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10 Pieces of Advice For Walking the Camino

CowboyJoe

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015
I’ve been home from the Camino quite a while now—a year-and-a-half, to be exact. I thought I would write a final entry in my blog (CaminoJoe.com) within the first 30 days of returning, but that gave way to 60 days and then 90, and then…I wanted time to let my Camino experience fully sink in before writing a debrief of my walk across Spain to help those who are contemplating such a journey. It has, now, although I didn’t think it would be this long before I wrote about it again.
I was once asked what I’d advise someone going on the Camino for their first time and what they could expect from the trip. Truth is, every person’s journey is different and what I experienced will probably be vastly different than what others will experience. The season, the weather, the route, the day one starts—even the time of day— and the people encountered will all be different. The best advice is to just GO…and to be open to what the Camino offers. Everyone’s journey is different. And everyone’s journey is similar in the end.
Given that, and looking back these many months later, here is my advice for those planning the Camino for the first time:
1. Don’t Let Planning Get in the Way of Serendipitous Moments. Trust in the Way. It will provide. This goes counter to the planner in me, but once you are on the Camino, things tend to fall into place. One way or another. Let the road carry you. You can’t plan on the people you’ll meet or the experiences you’ll have, so go with the moment and the flow of the road. This isn’t a wilderness hike. There will always be food and a bed ahead.
When I was in the Army, there was a saying—attribute to General Eisenhower, I believe: “Before the battle is joined, plans are everything; after the battle is joined, plans are worthless.” And that holds true for the Camino-- well, substitute walk for battle, that is. You can plan for months on end before you leave, and that is part of the anticipation, but once you are on the road, you have to be open to what is before you—and adjust to the circumstances. Truth is, you simply can’t plan for what will happen; all you can do is experience what will happen, and respond to it. Therein lies the mystery—and the wonder. Like I say, “If you find the meaning, you lose the wonder.” Be open to those serendipitous moments.
2. Light the Candles. Although the majority of pilgrims I met weren’t Catholic or doing the Camino for religious reasons, I found going to Mass each evening in the village {NOTE: since this is so long, it might be best to go to my blog, CaminoJoe.com, for the rest so as to not take up space on this valuable forum. Thank you and Buen Camino!}
 

HedaP

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
Thank you and well done you, it was a very buen camino. Who said cowboy’s couldn’t write?!!
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
I’ve been home from the Camino quite a while now—a year-and-a-half, to be exact. I thought I would write a final entry in my blog (CaminoJoe.com) within the first 30 days of returning, but that gave way to 60 days and then 90, and then…I wanted time to let my Camino experience fully sink in before writing a debrief of my walk across Spain to help those who are contemplating such a journey. It has, now, although I didn’t think it would be this long before I wrote about it again.
I was once asked what I’d advise someone going on the Camino for their first time and what they could expect from the trip. Truth is, every person’s journey is different and what I experienced will probably be vastly different than what others will experience. The season, the weather, the route, the day one starts—even the time of day— and the people encountered will all be different. The best advice is to just GO…and to be open to what the Camino offers. Everyone’s journey is different. And everyone’s journey is similar in the end.
Given that, and looking back these many months later, here is my advice for those planning the Camino for the first time:
1. Don’t Let Planning Get in the Way of Serendipitous Moments. Trust in the Way. It will provide. This goes counter to the planner in me, but once you are on the Camino, things tend to fall into place. One way or another. Let the road carry you. You can’t plan on the people you’ll meet or the experiences you’ll have, so go with the moment and the flow of the road. This isn’t a wilderness hike. There will always be food and a bed ahead.
When I was in the Army, there was a saying—attribute to General Eisenhower, I believe: “Before the battle is joined, plans are everything; after the battle is joined, plans are worthless.” And that holds true for the Camino-- well, substitute walk for battle, that is. You can plan for months on end before you leave, and that is part of the anticipation, but once you are on the road, you have to be open to what is before you—and adjust to the circumstances. Truth is, you simply can’t plan for what will happen; all you can do is experience what will happen, and respond to it. Therein lies the mystery—and the wonder. Like I say, “If you find the meaning, you lose the wonder.” Be open to those serendipitous moments.
2. Light the Candles. Although the majority of pilgrims I met weren’t Catholic or doing the Camino for religious reasons, I found going to Mass each evening in the village {NOTE: since this is so long, it might be best to go to my blog, CaminoJoe.com, for the rest so as to not take up space on this valuable forum. Thank you and Buen Camino!}
Please, go ahead and add 3 - 10!
 
