“Pete and I walked the Camino 15 years ago. It still is one of the most profound gifts we have given ourselves. They say it is the Way of Love. We experienced such healing, profound spiritual teachings and magic during the 5 weeks we walked. Everything became clear. From one peligrino to another – Blessing on your path Sarah. May Love in all She is, rise to meet you <3! Oh and just a tip – get up at sunrise and walk. Stop for brekky when the shops open at 8 and walk until your chosen refugio but try and stop by midday. The sun gets VERY hot especially on the mesetas. Eat your main meal then. The peligrino meal is the most wonderful value – 2 courses and red wine. Drink it. Have fun. Go to bed (everyone else will be) and then get up for dinner at 8pm. Have more fun. Eat pulpi and tapas whenever you can. Go to the local town fetes. Fall in love with the Templar myths and the Magdalena mysteries. Go to vespers and mass even if you are not a Catholic. If you get sick – give it over to Love. Magic will happen. The Camino changed my life – and I have been walking with its teachings ever since. … oh and put your hand on the tree of life at the Cathedral in Santiago! Its AMAZING!! ❤ ❤ ❤ Have FUN!!!” Liz
Have fun Beautiful Heart – and lay your ashes or prayers at the base of the Cairn at Mont De Joca – you will never and not ever be the same again xxx (ps my prayers and love are walking with you xxxx) Liz
TRIP PREPARATION –
Here’s some strategies we found useful…
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TIP 1: WORK ON YOUR FITNESS BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Walking approximately 800km. Ok so what are we talking here? What does that actually entail? We’re not physically fit people. The most regular physical activity I do is gardening and walking the dog.
As it turns out, it involves a lot of walking. Each day, sometimes 8-10 hours of walking, one foot in front of the other. Daily, for weeks on end. In our case, seven weeks.
Nothing can really prepare you for that. Except of course doing it. But I do recommend regular exercise to lay the basic physical foundations for your journey and reduce the likelihood of serious strain or injury.
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TIP 2: RESEARCH THE TRIP
There are many components to a trip like this, being in Spain, experiencing the local cultures and languages, the travel, the gear, the journey itself, understanding the experience etc.
We did reading, researching and chatting with friends who had already done the pilgrimage, scouring guide books and the internet, visiting hiking shops etc. Visiting the local library, we read memoirs, travel writing, learned a bit of Spanish, and read about the local cultures and regions we would be visiting. We even found a ‘food and wine’ guide to the Camino, when to look for white asparagus or octopus or the regional specialties such as wines etc. Basically we were like sponges absorbing as much information as we could.
Many people have done the Camino, and we found the discussions beforehand incredibly helpful. We paid a lot of attention to the preparation and trekking suggestions of others, but at the end of the day, the biggest guide is yourself. Take it all in, but work out what is right for you.
Before the trip we tried to really focus on the preparation, but not too much detail of the trip itself. During the walk, I found it helpful to deep dive each day and be open to experiencing the day ahead, not getting too far ahead of ourselves.
There are many people who walk the Camino with you and they are very open to sharing resources, suggestions and experiences along the way.
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TIP 3: GIFT YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME
Most people seemed to do this walk in about 25-35 days. We gave ourselves 50 days. Best decision we ever made!
This meant if we needed to stop after shorter distances or have a few days break we could. We saw people do this walk on limited time and it was very tough on their bodies if they carried injuries. Limited time can create a sense of pressure and urgency, this impacted on their experience.
If your time is limited, perhaps consider doing part of the journey on foot, not all of it at once.
You can get your packs transported, either the whole way or day to day as needed. Contacts to book with the transport companies and cash payment envelopes are at the albergues. The disadvantage is you need to know where you’re planning to stay that night.
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TIP 4: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND DON’T OVERDO IT – KNOW YOUR LIMITS AND DON’T PUSH IT.
Unless you’re really fit and physical challenges are your thing!
Think long haul and sustainability. Walking each day means you don’t really have recovery time, so you carry fatigue, injuries etc with you.
