Trey’s Hike Along the Camino de Santiago, Part 1: Kevin Kelly


Here is the short story of my 150-kilometer trek from Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Over 200,000 people hike each year on this pilgrimage. In the olden days when people were still stoned, this used to be a Christian pilgrimage to visit the grisly bones of Saint James. Nowadays many people make the hike and it’s no longer purely religious, although many people are still stoned.

Either way, it’s certainly a spiritual journey.

In terms of religious hikes, it doesn’t really compare in numbers to that of Mecca, where 15 million people walk each year. That walk mostly originates from Jeddah and clocks in at around 70 km. Either way, this epic Santiago hike I did has multiple routes. The full route is over 1200 km from France or a lighter version from Portugal at around 200 km. Mine was just 150 because we started right at the border in Tui, Spain. It’s also shorter because we are all kinda lazy and get the point after 150km.

I’ve decided to tell a multi-part story via conversations I had with my nine other walkers. This event was put together by Kevin Kelly and Craig Mod who have completed a few of these sorts of walks around the world. The idea is a bit of a “Walk n’ Talk” where we mostly philosophize about the world, make jokes, and engage in a stimulating amount of mutual mental masturbation. Everyone on this adventure was from different walks of life. We had everything from tech magnates to authors to photographers to entrepreneurs to DNA researchers, and well, you name it.

It was great, for me personally, to establish deep connections with each and every member of our hiking tribe. At least, I think I did! 🙂

Below is one of many 360 videos (link to subscribe to my YouTube channel) I made while on this hike. I’ll post them a bit out of order. I talked to Kevin about several disparate topics in different videos including AI, an enormous underground clock he is working on that lasts 10,000 years, a series of bottom-up libraries that are being built in a Nevada desert, Burning Man, and last, something that sounds a bit macabre: Death.

You can click the gear to amp it up to 4K. In this 360 video, I am walking with both Kevin Kelly and Hugh Howey. We talk about rituals, in particular, a special ritual he invented for his kids when they turned 21. After that, we talk about death, and our nefarious plans to split up Kevin’s body as a new idea for a death ritual to honor him. It all sounds a bit dour, but it certainly isn’t.   NOTE: If you have not seen a 360 video before, you can grab the screen and look in any direction you want!

By the way, I know a lot of geeks like me watch this, and you may want to know what equipment I use. Here are the kit links for my Insta 360 camera and the Zoom h1n recorder use for audio – also follow this link to see all my gear.

The overall idea was that we spend most of the day discussing philosophy, science, and other erudite matters. Each night at dinner we had a different discussion. World governance, urbanization, religion, and relationships just to name a few. We would record about three hours of these blatherings and they’re putting together all the transcripts now.

Anyway, that was the texture of the seven-day hike. I’ll get started with an overall paintbrush stroke of the trip then get into Story #1 with Kevin Kelly. In the next one, I’ll talk about my discussions with Hugh Howey, whom you may recognize as the author of Wool and the Silo series of books. I’m starting with those two because I knew a lot about them either in person or via their work before the trip. After, that, I’ll share stories from some of the other ne’er-do-wells that joined us.

We started on the edge of Portugal, and you’ll see a bridge below that links northern Portugal and Spain.

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This was a nice little surprise to find this bridge that connected the two countries. Strangely, even though we walked directly north after you touch the Spanish soil, you have to set your clocks back one hour.

This mini-bridge walk was technically before the whole hike even started after our motley crew assembled for an introductory dinner.

After dinner, I walked across this bridge around midnight with Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress and current CEO of Automattic. In a short time, we talked about a bit of everything from him changing my life by founding WordPress (my blog at to doing recreational drugs at Burning Man. But I’ll save more of that for the Matt Mullenweg story day!

It was sort of unusual being thrown into a group of ten people who you don’t really know. I remember one of our fellow walkers, Chris Barclay said on the final night that he felt a bit intimidated in the beginning. You know, trying to figure out who the cool kids were and trying not to make a fool of one’s self. That’s a universal feeling everyone has when entering a new group. As we paired off in organic one-on-one situations, as I did on this first night with Matt, everyone could see there was nothing to worry about and this was a very cool, non-judgmental group. In a very short time, all that self-doubt disappeared like fog in the morning.

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Many mornings laid a cool moist blanket of fog on us.  Each day was usually 8-11 hours of hiking, and we wanted to get the bulk of it done before that brutal 2-4PM Spanish sun started to drill into us. Now I know why all Spaniards take a siesta between 2 and 4!

Above you see one of our typical mornings. We would often pair-up, but not always, and talk about a wide myriad of subjects. It made the countless hours of walking go by extremely quickly. I was so busy listening to other people that I barely even realized that 20km had already flown by.

