues is still reduced, blankets are mostly a thing of the past (too expensive to wash after each pilgrim) and more and more albergues require proof of vaccination before welcoming you. Some, but not all, communal meals have returned and some kitchens have opened again, but Camino life is still very different from BC (Before Covid) times.

Travel Thoughts

As things are ever changing, here the link to the official Spanish travel website: https://travelsafe.spain.info/en/ If you plan a Camino, or travel to Spain in general, please check it out regularly. As I wrote earlier, our Covid stats are all moving in the right direction and things looking up on that front (if no new variant comes along!) but we have another problem here in Europe, the war between Ukraine and Russia.

This war is ‘only’ 8days old at the time of writing, but costed already thousands of lives. Nobody knows how the situation will develop and if the war will spread further or not, so PLEASE keep an eye on your own countries travel advisory website, register your travel with them (if possible) and plan enough money in your budget for unforeseen expenses like an earlier flight home. We all here hope and pray that this war will be soon over, please join us in this prayer for peace.

Now to the personal stuff


I am in treatment, both with medication and seeing a psychiatrist (never thought I would need on of these one day!) and doing much better. Not good yet, but better. The panic attacks are very rare now, the anxiety is manageable, but I am still depressed and have low energy levels. On a positive note, I recently managed to pull myself together and spend a long weekend in the south of Spain. It really helped to re-charge my batteries!

Neighbourhood Pantry & Neighbours

Before I went on my short break, I gave the necessary supplies for my absence to M. of whom I think as the patriarch of the families for distribution as they are all related. And it seems to have worked well. I might need to do something similar from mid-April onwards (more about that below). If you want to read up on what the Neighbourhood Pantry is and how it works, here a link to an old-ish blog post that contains a link to an even older one – reverse history so to speak https://egeria.house/santiago-day-neighborhood-pantry-fundraiser/

And some good news! We have a little newborn in one of the family, her name translates to ‘traveler or wanderer’ btw 😉 And there was a little ‘coincidence’ for this family. Just days before I had received a donation of a gas heater which they could make good use of now with a newborn in the home. Sadly, they didn’t tell me earlier that they needed a heater, I would have found them one! But now all good and cozy for this little family.

Roundabout Room

The gas heater is a good example how my roundabout room works: A few days previous I got offered a sizeable material donation of clothes, shoes, glasses and yes, the gas heater. As I don’t drive I asked a friend, that does drive, if she could pick it up for me. And in one hour the goodies were in the house. As the heater was missing the tube and gas regulator, she brought me these, that she didn’t need anymore, the next day when she also brought me my fruit and vegetable box from: https://www.facebook.com/aHortadaAvoa Muchas Gracias, Cristina!


And more good news, I found an allotment less then 5 minutes walk from my place where I will plant fruit and vegetables for and hopefully with my neighbours. All going well it will stop raining tomorrow and I get started weeding (see photo above ;-). I am already pre-growing plants like tomatoes and peppers in the house.


Yes, I have to move again, but thank God only in the same house, to the third floor. The reason being that I am only a subtenant in this flat. It was originally meant to be my ‘winter flat’ for 6 months in 2019/2020, but we all know what happened, so 2,5 years later I am still here. But the original tenants come back mid-April and need their flat back. Thankfully there is an empty flat (without a balcony, sigh) on the third floor that I can rent. And apparently the rent is even a bit cheaper, always welcome! That is why I wrote earlier that I might need to restructure the neighbourhood pantry system a bit, three flights of stairs are a lot with full food boxes every day!

Plans for this Year

All of the above, and helping pilgrims wherever and however I can 😉

So, I think that’s all thank you for reading until the end!


A New Adventure

I started something new, to help pilgrims, please help me spread the word about it:

Santiago cathedral as seen from Alameda park.

A very simple set-up that I hope proves to be useful for future pilgrims:

* Anybody interested can message me via this Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Caminopreparation and we set up a one-to-one Skype or Zoom appointment.
* We chat about your Camino plans and any questions you might have, be it gear or fear.
* I will not give you absolute answers, but rather help you to discover what is the best answer for YOU.
* After the chat I send you an email with the relevant information to take your Camino plans further. (Apps, Packing list, useful websites, really anything we have chatted about).
* Cost: Donation at your discretion via Paypal or (Transfer)Wise.
* Lack of funds is NOT a reason not to contact me, if you can’t make a donation, just give me a smile 😉

Who I am:
My name is Sybille Yates and I walked my first Camino in 1999. Since then I have walked many pilgrimages to Santiago, Assisi and Rome in a variety of countries like Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy and the Czech Republic with a rough total of 12 000km/7500mi. I also have volunteered as a hospitalera in a variety of albergues. I now live in Santiago and try to help pilgrims as good as I can. And last, but not least, I have written a book about preparing for the Camino https://amzn.to/3ysiu0y and whilst I still think that it’s a good book, our times are so fast changing and challenging that I am putting this offer out here so that you can get the most relevant and correct information in real time.