Camino(s) past & future
I plan to leave South Africa on 15 September and return on 14 October 2018.
M
I’ve been home from the Camino quite a while now—a year-and-a-half, to be exact. I thought I would write a final entry in my blog (CaminoJoe.com) within the first 30 days of returning, but that gave way to 60 days and then 90, and then…I wanted time to let my Camino experience fully sink in before writing a debrief of my walk across Spain to help those who are contemplating such a journey. It has, now, although I didn’t think it would be this long before I wrote about it again.
I was once asked what I’d advise someone going on the Camino for their first time and what they could expect from the trip. Truth is, every person’s journey is different and what I experienced will probably be vastly different than what others will experience. The season, the weather, the route, the day one starts—even the time of day— and the people encountered will all be different. The best advice is to just GO…and to be open to what the Camino offers. Everyone’s journey is different. And everyone’s journey is similar in the end.
Given that, and looking back these many months later, here is my advice for those planning the Camino for the first time:
1. Don’t Let Planning Get in the Way of Serendipitous Moments. Trust in the Way. It will provide. This goes counter to the planner in me, but once you are on the Camino, things tend to fall into place. One way or another. Let the road carry you. You can’t plan on the people you’ll meet or the experiences you’ll have, so go with the moment and the flow of the road. This isn’t a wilderness hike. There will always be food and a bed ahead.
When I was in the Army, there was a saying—attribute to General Eisenhower, I believe: “Before the battle is joined, plans are everything; after the battle is joined, plans are worthless.” And that holds true for the Camino-- well, substitute walk for battle, that is. You can plan for months on end before you leave, and that is part of the anticipation, but once you are on the road, you have to be open to what is before you—and adjust to the circumstances. Truth is, you simply can’t plan for what will happen; all you can do is experience what will happen, and respond to it. Therein lies the mystery—and the wonder. Like I say, “If you find the meaning, you lose the wonder.” Be open to those serendipitous moments.
2. Light the Candles. Although the majority of pilgrims I met weren’t Catholic or doing the Camino for religious reasons, I found going to Mass each evening in the village {NOTE: since this is so long, it might be best to go to my blog, CaminoJoe.com, for the rest so as to not take up space on this valuable forum. Thank you and Buen Camino!}
Mine is very much in the preparation stage. Trying to work on walking fitness but already it is clear to me that it is one foot at a time and to go with where the road takes you! Thank you!
 

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
Thank you, Joe! I loved your post, great advice, and so heart-warmingly written. I bookmarked your blog so I could return to it when I have more time than right now.
 

Kathryn1966

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017
I have booked marked the post and agree with what you have written. The Camino is not a race it is about you and to take the time to experience the journey and when you finish the time to reflect on your experience and to read the various blogs
 

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
I just see that you did the VF, correct? I'm hoping to do it, from Lausanne. Any advice?
I walked a small portion of the way last autumn (from Bard to Pont St Martin), and I'm planning to walk from Aosta to Chatillon in early March. I used to live in Turin and still come to Northwestern Italy frequently, so I know the region pretty well :)

Generally, I'd recommend to learn some Italian before you go! I had no problems finding English speakers in Turin, for example, but in smaller towns and far from tourist areas people often don't speak English, and the via Francigena goes mostly through small towns and villages (and it's a newly rediscovered route, so there is less pilgrim infrastructure and probably less English-speaking accommodation owners than on the Camino). It's entirely possible to get by in Italy without knowing a single word in Italian (the people are very helpful there and usually try to understand and help you), but when you can understand and speak Italian, it just makes things easier :)

In the Aosta Valley, French is second official language, so, if you know French, it'll help you there!

The official Via Francigena website and the Facebook groups (there are two - one mostly in Italian, the other mostly in English) are all very good. The English group is very active, and people are very responsive and helpful.
 

CowboyJoe

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015
I walked a small portion of the way last autumn (from Bard to Pont St Martin), and I'm planning to walk from Aosta to Chatillon in early March. I used to live in Turin and still come to Northwestern Italy frequently, so I know the region pretty well :)

Generally, I'd recommend to learn some Italian before you go! I had no problems finding English speakers in Turin, for example, but in smaller towns and far from tourist areas people often don't speak English, and the via Francigena goes mostly through small towns and villages (and it's a newly rediscovered route, so there is less pilgrim infrastructure and probably less English-speaking accommodation owners than on the Camino). It's entirely possible to get by in Italy without knowing a single word in Italian (the people are very helpful there and usually try to understand and help you), but when you can understand and speak Italian, it just makes things easier :)

In the Aosta Valley, French is second official language, so, if you know French, it'll help you there!

The official Via Francigena website and the Facebook groups (there are two - one mostly in Italian, the other mostly in English) are all very good. The English group is very active, and people are very responsive and helpful.
Thank you for the sound advice, Athena! A very long time ago I worked in Rome for the Daily American newspaper and what you say is so true!
 

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