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And here was our final destination at the mighty cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Not to skip ahead to the END of the story, but the photo above is where the journey ended 150km later, in Santiago de Compostela. The town itself was beautiful and the energy was palpable. I think, because so many people reach here every year in such a euphoric state, that it suffuses the town with positivity.

And here’s our awesome hiking group!

I’ll talk more about little things along the adventure here and there as I talk about each individual person… but, first, let’s start with the guy that invited me, and one of my only intellectual heroes: Kevin Kelly!

Part One: Walking & Talking with Kevin Kelly

I was glad to see that Kevin didn’t have ALL the answers to the universe. But he seemed to have most of them.

I only have a handful of heroes, and not many are alive! You all may have already read my story about another living hero, Hans Zimmer, but now this is my story of Kevin Kelly.

Kevin is best described (if possible) as a philosopher that ties together technology, history, and futurism into a central theme of optimism.

When I saw his first TED talk (now he has about four), it had a tremendous impact on how I approached life, the blog, my work, photography, and more. Even though Kevin himself is an accomplished photographer with countless crazy stories about traveling all around the east, most of the information he synthesizes is from a plethora of other subjects.

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All pilgrims on the trail wear one of these special scallop shells. It indicates to everyone in the region that you are on the Camino walk. People will go out of their way to help you when they see this special symbol.

What exactly did Kevin affect during my “formative blog years”? Even though he didn’t specifically speak to this, it confirmed my instincts to make almost everything free. I would upload full-rez photos every day to the blog. I would not use watermarks. I used Creative Commons Noncommercial as a means to drive traffic back to the site. I gave 110% to the very few early fans that seemed to enjoy the work. Kevin has a great essay called 1,000 true fans that really resonated with me very early in my arc.

I went on to read his books and watch more tech talks. He has a wonderful take on “What Technology Wants” and he sort of frames it in the way that tech, itself, grows in a not dissimilar path to other genus/species. Here is one of his TED talks about what technology wants.

While passing by some vineyards near Portugal, a very nice lady came out and gave us more of the sweetest grapes than we could ever eat.

I first met Kevin about seven years ago when Thomas Hawk and I did that mammoth ~500 person photo walk in San Francisco. Kevin came up to introduce himself to me. I was like, “WHHAAAAAT! Kevin you don’t need to introduce yourself! I’m a mega fan!” And I was. I was just about as close as one can get to being a stalker without crossing the creepy line.

Since that time, we’ve been together on many occasions. We met in San Francisco and he even invited me over to his home in Pacifica, a Valhalla of sorts for me. That is when I first met his wife Gia-Miin, who also joined us on this walk.

Hugh Howey and Kevin Kelly taking a break on the walk

Last year he invited me to go eagle hunting in Mongolia with Tim Ferriss. I wanted to go, but it was right after Burning Man, and my wife would have killed me for being gone so long. So this year, when he invited me on the Santiago hike, I agreed! I had no idea what I was getting into, but I generally say yes to adventures then figure everything out later.

On occasion, we would go on ancient stone pathways and you could still see where the wagon wheels had carved a rut.

The whole week was such a treat for me and I was honored to hang out with Kevin. I felt like a little kid around him, asking 1,000 questions. I was trying not to be annoying… well, at least that was my goal. By the way, I am not really an “interviewer” or anything. I’m just a curious guy.

I came up with this plan to ask Kevin a different question every day and record it. I wrote down six questions beforehand, but I changed most of them as the week went on. For example, I never thought about talking to him about death until I was having a one-on-one with Hugh Howey and we came up with an idea on how to divvy up Kelly upon his exit from the mortal coil. It was of course influenced by this stimulating walk he encouraged all of us to undertake. All that talk began as a side-conversation after Hugh told me he planned on killing himself at 40. That’s another video I’ll post. I mean, the video of the discussion, not the actual suicide.

After I got to know the other walkers, I decided to take this idea to many of them too. So now I have many of these 360 videos with most of the walkers. Time and data didn’t allow me to record all 100+ hours of our time together, so I kind of picked randomly. Once again, Kevin inspires me intentionally or unintentionally to try new things and just be authentic in your awkwardness. I mean that in the nicest way, of course. I can tell that Kevin is an introvert, like so many of us. This comes across in his speaking style, a style that is uniquely his own. He’s so authentic and real that he both believable and endearing. I am sure this comes with something else he encompasses, being comfortable in his own skin. So many people aren’t, and he also got me started on that path about ten years ago.