Pilgrim Initiative – We Walk for You

A short blog post to help to get the word out about https://wewalkforyou2020.org Here their project in a nutshell:

Three veteran pilgrims will walk the Camino Francés starting mid-August 2020. Two of them will walk the actual Camino and one of them will accompany the others on a virtual Camino.

They will carry with them the thoughts, prayers, hopes, and intention of other pilgrims and will pray for them daily.

If you want to have your intentions included, no matter what you believe or what faith you follow, or none, the pilgrims will carry your messages, prayers and hopes every step of the way to Santiago and they will be prayed for at Mass every day.

The only thing you need to do is sending them to: wewalkforyou2020@gmail.com

And if you subscribe to their blog: https://wewalkforyou2020.org you can read live updates about the current situation here on the Camino in Spain.

Pilgrims praying for pilgrims on the Way of St.James …

Peace Pilgrim in the House

A bit more than two years ago I moved to Santiago de Compostela with the vague idea of “doing something for pilgrims”. A lot has happened since then and a lot of people, volunteers, friends and pilgrims have visited my house. Eucharists have been celebrated around the table and many meals have been shared. Sometimes the doorbell rings and somebody asks for food. Sometimes crutches have to be organized for a neighbour that can’t afford to buy them. Sometimes a pilgrim, for whatever reason, only needs a bed for one night, sometimes a bed, food and practical support for much longer. Here is the story of one such pilgrim.

Portrait of Peace Pilgrim Scaughdt
Scaughdt the Peace Pilgrim, photo (c) Michael Matynka, used with permission.

The first time I heard about Scott, or to use his preferred name, Scaughdt, was via Rebekah from the Peaceable Kingdom in Moratinos, on Facebook. He walks with no money only relying on Divine Providence and without a phone. Before I write a bit more about the house, the chaplaincy and our little Camino network dedicated to helping pilgrims, I will let Scaughdt introduce himself:

“Greetings one and all … My name is indeed Scaughdt (pronounced ‘scot’), and I have indeed been a Peace Pilgrim – essentially living without any money of my own while wandering the Earth serving others for free; fasting until offered food and sleeping wherever offered shelter – for the past 13+ years of my life. Currently I am in the middle of a pilgrimage that has been following the Camino de Santiago; a pilgrimage that started in Stuttgart, Germany (some 2700 km ago) and one that intends to end in Chattanooga, Tennessee (roughly 900 km from wherever I make landfall in the United States sometime later this month). This latest walk has been designed to be quite “radical” (without using or accepting any money, without carrying a Passport or any other form of personal identification, and without once ever asking for food along the way) and has been thus undertaken to prove to Americans & non-Americans alike that strangers are anything but dangerous; to prove that it is high time for us all to reach out with acts of according kindness towards the neighbors in our own communities … I am not sure how effective The Walk has been to date, of course, and yet it has been an honor and a privilege to serve humanity in this way, and if given the chance I would do it all again a thousand times over.”

(You can read more about him and his project here: http://www.inspiringthealtruisticmoment.com/)

Update: Scaughdt has meanwhile returned safely to the United States and is continuing his walk. If you see him, say ‘Hi and Buen Camino!’ from me!

Scaughdt is a good example of how the house and the chaplaincy work together to help pilgrims with whatever they need. As most of you know, my home place has two free guest bedrooms that are used to provide accommodation for the chaplaincy volunteers (they pay for their own travel here and don’t receive any money for the work they do.) and also for pretty much anybody that needs a bed for whatever reason. Plus, obviously, for visiting friends and family. The house is quite busy on occasions 😉 When Scaughdt arrived at the house, Rev Alasdair was still here wearing his Franciscan habit (Here more information about his community: https://cfcfranciscans.org/). And pilgrim and priest hit it off on the spot because as it turned out they realised that they both follow a Franciscan lifestyle, each in their own way. Lively discussions were had around the table and, again, we all discovered that old truth, there is more that unites us, then that separates us. Scaughdt, being a spiritual person, had no problem in participating in our services, handing out service booklets and generally helping around the house (my windows have never been cleaner, many Muchas Gracias, Scaughdt!).

So, if you ever wondered where donations to the house or the chaplaincy go, you now have an answer. They go into to feed pilgrims like Scaughdt and volunteers like Alasdair. They are used to buy glasses, mugs, a water kettle and other bits and bobs for the Ecumenical Centre. They are used to print out boarding passes and tickets, photocopies of lost passports and so many more things. They are used to buy more chairs so that everybody has a comfortable seat at the shared table. All these are, seen separately, small amounts but they do add up over time. So many, many Muchas Gracias from Santiago to all that have donated.

