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 that posted daily their stories of the Camino. I talked to my husband about it a lot! He knows that 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 that 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. We also 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.
We are following the American Pilgrims on the Camino on Facebook, (click here for more information.) It has a wealth of information. We have learned the pros and cons of wearing hiking shoes vs. boots vs. trail runners and everyone has a different opinion. We have debated to walk with trekking poles or not, and how much we should carry in our packs. The size of our backpack is very important, and we should only be carrying 10% of our own body weight.
We 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 hiking shoes and wool socks. I promptly did a six mile hike and got blisters! Not a good start. I have also purchased trekking poles so I can practice in our mountains.
We are really excited to have a couple of our best friends joining us for the last two weeks of our journey. It will be amazing to have this experience and to share it with them.
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.
Please feel free to comment any advice you may have for me from your own time on the Camino!