One thing we share in common is that we have spent a tremendous amount of time in the east (China, SE Asia, Japan etc) with local cultures and taking photos. It’s made us both very attentive and present, I believe. When you’re talking to him and vice-versa, it’s like you’re the only two people in the world. I’m lucky I didn’t fall into a river or fall off a cliff while we were talking because it was so engrossing. He’s adopted somewhat of an eastern philosophy that seems to inform all of his thoughts and actions.

It’s impossible to summarize our 20+ hours of one-on-one conversations. Impossible. But you’ll see a few highlights as we release videos.

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After a while, Kevin and I finally found the Internet.

I think his books and TED talks have influenced me so much that sometimes I don’t know where he begins and my brain ends. We were making obscure references to books, authors, tech, etc… at some point, I mentioned one of my favorite quotes. I asked him if it was Feynman that said it, and Kevin said, “Wait a minute, I said that!” I was laughing so much and apologized… I’m getting old.

See more of Kevin’s quotes here


Along the way, after we stopped in a town for the afternoon, Kevin and I went off on our own little adventure to record an episode of his “Cool Tools” podcast. He interviewed me then we walked around the park a bit after the recording. He turned to me and said something nice. “Trey, you surprise me!” I didn’t know what to say.

Here is one of the beautiful places we stayed along the walk. It was a family’s old farmhouse and our group was pretty much the only people in there!

One thing that I’ve noticed about Kevin that is not initially expected is how silly he is. He laughs a lot and says funny things. He is also very quick to laugh at jokes the rest of us make. It’s a wonderful thing because so many intellectuals can be so boring and self-serious.

My degree was in Computer Science and Math, so I’ve always been interested in tech and the future. This is a very strange time with the acceleration of everything from AI to Robots. I try to figure out where it’s going, but I get a lot of guidance (and optimism) from Kevin’s bullish outlook on these matters. See more about what he thinks about the future of AI in his TED Talk on AI or his latest book The Inevitable.

Of course, another typical question that comes up among geeks is: “Are we living in a simulation?” This question has been officially banned from Elon Musk’s hot tub conversations (for real) because Musk sees it as a “circular argument”. Kevin is a bit more practical with it, indicating it doesn’t really matter. He says the important thing is that we have a tangible effect on everything and everyone around us. That’s a pretty cool stance and helps get the mind out of that circular argument.

Kevin holds an umbrella over Gia-Miin to protect her from the hot Spanish sun.

Kevin’s super-IQ wife joined us on the walk too, Gia-Miin. She was the only female on the walk, so she was able to keep things fairly classy. You don’t want 10 guys together for a long period of time or else it can spiral down to nonstop tales of ribaldry. Anyway, Gia-Miin works at 23 and Me as a genetics researcher in the cancer area. She told me all about it one afternoon. I could immediately tell I was out of my depth when we started comparing the progress of genetic therapy and whether that would outpace tech innovation when it actually comes to helping humans get better. But they’re doing all sorts of amazing things over there, and it looks like they are going to figure out a lot of the “bad code” that makes humans have bugs.

Kevin and Gia-Miin have a really interesting origin story to their relationship. I won’t tell the long version, but it really seems to work and they are best friends. How wonderful! I know their daughter Ting from a few times when we have been at the E.G. Conference together. I need to send her a note that says, “Hey, Ting, you know… your parents are kinda weird.” I can’t wait to see her response. But, of course, I mean weird in the best possible way.

I’ll end the story of Kevin on the final night’s dinner after we all finally arrived in Santiago de Compostela. We again had a round-table discussion. At the end of dinner, everyone was a little bit teary. Kevin turned his chair to me as we were all getting up to leave. He put his hand on my knee and said, again, smiling “Trey, you know, you really surprise me.” Even getting more teary-eyed, I playfully pushed at his shoulder. “Hey man, that’s what friends do. They surprise each other.”

Here’s a photo that was taken by Craig Mod on the final hiking day of around 30 kilometers as we approached our goal.

A 360 Video from the Tianjin Library

A Cool Video for Passport Sunday!

Today, exclusively for Passport Members, you get to see me carry around this 360 video cam and talk about the sort of shot I’m trying to create. I ended up going a slightly different direction, but it was nice to come back with so much raw material to work with. A funny story about this little 360 camera… when I walked in, they made it very clear no cameras other than mobile phones are allowed. I assured them this was not a camera and simply a small “starter” vibrator.

Copyright Trey Ratcliff

Copyright Trey Ratcliff

A 360 of the Tianjin Library

There is a secret thing about this library that I can barely bring myself to tell you. But, that’s not actually what this video is about. This talks a lot about the photo that I am attempting to accomplish in this library without it being so far away that you don’t even realize you are looking at a library.