Congratulations that you made it to here 😉 I have often been asked what the relationship is between me, Egeria House, the chaplaincy and how it all works together. So here a quick round-up for the curious:

Why the house has a name – When I lived in the UK, I was fascinated by the concept of house names, so when I moved to Spain I wanted the house to have a name. By giving the house a name, and taking care not calling it “my house” too often, I slowly managed to get into the mindset that ultimately it isn’t me that provides hospitality, it is the house, I am just its custodian and caretaker.

Why Egeria? – Little is known about this woman from the 4th century AD. She was most likely from Gallaecia (present-day Galicia, North Portugal, Asturias and León), she might or might not have been a nun, but she must have been from a wealthy and influential family. What we do know is that around 380 AD she made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other places in the Holy Land. She wrote a long letter about it which is not only the oldest report of such a pilgrimage but also contains detailed descriptions of the Easter liturgy used in Jerusalem in the 4th century. Egeria must have been a courageous and well-educated woman to achieve all this, I would have been happy to offer her the hospitality of the house.

Camino Chaplaincy – If you browse this website a bit more, you can learn how it all started and developed over the last 1,5 years. As for my role: I am the lay coordinator for it here in Santiago. This means that I pick up the volunteers at the airport, help them to get settled in, introduce them to our Ecumenical partners and so on. Not all volunteers stay at the house as some wish to make other arrangements. For those who do stay I try to create a bit of community life, such as praying together and taking care of the house. I also help to welcome pilgrims at the Ecumenical centre and with our services on Sundays and Wednesdays. And if there is a gap between one priest going and the next one coming like at the moment, I lead Morning Prayer on Sundays at Santa Susana and Evening Prayer here at Egeria House on Wednesdays. Like everyone else involved in the Chaplaincy I am unpaid and I pay all of my own expenses.

Camino Network – I am we are not alone in this fascinating Camino adventure. Just as Rebekah referred Scaughdt to me, there are others around that help. Just a bit down the road lives an old hospitalero friend of mine to whom I can refer pilgrims, preferably Spanish speaking ones, when I run out of space. Others, like Michael Matynka donate guide books and maps to give to pilgrims free of charge (Michael also took the photo of Scaughdt shown on this blog post). Others share the produce of their gardens or other food with us. Others contribute their knowledge and wisdom about how things work here in Santiago. In short, if I run into a problem that I can’t solve alone, there is always somebody around that knows a solution or, at least, can point me in the right direction!

Living a life of hospitality – Living an open house hospitality is not for the faint of heart. Sharing “your” space with strangers changes you and the space. Pots and plates find new places to live in the kitchen, you learn new dishes to eat and cook, and, perhaps most importantly, you learn to see the world, and the Camino!, through different eyes and from different viewpoints. In short, it changes you. Sometimes I get asked: “Are you happy with the life you have chosen?” To which my answer is: “If not, I wouldn’t be where I am and doing what I am doing!”

You only have one life …

… and it might be shorter than you think.

When arriving two weeks ago in Santiago my friends told me ‘… and next Sunday you will come with us to lunch, the Irish are coming!’ And so I went and so I met them. Today I received the message that one of them has died on the next leg of their epic journey.

I had heard of them several times over the years. They had built a traditional boat, a naomhóg (currach) and rowed from Ireland to the Galician coast in several stages. Last year, after arriving in Santiago, they left the boat with a friend here and now they would be back to pick up the boat, transport it to A Coruña and continue their voyage along the Spanish-Portuguese coastline towards Gibraltar.

That magical Sunday lunch was filled with good food & wine, laughter, stories, poetry and songs – a real ceilidh. We even would have danced if there would have been enough space. You can read a bit more about it here: https://egeria.house/travel-and-first-week/

They all were so full of life, kindness and joy. They lived their dream and they enjoyed it, but even more importantly perhaps, they infected others with their love:

… for music

… for poetry

… for the Gaelic language

… for building your own boat

… for taking the route less traveled

… for rediscovering old pilgrimage routes

… for following your dream

Just under two weeks later they reached the river Minho that marks the border between Portugal and Spain. Their boat capsized. All four made it to the shore. But one of them, Danny Sheehy, also known as Danny an tSíthigh or Domhnall Mac Síthigh, died shortly after, despite the efforts of the emergency services. (Source: https://www.rte.ie/news/2017/0610/881677-spain/) He died doing what he loved and now he has started his final pilgrimage. And even if I knew him only a very short while, I am sure that he preferred dying this way than dying with the regret never to have followed his dreams.

And there is a lesson in this sad event for all of us. We have only one life and it might be shorter than we think it would be. Let’s follow our dreams, let’s make the most out of the life we have, no matter if it is rowing a boat from Ireland to Spain or taking up painting. And let’s share our love of life and the things we do with others, like this pilgrim and his friends did with all that met them: