Camino de Santiago / Pilgrimage / Travel

Considering the Camino de Santiago

Looking across the Nive Valley. Photo credit Owen Quinn

Considering the Camino de Santiago

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As I think back to the first time I ever heard of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, it was during high school Spanish class. We learned about pilgrims who walked the Camino and about the running of the bulls in Pamplona.

People have been taking the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestella since the Middle Ages. It was originally a religious pilgrimage to reach the shrine of Apostle St. James the Great. This route has been used by many as a form of spiritual growth.

Modern day pilgrims can choose from many routes; the most popular is the Camino Francis (French Route). It begins at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees going to Roncesvalles on the Spanish side and then another 780 KM through many cities and villages and then on to Santiago. 50% of modern day pilgrims walk the Camino for religious reasons and the other 50% walk for a variety of reasons.  Some reasons being, a great physical challenge of walking hundreds of miles, meeting new people and/or taking a break from the normal routine of life. To learn about the history of the Camino de Santiago de Compestella please click here.

For the past year I have been constantly thinking about the Camino. Walking the Camino is a very physical endeavor and a large investment of time. I followed bloggers and Instagrammers who posted daily their stories of the Camino. I talked to my husband about it a lot! He knows when I become obsessed with something, it’s hard for me to think about anything else.

We had previously discussed walking from Sarria to Santiago, which is 100km and the shortest distance you may walk and still receive the Pilgrim Certificate. Some time went by, and Scott and I decided if we were going to fly to Spain and really walk the Camino, then we needed to do the entire thing. Which in itself is subjective because each person’s pilgrimage actually starts at their own home. This involved many discussions of how much time Scott would need to take off work. We talked about how long it would take us to walk over 500 miles and about the gear we would need. Also, we talked about the training time involved to prepare to walk 15 miles a day.

We had to decide what time of year would work best for our lives, while not walking when the Camino would be as crowded with Pilgrims. After much research online and many discussions, we went from “Considering the Camino” to being full blown “Committed to the Camino!”

We have decided to start our pilgrimage in mid-September of 2016 and allow six weeks to walk. I wanted to be walking on my birthday in October, or be close to finishing it.

Tradition requires pilgrims to bring a pebble from home to place on the great cairn and say a prayer for those you love. Photo credit Owen Quinn

A source of great information has been following the American Pilgrims on the Camino on Facebook, (click here for more information.) It has a wealth of information.

There have been discussions on the pros and cons of wearing hiking shoes vs. boots vs. trail runners and everyone has a different opinion. We have debated if we will walk with trekking poles or not, and how much weight to carry in our packs. The size of our backpack is very important, and we should only be carrying 10% of our own body weight.

Scott and I will be leaving for Spain in ten months, which feels like forever, but this has not stopped me from visiting REI and spending a lot of time there investigating everything I may need. I have already bought my new  Oboz Women’s Sawtooth Low Hiking Shoe,Clover,8 M US and wool socks. I promptly did a six mile hike and got blisters! Not a good start. I have also purchased Black Diamond Women’s Trail Pro Shock Walking Pole, 63-125cm so I can practice in our mountains.

We are also excited two of our best friends will join us for the last two weeks of our journey. It will be amazing to have this experience and to share it with them.

Santiago Cathedral by night. Photo credit Owen Quinn

I hope you will follow our adventure as we prepare for the Camino in the coming months.

Note to self: Get my shoe situation figured out, I don’t want to go into this with blisters!

A special thank you to Owen Quinn, the pilgrim who walked the Camino this past Spring and allowed me to use these beautiful pictures.

Are you considering the Camino de Santiago? Or have you walked already? Please feel free to comment any advice you may have for us from your own time on the Camino!

12 thoughts on “Considering the Camino de Santiago

  1. Jaynie
    Try liner socks with pure wool outers AND Vaseline on your feet before every walk. I walked 2,400 kilometres this year and no blisters
    My boots are saloons goretex.
    Buen Camino

  2. Hi Jaynie, I’m on the facebook page for the Camino and saw that you liked my post. I live in Penn Valley and I did the Camino this past Sept. finished Oct. 3 2015. If you have any questions or want to meet sometime you could email me or send me a note on Facebook. Ellen Chroman. I would love to show you picture and talk to you. I’m thinking of doing the Le Puy, France this Sept. which ends in St jeans (about a 500 mile walk) some people we meet on our walk start this passed year started in Le Puy.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

    1. Ellen, I can’t wait to meet up with you, hopefully after the holidays. I want to pick your brain about the Camino! Thank you for reaching out, I will be in touch soon. 🙂

  3. Good for you!! You set a goal and are now taking the steps to achieve it. I’m looking forward to reading more about your preparations and the experience. Great goal and best wishes for 2016.

  4. I’m someone who never suffered from blisters (in my life) until Day 8 of the Camino and then oh boy! But, we met a wonderful man in Leon. He owned a sports gear store and he spent 30 minutes with us (he’d walked the Camino 4 times) and he told me exactly how to take care of my feet and he pretty much saved my Camino. I got rid of all of my socks and bought 2 pairs of Synthetic padded (in all the right places) socks. I wore 1 pair while the other pair hung on the outside of my backpack to dry or stay dry. Every 2 hours I forced myself to stop walking and change my socks. I also used a cream called NOK and applied it generously every morning and in the afternoon. Once my original blisters healed and I started with the new regiment I never had another blister. Pack your backpack of just the minimum – and when you think you’ve got it down to the absolute bare minimum – get rid of 1/2 of what you think you need. We offer a free 15-page FAQ download of the lessons we learned on the Camino. I love talking about the Camino – clearly – so if I can answer any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

    We currently live in northern Maryland, but we lived in San Jose, CA for 30+ years. Nice to meet you and Buen Camino!

    1. Thank you so much! Thank you for reaching out and the great tips. I’m definitely going to look into your FAQ, since new questions keep coming up daily!

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