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The Wild Shibuya Crossing in a Small World

Daily Photo – The Wild Shibuya Crossing in a Small World

I've been using that Insta 360 camera more and more to get video footage for Passport Members. I don't really take many photos with it. It's a bit clumsy for that. You have to triple-click the button, then hold it over your head and wait for the 10-second countdown. So, there's a lot of luck involved when trying to time a certain kind of shot. Most are total rubbish, but I thought this one turned out kinda cool.

The Wild Shibuya Crossing in a Small World

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-04-17 10:56:58
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Floating over Mont St. Michel

New Passport Video – 10 minute tour of my new studio in 360!

What? You’re not a Passport Member yet? If you sign up, you get all kinds of goodies, including today’s video. I recently had my studio professionally re-done. I’ve just hung up a few photos. Come join me and see. Remember since it’s a 360 video, you can just drag it around to see in any direction.

Passport Exclusive

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Daily Photo – Floating over Mont St. Michel

This was my second time to this amazing place in Normandy, but my first time with the drone. So I decided to make the most of it and was hoping karma would bring me a good sunset, and it did! 🙂 I alternated between taking photos and making videos. This amazing light did not last that long, so I did my best to get as many shots as possible. For a Zen guy, I was in a little bit of a panic mode!

Floating over Mont St. Michel

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-05-10 21:06:29
  • CameraFC6310
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/80
  • Aperture3.5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length8.8 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias


Earnslaw Burn

Part 4 of the Earnslaw Burn Story

If you’re a Passport member, you’ll see extra content today. I have a patron that has purchased some special work, and today has a 360 view of his mansion and where the work will hang! You can also see his amazing Ferrari on a turntable garage. Awesome!

Passport Exclusive: Earnslaw Burn Part 4

Check out this cool 360 video I shot at a patron’s home in Beverly Hills. Remember you can grab the video and twist it around to look whichever way you wish. I’m sorry it’s so shaky… I feel like a field reporter in Syria or something.

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Daily Photo – Earnslaw Burn

Here's one of the three finished works. This is a panorama made out of about 100 different images in this magical place in New Zealand. If you've watched the four videos we made for Passport subscribers, then you can see everything that happened! Helicoptering in, me forgetting the overnight tents on the glacier, etc etc.

To give it a sense of size, my son, who is 6'3″ is standing under the waterfall on the left. See him? He's wearing a red top.

Earnslaw Burn

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-12-01 09:08:33
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/125
  • Aperture11
  • ISO50
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.7


Bleached Tree in Milford Sound

More passport Goodness

For just the price of a few cups of coffee a month, you can be a passport member and see a new 360 video today where I’m talking about my goals at Milford Sound. I was able to accomplish a few of them, and I failed at others. I have some fun photos from this trip coming up! 🙂

Passport Exclusive – My goals at Milford Sound

I often arrive at a location with amorphous goals. I’m sure this happens to you too. I get to a cool place, even one I’ve been to before, and then I have a sudden worry: “What the heck am I going to shoot here that is interesting?” Here’s another video for you, gentle Passport Member (thx again!) – where I talk about some goals… It’s good to have some goals and then vary from your main course… as is the case with today’s photo that was taken during this outing.

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Daily Photo – Bleached Tree in Milford Sound

This was taken early in the morning at low tide. The tide here goes dramatically up and down. At high tide, you can just see a few branches sticking out of the water, but at low tide, you can walk about half a kilometer out into the bay and get shots like this. I shot this at f/1.4 with the Leica 21mm on the Sony A7r Mark II.

Bleached Tree in Milford Sound

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-02-19 02:25:33
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/100
  • Aperture
  • ISO50
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias


1.5 Mil Downloads and a Giveaway Comment-to-Win Event to Celebrate!

Happy Passport Day!

Thanks again to those of you that are Passport Members – Today you get a special 360-degree behind-the-scenes video at Milford Sound. Well, TWO videos actually! If you don’t know what “Passport” is – well it’s a simple thing… for the price of a couple of cups of coffee per month, you get extra behind-the-scenes stuff, presets, and more. Nothing has changed on the blog… still a new photo and tips every day, but now I’m able to use some cool tech to add more stuff!

1.5 Million Downloads and a Giveaway + Deals to celebrate!

1.5 million downloads for Aurora HDR! Amazing everyone… and that’s only on the Mac (wait till we release the Windows version!! yes yes… still working on it, I promise!). Anyway, to celebrate this number, we’re throwing together a fun package deal just for a short time… it’s a bundle of the software and me newest (and best) HDR Tutorial video I did with Lisa Bettany in Venice.

