Tempted by the Camino de Santiago?

First day in St Jean

WHY I DID IT?

At the end of my last blog I mentioned my intention to create a post for anyone even mildly interested in creating their own Camino because if there is even the smallest chance I can persuade/assist/reassure you about doing it then that’s just awesome! I will turn this blog post into a page as well so that it can be accessed easily at any time through my WordPress webpage.

SO first of all before all the nitty gritty bits and bobs I will explain how I found out about the Camino because there are countless arrows that point us towards it and for me that came in the form of a book called “The Pilgrimage’ by the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. At the time I was only 16 years of age and in that rather bleak not quite adult, not quite child limbo this book somehow came into my hands and blew my young mind, ever since that time I knew I would one day walk the same path.

The idea exited me, it lit up my imagination and called out like a light in the darkness, the hope that something out there actually did appear to be more than the mundane world I had come to accept as reality. Fast forward almost eight years and the events of my life brought me to the time when I was finally ready for it, never mind ready for it I was in desperate need of it, why? Well I have no idea and to be honest neither do any pilgrims walking the way, that’s kind of the point.

WHY ARE YOU DOING IT?

not all pilgrims hve two legs

So first of all I would recommend looking into the walk for yourself, watch “the way” with Martin Sheen or read one of the many books, blogs or guides maybe check it out on YouTube. Realize the walk is for everyone religious, atheist, agnostic, pagan or even just human if that’s even possible ;P and that just about every background ethnicity, sex, nationality etc etc make up the variety of people on the way.

Once you are satisfied with your research it’s time for the next step, saying ‘yes’ which the all-important permission one must give themselves before any conceivable walking can begin. So with research done, ‘yes’ given then that’s all you need to do really because the time will present itself (it did for me anyway) and you need only be grateful when it does, usually it arrives a choice we make when something deep inside needs a wee rejuvenation, maybe events have proven difficult, maybe loss or dissatisfaction with life.

The truth is I made quite the meal of it, before I started the journey I took it all very seriously and was prepared to be very boring, respectfully approaching this ancient sacred journey… a few days in I was quite bored of that and the reality of it dawned on me. It is special but its special because you make it special, if you want to simply go for a walk surrounded by lovely people in a beautiful country then in that respect it will be just what you wanted and maybe a tad more for a bonus. If however there is a deeper calling or some profound question your seeking the answer to then it will likely tick the boxes there as well in only a way you can conceive.

Every pilgrim walks their own Camino and no two are ever the same, you will see people break down regularly while others stay staunch exteriors but somewhere inside there are cogs turning. To the veteran hikers the track really isn’t difficult nor particularly exciting and if so determined it may act simply as a disappointing walk, as I said earlier it’s the individual who makes it special for themselves and those around them.

So research enough to get you exited, give yourself permission by saying ‘yes’ even if that ‘yes’ simply means ‘at some point way in the future’ and find yourself that reason to make it special for you, enjoyment, adventure, insight, seeking answers etc etc etc…

STUFF

my set up

Finally come the not so fruity stuff… well the ‘stuff’ ‘stuff’… as in what is needed…

There are countless lists across guides and forums that will happily inform you about what to take and all the little details but here I just want to look at a few of the things I leant from experience starting with the walking boots. I can’t stress how important it is to get this bit right, blisters and sore feet were the bane of all but the hardiest pilgrims or those who simply had the right footwear. I found out about two weeks in that my boots were entirely too small, they fit perfectly in the shop but the lack of expertise from the poor shop assistant meant I stupidly bought the wrong footwear for a very long foot dependent journey….

When walking long distances the feet swell very much and so when buying a pair of walking boots consider a size and a half up from your usual fit simply because ‘better to big than to small’ but one and a half sizes up should be perfect. Luckily as often happened on the Camino my boots were there for a reason as my companion who walked with me Zsuzsanna was struggling herself with shoes too small and after realizing I never wanted to wear mine again we discovered they were a good size for her and now they wander the hills of Hungary with a new owner, life and purpose 😀 Mammut and Salomon are two fantastic brands which I recommended through experience of both, don’t skimp on the cost here because the right pair will last through the Camino and well beyond.

A bag should be not more than 45-50 Litres at the top end because it prevents the temptation to overload it, you don’t want to be carrying more than 10kg the the max, in fact I would say 8kg as max personally and the closer to 5 you get the more you will walk happily. I did it with 1 sleeping bag, 1 silk liner, 2 underwear, 3 socks, 2 t-shirts, 1 shorts, 1 pants a pair of sandals (essential!! you don’t want to wander around in smelly boots once the day is done), a travel towel (lost), a hat and my toiletries (shampoo does it all) and a first aid kit.

Washing facilities are all over, machine wash or hand wash (usually did hand wash but machine when in groups) and if your walk in the summer drying clothes isn’t really an issue. I saw plenty of other set-ups and many better than mine but this worked for me and I am just trying to give you an idea of things not a regimental routine to follow.

budget is down to each individual, it can be done on less than 1200 euros but with little room to react to disasters, for instance I had to purchase a new pair of walking boots out there and they cost 220 euros, unexpected costs like that need to be considered. flights for me were around £60 there and the same back but otherwise it is a very cheap way to live, accommodation in albergues (pilgrim refuge) is extremely reasonable usually around 5-10 euros with plenty to choose from in the various towns and villages.

There are pilgrim meals everywhere for around 10 euros but you soon find out they are usually crap and cooking for yourself and others is both much nicer and much much cheaper, oh and most importantly the wine is around 2-4 euros a bottle 😀.

First aid was important, iodine anti-septic, pain killers, anti-inflammatory, sewing needles and other personal preferences, a big warning on using blister plasters as the pharmacists will insist you buy them but the truth is they are not meant for walking and only make things worse. Other than that I guess you can only prepare so much and it’s more than likely you will leave things behind and realize how important certain things are over others as you go because that’s the life of the pilgrim, adapt as you go and enjoy the journey.

Fitness wise, you know yourself what your limits are but I can assure you that people of all levels of health walked it, you can walk 5km you can walk 45km a day it’s down to you and its your Camino. If you are still reading this rather detailed and not all that fun post then there is a good chance you want to do it, just give yourself that permission and make into the things dreams are made of, why not? Any questions please ask me by whatever means possible (can you tell I enjoy talking about it 🙂

morning walkswoodland walks

So after this extremely Camino related post I want to focus elsewhere, I loved my pilgrimage and I will forever be a Pilgrim but here and now has its own adventure and if I learnt anything from The Way it was to make more of that fact 😀 much love my friends, thanks you for reading

If everyone could let go of everything for six weeks of their whole lives and be a pilgrim it would change the planet

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