We journeyed more than 400 miles over a 28 day period. Four motivated women share one goal which is to start and finish a well-established pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It’s possible that you know of someone who has already made this journey since a quarter of a million people manage to do it every year. If you don’t know anyone, then you may have heard of it because of the movie called ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen.
This ancient journey is a legend. It is something I would describe as one of the most incredible experiences of a lifetime and different from any other that I’ve ever taken. As a girl from the city, I naturally love to travel but had never considered any kind of adventure travel and had never even been backpacking. But I found myself together with my friend, my aunt, and my mother and we were carrying enough gear to last a month, which placed a heavy burden on my back as well as a heavy load on my mind.
Along The Way, I Learned That For These Burdens, There Is No App For That
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As a city girl, I often rely on technology but this is one of those times where you couldn’t rely on any available technology. Phone and internet signals are often unavailable in Camino. For this reason, you will need a good guidebook so you can plan where you can sleep for the night and how far you should walk. A book called ‘The Way of Saint James’ by Anton Pombo is a great choice to carry with you. In it you’ll find some very good recommendations on the mileage you should try to cover each day as well as places available for you to stay.
I don’t much like being rushed or feeling lost and I don’t particularly care to share a bathroom or sleep on a bunk bed but those seem to be what many encounter while experiencing the Camino. We decided to avoid as much of that as possible by planning ahead and booking everything and doing our best to allow the group to have enough time to enjoy things along the way. Those who want to go on a pilgrimage and be hardcore may not see that as fully embracing the experience but for us, it was the best way.
One of the things that we discovered was that if you stopped a little bit before the area that was suggested in the guidebook, or if you ventured just a little bit past where it was recommended, that the area was often a bit less crowded because most just follow the guidebook. Among some of the towns that we very much enjoyed were Tardajos, Sahagun, Cacabelos, Astorga, and Castrojeriz.
It’s not necessary to suffer.
Peregrino is a term used for those who suffer on the Camino and some believe if you don’t suffer, then you didn’t get the full experience of the pilgrimage. According to some, a real pilgrim will stay in hostels with up to 30 beds per room and in albergues and never complain about conditions. This was not for us, however. I felt that the rigors of walking 18 miles a day was enough intensity and I didn’t need to add more on top of it.
If you need assistance with your load you can get the Caminofacil and Jacotrans to help. I do recommend that you take full advantage of the Paradores hotels as they are a well-documented part of the history of the Camino and originally served as hospitals for the pilgrims. Among my favorites where Santiago de Compostela, Parador in Leon, and Santo Domingo de la Calzada. If you can, you should take time to stop in every town as well as visiting every church, and enter every bar, and take every moment you have to enjoy the experience.
How Did The Relationship Between Each Of Us Change As We Traveled Together?
Many people were interested in having us explain how the relationship between my friend and my aunt and mother changed because of the experience we all had together. They wanted to know if we’d ever done anything similar to this before. And of course, they wanted to know if we had ever spent as much time together prior to this experience. To the last question, the answer is an unequivocal – no.
One of the motivations I had for going was to experience that time together with my mother. Getting to hike across a foreign country over the course of a month is an experience like no other. I felt that this opportunity was one that would take place now or never and by the end of the pilgrimage I had developed more respect, empathy, and tolerance for all the others. It helped me to understand that my mother had her own worries, feelings, and problems. We came to appreciate each other more as just two individuals that loved each other.
I found that little issues that had been a concern previously, disappeared. I came to understand more deeply and to appreciate why my mother is how she is and who she is. That time together brought about the new revelation.
A Uniform Equals Freedom
Oddly enough, on the pilgrimage, I didn’t need to worry as much about the clothes I wore as I did in day-to-day life and it made me realize how much clothing often consumed my thinking. I had brought only two changes of clothes for hiking and a single outfit to wear in the evening time. When deciding which clothes to wear I only needed to understand if it was cold or hot. For someone like me who loves clothes, it was a revelation. I found that I had time to think about more important things when my mind was relieved of the burden of daily rituals. A pair of comfortable shoes is a necessity though and I wore these OluKai sandals and found them a revelation.
Go An Extra Mile Or 10
If you want to be able to get an official certificate which is called Compostela, which you can get from the pilgrim’s office in Santiago de Compostela, then you will need to travel the full 100 km which is 62 MI on foot or horseback and the final 200 km which is 124 miles by bicycle. The instance you are able to arrive at the 100 km to go mark, groups and other pilgrims will begin to flood the road. If you start before the mark then you’re able to take advantage of more solitude. We felt the extra distance was worth it.