If you are curious, here’s how I came to walk across Spain from one side to the other on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella.
It started with a cup of coffee with my longest time friend.
You might even say I hitched a ride on her dream. She had read an article in an inflight magazine about the vegetable gardens along the Camino de Santiago, an ancient trail followed by Pilgrims of various kinds since the 9th Century and wanted to see it for herself. I’d only heard vaguely about it but said I’d be keen to go too (and then worried I gate-crashed her adventure).
Nine months later, in September 2011, we set out on our journey from St Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees on an adventure to mark our Half Century Birthday’s. We covered 170km in the week that we walked in September 2011. Within a few days of setting out we had decided we would tackle the remaining 630km to Santiago in one visit and began planning towards that.
Eighteen months to the day later, in early 2013, we returned to Logroño, the end of the first part of our journey, and set off again. 33 days later we arrived in Santiago de Compostela.
We had walked almost 900km across Spain, over mountains, flat plains, through mud, over rocks, through slushy cow manure, past vegetable gardens, through villages and fields, completing the Pilgrimage to Santiago, and then walking further on to Muxere and Finisterre at the ‘End of the Earth’ where we watched the sun setting over the ocean.
Along the way we learned a lot about Life and feeling ALIVE.
We carried everything we needed on our backs and walking each day regardless of the weather or how we felt, we saw first-hand how taking consistent action can see you achieve anything you set out to. Even walking an incredibly long way. (you can read the blogs about our journey here)
Every day provided a new challenge, some were physical, some emotional, some were tied to the terrain or the weather. Everything we needed we carried with us, our packs weighed around 10kg (after we discarded the things we really didn’t need), but more importantly we discovered, we also carried within the resources to make the journey, to make sense of life and to support each other. We learned a lot about life by walking.
I am not athletic my any means and a lot people who knew me were surprised that I was planning to walk across Spain with my friend, with or without a pack! I also have a wonky spine (you can read about that here ) so carrying a pack was not something I had ever considered before this.
While for me it wasn’t a religious pilgrimage, I embraced the opportunity to be immersed in nature (including the unseasonably cold, wet Spring we experienced). I challenged myself when we began our journey to pay attention to the little things along the way, the small details that are often lost in the blur of daily life, not just to be awed (or overawed) by what lay before us in terms of the journey, or the scenery which was often spectacular. Slow travel truly is a unique experience.
The re-entry to our other lives took a little while. It is a challenge to take what you have learned and integrate it into a life with others who haven’t had the same experience. But it’s in applying the learning that we really have a chance to make it something. A lot of the lessons that came to light on these long walks form the background of the work I now do with women like you.
We also discovered is that walking has a way of getting under your skin. The simple routine, the rhythmic tap of our poles, the slow changes around us, the opportunity for reflection and the change to be present in the moment are seductive and we wanted more of it. Since then we have walked another 1000km or so (as at early 2017) and have more walking adventures planned.
Being present has a way of getting under your skin. It turns out it is a skill like any other and the more you practice it, the easier it is to achieve. And when you are present there is sooo much more to see and experience, the world takes on a different light. Maybe that’s really what I walked 900km to find out.