In the summer of 2007 I was stuck in a dead end job with a nasty boss. This was after a string of jobs that each seemed to take the bad from the previous and aim to outdo it. So by the time this summer job rolled around, I was really down in the dumps. On a not so important day in the middle of August, I was sitting down to a sunny dinner on the deck complaining to my parents as usual. It was during that dinner that I realized I needed to do something very different.
So the next day I quit my job and a week later I was on a plane to Spain with nothing but a backpack and my running shoes! Now I had done a fair bit of traveling before this point so the idea of going to a Spanish speaking country on the other side of the ocean didn’t scare me. I had taken Spanish during my years growing up in Colorado so I was able to communicate – at least the basics.
Starting Point on the Camino
I arrived in Madrid after about 17 hours of traveling and made it to my hostel with no issues. Early the next morning I hopped on a bus bound for Pamplona – the city I choose as my starting point. Most people begin the Camino de Santiago in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port just across the border in France; but seeing as I only had a matter of days to plan my trip, I choose a well known city that would be easy to get to.
People embark on the Camino de Santiago for any number of reasons. For many it’s a religious pilgrimage which ends at the tomb of St. James. For others, like myself, it’s for the adventure and the challenge. Looking back, I don’t think I really had any idea just what sort of challenge and adventure lay ahead of me that first night in Pamplona.
But 30 days later I arrived at the Cathedral de Compostela in the middle of Santiago. I had seen beautiful churches and idyllic small towns. I passed through terrain from sprawling vineyards to dusty roads, to misty forests. I ended up making new friends, I dropped 20 pounds, and I arrived at the steps of the cathedral with the biggest sense of accomplishment I had ever felt. I recommend the Camino de Santiago for just about anyone. You don’t have to be in perfect shape – I certainly wasn’t – you just have to have the desire to try something different.
Here are some tips for hiking the Camino de Santiago that I wish I had known beforehand…
1. Pack light! Without question, I had the biggest and heaviest bag of all the people I met. While this makes for a great conversation starter (everyone approached me laughing at the size of my bag), make note that painful shoulders for 30+ days is not fun.
2. Be prepared for blisters! Make sure you’ve worked your shoes in before you leave – I had brand new sneakers…bad idea! And bring any sort of blister remedy you can think of. Trust me. Compeed is an excellent choice.
3. Tortilla de patatas is a typical Spanish dish that is essentially an egg and potato omelete. The first few days of the trip I couldn’t find much to eat. It was after meeting some amazing people along the route who told me about this dish that I finally got some sustenance. At even the smallest hole in the wall restaurant you are likely to find this dish. It’s cheap, it gives you energy, and it tastes good!
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain)
Blog kindly provided by my daughter Kristen.
You can plan your own Camino trip by checking out the link, a wonderful addition compared to the online info just a few years ago.