It also means that if you are exhausted, you have less energy to enjoy the places you see, spend time with the people you meet, reflect on your experience, write in your journal, etc.
Our plan was to do shorter walks in the first two weeks to build up our fitness for the longer treks in the second half of the journey. Our first day was 8km, the longest, 38km by the end.
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TIP 5: EMBRACE THE FREEDOM AND SIMPLICITY OF THE LIFESTYLE
We found it helpful to have a simple daily routine.
The freedom it allowed was to empty our heads of decision making and clear head space for experiencing life, thinking and reflecting on other things.
We started each day very early (around 5.30-6.30am) and our walking was generally done by 1pm.
We were on a very limited budget, so we went for the cheapest accommodation options and lived frugally.
You can only take what you can carry, so you don’t get much choice about simplicity. Embrace the liberation of few material possessions and be generous where you can.
Cutting away the extraneous also liberated our time for what mattered, for us, that meant being with ourselves and others.
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TIP 5: BOOK ACCOMMODATION SPARINGLY
Unless you’re a structured person and not having accommodation would freak you out!
I do recommend booking in St Jean and the first night in Orisson, (if you are stopping) and the final night in Santiago.
We went with the flow to see where we landed each day. Some people would find this uncertainty stressful, but we found this released the pressure of covering a set distance each day.
It also left room for the unexpected – of which there was plenty, and these were some of the best bits!
Some days we rang ahead for a booking, particularly if we had set a daily goal, but many days we just went with the flow. It meant we could just stop if we were feeling fatigued or sore or something delightful appeared.
Remember, if you can’t get to a town or accommodation is full, you can always sleep out under the stars. Seriously, it won’t kill you!
We never did this, but once we realised we could, it released so much pressure.
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TIP 6: WALK YOUR OWN CAMINO
There is one thing to definitely not pack – your ‘shoulds’, ‘musts’ and other expectations or judgements.
The Camino is a a metaphor for life and there is no ‘one right way’ to do it.
Your trip, your way!
Be aware of your self imposed expectations and try not to be dragged into the expectations of others either.
We met people who felt if they didn’t carry their pack the whole way, or walk every step, or complete it in limited time, or push through serious injury, that they had somehow failed.
To each their own,but remember it’s not a competition. Like life, it’s something to be experienced, to be shared, to illuminate you or whatever it means to you.
There is a tremendous sense of achievement in being daring enough just to attempt the pilgrimage. For me, anything else was a bonus!
Try to stay open to whatever the Camino brings.
Some people met their Camino tribe in the first few days or weeks and did the whole trek together. Others came in and out of contact with people or walked particular sections with others. Some people did it completely alone or in silence.
Some do it on foot, on bike, on horseback or just a particular section. We saw one person who carried a large wooden cross.
We mostly walked with just the two of us, often in silence, and came in and out of contact with the beautiful souls we’d met along the way. We left this to the flow of the universe and there were always meaningful lessons and joyful encounters.
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TIP 7: BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Self care, gratitude and humour really helped to be in the head space for the tough parts.
Thank you for this body, for this food, for being alive, for being fit enough to make this walk, for the money for the airfare and accommodation, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thank you for the honour of being a pilgrim, for the people who run the accommodation, cook the food, smile and welcome us into their corner of the world, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thank you for the pilgrims who share the road, for the family and friends back home and around the world who encourage us and cheer us on during the tough times. Thank you for the love in our lives, thank you!
I wasn’t in the gratitude place the whole time, as there were times of darkness, but remembering to bring myself gently back to gratitude really helped and not beating myself up when gratitude was hard helped as well!
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TIP 8: ONE STEP AT A TIME
Be in the present moment.
Try not to worry or spend too much time thinking ahead, just fully experience each moment as it unfolds.
Notice the healing, the magic and profound spiritual wisdom of the journey, but don’t seek it, just stay present and open.
You bring the gift of yourself to the Camino, and the Camino will gift you many blessings in return.
Are there any tips you’d add to the list above? Would love to hear your insights.