Giveaway Time! Just Leave a Comment for you and a friend to win!

To celebrate that crazy number of downloads, I’m giving away 5 copies of Season 1 of Becoming an Artist. We filmed the whole thing in Africa, and I think you’re gonna love it… a very personal project chockful of tips & tricks.

To win a copy for yourself and a friend, simply leave a comment below (and, well, say whatever you want!) but also be sure to mention your friend. We’ll pick 5 random winners in the next week! 🙂 Here’s the promo video:

Favorite Photos of Milford Sound

Since I use Aurora HDR pretty much every day of my life, I thought I’d share some of my favorite HDR photos from Milford Sound! If you watch the exclusive PASSPORT videos below, then you get to see how amazing these fjords are all around you! 🙂

Amazing Milford Sound with Silky Fog

 Clayton Morris from Fox News Balances The water was slowly, slowly, slowly rising one morning in Milford Sound when we were all there together. We made a desperate retreat just as things were getting a bit too late. The last one to cross was Clayton, so I spun around quickly to get this shot while he was being all Cirque de Soliel with his tripod. And no, he did not fall into the water!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Poems in the Moonlight in Milford Sound

trey-ratcliff-new-zealand-milford-sound (374 of 649)

Passport Exclusive – Tips from Milford Sound

Thanks again Awesome Passport Member! You’re the best… has anyone told you that lately? Well, now they have! 🙂 Here are two 360 videos I recently made in Milford Sound… enjoy

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Into the Night in Milford Sound

TIP: How to use the Samsung Gear 360 Camera when using any Android Phone

This was not easy to figure out! Luckily good man Stu here, my techie right-hand-man at Stuck In Customs figured all this out… here’s how you do it!

Why would you do this?

The Gear 360 can be controlled using its small LCD and the buttons on the device but some functionality available in the app isn’t available using this method.

Main Benefits of the App:

  • Only way to unlock images for processing (happens during copy from camera to handset)
  • Live view so you can see where the stitching will be and avoid it landing on key areas
  • Ability to set ISO, white balance, HDR etc
  • Fire the camera wirelessly (you can hide)

In short, the app will function just as it does on a Galaxy handset. The only thing you need to remember is NOT to transfer videos via the App. At the end of transfers the app does some encoding, it’s a drain on battery/time. Just stick the the MicroSD card to from the Gear 360 into your system and copy the videos. Load them into the Gear 360 ActionDirector (bundled with the camera) and it will unlock them for use in your editing software.

Pics, you can transfer those on the app and let them convert so you can work with them in Photoshop, Lightroom, Aurora HDR, etc.

How to install the Gear 360 App

Step 1) Use Google Play to install the Samsung Accessory Service.

Step 2) Enable Unknown Source Installs on your handset. (Settings>General>Fingerprints + Security)

Gear 1

Step 3) Download and install the Gear 360 Manager from here.

Step 4) Launch the Gear 360 App. It should run as normal. The connection initially is via Bluetooth but then it switches to its own Wi-Fi network later on.

Step 5) Switch back the unknown source option to off. (Settings>General>Fingerprints + Security)

That’s it… in theory!

I did read that on some phones if live-view or file browsing doesn’t work you may need to switch the option to for mobile data when on Wi-Fi but opinions varied. If you need it here is the option (Settings>Networks> tap the current network). You can also watch out for new versions of the modified apps over on the XDA forum. Those guys over there have done some great work to make this possible.


Have fun and be sure to share your results in our Facebook Group.

Starry Starry Night

Passport Members get to see a special 360 video below about an hour before I took this photo. Something that’s not in the video that I can tell you now – I shot this with the Leica 21mm at F/1.4. Getting as LOW as possible in that F-Stop is key for getting good star shots.

Thoughts on Failure

Here’s another 360 video I shot here in Milford Sound just as it was getting dark… Enjoy! Oh, P.S. the Timelapse video turned out to be TERRIBLE. That Samsung 360 Gear is really cool, but not so good for low-light photos.

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Daily Photo – Into the Night in Milford Sound

This is maybe my tenth trip to Milford? I always have a lovely and different sort of time there. I've never seen it so starry, though! I was here with my friends Mark and Curtis and the photos and wine were flowing nicely! 🙂 Curtis had suggested we go back to the room and relax for a while then come back out for the stars. I refused to follow this plan because I was afraid we'd never make it back out! But then just about 45 minutes later it was dark enough to take these sorts of photos.

Into the Night in Milford Sound

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-02-18 17:52:34
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time20
  • Aperture
  • ISO3200
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias+2


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