Why you should consider walking “El Camino”
It will teach you that to go through life, you only need the basics…. anything extra will just equal to weight on you back.
You will meet incredible people… with incredible stories… From CEO’s just enjoying life, to youngster trying to figure out what to do in life.
You’ll eat and drink like a KING! Northern Spanish cuisine and enology culture is just delicious.
Some say that you will get fit, or will be fit by the end of walking 500kms to 900kms depending on which path you take… by personal experience I didn’t get fit, but I considering all that I ate and drank, I’ve should’ve at least gain 10kgs, but instead I only gained a couple. #kudos
Get away from that hectic/chaotic city life and vibes. Every now and then, more often than what you probably do… you should take time for yourself away from the material things and value more experiences than possessions.
In the summer of 2012 I decided to walk “El Camino de Santiago” or “The Path of Compostela” as it is known in English. There are several variances for “El camino”; El Camino Frances, El Camino del Norte, El Camino Primitivo and el Camino Portugues, in between a couple more I can’t remember. I decided to do “El camino Frances”, which starts in France, more specifically in Saint Jean Pied de Port (base of the Pyrenees) and finishes in Santiago, covering a distance of an average of 960kms. It took me around 27 days to complete the path, where memories which will last a lifetime took place. Why I walked El Camino?? Well… while in college like many others college students I was going through a rough time. Not knowing what to do in life and to add to this I had just stopped playing hockey which was my passion since the early age of 13. Randomly I was reading “El Peregrino” by Paulo Cohelo, and the way how he described the existencial experiences during El Camino were just so attracting to me that I just couldn’t hold it… I said to myself, when will be the time you will have enough time in your life to take off 30 days just to walk a random, beautiful path across Spain?? The only answer was NOW. ONLY during college or when Im rich and old enough that I would probably not enjoy it that much because of not being fit or just because of the pain of walking an average of 30kms per day. So I bought my ticket and started the adventure…
Note: don’t take my work in that last sentence… Its always a good time in life to do “El Camino”… that was just my excuse to buy the ticket and start my journey!!
So you can walk El Camino with basically with every budget…. thats one of the things that makes el camino – EL CAMINO. You can meet multimillionaires one minute, while a couple minutes later you might see someone from a very humble/low background and you will meet tons of average joe’s with every kind of story of why they are walking El Camino. Budgets may range from 10euros all the way up to 300 euros a day, depending on what type of lodging and dining you chose… the fact is that you can sleep at an albergue for 4euros a night or you can sleep at a 4 star hotel for 150 per night… same measure applies to eating in El Camino. I specifically worked for a semester as a carpenter In the college theater and managed to save some money for the daily expenses at the camino, while my parents helped with the air faire and a couple times I was in need of money (maybe more than a couple). Also you can walk, run, horseback ride, bike, road bike or even road trip el camino… (I saw once a real peregrino bare foot walking and giving himself lashes because he was a sinner the entire camino).
Initially “El camino” was done only or mostly by people looking to get a pilgrimage (the forgiven of sins), but now a days you don’t really have to do it for religious reasons; in fact now a days most people do it just for the sake of doing it, for the experience, finding meaning in life, connecting to nature, getting fit, etc, etc. El camino helps you discover many things and reveals parts of your personality which you probably didn’t know you had and which probably you would have never come to know if you walk El Camino… But the most important lesson the camino taught me was the following:
“Don’t overcharge/overload your life with material things, life is a short journey, just take the necessary things and make it count. Live life for the experiences and memories”. (Most people tend to work towards acquiring goods, possessions and saving money in order to have a good social status…. Im not saying that money is not worth spending your time pursuing… Lets be real, without money it would be very difficult to have and live long lasting experiences, but just don’t live life planned around how to make money)….
In comparing El camino to real life… what happened specifically to me was that I brought extra pieces of clothes, tent, sleeping bag, extra personal care things, etc, etc…. SAME AS IN LIFE, sometimes we tend to believe that the more things we have the best it is, but it turned out to be that I just couldn’t carry along my back 20kgs throughout the entire 960kms of the camino. It turned out that I had to leave personal belongings throughout El camino, as well as donated my tent and sleeping bag to homeless people.
One last thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter how you Walk El Camino. You can walk it alone, accompanied, with a group of people, with your significant other, with family, with whomever you want to…. but keep in mind that at the end it will be YOUR CAMINO, and it is you who decides how to live it. You will have you own experiences, and trust me when I tell you that these experiences will change your way of thinking and approaching life.
As an endurance Athlete I can compare walking El Camino to running an Ultra. Is more of a psychological battle, than a fit path. Walking up everyday at 6:30am to have breakfast and walk 30kms on a daily basis for 20+ days can get to your head. But same as in an Ultra race, while racing or while walking el camino you dig deep in to your soul and mind and get to discover and know places you didn’t know were there. Also keep in mind that there might be some days where you won’t even see a single soul in the entire path; while some other days you will see dozens. So just image the magical journey of walking an entire day by yourself through the beautiful scenery of northern Spain… walking through the vineyards, mountains, old towns and drinking a glass of “Vina el Pison” and having the most tasteful tapas every single day for a month period. Trust me, it is breathtaking!
For those of you who like to travel in a fancier and more confortable way you can always use the town-to-town service “Globetrotter”. This company will pick up your luggage/belongings at your alberge/hostal/hotel and leave it at the next town where you plan to sleep the next day. This way you can walk the entire 30kms weight free. Again as I said before, it’s your camino: walk it your way!!
Tip: How not to get lost?? Well, now a days I imagine that with technology it will be almost impossible to loose yourself, but when I walked the camino and one of the things to identify el camino are La Concha del camino (the camino’s shell) and the yellow arrows along the entire way. I honestly find it hard that you might get lost during the months of good weather. The only way I might think you could get lost is if you get lost with the beauty of el camino, its sunrises/sunsets, encounters with animals and nature, beauty of towns and Spanish culture.. but lets face it, what could be the worst that could happen to you???…. spend a night in the middle of nowhere in the Spanish country??? trust me, that doesn’t sound that bad. 2xHint: I used the Heroski iPhone app, which described pretty accurately each an every single etapa.
Its been almost five years since I walked El Camino, but I can talk about it for hours still. But this is not gonna be the case. In conclusion, you should walk El Camino if you are looking for new thrills and experiences. What makes El Camino – el camino is its people, its culture, its sunsets and sunrises, its food and wines, the scenery and lastly the most important piece YOU. The last days were the toughest for me, you are so tire you just want to quit and jump in a bus and get to Santiago asap. You start questioning yourself why in hell am I walking 960 kms? whats the purpose of this? what will I get from this other that a paper saying that I walked el camino? Same why as you ask yourself when your racing an Ultra race, Ironman or a marathon…. Who the hell ask me to run this race? what am I gaining from this? And the answer for both situations is that by digging deep within yourself you get to know places of yourself you didn’t know existed… you truly get to know how strong and badass you are. You can certify that whatever your mind sets to be at, your body will achieve it, trust me… your body and mind are wayyy stronger that what you think they can achieve.
Some of my favorite pictures of El Camino….