Yesterday we had a get together celebrating many family special occasions. One of the celebrations was my impending Camino de Santiago or The Way of St. James. While the pig roasted in ‘La Caja China’, loved ones had questions.
While the internet is full of explanations as to what the Way of St. James or El Camino de Santiago is, I will try to sum it up. It is a pilgrimage that has been going on for centuries. While there are several routes, the Way of St. James’ has pilgrims or peregrinos walking to Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region of Spain on the northwest area of the Iberian peninsula. The most popular route begins in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and is referred to as ‘El Camino Frances’. My sister-in-law and I will be on the Camino Frances from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Some pilgrims do continue on to Muxia or Finisterra (end of the world), but due to time constraints, our pilgrimage will conclude in Santiago de Compostela. However, we are no slouches. In the end, our end, we will have walked 798.6 kilometers.
Why are you doing the Way of St. James?
Historically, there are many reasons for this pilgrimage. Whether the pilgrim is walking for religious, spiritual or simply to see a beautiful country, it seems the Camino fosters a wonderful comradery that can be observed on various forums, Facebook pages and even national confraternities like the American Pilgrims on the Camino.
Why am I doing it? That’s a tougher one to answer. I suspect my reason will materialize as I walk. Perhaps when it reveals itself, I will share with all of you. Right now there are two things I know I want from this walk. I want to see another aspect of Spain and I want to develop and strengthen my positive and grateful attitude. I know the second one will be tough. While those that know me know I try to stay positive, some people know how to take me down the ‘rabbit hole’. I have too much to be grateful for to allow for that to happen to me.
I’ll try not to ramble. On my way back from Barcelona in 2009, I was reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. In it, there is reference to the pilgrimage. At the time, I thought it was fiction. Some time later, in conversation with a new friend with strong Spanish ties, she explained the Camino de Santiago was real and something I should look into. I did, and I’ve been hooked ever since. When I returned on a tour of Spain in 2012, I was lucky enough to spot pilgrims in San Sebastian (northern route) and it rekindled my interest. With traditional jobs, interest was limited by available vacation time. In February/March of this year, Netflix had the movie ‘Wild’ featured on its homepage. Individually, my sister-in-law and I both watched ‘Wild’ and ended up talking about it over a family dinner. We circled back to ‘El Camino de Santiago’. She said it was on her bucket list. Well…guess what? Neither of us have traditional jobs anymore. We are both Florida Realtors with a strong network. Why wait?
We will walk for 37 days. We will be gone from home for 46 days. The difference are travel and rest days. On the days we will walk, we will average 13 miles per day.
Are you going by yourselves?
We are definitely on our own. No tour guide. No one to transport our pack. However, if you choose to travel with that safety net, please know there are plenty of reputable companies that can assist. Again, this pilgrimage isn’t new. There is a strong network of Albergues along the way. There are Apps, websites and books to assist you in your planning process.
Where will you sleep? How can you go without reservations?
In fairness, we have made a couple of strategic reservations (Orisson, Pamplona and Santiago de Compostela). However, if you aren’t traveling at the height of the season (summer), there is a strong network of albergues along the way.
Here are some other resources if you are considering ‘El Camino de Santiago’:
American Pilgrims on the Camino http://www.americanpilgrims.org/
Catedral de Santiago de Compostela http://www.catedraldesantiago.es/en
Plan your walk! http://www.theroadtosantiago.com/camino-planning-tools.html
Ivar’s Forum https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/
Camigas Facebook Page (for the ladies) https://www.facebook.com/groups/CaminoBuddySystemForWomen/