In the very beginning of this year, we walked over 800km through the north of Spain in 32 days, averaging around 25km a day.
‘Where is the fun in that?’ you might wonder and I’ve got to admit that before this experience I would have given the same reply. Although walking in itself seems very trivial, we now often talk about it during our travels when we meet new people and this adventure certainly is one of the things that has had a very big impact on our lives.
We started walking ‘The Way’ three days after new years eve from Pamplona, a city especially well known for its yearly event ‘running with the bulls’. What we expected to be a very lonely mid winter pilgrimage turned into an unforgettable journey with an abundance of beautiful souls we were blessed to meet along the way. In the end the energy of this road even took us all the way to Lisbon, which made it a total of 1400km walking.
The Camino is known as a very Catholic pilgrimage and follows roads along Churches and Cathedrals, which were build on places with a ‘high energy level’, ages ago. But don’t worry if you are not religious, before the Catholic church claimed it, the pilgrimage used to be walked by boys as a ritual in becoming men. These men didn’t follow the Catholic crosses, but used the milky way as their guide. Our motivation was everything but religious, because there is so much more to find on the Camino; self development, spiritual inspiration, physical health, overcoming fears, meeting people,… Etc.
Before you start, you have to choose one of the many routes to get to Santiago. The most well known one is Camino Frances, which we did. Probably more beautiful and less busy is the Camino del Norte, going along the northern Coast of Spain, followed by Camino Primitivo through the mountains. Tim walked this one by himself last year. Another one is called the Camino de la Plata, which is less traveled and starts in Sevilla in the South Spain.
The official rule is to start the Camino from your home, wherever in Europe that might be and even though some people still do this, most prefer to start in Saint-Jean-Pied de Port, France, not far from the Spanish boarder. Because so many people walk it, you don’t even need a map, all you have to do is follow the yellow arrows and shells (the sign of the Camino) that are placed everywhere along the way. Before you start, you have to get a ‘Credencial’; this is your pasport during your pilgrimage which will be stamped and dated by the unique stamp of every albergue (hostel) you stay in along the way.
A night at an albergue usually costs around five euros a night and this gives you a bed in a crowded dorm. Spain is a relatively cheap country and by cooking together with others you can cut down a lot on the costs, making it an opportunity for almost everybody. I even know someone who did the whole Camino without any money. We sticked to our budget of nine euros a day, our recipe on how to make this possible will follow soon.
Most people walk the Camino during the summer break in July or August. We were a bit crazy and did it in the middle of the winter. Some do it by bike, others choose to walk a week and do a part of it. Do what feels best for you. There is no age limit, we even heard about an 80 year old man and a couple with their six months old baby walking. You can even take your dog, like we did. My most important recommendation would be to do it off season, in autumn or spring and another thing I would recommend is to choose the Camino del Norte if you love nature, and let yourself be carried along the coast by the energy of the waves and the mountains. And also, do not worry; no matter how and when you choose to walk the Camino, you will find what you are looking for, even if you had no clue what you where looking for in the first place.
Why does this journey change your life? Why do we so strongly believe that every human being should experience these magical 800km at least once in a lifetime? Because its a journey like no other in this world, where you will experience almost every human emotion possible in a very short amount of time. Love, pain, courage, joy, perseverance and many other emotions are brought to the surface in only 35 days.
You could compare the Camino to life in general. You are born the moment you start the Camino. Like a toddler you’re getting stronger step by step. You are looking at your surroundings trough the eyes of a child again, in awe of nature’s beauty. During puberty, when you are fighting for your independence, you encounter many challenges. They don’t differ so much from the ones you encounter while walking; pain, being ill, loneliness, the bad weather, … While you’re getting older you start creating your own believes, through your experiences and the stories of the people you meet along the way. You decide that everything that happened in the past or what will happen in the future doesn’t really matter because you realize that all you have is the now. You find your inner peace, like a lake, calm in its depth while the surface changes from flat to ripples just like your surroundings in life and the weather on the Camino. With that feeling of acceptance and joy we arrived in Santiago, the end of the way, but not really. We felt the urge to keep walking. We made it to Finisterre, the end of the world. But at the same time the beginning of a new life. Watching a rainbow in front of the rainy clouds and the waves breaking with force on the rocks, we felt like a phoenix.
So, are you ready to walk and change your life?